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Optical Printing?

  1. Ralph Javins
    Good morning;

    It almost seems obtuse to use a phrase like "Optical Printing" now to describe the process of making a print from a film negative. Buth then, who would have thought that we would be gathering on a forum named the "Analog Photography Users Group." And, that we would be getting to that forum over a path that is clearly completely digital.

    Anyway, yes, I am still trying to do things the old fashioned way. I have been able to replace the old Durst 606 that disappeared in the 1980's with the death of a marriage, but finding all of the accessories that made the enlarger really useful is proving to be a real challenge. Actually, with the perceived demise of film in recent times, the number of enlargers available is impressive. Not only is there a Durst 606 or two here now, there is also an M-600 and an M-607. A couple of these things were given to me by people who had declared film to be dead, but they were not the original owners, so they did not have the accessories. Finding negative masks for my set of film formats is a bit of a challenge. 35mm and 6 x 6 is easy. Finding something suitable for 16mm and 110 is really a bit of a challenge. Fortunately, I have not gone the way of such things as 127 and other similarly obscure formats.

    Finding processing chemicals is also different. Many of the things I had used are now gone. Kodak dropped Microdol-X, but they have come out with Xtol which some say will produce similar results. But the chemical package sizes are impressive. Finding something for just a quart for a quick batch of film is not easy. At the same time, I guess having a gallon or 5 gallons of chemicals does encourage you to take more rolls of film and process them before the chemicals expire and must be thrown out. Getting back into photography is not turning out to be the return to an old familiar activity that I thought it would be.

    Enjoy; Ralph, Latte Land, Washington
    Am I wrong, or is printing and enlarging basically taking a photo of a photo (or negative)? I would like to avoid all digital technology in my photography. I see the Kodak printers from long ago that look like photocopiers and wonder if it could be that easy?
  3. Ralph Javins
    Ralph Javins
    Good morning, StereoKodak;

    Well, I am not sure that I would phrase it as "taking a photograph of a photograph." We are dealing with a couple of different things here. When taking a photograph, there is the scene out there, and the image of the scene focused by the lens on the sensitized silver-bromide crystals in the emulsion on the film are altered by the light reflected from the scene falling on those crystals. The more light, the greater the effect or number of crystals that are affected. When we "develop" the film, we wash out the nonaffected silver-bromide crystals leaving an image on the transparent film layer that carries the emulsion, and the resulting image varies inversely to the light intensity of the original scene; the lighter parts in the scene are the darker or perhaps black parts on the developed film or "negative," and the darker parts in the scene are the lighter parts on the negative. The developed negative has an "inverted image."

    While an enlarger used to make a print from the negative does involve all of the basic things used in taking a photograph, the path the light takes is different. You might say that the light source is inside the camera, and it passes through the negative with the amount of light being attenuated by the darker areas of the negative, and attenuated less by the lighter areas of the negative. This still inverted image of the negative is focused on the paper below by the lens of the enlarger, and the same effect on the silver-bromide crystals in the print paper emulsion happens by the light falling on it in the same way that the light from the original scene affected the emulsion layer of the film. Again, the greater amount of light falling on the paper surface affects more of the silver-bromide crystals in the emulsion on the surface of the paper, just as it did with the film. However, this time we are dealing with a "negative" image of the original scene, so when we go through the developing process with the print paper, we again reverse the sense of the image and the dark areas in the negative image become the light areas in the developed image on the paper, and the light areas become the dark areas on the paper. We have "reversed" the image again so that it looks like the original scene to our eyes.

    As mentioned, in several ways, the chemistry is very similar, yes, but the light path is different and the way that the light is affected is different. That is the main reason why I have difficulty in saying that printing and enlarging is just "taking a photograph of a photograph."

    Does that sound reasonable, or have I just confused things even more?

    Enjoy; Ralph, Latte Land, Washington
    Thanks for the response.

    Yeah, I believe I understand. I should have said enlarging would be taking a photo of a photo, and developing would be making a photographic image from a negative. I pretty much based what I said on pictures I've seen of the equipment used. I should probably try harder to separate printing and enlarging in my mind.

    So, what does one need to make photos from a negative? I may start using negatives more in addition to my slides, and I want to stay true to the "analog" theme. I assume I need an imager of some kind and paper and chemistry.
  5. Ektagraphic
    My thought in starting this group was a place to discuss those of us that especially appreaciate photographs created without any digital means. Welcome.
    Stereo-- In order to make a print from a negative one simply needs an enlarger, some paper, 3 trays, some developer, some stop bath, and some fixer. It is a very rewarding process that can be pretty economical too. It's really not all that hard. In order to print slides, you would just need to buy reversal paper that is made for printing slides which could be bought right through Freestyle. It's quite nice.
  6. hairygit
    Hi everyone, optical printing? is there another way to produce photos then??? Truth is no, certainly not with the degree of satisfaction one gets watching an image appear in the developing tray, my 7 year old daughter is totally fascinated by the process of "magic" as she calls it, how can something emerging from a digital printer ever compare to that! Her friends at school have been visiting my darkroom to watch in awe at the goings on with the "spooky" red lights, and many are wanting to give it a go for themselves, which of course is to be encouraged. I do feel it is very important to let the younger generation know how things SHOULD be done, to keep the spirit of true photography alive, and they can then pass it on to future generations. Anyway, glad to see and join this group, let's hope we can all make it a priority to show future generations what they are missing, and that way the future can remain secure for our way of doing things!
  7. Ralph Javins
    Ralph Javins
    Good morning, HairyGit;

    You, sir, are in an enviable position. Having a working darkroom where you can actually show a child "the magic" as the image on a print becomes visible really is the way that will keep interest in this "older technology" alive and something to engage young people. Thank you;

    Enjoy; Ralph, Latte Land, Washington
  8. hairygit
    Hi everyone, been an eventful week for me! Had a phone call at work from the head teacher at my daughter's schhol (always worrying, that sort of call!) Anyway, turned out that she has been overhearing conversations in the playground at school about the "magic" that I perform to some of her friends. Ended up with my daughters form teacher and the school head teacher coming round for a demo in my darkroom ( seems odd to me that neither of them knew about proper printing, teachers just seem so young these days!) The head teacher was totally gobsmacked by the whole process, claiming she had never seen anything like it, I had to show her some books on the history of photography to prove this is how it has been for well over 100 years! I ended up giving her an old Olympus Trip 35mm camera that has been in the cupboard for more than 20 years and told her to go out and use it! She returned the exposed film, and stayed while I developed and printed it, acting like one of the kids in her school, she loved it! It now seems they want to get all of the kids involved (only 60 in the whole school!) as part of their "Living History" project! I have given the school an old Gnome universal enlarger and a few old developing dishes for the display, and next week I have 4 children at a time coming round to watch prints being made from photos they are taking. Hopefully, at least some of them will want to take this beyond the project and have a genuine desire to give it a go for themselves as they get older, and I've also had several interested parents contact me to ask about how difficult and expensive it is to get started, so I show them some of the bargains on e-bay, hopefully much good will come from this! I'll keep you informed how it goes!
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