Once everything is set up I like to start with a test strip or two.
If I can leave the darkroom with 3-5 11x14 prints or 5-10 8x10 prints within a 4 hour time slot, I've had a productive printing session with negatives that didn't require a lot of extra work, i.e., burning & dodging.
After exposing the paper its into the developer for 1~3 minutes.
Stop bath for 10~30 seconds
Water bath briefly
Fixer for one minute - wash for 5 minutes - washaid for 10 minutes - final wash for 5 minutes.
For toning prints, I'll usually do this on another darkroom visit.
I use a large tray with a hose hooked up the the tap on one end and fixed across the tray with holes for water to spray out at the other end.
Dry on a screen before hanging to dry
Then pressed for about a day or so. I've found the A. Adams @ 100 Hardcover book in a hardcover case to be good for this process.
Nothing special here ... always interested to refine and improve my practice.
What takes twice as long to make a larger print (exposure is similar, processing is the same)?
Originally Posted by PhotoBob
This makes it sound like dodging & burning are rescue operations. Far from it, they are creative means to optimize a print and guide the observers view. A straight print is a print waiting to be perfected. The Zone System gives you a 'perfect' negative, so you can 'mold' the print to your heart's content. Don't avoid dodging & burning, use it to explore the creative possibilities of the darkroom. Look at Ansel Adams' prints and their printing maps. No straight print in sight!
Originally Posted by PhotoBob
That explains it. You were suppose to read it, not use it as a paper weight!
Originally Posted by PhotoBob
I'm a slow printer. Unless I'm making pictures in a controlled environment, such as a studio, I find my negatives vary, even a wee bit, as I usually Am taking pictures with different conditions. Even outdoors, if the clouds vary, the lighting varies not only in quantity as I find the color changes as well. Maybe my style of photography is such that I encounter these varying conditions. If I pluck my tripod mounted camera in one spot and get things set up, then I can sometimes take a roll and find things are pretty consistent. I make many outdoor portraits near the golden hour at sunset and things change fairly quick.
Thanks Mr. Lambrecht for the pdf.
Just my take. That's why I have a pretty large garbage can in the darkroom!
There are 3 main things that have helped me tremendously.
1 - getting a Nova Quad Print Processor - with this I only mix up chemicals once every couple of months, maybe a little sooner depending on quantity of prints. Because the time I have to print is usually a couple hours at night, I am able to get to printing right away and not have to spend time mixing up chems. I want to use the time I have printing and not mixing up and getting chems ready! The only thing I have in trays are water, and toners which I reuse. So tear down is fast too.
2 - Making the the test strip printer that Ralph has designed and so graciously allowed anyone to access the plans and concept!! This significantly reduces paper waste and allows me to determine my exposure very quickly. I think this is a must have!
3 - Learning to print with f/stops and not just time. I got a Stop Clock Pro and after many sessions, the concept of f/stop printing has taken its roots.
Now I can usually bang out a final print - with toning in a couple hours or less. Without these things it would take me 2 to 3 times longer. And as I learn more and get more familiar with my process, I'll probably shave more time off.
I'll add a fourth....print, print, print and keep printing...often.
To me it's not about how quickly I can get a final print, it's how quickly can I start printing once I close the darkroom door!!!
Originally Posted by RalphLambrecht
I don't have an exact figure ... it was just a best guess on what I've been getting lately.
Perhaps I should have reflected upon this question a bit more. I would now say that 2~5 prints would be a productive session. Dodging & burning are wonderful procedures and I do often use them, they ARE NOT rescue operations - I made no intention to that effect. I quite concur that they offer a unique level of creativity that enhances my darkroom practice.
However, I am always striving to improve my practice and become the best printer I can and appreciate constructive ideas.
I hope this discussion does not get too hung up on semantics.
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Of course not. Just needed to clarify the dodging & burning part. All the best.
Originally Posted by PhotoBob
My routine is pretty much the same as yours up to step 5, where is deviates pretty radically. For the initial negative in a batch (and anytime I'm having trouble), I make a test print using a Kodak Projection Print Scale. I try to set the lens to about f/8 so that I will have adjustment room. That usually gives me an exposure time of 40 to 60 seconds, which is fine because it allows time for dodging, if needed. The test print is processed the same way I process production prints, except that it only gets about 30 seconds in the fixer. The test print gets me in the ballpark with regard to exposure and contrast. I set the required contrast filter into the colorhead and adjust the timer. I sometimes use my color analyzer as a photometer, and take a reading on a Zone VI area, like the sky. That permits me to adjust the exposure for varying color filters. Then I try to make a real print, using the estimated settings. I usually use Defender 54-D as the developer. I develop for about 1 minute and 50 seconds for just about all papers. Full development is important. I use a 2 percent acetic acid solution for 10 to 15 seconds as a stop (but mostly as a rinse), and fix for 2 minutes in Kodak F-34 (a non-hardening, near neutral, rapid fixer). You don't want to fix for too long, but full fixing is also important. I turn on the print viewing light about 20 seconds before pulling the print from the fixer, and start evaluating it. After fixing, I rinse the print, front and back, in running water. If I will keep the print, I then put it into a dry tray until I am ready to wash it. As I evaluate the print, I estimate the changes needed in exposure and contrast. I also estimate any dodging and burning that needs to be done. If dodging and burning is required, I rehearse these before making the next print. I make the exposure and contrast changes that are needed and try to make another print. With any luck, that one will be satisfactory. Otherwise, I iterate until I get it right. Then I continue on with the next negative. If the negatives in a batch are similar, I can make an initial estimate of the exposure from the previous one. The color analyzer (as photometer) comes in handy here. I can set it on a similar Zone VI area and adjust the aperture to set the exposure. When I accumulate a half dozen or so prints in the holding tray, I wash them in the archival washer. If I am using FB paper, I dry them on a heated drum dryer; for RC, I hang them from a clothesline in the darkroom.
Originally Posted by Exeter2010
OK, I'm impressed.
Originally Posted by Mick Fagan
But there is a bit of automation involved here: auto-focus enlarger; enlarging meter, paper processor with a sheet feeder.
I certainly agree with you that too much automation just slows things down.
Nicholas, The paper processor wasn't automatic, one had to stand in the dark and feed the sheets in one at a time, you forgot about the coffee in-between printing batches, this really makes a difference, believe it or not.
Actually it can be coffee, tea or iced water, you just need a break from the intense concentration, otherwise one tends to make silly mistakes.
When we switched over the colour neg print processor from EP2 to RA4 the time difference was amazing, RA4 was so quick.
Thanks all of you for your comments and feedback to my original question, many of you have given me lots to consider - RalphL, nworth, Nicholas especially - and I am already making some changes to my printing routines and practices from what I've read here.
There is one thing I cannot get past though: I think the longest time I've ever spent on a "finished" print, was probably a couple hours and maybe 8-10 sheets of paper. That's without toning, spotting or any "post" printing manipulation. I definitely make no claim to be any great, or maybe not even very good, printer, but if I pick those dozen or so prints that I am truly happy with and that I personally feel can more or less compare technically (tone, contrast, range, etc.) to a print that I admire by a great printer, I can't see how I could have spent much more time on it to make it any better.
I gotta qualify the previous statement once more - I REALLY do not think that I can hold my own in the darkroom against the likes of any acknowledged master printer and maybe I just haven't had enough feedback from other printers. I am truly just an amateur and a relative noob to boot when you get right down to it. All I'm saying is, I think my best prints (probably 'bout 5-6% of total) are pretty dang nice and I just can't see what I could have done to make them any better by putting more time into them.