Sunday, 17 November 2013

Split grade printing the next step dodging and burning .

Top grade Zero
Bottom grade five
The use of split grade printing has changed the way I work in the darkroom. Yes it takes a little bit longer having to produce two test prints, but in the long run it cuts down the amount of dodging and burning needed to achieve a finely toned photograph. I have also noticed a luminosity that has been missing from my graded prints. It has also shown me that it is an advantage and not a waste of paper to make full or half page test strips. You get a better understanding of how much more light is needed for the high lights, so you can build this into the first full print of the scene. This saves time and paper having to reprint it again and again to get it right.

I find that my more contrasty negatives are more easily printed using the split grade method, giving more control of not just the tones but also the contrast. Burning or dodging my prints has been reduced considerably, allowing me to add more detail at the extremes. 

So at what point should you be burning in or dodging? The grade zero exposure being the most important one is also the stage at which you should be making your adjustments. If possible you should be including them for the grade five test strip. By doing this you will have a better understanding of how the contrast affects the corrections and make allowances for them in the final print.

Some of you reading this will be thinking it's all to complicated and not for you, Dodging and burning is about having confidence in your ability, once you have done it and seen how it changes your pictures for the better, you will be wanting to do it every time. I enjoy this part of the picture making process, it always reminds me of a composer on the rostrum encouraging certain section of the orchestra to bring out his interpretation. Only you are using light to enhance what you had in your minds eye.

Burning in graduation times
OK I'm going to keep this simple just to give you the idea of what to do. I have only used grades 0 and 5 but in certain cases other grades maybe more appropriate but that is for another time.

Producing the prints:

I produced a soft toned (grade 0) test print at five second intervals. When it was dry I compared the segments to determine which would give the best overall toned exposure and how much extra light would be needed for the sky. I chose seven seconds for the whole picture, this allowed the street scene shadow to keep its detail without it blocking out. A further twenty one seconds would be added to the sky. With the main exposure done the sky was burned in. For this I used two black pieces of card held together to form a V shape. The trick with dodging (holding back the light) or burning (adding light) is to keep the mask moving otherwise a hard line will be left. I gently moved the card backwards and forwards lingering in places to give the sky a graduated look. The times on the picture are there as a guide.

Now I placed some black card over the masking frame to protect the picture from any stray light, while I adjust the enlarger to grade 5 for the contrast exposure. The first segment was covered and then exposed at two second intervals there after. Again when dry I chose 3 seconds.

Final print
With the all the times combined a full print was made. There are some short comings; firstly the build on the left could do with a bit more burning in to bring out the texture of the wall and if I wanted to be really picky the sky could do with masking in more precisely which would mean cutting a mask that mirrored the buildings outline.
The idea was to keep it simple and to show what could be achieved with the most rudimentary of masking off.