Alternative process to Pd for better low key rendering?
I have been printing on Pt/Pd for a few years and now I am attempting to print a new project the same way.
I'm trying to print on palladium from 8x10 enlarged negatives of very grainy and contrasty TMZ 3200 35mm film.
These negatives are night shots with ample black areas which I want to render not as flat blacks, but as rich shadows, lively with grain.
I have re-enlarged my negatives several times and tried all possible contrast solutions with Pd. I have raised the Dmin areas of the negative so they show considerable grain. No matter what I do, the shadows become flat and dull. Reducing the print contrast, I get muddy dark grays with no real texture.
I love Pd for its soft shadows, while printing these negatives in silver would result in very harsh, gritty images. But I'm starting to think that Pd might not be the best candidate for this. I heard that Pt/Pd excels mostly in high key scenarios, while other processes (such as gum bichromate) render shadow details better.
Can anybody suggest some other alt process that could be better suited for my goals? Gum? Carbon? I don't mind the learning curve as long as I get the results I need.
Offhand I would suggest Carbon or Carbro. I don't have enough first hand experience with them to give a definitive answer but I have seen those processes describe several times as having good shadow detail but issues in the highlights with con-tone negatives. Perhaps one of the others that has used the process more can give you a better assessment.
Gum bichromates appear to have coarse grain, if that's the look you're going for. You can pretty much make the image look anyway you want tonality wise, by multiple printing with different exposure/development times and brush developing. It's best to print with a flat negative though. It's incredibly cheap, fast, and easy compared to carbon printing.
Carbons can handle a very wide range of negatives, by compensating the amount of dichromate used. I've printed with normal in camera negatives, and lith films with a density range of 1.8. It's an incredibly time consuming process, because of the setting up and drying times. It's usually a multiple day thing, so it's very discouraging when things do go well. You'd need access to a completely level surface for laying the glop, and it's a little bit messier process than gum printing, so I wouldn't recommend the process in a household environment. The nice thing about dichromate processes are how cheap they are, and the tonality is dependent on the pigment (usually watercolor) used.
Maybe a salt or albumen process would be an more suitable alternative for you to try, plus you can tone it with your palladium salts if you like the color of the image they give you.
I've been thinking about this and wondering if this has more to do with your enlarged negatives? Holding detail in the shadows or highlights is tricky with enlarged negatives. If you're looking to hold detail of the grain in the shadows perhaps the enlarged neg doesn't even retain it? How are you making your enlarged negs?
I've never seen any highlight issues when printing film negatives in carbon. I have with digital negatives, though.
Offhand I would suggest Carbon or Carbro. I don't have enough first hand experience with them to give a definitive answer but I have seen those processes describe several times as having good shadow detail but issues in the highlights with con-tone negatives.
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Thanks for the feedback guys.
I'm enlarging my 35mm TMX into a 4x5" inter-positive and then I enlarge the inter-positive into a 8x10 negative.
Originally Posted by davido
I use Rollei ATO 2.1 for the inter-positive, which retains a very sharp grain. I prefer a large format inter-positive to avoid "double grain" issues, where the grain from the inter-positive shows in the final print along with the original grain.
For the large negative I use Rollei Ortho 25 or Adox Ortho, both are lower contrast than the ATO and have a slight magenta base which detaches the minimum values of the image from the uncovered sensitive solution.
I clearly see grainy shadows in the negative. I pushed it until the shadows in the enlarged negative were close to step 3 in a Stouffer tablet, but in order to see the grain in a Pd it needs to be printed so that the shadows are in a zone 3-4, which looks pretty ugly.
I suspect the issue with printing this subject in Pd is the long shoulder of the Pd printing curve. Pd has a very slow curve at denser levels, so getting separation is hard. Also, even if I see the grain in the wet print, as soon as I blot the water off, the shadow details get lost. I had this problem before.
Bottom line is, IMHO, that every type of subject has its own ideal process, and for this specific one I should probably be looking for a process with a more linear curve. That's why, especially after looking at this graph on Unblinking Eye: http://unblinkingeye.com/Articles/Carbon/a_Chart1.gif , I think carbon would render shadow grain much better. I still think silver gives a too harsh effect. Too bad I couldn't find a comparative curve for gum.