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  1. #1

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    Hi all

    Split grade printing

    I have tried this method recently and would like to go further with it. Therefore your comments would be very appreciated.

    These are my experiences so far

    1) For the dark shadow areas

    Use filter #5, or if it leaves details out in the darkest areas, #4. Make a test strip in 2 sec increments. Choose an exposure time somewhat shorter than the one that gives the best result.

    2) For the important highlight areas

    Expose all of a new test strip according to the results above. Then shift to filter # 0 or #1 and expose in 1 sec increments.

    3) Choose the best combination of 1) and 2). Try it out also on the medium gray areas to see if slight changes in exposure times and/or filter grades should be made.

    4) Try out burning and dodging on test strips based on above.

    Now to my questions

    A) Is there any rule of thumb regarding how much the ”dark” exposure time should be reduced, like 1/2 stop or 10%? If there should be such a rule, could you also say that when this rule doesn’t work it means that you should shift to the next softer grade?

    Is there any advantage in starting with the most contrasty filter (I haven’t had the opportunity to try out if the differently exposed areas blend better together this way)?

    C) If you start with the soft filter, will this result in something similar to pre-flashing, i e to be used for very contrasty motives?

    Best

    Dentan



  2. #2

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    When I do split enlarging, I use a 0 or 00 and a 4.5 or 5. There isn't any specific order. If you run one first then the other, no difference as the paper receives the same amount of light (in the end).

    The typical rule of thumb is to expose the lower grade for 2/3 of the total time and the high grade 1/3 of the time. However, since grades 4 and up require twice the amount of time to get to the same exposure, you basically expose for the "same time".

    Usually, I do: grade 00 for 5-6 seconds and grade 4.5 for 5 seconds.

    I also split develop, with LPD and Selectol Soft in a 1:5 ratio. The fast acting LPD develops most of the shadows until completion, but the Selectol SOFT is a surface developer and continues to develop the highlights a bit more.

    There really aren't any rules to split developing. Most people consider it a pain in the ass to do and only use it as a method to recover thin negs and overexposed negs.

  3. #3

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    Instead of doing one and then the other, why dont you run bot exposures on the same paper. I used to do hard diagonal from bottom left to top right and then soft from top left to bottom right, this way I would get a set of squares and usually one had the right exposure of the combined filters. It is also easier to see the areas where you will need to dodge or burn.

    I only use VC for very hard negatives to print, usually I go with graded papers.

  4. #4

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    Depending on how one chooses to print (either for maximum black or for high value tonal range as the primary beginning point), is probably the determining factor of which contrast extreme to begin with. I was taught and continue to expose first for the highlight values by doing a test strip at the soft contrast. When this exposure is determined then I make my next exposure first at the soft contrast time and then follow this with a test strip at the high contrast exposure on that second piece of paper. I let the high contrast exposure time be the determining factor for my low values. When I have the low values determined then I make my third print with the low contrast exposure first (at the previously determined time) and follow this with my high contrast exposure (at the previously determined time. From that resulting print, I then make determinations of burning and dodging.

    I admire people who can make arbitary determinations of ratios of low contrast to high contrast exposures. I have found that in my experience that it just isn't that "cut and dried". Maybe I don't have my system developed well enough, or perhaps I want more out of a print.

    I disagree that split developing is primarily used to salvage thin or overexposed negatives. In my experience excellent printers use this as one of several means to arrive at a fine print. It seems to work very well in that application apart from thin or overexposed negatives.

    Interestingly enough my enlarger compensates for differing contrast grades insofar as exposure time. Perhaps not everyone has not been exposed to that technology yet.
    Art is a step from what is obvious and well-known toward what is arcane and concealed.

    Visit my website at http://www.donaldmillerphotography.com

  5. #5
    Bruce Osgood's Avatar
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    Split grade printing

    I have tried this method recently and would like to go further with it. Therefore your comments would be very appreciated.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Dentan;

    For a complete, comprehensive and thorough guide to split grade printing and split developing I suggest you see Les McLeans book, "Creative Black & White Photography". It will not only TELL you how, but will SHOW you how, what to expect and WHY.

    The book is new and the voice young and strong. Listen and you will learn.

    I have met Les, he had dinner with my wife and I last year. As you would suspect he is as charming in person as is his writings. His last words to me when he was leaving were "It's all about Giving...." and his book proves that is what Les is about.

  6. #6
    ann
    ann is online now

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    Interesting that you should ask this question tonight. I had a student who decided to use this technique this evening. This is not the norm for most of my students as the more advance folks use graded fiber; however, in this case it was vc paper. We used 2/3 of the time at the highest contrast range with 1/3 at the lower value. Then "tweak" from there.
    The best thing is to play with the various methods and use what best suits you. This tool seems to work with negatives of extreme contrast ranges (at least in our lab) and works regardless of which contrast is exposed first. Have read several variations on the theme. Just as is mentioned in the above post.
    http://www.aclancyphotography.com

  7. #7
    Les McLean's Avatar
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    The key to split grade printing lies in the contrast of the negative. A very thin negative will not produce a good print using split grade printing because it generally lacks contrast and therefore requires a harder grade to build the contrast required in the final print. When I am faced with such a negative on a workshop or for a client I inevitably make the print using only one grade, either 4 or 5. A so called normal negative will provide a better starting point because there should be contrast and detail throughout. However, my own view is that a negative with higher than normal contrast is the ideal starting point. I reached this view after spending many hours trying different combinations of negative contrast and using different combinations of high and low contrast filters. I finally decided on a higher than normal contrast for the negative, grade 0 and grade 5 filters only and accurate control of time given when exposing with each filter. I use an RH Designs timer and work in fstop mode frequently working to 2/10ths of one second, and it does make subtle but significant differences in the final print.

    The reason that the high contrast negative works better than normal contrast is that the negative acts as a mask when exposing the grade 5 or hard filtration. Think about it, when you print with a grade 5 the highlights are frequently paper base white and part of the reason is that the density of the negative has prevented light from passing through the negative. Clearly, this is not the only reason for paper base white highlights but bear with me and I'll explain how to make this work for you.

    My method of split grade printing is based on making 2 test strips and there is no guesswork involved, you respond to what you see. The weakness in some of the methods used by many printers, such as the matrix method where you expose your test strip one way with soft and the other way with hard filtration is that only one small square somewhere on the paper is correct. equally, starting with 2/3rd of the exposure on hard and 1/3rd hard requires some guesswork or at best more test strips to arrive at the desired result.

    I make a test strip using grade 0 and select the exposure that gives me the tonality I require in the highlight. At this stage I totally ignore the shadows and overall contrast, there is none because you are using a soft grade. Having chosen the exposure that gives the highlight tonality, I expose the whole of the second test strip at that time and change filtration to grade 5, and expose a series of increments over the grade 0 exposure. When processed the second test strip will show good contrast with detail through from highlight to shadow. You will see subtle changes in contrast across the test where you have given more exposure with grade 5. Doing the test this way gives you accurate information from which you can make the choices required to produce the contrast you wish in the print.

    Ann makes the point in her post that it works for her with negatives of extreme contrast and also comments that it works regardless of which filtration is used first. That is correct but there are subtle differences if the hard filtration is used first rather than the soft, the final print will be slightly higher in contrast.

    I have two golden rules when split grading, they are: be careful not to give too much soft exposure. In 10 years of teaching my method the most common problem is that there is a tendency to give enough soft exposure to try to establish the lower values and this results in very muddy prints. The second rule is when making the print expose the two different filtrations in the same order as when you made the test strip.

    I do not claim that this method id the only way to split grade print but it has worked for me and when I have taught it and written about it I have had a very positive response that it has generally helped photographs produce just what they are after.

    Try it with one of those very high contrast negatives that we all have and have given up on. Sorry to be so long winded but split grade printing is not a simple technique to describe briefly. I've writted about 50,000 words on the subject over the past few years and still don't think that I've fully covered every nuance.
    "Digital circuits are made from analogue parts"
    Fourtune Cookie-Brooklyn May 2006

    Website: www.lesmcleanphotography.com

  8. #8

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    Thank you dnmilikan and all others who have been kind enough to reply.

    I agree with you in that split grade printing gives better prints, not only from under- or overexposed negs.

    When saying I let the high contrast exposure time be the determining factor for my low values, do you mean that you use the ”highlights time” also for the dark areas (I have tried this but the other way around, i e the ”dark” time also for the highlights, but altogether it resulted in too much light)?

  9. #9

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    It was very nice hearing from such an authority as Les McLean. Now and then I come across articles by you, always read them with great interest, and quite often pick up something useful for my hobby.

    Yes, it has to be high contrast negs.

    I’ve been fiddling around with a neg of ”the first day of spring” where people are sitting in the sun up against a white wall with coffe mugs in their hands (the coffee house inside hadn’t yet put out their ”summer furniture”), and there are also cobble stones and red brick walls in the shadows. For this picture I got more medium grey tones when starting with the soft exposure.

    Come Saturday I’ll sneak into my minimal darkroom and practice what I’ve learnt on this and other high contrasty negs.


  10. #10

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    </span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (dentan @ May 1 2003, 12:55 PM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'> Thank you dnmilikan and all others who have been kind enough to reply.

    I agree with you in that split grade printing gives better prints, not only from under- or overexposed negs.

    When saying I let the high contrast exposure time be the determining factor for my low values, do you mean that you use the ”highlights time” also for the dark areas (I have tried this but the other way around, i e the ”dark” time also for the highlights, but altogether it resulted in too much light)? </td></tr></table><span class='postcolor'>
    What I meant to indicate, and probably not as effectively as I might have, was that the first exposure is with the soft contrast and the second exposure by the hard contrast. These exposure times would have been determined by test strips on two prior pieces of paper. The first test strip is to determine only high value exposure and the second test strip is to determine shadow exposure on a second piece of paper which also has the initial soft contrast exposure. In other words this is a method of printing which has two separate exposures the soft contrast for high values and the second exposure for shadow values. These are cumulative.

    My focus has always been to get the high values by exposure and the low values by contrast or in the case of split grade exposure the second hard contrast exposure. I hope that I have explained myself here. If you have further questions please feel free to voice them. Good luck.
    Art is a step from what is obvious and well-known toward what is arcane and concealed.

    Visit my website at http://www.donaldmillerphotography.com

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