Tips from the Darkroom

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by Bob Carnie, Mar 23, 2011.

  1. Jennifer65

    Jennifer65 Member

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    Thanks, I am a new, maybe I can learn a lot skills form this post.

    I have add this post to bookmark!!
     
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    Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Keep it simple stupid KISS PRINTING.

    Lately I have noticed a lot of threads popping up on printing and film developing here on APUG... that is a good sign yes/no for all us printers. I have also
    noticed a lot of people pounding their chests about their methods,, how to take notes,, the value of notes,, Zone system gurus talking
    about how one needs to chart before they can print.... MYSELF INCLUDED.

    One thing I think that is missing is good old fashion LOOKING and OBSERVING and then MODIFYING.


    Kodak has told us for years , what to look for in a negative on a light box, can you read a newspaper through the highlights, is there information in the shadow area.
    -Well Kodak was right dammit.. you should stop complicating your life and just look at the negative and observe, understand then modify.
    A negative is easy to understand if you can read a newspaper through it.


    If a timer is so complicated that you need a manual to understand how to use it , are you printing or are you operating a timer:munch:
    I use a simple gray lab timer 450 and I see no need for anything else. The timer is a damm tool and if it is more complicated than the enlarger itself then
    you are spending too much time learning something that is bla-se.


    The print will tell you if it needs more tone or less tone, you just have to LOOK AND OBSERVE then MODIFY your approach the timer only starts the exposure and stops it.

    I have used the same dodging and burning tools including my hands for 37 years. I do not need any stinken complicated masks to make a print or
    silly odd shaped tools, by adjusting the angle of your arm you can turn a circle into an egg, you can use your hands to filter in the light within the image
    and you can use your hands to create box shapes on the outside.. KISS.

    Split Grade Printing is basically using a low contrast filter and a high contrast filter, with a bunch of prints you will figure it out and how to MODIFY your results.


    As you may gather I hate note taking , curves, complicated equipment..

    I believe in looking at the negative, looking at the easel, watch the print emerge, and decide where tone is needed, areas of where you want to lead the eye too are very important and that my friends is what the dodge and burn tool is all about.
    Where there should be more contrast to entice to viewer to ogle.

    I also encourage printers not to copy past prints, Ie screw the notes or the silly print maps, and actually make a new print each time.
    As a printmaker for others it should be noted that I will not match other printers prints for clients, and even within my own prints for my clients I will never match a print as I am hoping that I get better each day and why would I want to match something I did before, it may be inferior..Yes/NO

    Most important observe your subject and lighting and understand how lighting ratios and negative / print ratios work.
     
  3. Dinesh

    Dinesh Subscriber

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    Bob, you have to remember that most people do not have 37 years experience in the darkroom.

    What may seem simple and easy for you, may be difficult for others (most notably me).
     
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    Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    You caught me on my Saturday morning rant.. I am not aiming this at specific people but all the new printers that I see coming on this site.

    You are a pretty good printer btw, I have one of yours on the wall at home... well I put it beside the Mc Cutchen every time you two come over so you both feel good.

    I pretty much learned the hard part of dodge and burn very early, its taken a few years to refine, but its amazing to me that Kodak nailed it with their simple books on printmaking... then came the Zonies and made it all complicated.
     
  5. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi bob

    there are always people that make simple stuff complicated.
    i once heard a lecture by a former photo prof about how to use photo flo .

    instead of saying " when you have your film processed, you add a few drops to the cylinder / tank
    and drag your film through it and then hang it to dry"
    he gave a speech about how the water had to look like it was beading off the top, how you had to slosh the film
    through several times, then wack the tank ( as in air bubble release ) then slowly add water to the top
    until all the foam spilled down the side and slowly reaching in pulling each rollout as if
    the tank was giving birth, never to be touched by human skin again
    ... it was a 15-20 minute dramatic lecture

    kind of complicated for a simple process ...

    i couldn't agree more simple is good ..
     
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    Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Thanks John

    If you do not know what a good negative is supposed to look like then get out the Kodak books.

    Pyro negs are not misleading either same idea, can you read the newspaper through the highlights and is there info in the shadows.
    If so you have a good negative to print.
     
  7. erikg

    erikg Member

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    Good stuff, Bob. Just one question: what's a newspaper?
    Seriously I think getting into all the technology stuff is just a way to avoid answering questions like "what do I want it to look like?" and such which are subjective / artistic questions that you have to work out for yourself and that can be difficult. So plot some curves instead.
     
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    Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Its an ancient way of communicating with others.
     
  9. David Brown

    David Brown Member

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    I think Bob's ideas are particularly important for beginners. They should try and keep the process as simple as possible. It is my not-so-humble-opinion that printing is intuitive. It cannot be fully successfully automated, or reduced to a complex formula (no irony there). Still, for those who can't get "intuit", perhaps a few tools and formulas will allow them to make acceptable prints. But (again IMHO) until one begins to rely on their eyes, they'll never make great prints.

    YMMV :wink:
     
  10. Bruce Osgood

    Bruce Osgood Membership Council Council

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    CARNIES' POST #52

    The best damn advice you will ever get! You don't need 37 years to learn it.
     
  11. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    Bob,

    You make a lot of sense... Things have changed since last I declared I make 3 prints each. Now I have scaled back and make 1 print each to save paper.

    Forced me into making a reprint of my popular shot. Yes, I had to make one print for a couple I found are Disney fans. Otherwise 1 print each satisfies my (nonexistent) clientele.

    My big customer is coming up today... my dad. Might show him his uncle's slides to keep him away from taking my prints (besides he still wants to see prints of himself that I haven't made yet).

    I'll add to your dodging tools advice, a piano wire on a block of wood comes in very handy. Reinhold makes a fancy set, just one of those circles is what you would want the set for. The rest can be wall decor, it's a nice set.

    I keep meaning to poke a hole in cardboard to make a burning tool. But I have had good luck with hands, THEY ARE VERY CONVENIENT. Even though sometimes I wonder what I did, most of the time the finished effect is what I went for and the error is invisible.

    My light monitor is complicated and needs note-taking, I wish I had a "light integrator" that clicked, so I could treat time in "units". Other than that I really rely on my clicking timer to shut off the light because I can't count down 40 seconds in my head.
     
  12. NedL

    NedL Subscriber

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    I'm pretty sure I read this thread about a year ago, but it might be time to re-read it all from the beginning. In my own small way I seem to be following a similar path... a year ago I was keeping test strips, making extensive notes, etc... then I realized that my process of coming to exposure is not so time consuming and that it contains an important part of familiarizing and "connecting" with the print. I stopped keeping notes on each print soon after. I can't imagine using them if I re-printed. Also, now I have a backlog of negatives to print, and it's more fun working on a new print. I've only been printing about a year or so.

    Two things caught my eye in Bob's recent KISS post.

    1) The importance of leading the eye.. this is easier said than done, even if you know what you want to accomplish with a given print. My efforts at this seem ham-handed and blatant and I keep finding myself falling back more toward a straight print because I don't like it when it looks overdone. Or I spend a lot of time getting something that is very subtle and I wonder if anyone except me the printer would ever know or if it makes any difference at all! There is some kind of balance to find here, and I have definitely NOT found it. I figure it will come with time and practice, but would be interested in hearing how others manage the "big picture" broad decisions about dodging and burning.

    2) Bob you said you learned the hard part of burning and dodging early on. I'd love to know what "the hard part" is!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 21, 2013
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    Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    NedL

    My first real photo job after photo school was in Hamilton Ontario , working for a very busy wedding / portrait photographer.

    We did everything from shoot the wedding on film, process C41 make proof prints, then my boss Slobadan Filipovitch and I would handle all the printing of the wedding orders by hand. I was given 8 x10 - 5 x7 - wallets. He took 11x14 and up..
    I had to dodge and burn every print, Mr Phillip as I called him was very anal about this and I could not fool him, I was allowed to put colour corrections on the test strip, but in the three years I worked for him he never accepted one of my corrections. He would stand by me or I would stand by him and we would discuss the dodge and burn and how to improve.
    He also did this with me with the weddings and to my surprise after two years the couples were requesting me to do the candids and Mr Philip was quite happy with that as he did the formals. So each sat I had two groups of candids to do ..


    I got really good with the dodging tools and secondly with the burning tools , also how to tame contrast lighting ratio with exposure and flash.


    My next job was at a Wedding Lab in Toronto. Custom Colour Lab, I got the custom printing job right away after one day of proving myself.
    Now I insisted to do the 11x14 and up and I trained others to do the small prints.
    This was a very busy lab and I printed for some great wedding photographers, most notably was Tibor Horvath, who loved to come to the darkroom, and pretend he was printing, but basically talked my ear off about life, he was a wonderful man.

    Over this period I still used the same tools and never relied on translators after I had made my first test, I went all manual after using the first test tools that were given me.

    So 6 years, I was pretty good after two months but the daily grind of dodge and burn created an internal mapping system for my future and I still work the same way.


    So how do I explain to young printers how to do this...

    Take 15 rolls of 35mm film and go out and shoot all 15 rolls - under diverse conditions

    take your time as you need portraits, landscapes , city scapes , this can be in colour or black and white.. pick your poison.

    Now buy 500 sheets of Ilford RC gloss paper 8x10... over three days make at least 300 work prints , do not worry about dust whatsoever.
    Use a glass carrier or not but dodge and burn every single print.

    This is what I make all my assistants do here and basically you will learn by about your 200th print what the tools and your hands are for.

    Sounds ridiculous and expensive and time consuming but you asked ,, here it is... the 300 print test. go forth and prosper

    Bob
     
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  15. NedL

    NedL Subscriber

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    Hi Bob,

    First of all thanks for those stories: wonderful!

    Second of all thanks for the advice. I could never make 300 prints in 3 days, but I might manage 300 in 100 days! That's okay. It will take me several months to go as far as your assistants do in 3 days. In the end, it's what I figured: practice ad learn, practice and learn... I get the point about diverse conditions too.

    Cheers!
    Ned
     
  16. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    Pretty disappointing to read this kind of thing from someone with lots of experience. I'd also say assuming Bob is referring to the specific type of "split grade" approach in which even the base exposure is split into two (a grade 0 and a grade 5), that is not a very good example of KISS. It is simply another gimmick (not very different than enlarging meters, fancy timers and other such superfluous inventions). Frankly I will keep suggesting to any beginner that they read publications by Kodak and Ilford and avoid APUG altogether until they are more experienced. Nobody with a brain would ever suggest densitometry, exposure theory etc. necessarily lead to better prints. Nor would any competent B&W worker propose that techniques such as masking be part of one's basic procedures. But I also think it is wrong to imply any type of print of any type of image can be accomplished by waving your hands around under the enlarger. It simply isn't so. Nor is it necessarily a waste of time for someone to want to learn about sensitometry, how our materials work, etc. Actually that knowledge can end up simplifying things tremendously as gradually all the myths, incorrect traditional wisdom, and mountains of nonsense all come crashing down.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 21, 2013
  17. Black Dog

    Black Dog Member

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    Thanks for that Bob-enjoyed reading it!
     
  18. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    Michael R 1974,

    I don't understand what you're saying. Maybe you can break it down into a couple different pros and cons.

    So you know from the test strip... what a certain amount of exposure is going to look like. Then you pick a base time that is going to make most of the print look good. There's going to be parts that "other" test strip exposures look best for... So those are your dodges or burns... Easy enough to do with your hands, even without tons of experience.
     
  19. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    There's nothing to break down. I'm tired of people crapping on knowledge and techniques.
     
  20. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    I understand exactly what he is saying and agree.
     
  21. eddie

    eddie Subscriber

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    I don't see how Bob's advice is "crapping on knowledge and techniques". Making 300 prints, over 3 days, will certainly impart a good deal of knowledge, as well as honing techniques.
     
  22. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    Quantity does not equate to quality.
     
  23. eddie

    eddie Subscriber

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    Of course not, Clive. But, the repetition, and attention to what they're doing will serve a beginner well.
     
  24. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    True.
     
  25. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    Eddie, I'm sure Bob is a fine printer, but that doesn't mean there isn't value in techniques like masking, or value in the knowledge acquired in the study of things like sensitometry. These things can all be useful. I understand that for Bob printing is a kind of "zen" dance. This does not mean other approaches are any less effective, efficient or artistic. We have plenty of evidence for that. In the end, the approach and degree of complexity should serve the visualized print. Depending on the subject matter and the aesthetic preferences of the printer, there just isn't always an easy or simple way to get there, regardless of how many millions of prints you've made and how many years of experience you have.

    Sometimes printing is hard work. Nothing wrong with that in my opinion, and nothing wrong with developing as many tools as one can either. Combine all that and you have a lot of power.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 21, 2013
  26. eddie

    eddie Subscriber

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    Michael- I agree there's value in masking, and an understanding of sensitometry. I just don't see them having much value to a beginner.

    When I first started (40+ years ago), if someone had said I needed to know how to do those things, I probably would have ditched it. It was enough to see the magic of an image forming in the developer. My first prints were various shades of grays. I knew they didn't look right, so I learned about contrast filtration. Suddenly, my prints looked better, but certain areas of them had too much (or too little) exposure, so I learned about dodging/burning. It wasn't until I was able to make a passable print that I became interested in furthering my knowledge, and learned about masking, sensitometry, ZS, etc. But, by then, the passion had set in, and I knew photography would be a lifetime pursuit. My guess is my journey is shared by the vast majority of members, here. Throwing advanced techniques at beginners is a sure-fire way to scare many of them away.