I've been successfully split-grade printing for a number of years now and I've got to admit to total confusion in trying to follow these charts and the general text of this discussion.
Use of split-grade has less to do with high-contrast vs. low-contrast negatives. For me, it has everything to do with the ability to control my high/mid values separately from the low values. This is, in effect, the darkroom equivalent to "adjusting gamma". For example, Kodak T400CN film had the nice high and mid-tone spread that I like, but when properly printed the blacks just were not there. By using split-grade, I can add the blacks to give the print a nice solid bottom-end without the mud. Other negs can be too brutal on the bottom end so it's just a matter of backing off the Grade-V exposure.
It honestly does not matter which exposure you do first as long as you are consistent. I use the RH Designs gear and split-grade printing is a breeze with it, but it is preferred that you always work the same way. It's too easy to make mistakes in the darkroom and by standardizing on only one way (soft then hard) it minimizes unwanted trashcan filling.
I think you are saying that it does make a difference, as if you do it the other way round your trashcan overfloweth - though maybe not for the same reason.
Originally Posted by Ken N
That it makes a difference has been the gist of the whole thread.
If you make prints at the equivalent of grade #2 or softer then making the test strips soft then hard is the correct way to go.
If you make prints at the equivalent of grade #3 1/2 or harder then the results of the test strip exposure will be more accurate if you do it the other way round and make the tests hard then soft.
If you make them in the #2 1/2 - #3 range it doesn't much matter which way round you work.
However the method of determining which test print to make first, as described in the application note, produces very accurate results, achievable by the greenest of printers - absolutely no experience needed to get it right the first time and every time.
This isn't a debatable point ... it's the physics of the thing and there is no way around it. It's not a terribly original point either, see Way Beyond Monochrome bottom page 80, top of page 81. I know that free advice on the internet can not possibly be worth anything, so you can go to a bookstore and pay $49.95 for the book and then the same advice will be of value.*
The application note goes beyond the Beyond of Monochrome by putting hard quantitative measurements on the dividing line between hard and soft techniques.
Printers who have been working with split grade for years and are fans of soft-then-hard know that if they have a very soft negative that they should underexpose the soft exposure by 1/2 to 1 stop or so because the very strong hard exposure that will be required will effect the highlights.
There is no debate that someone can print their whole life, producing gorgeous prints, using a completely different method. If you do anything long enough you end up doing it by feel.
If an analytical approach doesn't suit your temperament, then for heaven's sake don't use it.
For those whose temperament it fits, an analytical approach gets to a realization of one's artistic vision by a more direct path.
* You can read this chapter for free at Google Books Way Beyond Monochrome but you should probably send Ralph Lambrecht and Chris Woodhouse a check. The "Advanced Techniques" chapter, following, points out some of the advantages of being given the opportunity in splitgrade to burn and dodge with the filter extremes. Chris Woodhouse holds the patent on the RH designs timer.
Last edited by Nicholas Lindan; 01-05-2009 at 09:45 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Interesting observations, Nicholas. I will admit that I restrict my split-grade printing to Grade-00 and Grade-5 filters. As such, the Grade-5 exposure rarely affects the highlights. (if it is, then you aren't getting a clean Grade-5 or your Grade-00 is slightly overexposed). Using the dichromatic filters in a colorhead enlarger tops out at about Grade-4). When using different filters, things get more difficult to predict because you can't do a test strip on one of the exposures as the second exposure will end up screwing up what you're looking at.
I've "calibrated" my methodology to the use the split-grade feature of the StopClock Professional. The ZoneMaster II gives me my recommended paper grade and I have a given start-point with the StopClock which then also tells me my effective paper-grade when using 00/5 filters.
Sorry, I don't mean to namedrop a competitor here, but this is what I use and it happens to work for me. You also have an excellent product and can be used in the same or similar manner. I have read a lot of Chris' writings on split-grade printing and have nothing but the highest regard for his recommendations. One thing he recommended several years ago was sticking with a uniform approach and that approach works equally well for soft negs or hard negs. I found no reason to alter methodology because if you have to alter it, then the methodology is flawed.
However, I note that in WBM, that Chris does recommend using the Grade-V exposure to determine your start point on certain types of images. Oh well...
Last edited by Ken N; 01-05-2009 at 07:56 PM. Click to view previous post history.
If you look at the HD curves for the toe region, you can see the shift at the 0.1 OD point as the relative high contrast exposure is increased.
This is with #00 and #5 Ilford VC filters, PH212 bulb condenser light source. As 'clean' a #5 as one would like.
It shows the hard exposure will effect the highlights if it gets above the soft exposure.
If you do the test strip for the highlights then you put down the violet L3 H-4 curve first (high contrast is 4 stops down, or 1/16th of the low contrast - close enough to all low contrast for this discussion). If the following high contrast exposure is equal or less to the low contrast exposure (L3 H-4 to L3 H-1) then there is no shift in the highlight. If the following high contrast exposure is greater than the low contrast exposure (L3 H+1 to L3 H+3) then the highlight shifts - and what was a 0.1 density highlight becomes a 0.3 light gray for the case of L3 H+2 (high contrast 2 stops over (or 4x) the low contrast exposure).
As to fixed methodologies: "To a man who has only a hammer, everything looks like a nail."
Last edited by Nicholas Lindan; 01-05-2009 at 09:47 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Life is too short to be a stick-in-the-mud. I will try the test-strips on the hard-contrast first. I can see the advantage to it during the experimentation stage. But when doing the actual exposure of the real print, I'll stick with 00 first as mixing methods there is definitely not green-friendly.
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Be sure, though, that you are printing a low contrast negative - i.e. are printing at a contrast equivalent to grade #3 or above. That would be negative with less than a 3.8 stop contrast grade from highlights to blacks.
Originally Posted by Ken N
Well, regardless of how we proceed to make our prints, I have found the ongoing discussion of unique and lasting benefit. Once again, I sincerely thank Nick for taking the time to reference his article, and for everyone who found the time to respond. It isn't easy to post one's "findings" and views, and invite comments and criticisms. One continues to marvel at the friendship and comraderie that photographers extend to relative strangers, and the willingness to extend help and advice without condition, renumeration, or sarcasm. Once again, what a great group of colleagues to have.
Last edited by Mahler_one; 01-06-2009 at 08:00 PM. Click to view previous post history.
I very much agree. This was a classic case of "peer review" gone right. Nicholas presented his findings and documentation. I challenged the "work-flow" as being a little more cumbersome than what it needs to be. I believe we both learned something and will improve our own methods, procedures and documentation accordingly.
There has been so much misinformation regarding split-grade printing that Nicholas' work is actually a good clarification of the facts which many of us have learned through hard work and a fat waste-basket. Unfortunately, I think about everything ever written about split-grade printing has been too complex and either confusion or incorrect conclusions result. What Nicholas has done is added another log to the fire of knowledge.
But I still find the earlier text and graphs hard to follow.