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  1. #1

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    Variable vs. Fixed Contrast Paper

    I plan to take up B/W printing after a hiatus of about 25 yrs. and am looking for opinions on which approach people prefer:
    1) Variable contrast paper with a set of filters.
    2) Stocking a few grades of fixed contrast paper.
    I shoot mostly landscapes and portraits with 120 film and do not plan on making very high or very low contrast prints.
    Thank you.

  2. #2
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Variable contrast papers have improved and the selection widened since 25 years ago. So the reasons many of us went with graded papers (Gallerie and Portriga Rapid in my case) are not as strong as back then. For example, warm-toned variable contrast papers did not exist back then.

    Variable contrast papers (if you find one or more that you like the response curve, print color, paper base and surface of) will give you more local control of contrast than we had with just single grade papers. While I have gone with alternative (non-silver) processes these past 15 years or so, I have seen our students put this aspect of variable contrast papers to good use.

    So I think it might be worth your while to experiment with a few different types and find what you like and can express yourself with.

    Vaughn
    At least with LF landscape, a bad day of photography can still be a good day of exercise.

  3. #3
    jmcd's Avatar
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    I use graded papers for awhile, then I use variable contrast papers for some time. Both are capable of excellent results. A pack of grade 2 and grade 3 graded papers is quite versatile. With a pack of VC on hand, you can print on a 1 or 4, if need be. Or you can print VC whenever you wish to.

    I prefer to keep both types in my darkroom, and find it cost effective to keep both on hand.
    Last edited by jmcd; 04-28-2009 at 02:53 PM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: clarification

  4. #4

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    I use ilford multigrade warmtone when i need contrast beyond grades 2 and 3. But still use ilford gallerie for most things. The micro contrast and tones are still unparalleled. Emaks is also very good, i use it for contact prints because it tends to be very slow.

  5. #5
    Sirius Glass's Avatar
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    I use variable contrast papers with a color head so that I have a continuous range of contrasts.

    And I can always split contrast!

    Steve
    Last edited by Sirius Glass; 04-28-2009 at 06:57 PM. Click to view previous post history.
    Warning!! Handling a Hasselblad can be harmful to your financial well being!

    Nothing beats a great piece of glass!

    I leave the digital work for the urologists and proctologists.

  6. #6
    Rick A's Avatar
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    Almost all VC papers print at grade 2 without filters so a set of filters only serve to expand your capabilities. You can focus your efforts on finding a paper you prefer, then have the ability to fine tune the contrast without spending a fortune on several papers.Once you are dialed in on exposing, its easy to adjust for raising or lowering contrast especially since most dont change exposure times until grade 3.5 or 4.
    Rick

  7. #7

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    Thanks everyone for the valuable responses.

  8. #8
    MurrayMinchin's Avatar
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    I don't get out much (live at roads end on the north coast of BC) but on one trip happened to see some 'greeting card' reproductions of the B&W photographs of Craig Richards in Calgary. They were so good I tracked him down in Banff and was shocked to find he used VC paper. My memories of the stuff were from 30 years ago in a newspapers darkroom and a bit later at photography school. The stuff was awful, yet his prints were simply beautiful. VC paper has come a long, long way from its pasty beginnings!

    Then there's added bonuses, such as burning in the sky with softer or harder filters than the base exposure...

    Murray
    _________________________________________
    Note to self: Turn your negatives into positives.

  9. #9

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    If cost is an issue, the vc papers are much cheaper than graded now, and you only need to stock one paper.

  10. #10
    MurrayMinchin's Avatar
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    Hey, I've been an admirer of your work for quite a while edpierce...welcome aboard APUG

    Here's Ed's website; http://www.edpiercephoto.com/

    Murray
    _________________________________________
    Note to self: Turn your negatives into positives.

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