Printing With Multi Grade Papers

Ian-Barber

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When printing with variable contrast papers such as Ilford MG RC is it best to start out with a filter with the target grade in mind.

For example. if you want to target say Grade 2 or even 3, would you put the appropriate grade filter in before even starting your test strips. Also, with papers like Ilford MG, with no filtration do they equate to a certain grade.
 

David M

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"No filter" is more-or-less equivalent to Grade 2, but depending on your enlarger, it may not be an exact duplicate. It seems sensible to begin with a filter in place – one less test strip.
A classic Zone System neg would print perfectly on Grade 2 paper, but we don't always have perfect negs. I seem to remember that 35mm users liked to aim at Grade 3 as their standard, but I don't know why. Perhaps it was something to do with displaying a "punchy" print to attract the judge's eyes in club competitions. All this is history, of course as clubs seem to be entirely digital today.
Dedicated split-grade printers may have other needs, but you'd need to ask a dedicated split-grade guru about that.
 
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martin-f5

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well it's also depending on your film and contrasts. Using 35mm 100 ASA FP4 or ACROS i tend to use Grad 2.5 filter for worksheets, using TRIX I tend to use Grad 3 for first prints.
Never done it without filter, times are shorter and nothing is under controll.
With 6x6 or 5x4 negatives I do mostly spiltgrade with Grade 1 and 5 filters even for worksheets.
 

martin-f5

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since I do this only on straight pints it's not that important.
I just measure exposure time with Grad 2 filter and ad about 10% for split grade exposing.
Do I have a flat negativ I tend to expose 30% Grad 1 and 70% Grad 5. Do I have a very contrasty one I do more with 1 and less with 5.
Remember the first print has to show what you got on the negativ.
It also depends on the paper you use. A fresh FB paper and a fresh developer creats miracles compared to PE papers.
 

Ian-Barber

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What I am finding from my own negatives is that I seem to be making exposures on flat dull days which produces a flat negative with very few bright white and deep blacks and little separation in the mid-tones.

No problem for the digital workflow because building localised contrast is relatively easy even down to pixel level. In the darkroom however, things are taking a different turn. I am finding the low flat "lifeless" negative is hard to separate the tonal values.
 

Alan Clark

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What I am finding from my own negatives is that I seem to be making exposures on flat dull days which produces a flat negative with very few bright white and deep blacks and little separation in the mid-tones.

No problem for the digital workflow because building localised contrast is relatively easy even down to pixel level. In the darkroom however, things are taking a different turn. I am finding the low flat "lifeless" negative is hard to separate the tonal values.
Ian, What film are you using? What format? And what film developer? Are you increasing the development time (over "normal") to boost contrast? And what contrast grade are you finding you are printing on to get the best out of flat negatives?

Alan
 

Ian-Barber

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Ian, What film are you using?
For MF I have been using Acros 100

And what film developer?
Mainly XTOL for MF

Are you increasing the development time (over "normal") to boost contrast?
NO

And what contrast grade are you finding you are printing on to get the best out of flat negatives?
Between 4 - 5 but saying that, the midtowns are still muddy to me.

This enlarger I have can only do 35mm and MF so these are the ones I am testing
 

alexmuir

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Sometimes, the enlarger bulb can cause problems obtaining proper contrast from your negatives. If it is nearing the end of its life, the colour temperature can change. I have used enlargers in a college darkroom where you had to use grade 5 filters for everything. At home, my negatives print best between grade 2 and 3. On the diffuser model I start with grade 2.5 at the testing stage. If possible, try a new bulb in your enlarger to see if things improve. When the bulbs age, they tend to put out a lot more yellow light which equates to lower contrast with multi-contrast papers.
Alex


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martin-f5

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Ian, why not make a test with a grey step negative for finding out what your setting can produce?
For me it seems there are a lot of questions on the enlarger, darkroom lights, paper and developer.

but of course printing a dull negative is really not easy to do but you can learn a lot of photography in total.

Having such a negativ I would make test pictures with only grad 5 and one with grad 1 filter, just for finding out where the blacks and whites are and how much exposing they need to be printed.
Your first decision is done while exposing the film, the next is developing and the last on is printing. Making dull negatives will never give you high contrasty prints. You probably have to decrease film exposing and increase developing.
 

Alan Clark

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Ian, If you are getting flat prints with contrast grade 5 then something is wrong. You definitely need to increase film development time to boost film contrast. I have never used Acros100, and stopped using Xtol after testing it and finding it wasn't for me. So I can't offer any specific advice there. But there may be other problems as Alex and Martin have suggested. Bulbs and filters change over time. Paper loses contrast. Old paper developer goes off. You need fresh everything, or you could end up going round in circles and wasting a lot of time and money...
Good luck!

Alan
 

Ian-Barber

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Sometimes, the enlarger bulb can cause problems obtaining proper contrast from your negatives. If it is nearing the end of its life, the colour temperature can change. I have used enlargers in a college darkroom where you had to use grade 5 filters for everything.
This is still in the back of my mind for some reason, I dont know why but it is. The image on the baseboard just looks yellowish to me.

Here is a print still drying which I have just done.

its a 4.6x4.6 inch print with split grades.
14 seconds with grade 00 to keep detail in the pears
45 seconds with grade 5 to get the background darker with 8 seconds dodging on the pears to stop them getting darker.

IMG_0180.JPG
 

Ian-Barber

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Its not that bad to be honest. 45 seconds for Grade 5 to get the blacks where I want them just seemed a long time. Maybe I am getting obsessed with exposure times. Maybe it takes as long as it takes to get what you want ?
 

martin-f5

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well, it depends on f-stop, distance between lens and paper.
And of course the enlarger lamp.
Doing 13x18 cm with 35mm negs it usually takes 12 seconds, but 4x5" on 30x40 cm paper I also need about 40-6o seconds.
But I use Opal bulbs and a condenser enlarger.
Years ago I had an old cold-light color head enlarger and had issues with the correct 12V bulb.
After fixing it all I didn't get that blacks I know from the condenser enlarger.
This is the reason I'm still using them.

Did you made a test with the negative blank frame as a black border?

I normal do this so I know how the blacks can go.

test.jpg
 

David M

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Freshly-mixed film developer? Tank dismantled and washed to obviate any traces of residual fix?
 

Ian-Barber

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I have now taken on board all the comments and made physical notes of all suggestions, thanks for the input.

I may have to come to terms that exposure times are not as important as I first thought and not compare them to times what others are achieving simply because there are many variables such as lamp size, output power etc.

I have just printed another negative which was a night scene and on Grade 3 it took 64 seconds to get something workable.
 

David M

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It's still a remarkably long time for a small print. A few more things to check. The lamp: is it the correct lamp, running on the correct voltage and is it properly centred? The lens: is it stopping down correctly or is it somehow stopping down too far? Is there any obstruction in the light path? Mixing chambers can get dirty or stained over time and can become misaligned. There is usually a lever to move all the filters together out of the light-path without changing the settings, to give white light for focusing, which might be malfunctioning.
My apologies if you've already thought of these and checked them.
Is this useful?
http://www.jollinger.com/photo/cam-coll/manuals/enlargers/lpl/LPL_7700.pdf
 

Ian-Barber

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It's still a remarkably long time for a small print. A few more things to check. The lamp: is it the correct lamp
It's now fixed :):)

I bit the bullet and bought a New Lamp. Installed it and I immediatley saw a difference on the baseboard, it no longer had a yellow cast.

Just done a test print, what was taking 45 seconds on a grade 5 @ f/8 now takes 6 seconds on a grade 3 @f/11

Thank you to everyone for helping out on this, if nothing else, I have learnt a great deal about how halogen lamps work :D
 
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