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Friday, 17 February 2017

Double grade printing.


From time to time I find it strange the way events come together! for instance, I was in the darkroom working on some prints that I could not get the sky to burn in properly. There was nothing unusual in me burning in the sky, most of the photographs I produce have had the skies enhanced in some way. But this time I could not get it the way I wanted it.


The strangeness in this case was that a few days before, I was reading a thread on my favourite forum about how to deal with whited out skies when printing. I took part giving an account of my method of dealing with it. One of the other contributors suggested split grade printing. But when he described the process it is more akin to double grade printing - this is where you use another grade to bring out part of the image that will not burn in at the grade you are using.


All the circled images needed double grade printing.

The process:


The contact print in this case suggested that the stone work of the building and sky were under exposed when compared to the reflection. The segmented test print (grade 2) proved this by indicating that it may need to be burned in for an extra twenty seconds above base exposure of thirty seven seconds. Even with the extra light it did not make the difference. After a further print and forty seconds burn in, it still was not right. I decided to see if changing to a harder grade when burning in would make the difference.

With the discussion still fresh in my mind I opted to use the double grade method to see if it would solve the problem I was having. I normally would have used pre flashed paper but that would mean starting all over again with a pre-flashed test strip. I chose the simpler route of dialing in a harder grade, in this case 4, before burning in the sky and face of the building.

The red area indicates the over lap area of the mask.
Something to consider:

When using this method certain negatives can produce a grainier look to the picture which may not be to your liking and you need to be careful not to knock the masking frame when changing the settings and using the mask.

The burning in method:

It takes practice to get this method to look natural, which is easy to master when you have a nice defined area without things like buildings poking up above the horizon. A piece of card is needed to use as a mask. You do not need to use black card but if you have some all well and good. Otherwise any card will do, if one side is brighter than the other you should always make that side face the lens to reflect the light back. In my opinion you should make the mask smaller than the site that needs covering. Because the card is kept moving it will make up for the under size when used with an up and down motion. If you don't you can end up with a lighter shaded area a bit like an out line you would get if it was still. When you get it right it is very satisfying.

 Result:

I used forty seconds at grade four to burn in the building and sky. How did I know it would work? I further considered the segmented test print, took a calculated risk and listened to the little voice in the back of my head. In other words I went with the creative flow.

 

Basic outline for split grade printing.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Trouble in the darkroom


My darkroom is a very personal space, the only acknowledgement to it being standard is the separation of wet and dry working areas. It is just big enough for one person to work in comfortable. A bit of a glorified closet really! which has meant I have had to find ways of making the space work hard to meet the needs of both wet-and dry sides working areas.



One of the things I have had to do is to put the 12 x16 paper processor under the work top on a pull out shelf. It was done originally to save space but has proved to be inspired in a way I had not foreseen. Being able to look down on the print process has made it a more relaxed way to work. Keeping the work top clear for other wet side needs has not worked so well, the top is being dominated by the tray I use to put the tube covers that keep the chemicals fresh in the slot processor. It was a large tray so that the tops could be spaced far enough apart to stop cross contamination. 


However, it all came to a head when I wanted to try a new print developer and use it with a tray so I could monitor when the first signs of the image appeared, then transfer it to the processor for stop and fix. I should explain that the darkroom does not have running water. I usually part fill a tray with water to put the fixed photographs in then wash them at the end of the session in the bathroom. Anyway I had the water tray precariously balanced on top of the slot covers in their tray as the rest of the top was taken up with the developing tray. It must have been a good day as I did not manage to tip the whole lot over myself. 

I now seriously considered ways of storing the slot tops that would keep the worktop clear. It came to me that the best way was to stand them on end. My first thought was to use a number of metal clips attached to the wall. I cannot understand why I had not come to this conclusion sooner. Once I had thought about it. It was not such a good idea as fix attacks metal. I decided it would be better to use plastic, so took some measurements, sat down and did a number of drawings of a tray that would hold the tubes upright. Then thought about how to stop cross contamination, so added sections to the base. Once I had refined the basic look and measurements I showed the idea to my mate at Plasweld, he helped to simplify the design and added a splash back to stop chemicals running all over the place when loading the tops into the stand. 



A few weeks later the stand is finished. It works very well and has freed up lots of space on the worktop allowing me to work more safely. Such a simple idea that has made a big difference.



A typical layout for a darkroom