My first DarkRoom Printing Experience - Help needed
Hi Guys, shooting with rangefinders on BW for more than 10 years, finally I was brave enough to collect all the supplies and try out printing (after an unsuccessful attempt in 2009). Let me summarize what equipment I have. I found a Meopta Axomat 4 with Belar 50mm lens. I bought Ilford Ilfospeed RC Deluxe grade 3 and PQ developer at 1+9 dilution.
After mistakenly trying to develop the test strips in fixer!!:bang: because the bottles are the same :), and trying to figure out which side is the emulsion side...(I printed one from the back, didnt know that the light can pass through its back)..I was able to get some decent prints.
My first impressions, a big disappointment on different height/width ratio of the paper and the film :)
I found it very difficult to decide on timing. My timing widely varied from 5 to 20 seconds. I tried to do test strips but it takes time and I probably dont do it right. Is there a rule of thumb or something on which aperture to choose and how many seconds to expose by looking at your negative??
I also miss a timer and an easel which makes things harder.
I also found that even on correct exposure, the prints are too contrasty to my taste. I know the negatives from scanning that they arent that contrasty. Can I improve it by using 1+14 dilution instead, or use another paper? I dont have any experience on VC papers.
p.s. for some reason rff site doesnt show the photos. So I put the links.
two bad examples:
this is my setup:
Your pictures are not bad at all!
You'll absolutely need a timer and an easel. The enlarger is good, but not for real quality work. For not much money you can get a Leitz Focomat Ic with a filter drawer.
It is useful to start with RC paper with variable contrast and a set of filters. Then you'll have no drying problems and you can change the gradation of the paper.
Don't get any fixer in your developer.
It is good to have someone in your area who makes his own prints so that you can have a look there.
Your results look better than my early prints! Keep going and you will get better. Grade 2 is the standard contrast paper in my experience. I did most of my prints on Ilford Multigrade paper which allows changing contrast with a filter so you don't have to keep different grades of paper. Try to get an electric timer, as Erik said, to improve consistency. You may get sharper prints with a Nikon or Rodenstock enlarging lens if you want to spend a little more money and keep your current enlarger. The Meopta are strongly made enlargers.
Thank you very much Erik, John!
I appreciate it a lot! I am really excited. I agree that Meopta isnt bad but I can look for another lens (23.5mm is the thread on it but its adapter is 39mm I think. Then I can look for another lens.
I am thinking that I can stuck grade filter where the matt glass is located above the condenser. What do you think? What do you suggest for filters? Ilford gelatine filters, which can be cut where needed?
Ilford make a pack of correct-size filters for their Multigrade papers. Here's a link to them at my local supplier in West Australia - not much use to you, but there must be more around...
Anywhere in the light path should be OK, as long as they don't get too much heat from the enlarger globe. I replaced mine with an LED globe so it doesn't get so hot.
Your enlarger is fine. An expensive one won't give you better prints, and even though that's a low end lens, the results look plenty sharp enough to me! Never having printed on graded papers I have no suggestions on that, but the prints look very good indeed. Not too contrasty to my eyes.
Test strips are how you dial in the image. It does take a little time, but beats printing an image only to find out that the exposure/filtering is off. I don't use a timer anymore either and just count the seconds. It's accurate enough for my negs. And speaking of negs, the huge difference in exposure times you're experiencing is how it it goes w/ negs that weren't exposed perfectly.
You should buy an inexpensive filter set and learn how to use them to solve printing issues. It all takes time, and for a second printing session you should be proud of what you did, even if you see room for improvement. I hate to sound old fashioned, but this is all about practice, practice, practice. Finding a neighborhood college that still has a darkroom is a good idea too. Whatever you paid for the class and materials would be less hassle and less money than burning thru printing paper w/o a little guidance.
Thank you very much Steve. I completely agree with you. However it is still contrasty to my taste. Do you think dilution can help little?
Your results look great for a start. It's normal that the majority of the paper goes to the bin, unless one has sophisticated darkroom meters etc.
For print time and aperture do systematic test strips. Getting close by estimating it comes with experience.
The paper formats are all too short for full frame 35mm negs, yes. But other than cropping the neg or the paper, the formats also fit better if you leave wider borders around the image.
Instead of a timer, you can use a metronome or loudly clicking watch or clock. A foot switch, like some lamps have, might help, you'd have your hands free for dodging and burning etc.
An easel helps a lot, but if you stick with one size for now, a frame made from cardboard, wood, plastic... could be an improvement. The fuzzy edges you get without easel can also look great. Paper flatness can be an issue, perhaps use tape, weights or build a vacuum easel, google it, not too difficult.
No, diluted developer is not a repeatable way to adjust contrast. And always develop to completion, use exposure to control the image! Otherwise you cant repeat the results and may get wonky contrast. Your life would be easier if you could get variable contrast paper and filters or at least some grade 2 paper. I like the contrast of the shots you posted though, and some dodging could help if you find shadows too deep. Pre-flashing is also a useful tool for getting highlights under control, but adds another variable.
A sneaky way to guess the appoximate exposure needed
A projection print scale is a varied neutral density filter that allows you to quickly get close to the exposure time needed for a particular negative at a particular aperture.
The way it works:
* Place the projection scale of a small sheet of RC paper, expose an image for 60 seconds
* Then develop the exposed sheet of RC paper
* Look at the collection of images
* pick one of the wedge shaped images that looks close to what you want.
* Look at the scale for the time in seconds for that slice of the pie.
Delta 1 Projection Print Calculator Scale 4x5"
The projection print scale that I use is an old Kodak version. It saves paper by getting you close to the correct exposure right away. Notice that I said close.
You could still find filters set which is mountable on the enlarger lens.
Use same developer, dilution, film, paper and easel. And try to make correct exposures. With all of these consistent, at some point you'll know exposure time by looking at projected negative on the easel. Always take notes.
Thank you Ko. Fe. I will look for ilford plastic filters.
The Kodak Projection Print Scale can be quite useful when you are first starting out.
However with experience you will soon find you can reliably estimate exposure without it.
That could be why so many like-new, barely used copies are for sale on eBay.
A few comments:
Do not try to fine tune your print contrast by altering the dilution of your film developer, i.e. negative contrast. VC paper can adjust for any normal variance in negative contrast. Frankly, yours do not look bad at all.
Get a Kodak project pint scale as others have suggested. It will solve your exposure timing issues. Eventually, you'll acquire a sense of what is required. Someone said you start out with these scales and move on soon. How true.
Use VC paper, it's cheaper, easier to process, and is the better material to learn with. Decent timers have gotten overpriced these days, but an easel is a necessary item to do repeatable printing. You Meopta enlarger is pretty good. The Belar lens is okay up 8x10 prints, but considering the bargain prices used lenses go for, a 50mm 2.8 El-Nikkor upgrade should go on the short shopping list.
Always shut your enlarging lens down two stops from widest aperture to print. Projection scale or test strip for timing.
Really, to get this all under your belt in an organized way, you need to get a "how to" book. There are many out there, some good, some not so much. One of the best (long out of print) is by David Vestal, The Art of Black and White Enlarging (Amazon, 4 bucks). Ilford has a series of excellent how to videos linked to its website. Most of the YouTube videos out there are warped by misinformation and incomplete presentations - don't waste your time there, even if some are quite good.
If you look in the kitchen you might find a good enough timer there that you could borrow. They don't have to be made for darkroom use: just for minutes and seconds will do.
Some of us develop for the same time and temperature and adjust the exposure, like you would with film...
Great start, small problems easily solved.
Keep everything standard, times and exposures.
Label bottles well.
I always printed a contact sheet, very important.
Raise enlarger to cover the negative sheet with 35 exposures on 8x10" paper.
Once you get a good print, most exposures showing.
That is time to expose negative for actual print. (very close).
Some of your prints could have extra burning (exposure), in light areas.
Do that to edges and it makes big difference.
I use Multigrade paper and NO filters..
It's basically a grade 2 1/2..Make sure safelight safe!
Place a dark cover over your enlarger's pole for reflections.
I use Durst with similar construction.
Thanks for reply.
Using filters gives more control..but i use none!
It's a grade 2 1/2.
My negs are usually darker and contrastier..
so softer grade works for me.
(I learnt to expose paper in darkroom, more accurately,
because i used a "Stabilizer" processor that moved print thru,
at 1'' , 2.5cm per second., 10 secs to a damp print ready for newspaper.)
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