Darkroom Paper Wastage

Discussion in 'Talk About Darkroom Work' started by Ian-Barber, Jan 18, 2018.

  1. Ian-Barber

    Ian-Barber Admin Staff Member Registered User

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    Ive installed an LED light bulb in my makeshift darkroom to have a go at some 4x5 contact prints and I cannot believe the amount of paper wastage and I still haven't got a print that looks rich.

    Just curious as to how much paper wastage you have when you do your darkroom prints
     
  2. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Active Member Registered User

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    After maybe two test strip sometimes 2 sheets - if I'm lucky the second print is to my satisfaction, I will dodge and burn the first print and it's fine tuning on the second.

    Sometimes it's the third print though and with tricky negatives it might be the fourth or fifth. It helps that I've done a lot of printing commercially and can read negatives which just comes with experience.

    Ian
     
  3. martin-f5

    martin-f5 Active Member Registered User

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    Well, I reduced this a lot learning to use a darkroom timer with a kind of exposure meter.
    It's a Hauck Trialux which I now have three times.
    First thing I do when I get a new package of paper I take a greystep negativ and test for the paper index, wright this on the package and from that on I'm able to expose correctly.
    First print is a kind of worksheet, second print get's whatever it needs, varigrade, dodge and burn and so on.
    So in the end the payment for this exposure meter saves a lot of money for paper.
     
  4. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Active Member Registered User

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    I have a Philips timer with a meter this can be used to determine exposure as well as contrast grade. I guess I used my older one that way back in the 1970's but I don't use nay meter these days you can get far more info from a test strip.

    A meter won't help Ian with contact prints :D test strips will.

    I buy my paper in batches these days my last purchase was around £1K Ilford Warmtone Glossy FB there was a couple og boxes of Delta 100 in the order, my previous batches were of Forte Polywarmtone around 1k euros from the very last production run around 10 years ago, they closed JAn 2007. Sounds a lot but it's not over 10 years.

    By buying from the same production runs I get excellent consistency and better discounts.

    Ian.
     
  5. martin-f5

    martin-f5 Active Member Registered User

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    Ian your'e absolutely right, for contact prints it doesn't help to use a exposure meter, test strips will be the only way to get them.
    Hopefully Ian can switch to a enlarger for doing silver gelatin darkroom prints.
    He's absolutely perfect in scanning and printing so I'm sure he can make the next step with same high end printings.
     
  6. alexmuir

    alexmuir Member Registered User

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    I have done some 4x5 contact prints, but haven’t been very satisfied with the results. I had given up, at least for the moment, so I will be interested to hear how you get on. I am working on a project where contact prints would be the preferred end product. I’ve duplicated each shot, and have yet to develop any. I plan developing the first sheet of each subject as normal to see how I get on. The second sheet can then be developed differently if necessary. I had some advice that negatives with greater overall density produce better contacts. I may try that if the normally developed ones don’t give good prints.
    Alex.


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  7. Ian-Barber

    Ian-Barber Admin Staff Member Registered User

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    Alex, out of interest, what are you using for the light source for the contact prints
     
  8. alexmuir

    alexmuir Member Registered User

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    I was using a clear tungsten bulb of either 40 or 60 Watts. I have a Durst M601 enlarger where you can pull the lamp holder out of the casing. I unscrew the opal bulb, and insert the clear one. I just hang it by its cable from the enlarger casing. The advantage is that it remains connected to a timer, so timed exposures are accurate. The sort of bulb I mean is the standard globe lightbulb we used before all these low energy types appeared. An old table lamp with the shade removed would work. You could change the plug on it to the two pin type that you plug into an enlarger timer. The timers also have a standard three pin plug for connecting to a wall socket. The bare bulb was what was recommended when I made some enquiries about contact printing technique, although some people prefer to expose the print on the baseboard of their enlarger.
    Alex


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  9. David M

    David M Active Member Registered User

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    Ian,
    We are spoiled by digital adjustments. Every time you make a change on screen, that would have been another test print in the darkroom. I can assure you that you will get better with practice. Making "real" prints shows you what the Zone System is all about. A good neg will almost print itself, but how often do we see one? (Oops! I mean: How often do I see one?)
    Any old light will do, as long as you can control it. See Edward Weston's amazingly primitive set-up at Wildcat Hill. Note that he dimmed the light by using a clothes peg to loop up the the cable and diffused it by wrapping the incandescent bulb in tissue paper. H&C, eh?
    John Blakemore has been mentioned on this forum. When I watched him, he made proper test strips and then several subsequent prints to get the exact print he wanted. He was using graded paper and two developers to give very fine control of contrast and very delicate highlights.
    If you have an enlarger, the easiest way is to roughly* focus the empty neg carrier so it gives you a generous patch of light on the baseboard. It should be rather bigger than the size of paper you are using to avoid fall-off. You can use the aperture to give you convenient exposure time. As Ian says, a thick sheet of glass works well to hold the sandwich. You might care to make a mask to position the print in the right place on the paper to give a presentation print with a suitable margin. Using an enlarger means that variable contrast is available. My own experience (from some time ago) suggests beginning with lower contrast and working up the grades with great caution, as you won't be able to dodge and burn small highlights or shadows.
    Make a note of these conditions for next time.
    *"Roughly" so you are not printing any dust-spots on your glass carrier, if you have one.

    Alex,
    As you will see from this, I don't understand the need to dismantle the enlarger. Perhaps you could describe the advantages of your method?
     
  10. alexmuir

    alexmuir Member Registered User

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    I hadn’t had much success exposing contacts via the enlarger lens, despite using the method you describe with a diffusion enlarger. I can see the advantage of having access to VC filters when using VC papers. I asked for advice on another forum, and was told to use a bare bulb. I could have used a lamp, but the enlarger I have allows the lamp holder to be pulled out simply by lifting the lid and removing the opal bulb. This gives me a timed light source without bringing any more equipment into the crowded Darkroom. I haven’t tried any recently as I wasn’t very happy with my results. I suspect that, like Ian, I had expected the large format contacts to be a bit more impressive than they have been so far.
    Alex


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  11. David M

    David M Active Member Registered User

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    You should be able to get a decent contact print without too much effort although it does use paper. It isn't wasted, it's part of the process, like the marble that Michelangelo removed.
    If I may risk insulting my betters, I'll outline the process.
    Make a sandwich of paper and neg, emulsion to emulsion and clamp them together, using either a heavy sheet of glass or a contact printing frame. Some frames designed for neg proofing have all clear glass.
    Use a medium grade of paper or choose a medium filter.
    Set your timer to some convenient interval (I use four seconds) and place the sandwich under your light source.
    Take a piece of card that will easily cover the whole neg.
    Expose the whole neg to one burst of light. Now cover up a portion of it. Give it another burst. Cover up another strip, moving across the neg and giving successive bursts until the whole neg is covered by the card. Four to six bursts is convenient.
    Develop the paper according to the instructions on the packet, erring, if you must, on the side of generous development. Do not snatch the print when it "looks right". It won't be right. Stop and fix the print, and give it a brief wash. Squeegee it dry and choose the strip that looks best. If the best print is at either end, you cannot be sure that the next one along would be even better, so you must do another strip, just the same but increasing or decreasing the time of the burst. Do it all again. If you can't decide between two strips, you will have to make another test, although with experience you will be able to judge much better and make an educated guess..
    While you are examining the test strip, decide if you've chosen the best contrast grade. Are the highlights burnt out or the shadows blocked? If so, you may like to try another strip at a different grade. As you can see, the process consumes paper as a printer consumes ink.
    (Some people prefer to make test strips by beginning with the whole sheet covered and some use a geometric progression for the intervals. Discussion for another day, perhaps.)
    Finally, you are ready to make a print. It's best to replicate the correct number of bursts rather than add them up into one burst, because the paper is subject to something called the intermittency effect (so is film, as discussed by Ian with his windy pictures) Some lamps may not be uniform in their output over short periods. Develop the paper properly and don't snatch it.
    There is something called "dry-down" that makes prints look a little different from the way they looked when wet. You might encounter this, and you will need to learn how to compensate for it, on another day, but nevertheless you should be holding a perfectly nice print in your hands. It may not be an Edward Weston, but he'd had a lot of practice and probably a capacious waste-paper basket under the bench.
    Now you might want to create an even better print by making fine adjustments to your process.
    You will get better at this. You really will. Much better.
    For the moment, hang on to your test strips to review what you did. You don't have to keep them forever unless the V&A has asked you to.
    Finally, may I risk even an greater insult by suggesting that if all this doesn't work, the problem may lie in the neg. I've discovered that exposure and development for scanning are not quite the same as for wet printing.
    A final, final thought. Have you checked your safelights?
    If anyone here has better advice, I'm very happy to be corrected.
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2018

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