I have heard much for VC paper but mostly due to cost (VC is all grades in one) but is there any great advantages in using graded paper? Is the quality of prints on graded paper really that much better?
If your exposure/developement is perfect for every negative, then graded paper is fine. In my case, VC papers have been a great aid in making better prints. Contrast control via split printing and selective dodging/burning is so easy with VC papers. Plus the selection of papers is quite good now. Ken
One significant difference between graded and VC papers is the response to toning. I think that some graded papers respond better to most toning. If you ever contemplate doing lith printing graded papers are also better than VC.
For better control over the development of graded papers I frequently use two bath devlopers which gives me significant contrast control. Have a look at the article I have in the articles section of the link portal for a complete description.
1) Do people usually split grade print and standard develop with VC papers and then standard print but split develop on graded papers? I see here that some people both split grade print and split develop. Seems like it would be hard to control all that variability.
2) What are the differences in effect between split grade printing and split developing? If I treated the same negative both ways, how would the two prints differ? And would those differences be significant?
I tried split developing and could never seem to get the same control as split filter printing. I have never been able to get a developer to act like a 00 or 0 filter and squeeze detail out of a hot highlight. It's a lot easier to formulate a high contrast developer though by using a very active accelerator and developing agent.
For the way I work and think (that's a scary statement) split filter printing is more intuitive and one heck of a lot easier to deal with. But you really need to be comfortable with VC papers. If you are a dedicated graded paper person then once you have your negative your only recourse is the developer method.
Some reasons for using graded paper instead of VC:
Graded papers resond differently to pyro negatives (or other negatives developed with staining developers). The stain on these negs are some shade of yellow/brown and block proportionally more blue light, thereby increasing contrast, especially in the highlights where separation can be difficult. VC papers have the opposite response, since more green (low contrast) light makes it throught these areas than blue (hard contrast) light. (This could be useful for reducing contrast in the highlights, but this is rarely necessary).
There is some concern about sharpness in VC papers due to the different focus of the different colors to which the paper is sensitive to. See Ctein's book for more on this.
Graded papers do many times respond to toning better. This, however is a question of formulation and could be controlled by the manufacturer. Also, VC papers have a tendency to split-tone more than graded ones, something some of us find undesirable.
Dealing with filters is a hassle and usually increases exposure time. (Most users of graded paper tailor their negs to one contrast anyway. Although this is not foolproof, we graded paper users are usually in the ballpark and need only go one contrast grade in either direction to get a fine print.) Intermediate contrast is achieved by manipulating print developers or switching brands of paper.
Some reasons to use VC paper:
Split-contrast printing! You just can't do this with graded paper. (That said, I use graded paper almost exclusively and rarely miss this possibility.)
I dicovered that all my paper is VC - except some packs that must be at least 10 years old. Not by choise, but because it's what's available locally. The only graded paper that's easy to find round here is Emaks, which responds really, really weirdly to toning (e.g. goes a rather nasty greenish-red in Viradon).
I don't prefer VC, I don't need it. But I use it because it's what I have. About 95% of all my prints are made on grade 2 (no filter) anyway.
Two bath development is a very subtle contrast control with either graded or VC papers. There are many variations in dilution that will give different results with both types of paper. For example, I mix the hard bath quite strong, 1 to 1 instead if 1 -3, sometimes using neat stock solution when I consider that I need the added punch that it will give. On the other hand I mix the soft developer up to 4 or 5 times more dilute that recommended by the manufacturer although when using the dev so weak you do have to renew it if you are planning a long session for the extra dilute developing agent will exhaust very quickly.
When I use two bath I place the print in the hard bath first and remove it as soon as I see tone appear, I don't wait until I have a black on the paper. The remainder of the development is carried out in the very dilute soft developer although if you feel that the blacks need a kick you can return the print to the hard developer. I would normally expect to remove the print from the hard developer after only 15 to 25 seconds and still produce deep rich blacks. Those members who have seen my prints in either the post card exchange or the portfolio will confirm that the blacks are rich and vibrant. I do use other dilutions depending on the negative contrast and the tonality I wish to have in the final print. It may seem that there are many variables to consider and that the end result may not be worth the trouble but I am certain that when you have worked with this system for a while you will learn how to use different dilutions to give the control. Clearly the dilutions and method suit me and when I started using two bath on graded papers over 20 years ago I took some time work out how to achieve the subtle controls and what was best for me.
I use a split-developer to enhance details in the highlights without blocking up the shadows in difficult-lighting shots. I use DIFFERENT developer's though. It's more of a 2-bath development with water bath (not for stopping though). In the first bath, I use LPD diluted 1:2 or 1:3 and I remove it as soon as I see the shadows appearing. Then, I water bath for about 15 seconds to allow that to finish up a bit. Then, I put the print into Selectol Soft (a surface developer) for about 2 minutes. This usually gets me a nice brownish-black look to prints without toning and it gets massive detail in the hightlights!
Then, stop as usual and fix as usual. If I tone, it's usually gold or selenium toning. Usually for archival work, I will tone in selenium 1:40 for 10 minutes.
The other way I do it is to mix the LPD with the selectol soft (not Selectol, but selectol SOFT) at 1:15 or 1:20. This does about the same, but the LPD burns off quickly and constantly needs replenishment. Any higher on the LPD and the effects of the SS is negated.
</span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (David Hall @ May 3 2003, 09:08 PM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'>
It also sounds like split developing really is just for graded papers, and split grade printing is better and more controllable and less subtle for VC papers, right?
dgh </td></tr></table><span class='postcolor'>
I do use two bath development when I split grade print although when I use it is dependent on the exact tonality I require in the print that I'm making. If I can't achieve the exact contrast I visualise with single bath developer and split grade printing I introduce other controls and one of them is two bath development. It may also be water bath development or flashing or even a combination of several different techniques.
Sometimes I start making a print on VC using split grade but decide to change to graded and use water bath or hard and soft developers. I guess that what I'm saying is to know what you want on the paper before you make a test strip and use whatever techniques are available to get the print you see in your minds eye.
</span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (Les McLean @ May 2 2003, 06:07 AM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'> One significant difference between graded and VC papers is the response to toning. I think that some graded papers respond better to most toning. If you ever contemplate doing lith printing graded papers are also better than VC.
For better control over the development of graded papers I frequently use two bath devlopers which gives me significant contrast control. Have a look at the article I have in the articles section of the link portal for a complete description. </td></tr></table><span class='postcolor'>
I lith print with Afga M-2 (multi grade RC paper) all the time and I find that the developer is a bigger issue than the paper itself. I use their softer (sorry the identifying numbers excape) developer for greytone and their rapid access developer for lith and line work.
I read your cool article on two bath deveolpment and tried it. Although I am still waiting for them to dry, I know I have better results than I had the other day with a monobath developer. Here is my story. I keep an old Yashica TLR in the Jeep. I was at a boyscout camporee and I shot 2 rolls of film in terrible conditions. Shadowed faces, bright sunlight at mid day with single coated optics. So I used my split D23 to develop the film which does several things. It compensates for the high contrast, creates very good accutance and offers very smooth grain. The down side is that the negatives have poor overall contrast. Local contrast is very good and images appear very sharp!. So I spent yesterday trying to make these images that were interesting but flat look good. No Joy on all senarios!. So today I mixed up some D-65 (photoformulary Glycin - Ansco 130 like developer) Normal mix is 1A:1B:5water for fiber. I mixed the hard bath at 1:1:3 and the soft bath at 1:1:8. 1:1:7 is recommended for RC. I followed your instructions and I really see a sparkle. I will be spending some time with this now. I used grade 3 paper - I may be inspired now to try some grade 4!
I also have been comparing three different papers I have been using. Ilford Galarie Multibroam, Forte Forteza and Cachet RF - All in grade 3 with the same negs and developer. The Cachet is a little thinner and on drying it tends to wrinkle a little more. Being only available in glossy, it has a pretty high luster even when not ferrotyped. I have never been good at getting a great fiber glossy finish. The Ilford seemed almost a full f-stop faster than both the others and so-far seems to have the richest blacks in the glycin developer. The Forte and the Ilford seem a little harder than the Cachet. All seem pretty good - I still think I favor the Forte. I might change my mind though.
The thanks for me is that another door has been opened for you and I've had a part to play, but your personal thanks are much appreaciated. You mention that you are waiting for your prints to dry to see if they still sparkle, if you take dry down into account when you make the print you KNOW that they will sparkle when dry. I'll ask Sean if I can give him an article on how to calculate dry down for the papers you use, it's too long to include as a post.
Your observations on the three papers you are testing are just about the same as mine although I do not use Forte now because I find it inconsistent. I spoke to the production Director of the company about this problem at Photokina but he really was not interested, so I decided to stop using their products. It's a pity for it is an excellent paper but no good to me if I cannot be sure of the consistency.
</span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (Les McLean @ May 5 2003, 08:19 AM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'> Your observations on the three papers you are testing are just about the same as mine although I do not use Forte now because I find it inconsistent. I spoke to the production Director of the company about this problem at Photokina but he really was not interested, so I decided to stop using their products. It's a pity for it is an excellent paper but no good to me if I cannot be sure of the consistency. </td></tr></table><span class='postcolor'>
Well, so far so good on the Forte out here. I have not experienced any inconsistancy (but I have not used it in a lot of repeatable situations like you may have) The resluts last night were that I could not tell the difference from the Forte Forteza and the Ilford Galerie (Except for the speed.) The Cachet was the dry winner though. Its gloss lustre finish really added sparkle to the image. I have been using a lot of matte paper - The Forte gloss (un-ferrotyped) is nowhere nearly as shiny as this Cachet RF (un-ferrotyped). Other than that - The blacks ar no blacker on the Cachet - which is what I was hoping for based on their claim to have a much greater silver content. It was useful to try several papers at the same time to see how they veried - I had not done that before. It seems chemistry is a much larger variable than papers of similar make up. I do believe that at some point it is time to settle down with one and get good with it. I came full circle with 4x5 film. I bought a big box of TRI X after messing with HP5, APX100, FP4 and Tmax400 (used with PMK.) I think for a while it will be my only 4x5 B&W and maybe even for 6x6cm (used with DiXactol) as well. I may wind up adopting the Cachet RF - and then think of a reason to use matte finish at all. The jury is still out on developers. The D65 (glycin based ansco 130 like photoformulary brew) is OK I guess - kind of pricey compared to this Agfa paper developer I have been using for RC prints. It is a hydroquinone based brew and so far has really exceeded my expectations. It seems the glycin brews work on the highlights for the long haul where the commercial Agfa stuff gets it all done in a hurry and then stops. (I think). Of course a brilliant image makes them all look pretty good.
Maybe I need to ask for my inheritance early and buy some Amidol. I would then be the "Prodigal Photographer" and have to beg my way back to Dektol some day.