Self Assignments & Questions...
I've given myself some 'self assignments' during this last roll. My goal was to find patterns or texture that would reproduce with a high level of contrast. I am trying to 'self teach' myself to 'see' in black and white.
I had issues with this image in the darkroom. Originally I was getting nice whites on top, but I was loosing the detail in the cracks. They were coming out solid black. So I added a contrast filter and was able to open up the detail in the cracks, but then the white came out blown. I ended up taking out the contrast filter and I think this was the final image. Exposed for 7 seconds without a contrast filter. What would you suggest I do with this one to keep the detail in the blacks, but not blow the whites?
DroughtWEB by ChristopherCoy, on Flickr
I had the same issue with this one, only it went in reverse. I had good detail in the blacks to begin with, but then added a contrast filter and it went blacker and whiter. I ended up taking out the filter and exposing this one for 7 seconds as well.
HayWEB by ChristopherCoy, on Flickr
I like the repeating patterns in this image, and I like the way that the ends of the logs look, but I dont like how dark the cracks in between are. I'd like to find a happy medium here, but dont know which way to go. And because of the two images above, I wasn't even going to attempt a filter of any kind.
WoodWEB by ChristopherCoy, on Flickr
And my last issue has to do with chemicals. Towards the end of my darkroom session, my prints would start to turn a purpleish/gray color when I would turn on the flourescent lighting in my bathroom to view things. I assume that it is because my fixer was spent, and the papers were still being affected by light. I did notice that my fixer had become cloudy. How can you tell if your fixer is spent, before it gets to this point?
Which filter are you using? The lower numbers should result in less contrast, not more.
Have you tried split- grade printing? I find it a great way to get my tones where I want them. http://www.lesmcleanphotography.com/index.php
Les explains it well ...look under articles.
Also, look at his article on flashing....
As for your fixer, buy some Hypo-chek... A drop of this turns white in exhausted fixer.
"So I am turning over a new leaf but the page is stuck". Diane Arbus
These images might make good test ones to show yourself the effect that each filter has. Assuming you have a full set of filters, try printing one of these images with each filter from 00 to 4, all 1/2s as well. Also, do them all at the same exposure time and then do several of them at times based on what you see in the first run. This should give you a good idea of how the filters affect the image. Basically, a lower number filter will give you a lower contrast and a higher number will give you more contrast. I don't think you should try split grade printing until you know how the filters work. There's also a great explanation on the info sheet that comes with Ilford papers.
The filters that I have are Ilford filters and go from 0 to 5 with half steps in between. There are a total of 11.
A #2 filter is closest to what you get with no filter. Any filter less than that will give you more detail in the highlights and darks that aren't as black (in increments as you go further from #2). Filters above #2 will give you less detail in the highlights and darker blacks - also incrementally. You really need to experiment to see how your negs respond to changes in filter.
Originally Posted by ChristopherCoy
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Essentially the filters mostly affect how the shadows print. The highlights are mostly affected by your exposure time. Try this as an experiment:
1) Use the #2 filter;
2) Do a series of test strips, at a progression of exposure times, to see if you can get good highlight detail in one of the strips. When you do, record the time;
3) Evaluate the shadows in that chosen strip. If they are too light, then you need to use a filter with a higher number. If the shadows are too dark, you need to use a filter with a lower number. Try some tests with different filters, using the recorded time. Check the results for retained highlight detail and good shadows. If you are forced to go to the #4 filter and higher, you may have to double your exposure time.
For some really contrasty negatives you may have a lot of trouble getting highlight detail at any exposure time with a #2 filter. If this is the case, re-start with a #1 filter.
This isn't necessarily the best way to approach the task of determining the right contrast filter to use, but it will show you how the filters work. Once you understand that, you can refine your technique.
“Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”
Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2
Christopher, I would highly recommend split grade printing to you. If you're not familiar search the archives, there are plenty of threads. Basically, you set the important highlight tone with the grade 0 filter. Then go back and set your blacks with the grade 5 filter. This gives you control of highlights and shadows independently instead of chasing both with a single filter.
If you were to stick with a single grade, remember that exposure sets your highlights. So choose a filter, starting lower rather than higher, say grade 2. Find the exposure that gets your highlights where you'd like them. Once there, look at your blacks. If there are too dull and gray, you need to up your contrast. If your blacks are too dense and dark, you need to lower the contrast.
Thanks Brian, and everyone. I'm back on my days off so I'm planning some more darkroom time this week. I plan to pick one of the photos and make a 5x7 print with each filter so that I can have a visual example of what each does. That split grade technique sounds really cool! I'll do some reading and searching on the forum for more info.