So, just to clarify for myself. When using the meter, the actual print exposure sequence (high first, or low first) is irrelevant, but the way you METER the NEGATIVE ( low point vs. high point) depends on the overall contrast and anticipated high-contrast, vs low-contrast exposure bias. Is that right?
You can get them in black and white ...
Originally Posted by mikebarger
The graphs and such are only of interest to people making metered exposures, though IC's will help you keep a tone constant as you change the filtration.
The point of interest for both gear-heads and touchy-feely-test-strippers is that the conventional advice given in this forum and in several web sites and books to "find the white point first" is wrong - well, wrong half the time.
If you are printing a flat negative you need to find the black point first, using the high contrast filter.
One conclusion I can draw is that the pundits over-develop their negatives. You may want to take the conventional 'film developing wisdom' from the same sources with a grain of sulfite.
Last edited by Nicholas Lindan; 01-04-2009 at 05:00 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Originally Posted by ic-racer
Obviously you can turn the metering system inside out, but it is much simpler to do it in the manner presented.
When using test strips the whole premise of split grade printing falls apart if the test strips are made in the wrong order. Obviously, the order used in making the final print is irrelevant.
Split grade printing with a meter makes little sense as the meter will indicate the right grade of contrast off the bat so there is no need to go through the split-grade rigmarole. However, there are meter users who are adamant about using split grade ... customer is always right and all that ... so the note describe how you would do it using a meter.
Two things fell out in putting together the application note: the first was that the order exposures were determined mattered - and this was more critical to test strip printers than meter users; the second was that the whole spectrum of VC paper behavior WRT split grade printing could be characterized by making only three test prints - two if one wasn't being too critical.
Split grade, therefore, has an advantage to meter users because it allows fast and easy paper characterization. And paper characterization is the bane of meter users. If split grade results are 'good enough', then it is a technique that has some validity to meter users.
I think in Les' book it says his process works better with high contrast negatives.
I think the goal is to fine tune each step to get you to the print you want/like.
As you have stated, there are many paths to that goal.
To some degree I agree with Mike. From reading the interesting and varied opinions on this current discussion thread it has become readily apparent that there are those who prints are guided mainly by the visual appearance of test strips, and others who use meters and charts in order to hone in on the appearance of the print that they visualize. Neither one is, of course, wrong or right. However, split grade printing has appealed to many because of the relatively simple approach offered in which it is not necessary to really know the absolute grades of filtration that one can achieve, nor is it important to have done any serious standardization of materials searching for exposure correction depending upon filtration grades, etc. One makes two test strips based upon either F stop timing or more prosaic timing in seconds. Burning in or dodging can be approached while using either the contrast printer or the highlight printer, and the print is completed with a result which reflects the experience and expertise of the operator. Certainly Nick's advice concerning the order of the test strip is original, and very interesting.
I admit to also being interested regarding the possibility of mid tones being somewhat neglected ( my word, not his ) in split grade printing as written in Nick's learned and excellent article which was referenced here. I don't quite understand why such is the case in split grade printing. Certainly we have all seen excellent examples of prints made using the split grade technique. While such examples might have been examined on line where mid tones might not be very obvious ( on our monitors ) I have not heard of such "mid-tone neglect" ( once again, my words and not Nick's ) before. If Les is any where is sight, I wonder if he might have the opportunity to comment. I am not trying to initiate an argument amongst friends and colleagues, but certainly comments from very experienced split grade printers would be most welcomed. I do recall reading comments by the late Mr. Davis, and referenced by Howard Bond and many others, in that split grade printing accomplishes nothing that more "conventional" printing cannot. Importantly, I do not recall reading (until now) the converse, i.e., that more conventional printing can accomplish something that split grade printing cannot ( better mid-tones ), i.e., using a combination of filters, one can achieve a look in the mid tones of a print that split grade printing "cannot" produce. Hence my interest. I hope I have not misinterpred Nick's remarks, and if so, I apologize for my errors.
Last edited by Mahler_one; 01-04-2009 at 06:42 PM. Click to view previous post history.
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Mid-tones are there in a split-grade print as much as they are in any other print.
What split grade gives up is direct control over mid-tones.
If you are making a portrait in the conventional manner you would make a test strip print of the face and control the exposure and contrast for the face. If metering, ditto - meter for flesh tones and facial shadows. After getting the flesh tones and face contrast as one would like then one burns and dodges as needed to get the non-important shadows and highlights in order.
With traditional split-grade one determines exposure and contrast based on highlights and shadows - where the midtones end up is a matter of luck. Often a second adjustment may be needed. Dodging and burning then concentrate on getting the midtones into line.
An advantage of split grade is that one can leave the highlight exposure rather week and then burn-in the highlights with the high contrast filter. This is especially useful if the highlights are in the shoulder of the film curve and need extra contrast to get them to show detail. Ditto shadows, and ditto doing the obverse to suppress detail or distracting specular reflections.
Some people do a rather odd combination of making a low contrast exposure, judging the middle of the tonal range and then adding high contrast. I imagine they have developed a 'feel' for the method and can anticipate what they are going to get. I don't see any advantage over taking a guess at the right contrast grade, making a test print and then adjusting the contrast grade as needed. And I don't see any advantage over simply metering the midtones and being done with it.
The end result is (or can be) the same in all cases. Use the method that works for you - that's why God invented more than one method - though more likely God couldn't make up his mind either.
It is always good to know more than one way to get to the print you want. Sometimes you can't get any headway, and trying another method that approaches the problem from a different angle may yield success.
As far as advantages to graded filters Vs split grade - apart from the obvious ones of speed, convenience, reliability, direct control of any tone, direct control of any contrast range - I only know of a theoretical one. Modern VC emulsions are made from three components with green, cyan and blue sensitive (well, they are all sensitive to blue) emulsions. The cyan emulsion lets the manufacturer smooth out the bumps in the HD curves of the lower contrast grades. As contrast increases the cyan emulsion exposure must be kept between the blue and green. With graded filters it is possible to design the filter to allow fine control of the cyan emulsion. Obviously, with only two exposure wavelengths in split grade printing it is impossible to provide individual control of three emulsions - a third exposure through a cyan filter would be needed. However, it seems that Ilford, at least, has designed their paper so that the cyan emulsion is well behaved in split grade printing, and any advantage seems moot.
Obviously, though I try to see all sides (cough), I am not a great fan of split-grade. I find using an exposure meter in the darkroom to be just as natural as using one in the field and don't see how the use of one in any context lowers from the 'art'. People seem to think they need an excuse or reason not to change their ways - as far as I am concerned 'I don't want to' is the only one that counts. Who can argue with "I don't like brocolli."
De Gustibus non est disputandum.
To this point, I'll refer to Tim Rudman in the recent Split Grade Printing thread:
Originally Posted by Nicholas Lindan
I'll also observe that the correct grade may not be available if the printer is using a filter pack (discrete filter steps) instead of an enlarger head offering continuous VC filter control.
Originally Posted by tim rudman
Thanks Nick. Well understood. Both paths lead to the same place of course. I appreciate your taking the time to post your original article, and answer the numerous questions concerning both the article, and the use of the meter in split grade printing.
Control over the mid tones (and overall print intensity) is so important in my method of working. That is why I created that graph that I posted earlier in the thread. Mid tones are set with the test strip, then contrast is altered as needed by moving along the curved line and reading the resulting new exposure times. When I work with my chart it eliminates any problems associated with a system that bases everything on a maximum black or a maximum white.
The standard 'paper speed charts' supplied by Darkroom Automation provide the same service for graded filter users.
Originally Posted by ic-racer
For each standard Zone system tone the chart shows the exposure required for each grade of contrast. If you want to go from a grade 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 and maintain a constant Zone III shadow tone you would reduce the exposure by 0.3 stops. If, with the same contrast move, you wanted to maintain Zone VI (skin tone) you would add 0.1 stops.
To use the chart you find the paper grade you are using and the desired tone - at the intersection of the row and the column you find the paper speed.
- To move the same tone to a different grade of paper you move horizontally to the new paper contrast column and apply the difference in paper speeds.
- To move a specified tone to another tone, using the same grade of paper, you move up and down the column to find the desired tone and again apply the difference in paper speeds.
You make the most bizarre moves with the chart. To move a Zone VII highlight on Grade #00 to a Zone III shadow on Grade #5 you would add 2.8 stops of exposure when changing to a #5 filter. And you can predict that the Zone VIII highlight in the original will transfer to a skin tone on grade #5.
You can use the chart without needing a meter or f-stop timer. The time changes are in stops, but a stops->seconds chart or f-stop dial face will serve for those who insist on thinking linearly.
It is possible to turn these paper speed charts into your graphical form. It is also possible to provide a chart for split-grade use, where instead of filter numbers at the top of the columns it would be #00/#5 exposure ratio.