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  1. #1
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    Split grade and unsharp?

    Today I'm printing some seascapes with large expansive skies. I'm enjoying it immensely.

    I use variable contrast paper, Ilford Multigrade filters under the enlarging lens, condenser enlarger.

    So I ran into a problem. I have made two prints of the same negative so far, and after about 1.5 hours of printing I had the print where I wanted it.
    The whole print made at Grade 2 with a 40s main exposure, dodge the bottom and center for 15s, burn bottom for 15s (basically dodging the center for 15s), burn right side for 8s, burn top right corner 20s, burn top left corner 12s, and burn entire top of the print for 15s.
    So I processed this print, and although I was happy with it, it wasn't perfect. I decided I wanted to give a zap at the end with the Grade 5 filter for 10s, and I did. But this print is unsharp while the other is tack sharp.

    Process: I use a metronome and count seconds. I use a big card to do all the dodging and burning and after the Grade 2 exposure is completed, I cover the whole print, then gently slide the Grade 2 filter off the holder under the lens and replace it with the Grade 5 filter. I didn't even touch the enlarger itself and the 3x3" filters weigh maybe two grams each, i.e. not enough to actually move the enlarger.
    Then uncover the print again, and turn enlarger off after the Grade 5 zap was completed.

    So I tried it again, and again, and again. No matter how gently I try to swap the G2 filter for the G5 I get the same amount of blur in the image that I just cannot explain.
    What's going on here?

    Tonally the print is all I want it to be, but I cannot for the life of me get rid of this unsharp element.

    Thanks,

    - Thomas
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

    "...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh

  2. #2
    Lee L's Avatar
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    Which enlarger?

    Could it be heat build up, or cooling of the negative while changing filters? That could be popping or unpopping the negative.

    Try the sequence without printing while watching with a grain magnifier to see if you can find the point at which things go out of focus.

    Lee

    P.S. I'm not gonna tell you to print with a single filter like a 'real' photographer. Someone else will be along to do that momentarily, likely by the time I've finished this sentence.

  3. #3

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    The 5 filter may be scratched, smudged, or otherwise damaged. Especially if the filter is UNDER the lens, in the light path, that could be the problem. Those kind of filters always make me nervous. Does your enlarger have conventions for filters INSIDE the enlarger itself? If so, I'd do that while making darn sure the enlarger's adjustments are tightened as much as they'll go.

    When you cover your paper, you may be moving it the slightest amount. I don't fully understand why you're covering the print.

    Since the blur is consistent, I'd say you're either moving the paper or the filter is damaged.

  4. #4
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    False alarm...

    I had to go from an aperture of f/8 to f/5.6 on the lens. That's enough to introduce un-sharpness... I did the same print at f/8 and things are fine again. Damned enlarger lens, it's supposed to be a good one, a Rodenstock Rodagon. The sharpness at f/5.6 compared to f/8, in a print as small as 10x10" is very poor. Clearly visible to the human eye.

    By the way, about covering the print - remember I use a metronome. I turn the enlarger on at the beginning qof the sequence and turn it off at the end. There is, to me, no sense in turning it off in the middle of doing things. I cover the print so I can better see when I change filters.
    I've never seen the filters introduce any problems under the lens, even if they're not perfect. Not enough to notice anyway. The difference in sharpness I'm talking about is not subtle.q
    Covering the print is also a very useful tool that I've used in the past when I use diffusion material above the print, or when I swap dodging tools.

    Lee - You are probably right. I normally don't use split grade printing, but with this particular print I needed some extra pop to the sky, and going from Grade 2 to Grade 2.5 or 3 meant that I had to re-think the entire image.

    - Thomas
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

    "...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh

  5. #5
    Lee L's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Bertilsson View Post
    Lee - You are probably right. I normally don't use split grade printing, but with this particular print I needed some extra pop to the sky, and going from Grade 2 to Grade 2.5 or 3 meant that I had to re-think the entire image.

    - Thomas
    Glad you got it sorted Thomas. I do split grade print myself sometimes, so I wasn't really telling you not to. I was just predicting the standard, extremely thorough variety of answers.

    Lee

  6. #6
    Dan Henderson's Avatar
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    Thomas: don't be too hard on your lenses. Just like camera lenses, enlarger lenses are usually sharpest 2-3 stops down from wide open. I made some test prints of a highly detailed subject at different apertures a few years ago and I was astounded at how much the sharpness dropped off at wide open or fully closed.


    web site: Dan Henderson, Photographer.com

    blog: https://danhendersonphotographer.wordpress.com/

    I am not anti-digital. I am pro-film.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Bertilsson View Post
    The sharpness at f/5.6 compared to f/8, in a print
    as small as 10x10" is very poor. Clearly visible
    to the human eye.
    Just wondering, do you focus with lens wide open?
    If so is there any shift in best focus after closing
    down one stop? That is do you tweak the focus
    after stopping down? Dan

  8. #8
    Sirius Glass's Avatar
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    I focus with the lens wide open using a grain focuser, then I stop down, usually to f/8.

    Steve
    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.

  9. #9
    Bob Carnie's Avatar
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    just an observation

    If you are not using glass carrier then I would put the blame specifically on this. The grade 5 being the last blast along with the fact that 5 sets a lot of the detail in the image , maybe the neg is popping during the second blast.
    If you are using glass then this is ruled out.
    I focus wide open and close down, tried it both ways and have never seen any difference in focus of prints.

  10. #10
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    I haven't had much time for internet activities lately... I am printing up portfolios, and am very busy with it.

    The neg carrier I have is not glass. Although I do have some that are, and it has occurred to me that it might be beneficial to use them. I hate spotting prints, though...

    I'll try glass and see if I can increase sharpness. But I did solve my own problem above by stopping down, although admittedly I may be just curing the symptoms.

    Thanks,

    - Thomas
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

    "...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh

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