I would like to get some advise on how to get to the next level of enlarging. I shoot medium format, B&W film exclusively. At the moment I am producing good looking prints to the untrained eye with a few looking good to the trained eye. My goal is to consistently make excellent prints to the trained eye. I realize there are two elements in achieving this: 1) utilizing my brain correctly; and 2) utilizing good materials and equipment.
My current set up consists of an Omega D2 enlarger with an Arista V54 cold light (emits both green and blue light), and the best Rodenstock lens. My enlargements are timed using a very basic Bessler timer.
I print with Agfa MCC 111 paper using Formulary 130 developer and a two-bath TF-4 stop/fixer. Final prints are regularly tone with KRST. All chemicals are mixed using distilled water.
I really like the look of the prints, but it does take some time getting there considering test strips, changing contrast filter, dodging and burning, etc. I am thinking that I can realize greater savings in time and materials if I upgrade some of my equipment.
Am I better off getting an f/stop timer/analyzer such as the Analyzer Pro made by RH Designs or should I be looking at upgrading my enlarger? Are there other factors I am not considering? Your comments are greatly appreciated.
Many fine prints have been produced with lesser equipment than you have. Without seeing your prints first hand, it is had to start to suggest what could be improved. I can tell you, my printing improved considerably once I took the time to calibrate my materials. If you don’t have all the info in your negative, you’re you’ll have a hard time getting it on your paper.
Brian: Thanks for the quick reply. You are right about calibrating the equipment. I shoot with an old hasselblad 500c and I really should take the time to calibrate it for the film I shoot - Kodak Tri-X. Could you recommend an avilable resource for this?
By the way, I was checking out your photos on APUG when I received your response. Very nice work, particulalry the B&W. Just curious - what film/paper combination do you use?
By available resource, do you mean someone to do the testing? I'd suggest you get a copy of Les' book and follow the testing proceedures. Its very simple, and best of all, it works.
Originally Posted by hblad120
I use a variety of film / paper combos. Tmax 100 in small formats, and HP5 in LF. either Ilford or Forte paper depending on the look I am after.
Les' book is an excellent place to start with testing. Some of us have a disposition towards testing. Ansel's books The Negative and The Print are two places to look if you want to move onward with your testing. Phil Davis' bookBeyond the Zone System is another excellent resource. I would say that this book helped my photography more than any other. As you move onward with testing you'll find that you want a densitometer. The previously mentioned Analyser Pro functions as an acceptable densitometer too. However, my favorite function of the Analyser pro is that it is an f-stop timer.
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Brian/DrPhil: Thanks for the advise on source materials. I have both of Adams' books and I have heard good things about Phil Davis and Les McLean too. I think I'll pick up these books as I enjoy learning from different sources. I have picked up a lot of technical advise by reading Steve Anchell and Tim Rudman and I recommend both.
F-stop printing is a great idea, which doesn't necessarily require an f-stop timer. All it does is to work in f-stop-quivalent times instead of a fixed number of seconds. So instead of a test strip of 3 6 9 12 15 seconds, you use 3 6 12 24 for whole stops.
I usually try to use half-stops, 2.8 4 5.6 8 11 16 22 which I approximate to 3 4 5½ 8 11 16 22. It brings you in range faster, and eases burning time determination. To adjust all this I use a simple enlarging meter: Ilford EM-10, about which there's quite a lot written here on APUG already.
I guess the contrast range of the negative, but also check highlights and shadows with the meter. This gives me the contrast grade and base exposure right away. Tuning still takes time and paper...
-- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
Making correct exposures in the field will enhance and make easier the darkroom process.
As others have suggested, determing your EI and development time should help in this area. THere is an old adage that for every hour spent making the correct decisions in the field two hours are saved in the darkroom.
Learning to make good negatives is one of the hardest things we need to learn. Some do it by trial and error others use carefully testing methods.
Some people avoid testing for a variety of reasons. A rule of thumb is to halve the recommend ISO of the film. This is not as precise as testing but it might get you closer to a better exposure. Try a roll of film, shoot half at the recommend ISO the rest a half the ISO. Keep good notes and then make some prints from each section. See how you like the results. (and before others jump in and get upset about this suggestion; it is just that ! a suggestion. )
Understanding your method of metering and being consistent with that method will hopefully aid in creating better negatives that will produce better prints. What we really work with is light and learning to control that light as it relates to film is critical to fine printing.
Many of my students have trouble with consistent negatives ; basically when talking with them they are not really aware of what they are metering on, what the contrast range is and how they really made a decision on what option to use. I don't know if this is the problem but good consistent negatives make printing a snap.
As several others have comment it is difficult to determine what you are reaching for without seeing the prints; but i really don't think it is the need for additional or different equipment.
These are "food" for thought suggestions. But I would really study your negatives before jumping on the equipment "train".
Ann: This is sound advice. The one aspect of my photography I have avoided is the quality of the negative. I shoot with the assistance of a hand-held reflective meter and a newly acquired spot meter, which I am still learning to use.
Although most of my negatives are at or accepatably around the proper exposure there are enough of them (10 to 20%) that are too over/under exposed to do anything with in the DR. This has cause me some disappointment as I tend to do most of my critical shooting when I travel oveseas and it would be nice to feel confident about having a greater number of negatives closer to the proper exposure while I am still in the field.
Thanks again for the good advice.