Saturday, 23 May 2015

Contact prints why?

Contact sheets
The humble contact print is a very powerful tool when creating an enlarged photograph. It passes on a wealth of information in it's imperfect way. It is not just a positive record (proof) of all the images on the film but a starting point for the perfect print.

Not everyone agrees that a contact print of your processed film is needed. Instead they like to work straight from the negative. I do not have a problem with this approach except on a practical level you need a light source to view them. I use the contact print not only as a reference for all my negatives but as an indicator as to which images are going to be more of a challenge to print. It is not always possible to see this when looking at the negative.

Making a contact print using a sheet of
glass to keep the negative flat and in
contact with the paper. 
It is not a case of one, (the negative) or the other, (the contact print) but both together. By using them in conjunction you have all the information you need about the image you are going to print leading to a more judicious use of your time in the darkroom and a greater likely hood of the first proof print being closer to what you had in mind as the final print. A couple of tweaks to the next print may fulfil your vision. 

Contact printing does not require an enlarger or any special equipment. A darkened room, a frosted light bulb suspended from the ceiling and a sheet
35mm contact printer
of glass to keep the negative[s] in contact with the paper and flat. Edward Weston used this simple method for his prints. During the timed exposure he would dodge the image where necessary. Once this time had elapsed he would burn in where he thought it was needed. This method can be a bit uncertain, as you can not always see where you need to make the adjustments unlike that of the image projected by the enlarger. A number of large format photographers still use contact printing as a way of making their final print from their negatives.

120 format contact  sheet.
 This indicates that the negatives on
 left sides  are under exposed. 
When contact printing I use my enlarger set to white light, with the lens fully open. The projected light is greater in size than the 8x10 paper I'm contact printing with. For 35mm film I use a contact frame and for 120 format and above a pane of glass with a ground edge so I do not cut my fingers.

There are varying opinions on whether you should set white light, use grade one or your preferred printing grade. I have always used white light with multigrade and varitone papers and yes it works very well. You get a full range of tones.
The enlarged image shows that this negative
would enlarge without adjustment.

Remember a contact print in it's simplest form is a work in progress not the finish article. I have found that some of my negatives print better with white light than they do graded. At one time I used to produce all my enlargements with white light and was very happy with the out come. With experience came sophistication and now I use graded and split graded printing methods to get the best out of the negative.

You should do what you feel is best creatively for your negatives and not let others dissuade you from that path.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Contaminated by wetting agent?

Developed in RO9 but it is not the developer.
When something unexpected happens while you are processing your negatives, it takes a bit of time to get your head round it. This happened while I was processing a number of rolls of film in R09 and using it's special brother.

 The problem has shown it's self by producing very blotchy negatives affecting two rolls of the six film developed. When this happens in a run of developing it is difficult to work out what circumstances are different enough to point a finger at.

Please bear in mind that the elimination process was written after I discovered the culprit.

Fomapan 100 negatives developed in RO9
Process of elimination:

  1. So where to start? It is fortunate that the negatives involved were not the ones processed in the RO9 special. The RO9 developed one's were. This made the investigation more straight forward in that I have a better understanding of how RO9 works.
  2. Was it the developer? It was made up seconds before it was used in the usual way.
  3. What about Stop and Fix? Both were freshly made up minuets before use. So it cannot be one of the three main players? As they are all fresh.
  4. OK what about the method? No difference there either I used my usual inversion sequence.
  5. Processing tanks? Well I did press a tank into use that I have not used in a long time because of the quantity of film that needed to be developed.
  6. Could that be the answer?
  7. Did it affect one make of film in particular? No it did not, again this could have been a fortunate coincidence in that a roll of FP4+ and Fomapan 100 show the same affect. If it had only happened to one make it could have been construed as a manufacturing fault.
  8. Water? It was fresh and clean and there had not been any notices to say there was a problem with the drinking water.
  9. That leaves wetting agent? Hold on now that points to something I noticed when I was using PMK Pyro some years ago, I had a roll of film with the same sort of pattern. I put it down to the developer which I have
    Film FP4+ developed in PMK Pyro
    not used since. Thinking back to that time I had noticed that every time I opened the dev tank to pour out the developer there were a lot of bubbles in the top. That looked soapy and diminished with each step of the process which would suggest developer. I did speak to a number of other photographers at the time who suggested it was a developer fault. Although I stopped using the developer substituting it for ID11 and the problem disappeared was not convinced at the time. I changed how the kit was washed after each processing session. After a while I also stopped adding wetting agent to the tank. Using a different tank with it already added. Dunking the reel in by it's self and then soaking the reel in a bucket of water with a good resin afterwards.
Looking back I think when I pressed the other developing tank into use I mistakenly picked up the one I had been using for wetting agent. The resulting blotchy pattern is the result of its contamination.

This print was made from the same contaminated
Negatives. note no blotchy marks.


Having eliminated all the other possibilities and no matter how silly it may sound the wetting agent is the culprit in this case. It has this time affected nearly all the frames on each film, when it happened some years ago (after checking the negatives) only certain frames showed signs of being blotchy. Which would indicate a weak contamination of the film process. This is only the second time I have had this problem in all the years I have been developing film. It just goes to show that something as innocuous as soap can cause so much trouble if it is not washed away conclusively after every processing session when added to the developing tank. My suggestion is to put wetting agent in a separate container and add the reel and film to it and not the other way round.

This picture shows that the blotches are prominent
In the sky but not the foreground.

When printing the affected negatives you cannot see the blotches when looking down the focus finder. Even though the contact prints show it quite clearly.

All the photographs that appear with this article were printed from the dodgy neg's. As I mentioned not all suffered the soapy demise. 

Friday, 1 May 2015

Beaten badly? The filter is stuck.

OH NO!!!
If you are of a delicate disposition you should not be reading this post. It shows pictures of unbelievable brutality towards a camera lens. It had to be done so the lens could be cleaned we make no apologies for the blunt force trauma needed to remove the filter.

Away from the sensational introduction the facts are more prosaic. When I have not used a camera for an extended period I generally give my cameras a good clean; in the case of my Bronica SQAi this means taking all the main components apart for checking. When I looked at the lens I noticed that the UV filter on the front was slightly out of round and there was a chip at the edge of the filter glass. I can not remember how this damage happened but it must have been something quite dramatic.

Most of my film camera lenses have a protective filter on the front, an expensive exercise now-a-days, as I have discovered. But not having the filter there in the first place would have cost a new lens. So you could say that it has been a good investment over the years. You only have to drop it once to get a good return or in this case twice, from what I remember?

O ugh that hurts!!!
It is quite surprising how brutal you need to be to remove a lens filter that has become distorted. I tried to remove it by hand but was unable to get a good enough grip to release it. So in came the meanies - my name for the over-sized water pump pliers used. The pliers are about 400 mm long, they needed to be this size so the jaw would extend to the 67mm filter size with ease and not squeeze the filter out of shape any more than what it was. With a gentle grip on the filter and a small amount of pressure it unscrewed in a trice. Allowing for a gentle grip leaving no marks on the lens or damaged filter. Once the filter was free I checked for damage to the thread on the lens and found none. 

Ahhhh that's better.
With the front element of the lens clean I attached the new filter. This was a gentle soothing exercise for the lens after all that brute force of earlier. All's well for the new season of picture making.

The writer of this article would like to assure the readers that the camera lens was not hurt in anyway and a stunt double was used for the photos that accompany this post.