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  1. #1
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    I waited too long - 1st contact print

    Picked up a contact printing frame a couple of weeks ago, and succesfully pulled off my first contact print yesterday. Using Perfecta paper from Fine Art Photo Supply, and their Versa Print glycin developer, I got an image way beyond what I thought would be possible from a 4x5 FP4 neg that I like.
    I want to get into Azo and Amidol soon enough, but don't think the negs I print on the enlarging paper will suit Azo, or am I wrong. I have read many things about Azo, but since I haven't done contact printing before I never really paid attention to what was said either.
    It is my understanding that negs need to be denser than for regular contact printing, and that staining developers like Pyrocat-HD might be a better solution rather than standard developers. Amidol seems to be the developer of choice, but I would like to know if other developers will get you close. Michael Smith seems to recommend a 300W flood light as illumination, so far I've been using my enlarger as a light source (I use the filters). I'm not getting into UV as I am a skin cancer 'candidate'.

    I guess I'm looking to confirm my comprehension of what's needed to start with Azo. I want to make the most of making contact prints, as the one I made on enlarging paper completely blew me away. I did not realize what local contrast was until now. My enlargements look very pale by comparison (not that they're bad, they're just not contact prints, and the extra three degradations of focusing, optical distortion, and the degree of enlargement, I'm sure helps rule in favor of contact printing).

    Thankful for help,

    - Thom
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

    "...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh

  2. #2

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    Contacts

    Thom-do not be fooled into thinking that the Azo route is the only way to go.
    I have made any number of contact prints on numerous papers. Brett Weston made 11x14 contact prints and I don't believed he ever used Azo. Truth be told it's the image that counts not the process. Lately I've been using graded
    papers and Amidol for paper development which works wonderfully. You will have to try it for yourself. The photo you posted is beautiful enough and I'm just tired of hearing that it's nice but would have looked so much better if printed on Azo. You could make pyro negatives and print in silver+ platinum
    Now that would be an alternative wouldn't it? Anyway you have opened your eyes to something you can see for yourself and will choose the route you will ultimately take. Have fun with that.....
    Best, Peter

  3. #3
    noseoil's Avatar
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    Thom, welcome to the fold. It really is better, isn't it? Azo is a great paper. It will work with any paper developer, but amidol is still the best. That having been said, Neutol WA works very well with azo and gets pretty close to amidol. I use dektol for proofing if I have it mixed and sitting, but it does make an azo print look cold.

    The thing about negative density has been kicked around a bit by different folks, but the bottom line is that it is just easier and better to print with more density and more light on azo. The down-side is that you can forget using the same negative (that dense) to go back to silver enlarging as it will take too long to expose. A negative done with pyrocat can be used with silver or azo, but it will be a bit different in grade of paper.

    If you think your contact print is sharp now, give pyrocat and minimal agitation a try and see how you like it. It is a huge leap ahead in local contrast, shadow depth and sharpness. I'm still amazed at what I thought was a good print a year ago, this year is much better. Even an 8x10 enlargement from 4x5 with minimal agitation looks like a contact print. Nothing beats a contact print, but Efke 100, pyrocat hd, minimal agitation and a decent enlarging lens certainly makes for a wonderful print. tim

  4. #4
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    Brett Weston certainly used amidol. I don't know if he used Azo, but it's fairly likely that for contact prints he used a chloride contact paper, of which Azo is the last available, at least until it runs out or someone makes a replacement.

    Negs targeted for Azo really produce beautiful prints on Azo. Basically, you need about one or 1.5 zones more contrast than you would for silver printing for best results, so it's not as extreme as what you might want for pt/pd or other alt processes, and it wouldn't be out of the question to print such negs on enlarging paper, such as a VC paper at grade 0 or 1. If you target your negs for grade 3 Azo, you might find you can print at grade 2 on a variety of enlarging papers.
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
    Photography (not as up to date as the flickr site)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com/photo
    Academic (Slavic and Comparative Literature)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com

  5. #5
    Amund's Avatar
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    And don`t forget one of the major advantages of Azo, it`s slow...
    With regular enlarging paper I have 1.5-3 seconds exposures, no time to dodge and burn... With Azo it`s no problem...
    But I`d love a slow RC paper for proofs.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by blix@broadpark.no
    And don`t forget one of the major advantages of Azo, it`s slow...
    With regular enlarging paper I have 1.5-3 seconds exposures, no time to dodge and burn... With Azo it`s no problem...
    But I`d love a slow RC paper for proofs.
    If you are getting 1 to 3 sec exposures you are either using the enlarging lens wide open or your negatives are too thin, either way, these are things people should not do.

    I too am tired of hearing this azo panacea. Yes it is a good paper, but I have seen just as good prints on enlarging papers as well.

  7. #7
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    Thanks everybody for contributing to this thread.

    Contact printing in itself seems to hold many more possibilities than I was aware of. Using Azo is one of them, while there is a slew of other techniques that can be used. I'm sure as time goes by I'll want to try something else, but after a few responses read here, from very respectable photographers, I'll take more time to consider my options.
    It also entails me starting to tailor my negs differently, and if I don't like Azo I'll be with a bunch of negs rather useless in other applications. This all takes a lot of consideration. For now I'll probably stick with using my enlarging paper until I'm comfortable with it, and learn how to adjust it to my liking.

    What struck me was how easy it was to get a decent print. The picture I posted in the gallery was a straight print, no burning/dodging, and it took ten minutes to get there, using two other papers, one too bright, and one too dark, and make an adjustment based on the values in those two prints. Simple as that. Beats the heck out of enlarging any old day in my opinion. Although it would be nice to be able to produce an 11x14 or 8x10 from these negs. I need to win some money so I can get into buying a larger camera...

    Thanks again,

    - Thomas
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

    "...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh

  8. #8
    jmdavis's Avatar
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    Congratulations on the contact prints. I think Jorge is right, Azo isn't a cure for everything that ails you. But, I had some normal fp4 negatives that did print better on Azo than on Ilford VC.

    I just finished my first pyrocat negatives minutes ago. I was sitting here writing an email to the model (also a photographer) telling her that I thought I might try to contact print these. Even though my initial vision was different. I now think that I want both a 4x5 contact and a 11x14 enlargement.

    Blix, how did your shots from the workshop turnout? I just developed mine in the same batch of Pyrocat and was really happy with the negs.

    Mike Davis

  9. #9

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    I have to agree with Jorge and others in that Azo is not a panacea. I have made prints on other papers that are every bit as fine as anything that I have seen on Azo (that includes Michael Smiths prints).

    I echo what David says in that grade three Azo requires about the same DR as a negative that will print on Grade two Oriental. I use 1.35 on Grade three Azo and 1.35 on grade two enlarging with a condensor enlarger. So considering that Azo carries no more dmax or dmin then several good quality papers today, I see no real benefit to using the paper.

    Azo is a good paper...but there are other papers that produce good results.

  10. #10
    Amund's Avatar
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    Jorge, I`m not using an enlarger for my contacts, I use a 15w bulb, I guess I should try to find something weaker or try to reduce the output from the one I use now...

    Mike, I`m halfway through the negs I shot at the workshop and the week in NYC and the negs are looking fine, nothing special though...

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