contrast problems in print

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fralexis

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I am trying to work through a contrast problem. I have an abandoned building that I shot under a very overcast sky. I used a spot meter to average the exposure by taking a reading at the darkest dark and the lightest light. The dark was a dark window and the light was a white window sill.

I used Ilford HP5 plus and shot at 400 in a Mamiya 7II. I developed the film using the Thornton formula with 5 minutes for the first bath and 5 minutes for the second bath with a little agitation throughout. The negative looked relatively good.

I printed a 5X7 at f11 for 6 seconds with a magenta filter at 130 on a Durst 707 color head.

The print looks pretty flat, with the white window sill somewhat grey and the dark doorway not very saturated. I am thinking that somehow it might be the negative or the film developing process. Or could it be that my Dektol is exhausted? It just lacks punch. Any pointers on where to go from here? THANKS!
 

Konical

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Good Afternon, Fralexis,

It could be that the flat print just reflects the existing scene; it's hard to tell without seeing the negative. Can you post it?

Konical
 

Chris Lange

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If your dektol is leaning towards the "I can get a couple more sessions out of this stuff" side of the scale, that could definitely be the case...just happened to me the other day in fact...mediocre blacks and "eh" highlights.

If you find yourself doubting your developer's commitment to (highlight) Sparkle Motion, chuck it.

Might need more M to deepen things and either split-grade or a minor flash of Y to balance it, too...

Like Konical said, if you post the neg/print, it should be a fairly easy fix.
 

cliveh

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Difficult to say without seeing the negative. Why not try another print with a fresh and more concentrated developer solution, say 1:4?
 
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I printed a 5X7 at f11 for 6 seconds with a magenta filter at 130 on a Durst 707 color head.

Lose the color head and get a set of MultiGrade filters. Trying to control contrast with a color head is a very dodgy proposition.
 
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fralexis

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Thanks for all your advice. I'll try a new batch of developer and see what happens. In the meantime, I am attaching a scan I made. I am not at all good at scanning, so I don't know about the results. Actually the scan looks better than the print :pouty:
Parker, I have filters so I could give them a try as well.
 

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cliveh

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Lose the color head and get a set of MultiGrade filters. Trying to control contrast with a color head is a very dodgy proposition.

Not true, a colour head can control contrast with no problem.
 

Chris Lange

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Thanks for all your advice. I'll try a new batch of developer and see what happens. In the meantime, I am attaching a scan I made. I am not at all good at scanning, so I don't know about the results. Actually the scan looks better than the print :pouty:
Parker, I have filters so I could give them a try as well.

It looks like the scan went through the auto-contrast/sharpen grinder...any chance you could post a more accurate version? Look for "professional" mode or something in your software, and uncheck anything that seems like it might alter the image beyond basic white balance and cropping. If fresh dev doesn't solve your woes, a simple case of burning in with a 5 or 5+ filter or 100% M and holding back the brightest highlight a little more would do the trick it seems.
 

polyglot

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Nothing wrong with a colour head, except some don't go to really-high contrast, i.e. they struggle to hit grade 4. Anyway, I think your scan reflects the extremely flat light you had on the day - if you wanted more contrast you probably should have developed for longer. Probably N+2 given that lighting.

How much M does you enlarger support? Go all the way. Print a bit darker and you will get more highlight separation. Use dodging and burning.
 

Steve Sherman

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Do some research on Multi grade 'Split Grade Printing" This technique is doable with any color head or set of filters and will have an impact in the direction you are looking for.

Cheers
 

MattKing

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Try printing it darker to see if you like the resulting mid-tones.
 

Tom1956

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Check your shutter speeds. Make sure you're not revolving your entire process around an inaccurate shutter. I made a shutter tester a couple months ago and have tested a blue bloody billion shutters of all kinds since. The only accurate one so far is from a Nikkormat FTn I never use. Every other one was so bad, I'm surprised anyone else on these forums has any credibility at all. Really bad. Hasselblads, view lenses, press lenses--you name it. My new standard before I believe anything I hear any more is: "how accurate is your shutter?" Add an unproven meter in with it, and credibility is shot.
 
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Straight, fresh Dektol. (BTW, if you suspect your developer is exhausted, you could have tried fresh developer before posting... Dektol is really only good for a session or maybe two anyway.)

Use an MG filter of the highest contrast (most color heads won't get you max. contrast).

Try a different paper. Some are more contrasty than others (Foma VC 111 for example)

If that doesn't work, you can get more contrast by either selenium toning the negative (1+2 for five minutes is what I do) or use a bleach/redevelop technique with a staining developer like PMK or Pyrocat

For this latter, make a rehalogenating bleach from potassium ferricyanide and potassium bromide. Bleach the negative completely and then redevelop in the staining developer. The original image silver will redevelop, plus you will get added contrast from the stain. This works well, but can change the grain structure of the original. I use it on large format film.

Best,

Doremus
 

David Allen

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Thornton's two-bath is a great developer BUT it is a compensating developer - so it was not a good choice for a flat scene.

However, that's not much help as you have the negative. The five things that would be worth you trying are:
  • Selenium tone the negative - this can give almost one grade increase in contrast.
  • Use a stronger developer such as Dokumol diluted at 1 + 6.
  • If using fibre-based paper make sure you develop for at least 3 minutes.
  • Give a base exposure of 1/4 your average exposure at grade 5 before doing your test strip at your usual grade.
  • Use Chromium intensifier after you have made a print with the most contrast print possible.


Hope you find a solution.

David
www.dsallen.de
 

ROL

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I used a spot meter to average the exposure by taking a reading at the darkest dark and the lightest light. The dark was a dark window and the light was a white window sill.

That descriptive use of your spot meter tells me nothing of the range of actual light values available. Are you using zones or a specific light evaluation method of any kind? If not, using a zone system will allow you to determine the truth of the light and any scene's potential before you ever expose a negative. If there had been 7 or 8 "zones" present, or you had used expansion control available in developing the negative for fewer zones, you likely would have had a negative capable of producing prints with sufficient contrast.

Good light makes good pictures. It is relatively flat in contrast, shot in overcast conditions as you say, and you are unhappy with that. I'm not saying it's not a good picture. In fact, given the light you say was available, I think it's a pretty good picture of a flatly lit scene, even if it doesn't ring any bells for me personally, and despite the fact that I have to turn my computer screen sideways to view it.


The print looks pretty flat, with the white window sill somewhat grey and the dark doorway not very saturated. I am thinking that somehow it might be the negative or the film developing process. Or could it be that my Dektol is exhausted? It just lacks punch. Any pointers on where to go from here?

I doubt your present developing process, film or paper, has anything to do with your dissatisfaction, for the reasons given above. You can try to increase contrast with differing paper grades and/or filters, as others have already stated, assuming you have not already printed with maximum contrast.
 

ic-racer

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Assuming the negative is printable, check all the usual things:

Fog from safelight
Fog from light scatter around the enlarger baseboard
Hazy enlarger lens
Inadequate masking of the clear negative base during enlargement
Incomplete movement of the Magenta filter over the light source when at its maximum setting
Incomplete print development
Paper in the wrong box
 
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