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  1. #1

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    Developing Roll Film for various contrasts - bruce barnbaum

    I have a few questions about properly exposing the negative for roll film. I am reading Bruce Barnbaum's book,The Art Of Photography. It is very, very good. In Barnbaum's book, when he discusses the proper development of roll film, he suggests a few scenarios for avoiding the dilemma's of roll film. As an important side note, I've never developed film, so this is all new to me. I am taking a darkroom class soon, but I don't want to mess up a bunch of negatives in the meantime!

    Barnbaum suggests the following:

    Use more than one back or camera body, designing each for a different contrast level. You would typically use 3. One for contrast expansion, one for normal contrast, one for compensation reduction (not completely sure what compensation reduction is?)

    Here are some of my questions/clarifications about his suggestion.

    If I understand development properly, once you develop a negative, it is forever developed the way you chose to develop it. So he's suggesting, for example, that if you are shooting snow on roll film, and over-exposing by a few stops to make the snow white, ONLY use that roll of film with overexposures, because in development, you have to compensate for the overexposure. If you shoot 15 shots of snow with an overexposure and then 10 shots with normal exposure, this is a bad idea??

    Thanks -

  2. #2
    Dan Henderson's Avatar
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    An old photographic axiom goes, "expose for the shadows, develop for the highlights." In essence, what this means is that the shadow areas of the negative are more or less fixed at the time of exposure. But the highlight areas can be manipulated by changes in development time. So if you have a "normal" range of tones in your scene (about 4 stops), you develop for a length of time that will preserve those values. If your scene has less than normal range, you can develop for longer to "expand" the contrast range. If you have a very contrasty scene you can develop for less than a normal time to compact the contrast range. The idea is to produce negatives that have good shadow values, highlights that are not too dense, and therefore print fairly easily.

    That is the advantage of sheet film; you can develop each sheet separately to produce the contrast range you wish. The same thing can be accomplished with medium format cameras with removable backs. You can have a back for normal, flat, and contrasty scenes. With 35mm cameras you pretty much have to develop your film for the most important scenes, and live with less than ideal contrast for other scenes.


    web site: Dan Henderson, Photographer.com

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

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

  3. #3

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    Dan give a great explanation of what is called N,N- and N+ development and the reasons for it but if you are brand new to analogue film taking and processing then don't worry. If you expose as your hand-held or in-camera meter suggests and develop as the film manufacturer recommends for that film and its developer you will get very printable negs. Film is very forgiving. You are not on a knife edge where not being able to control everything or a small error results in negs that may as well be thrown into a bin

    Take things one step at a time and enjoy it. Things will be fine

    pentaxuser

  4. #4
    Mainecoonmaniac's Avatar
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    I personally don't use multiple back or cameras for different development. I had a college professor that carried 3 camera bodies one for N, N+1, N-1. I Felt he was a slave to technique. We all work differently. What I do is always expose for shadows and develop normally or for "N" for mixed lighting condition on a roll. I can always adjust the contrast by changing the grade of paper. There are exceptions of course. I pull back development about 10-20% if the whole roll is shot under contrasty scenes and add 10-20% development if the whole roll is shot under low contrast. I do admire old timers being to shoot and process film and print on grade 2 paper.
    "Photography, like surfing, is an infinite process, a constantly evolving exploration of life."
    Aaron Chang

  5. #5

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    Ok, this is very interesting. Im reading now about N, N+1, N-1.

    Because I do not currently have a spot meter, I've been exposing scenes with snow, for example, 2 stops higher than what my light meter recommends, so I theoretically will develop these rolls N-2??

  6. #6
    Mainecoonmaniac's Avatar
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    Snow is supposed to be 2 stops higher under a reflected reading. It's supposed to fall on zone VII usually under overcast skys. I'm assuming that you want texture in your snow. Always meter your shadows to see where your highlights fall. All meters give an 18% grey reading. Since snow is NOT 18% gray, but white with texture, it reads 2 stop higher which falls on Zone VII. So you must open up 2 stops from your reflected reading of snow to make snow white with texture. But snow under bright sun might make snow fall on Zone IX lets say. You'll have to do an N-2 to pull snow that's blown out to zone IX back to zone VII.

    Ansel Adams the negative is a great book to learn the Zone system. Correct me if I'm wrong.
    "Photography, like surfing, is an infinite process, a constantly evolving exploration of life."
    Aaron Chang

  7. #7
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    I agree that you should use a meter and expose as the manufacturer says and develop accordingly. You can control contrast to a degree by the grade of paper you print on. You're just starting out - don't make things complicated. Follow the manufacturers instructions for six months or a year, make a lot of mistakes that you learn from, then when you understand more and have a better feel for film, move to the more complex. I shot roll film at the manufacturers rating and developed as instructed for at least 15-years before I knew there was anything else to consider. I have a lot of printable negatives from that time.
    juan
    Last edited by juan; 01-11-2013 at 08:39 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  8. #8

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    Juan, that is excellent advice. Do as recommended and as you accumulate knowledge and experience, you will begin to know when to compensate.

  9. #9
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    mporter- I'm not sure what your subject matter is but, based on your snow example, I'll assume it's landscape. The truth is, most of the time a roll will require either N, -, or + development, not all three, (which you can't do anyway). Unless the light is changing rapidly, your exposures will be fairly consistent, assuming your subject matter is consistent. Any slight variation can easily be addressed in printing.
    Carrying 3 cameras will be a waste. You'd be better served by using 20 exposure rolls (or bulk loading even shorter rolls) than carrying the extra cameras.

  10. #10
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    My advice is just develop normally.
    Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin

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