What will help in the early efforts is to standardise certain things. I would recommend using a strictly fixed dev time as per developer instructions, stop, fix etc. 1 min for RC papers at 20 degreees C for 1+9 with multigrade dev is exactly what the bottle says. Always leave it for the indicated time and then analyse the results. Same goes for agitaton etc. Keep it simple. Make sure you dry some prints too so you can see that the print gets darker still when it dries. Only when you fix some variables will you understand changes in exposure and contrast. The key is to get lots of paper and make lots of prints, from the same neg and then different negs. With experience you will be able to look at a neg and say "that is very contrasty, so I need a lower than average filter when printing" or vica versa. Only by wasting loads of paper are you going to pick all this up! Only after wasting tonnes of paper in the early days did I realise that few sheets if any had truly been wasted! I once read that being highly sensitive (in your evaluation of a neg/print) to contrast and exposure can save lots of dodging and burning (manipulation where parts of the image are given more exposure or shaded and therefore given less). This is VERY true. With some negs, you can vary technique wildly and get an OK print. With others a tiny, tiny change in a quarter grade or 2-3% more exposure can make or break the print. You'll get a basic eye for all this quicker than you think! Sounds like your lens has had it tho! Good luck and if you have any probs, post away!!!!

Tom