Thank you for your post and your questions. The technique that I am trying to resolve is an entirely different masking technique then what Howard Bond uses. The unsharp masks which he uses and advocates are precisely what you describe in that they are low contrast and density unsharp positives of the camera negative. They accomplish two effects. The first is that they reduce the overall density range of the camera negative and they increase apparent print sharpness through so called "edge effects". The decrease of the overall density range of the negative is then compensated for by printing with a higher paper grade and this increases local contrast.

The techique that I am addressing is one of the creation of sharp cutting high contrast and density masks. These masks ideally will separate the density ranges of the camera negative into three predominant ranges. Those being highlight, midtone, and shadow. The reason for the desire to do this is that each of the regions of density operate under differing local contrast conditions. For instance, shadows are always of lower local contrast then midtones and highlights. The reason is that the shadow densities fall on the toe of the camera negative characteristic curve and the shoulder of the paper characteristic curve. Therefore the differing tonalities in this region are not well separated on the print. The midtone and highlight tonal regions or density ranges, if you will, all have their inherent differences. The highlight regions, for instance, fall on the upper regions of the straight line approaching the shoulder of the camera negative's and the toe of the paper's characteristic curve.

By using sharp cutting masks in register with the camera negative, I will be able to print each of these regions with optimized paper contrast grade filtration using variable contrast materials. I will also be able to print the values of these regions separately. I would then use an unsharp mask to blend the demarcation points of the various tonal regions.

Now as to your question of film selection for the production of masks. The use of a camera film is wrought with problems as I view it. First it is a continuous tone material and will not resolve detail as well. Secondly it is of a thicker base material and this has a greater potential for light scatter and further loss of resolution. I am working with a half tone ortho litho film which has the capabilities of being sharp cutting or continuous tone depending on developer selection.

I apologize for the lengthy discourse. I do not know of a shorter way to adequately answer your questions. If you have further questions or input, I will appreciate hearing from you.


Donald Miller