I need help. Apparently I am either shooting wrong, or printing wrong, or I'm just not used to looking at MF prints. I have not been able to get a successful print from a MF negative since I first tried MF back in Sept/Oct.

Anything I try to print seems to be very dark, and muddy looking. I don't think my negatives are under exposed because there are clearly images on them. But I can't get anything longer than a 5 sec exposure on them. How are you supposed to burn/dodge in a 5 sec exposure?

Here is what I was trying to do today:

I started off with these negatives. They were developed in XTOL at 72 degrees for the 7 minutes or whatever time is suggested, and fixed in Ilford fixer if I am not mistaken for 4 mins.
(larger photo on flickr)


Negative by ChristopherCoy, on Flickr


I first tried negative marked #1 with no contrast filter in 2sec intervals.


TestStrip1 by ChristopherCoy, on Flickr

The first was too gray I thought, so I added a 3.5 contrast filter, and did another test strip.


TestStrip2 by ChristopherCoy, on Flickr

My enlarger is an Omega B600 and I was using the 75mm lens at F/8. I didn't really like the idea of a 5sec exposure, but its the only thing near what looked good. So I exposed for 5secs and ended up with this. I dont like how "muddy" it looks especially up around the sign.


Print3 by ChristopherCoy, on Flickr

I thought maybe it was the negative, so I switched them out and tried a test print with this one. No contrast filter and for this one I used older Kodak Polycontrast III RC paper (it was a freebee and I dont want to ruin anymore new stock.) It says Ilford on the photo, but its a mistake, its Kodak. I thought that this one had blacks and whites, but they only appear around the 2/3 sec exposure. Isn't that extremely too short especially at f8?


TestPrintNocont by ChristopherCoy, on Flickr


Here is the uninverted negative scan if it helps.


Negativeuniverted by ChristopherCoy, on Flickr


(I'm scanning with our desktop HP printer/copier/scanner so please ignore the quality/dust/inferiority of the scans)

Can anyone advise if its my shooting, printing, or just overall unfamiliarness with MF process. I've never had this much trouble with 35mm printing.