Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Let Me Count the Ways!

I am getting back into the rhythm of printing once a week since my darkroom is (finally) finished.  Sloshing about in the darkroom is a good time to think – even with music playing on the stereo.  (Jock Sturges says “It’s a dark room, not a quitet room.)

I have a rather orderly work flow in my darkroom.  I contact print my negatives then stare at the contact sheets for a while before marking the negatives that look promising.  I make 5x7 (or so) work prints on RC paper of each of these and stare at them for a while before deciding which ones that look good enough to finish print.  I make all the work prints using a #2 filter and a guess at the exposure time based on the look of the contact print.  This makes the work print a good source of further guesses on how to begin a finish print.

First I decide what HAS to be right – in most of my photographs that is the skin tones – and I make one or more (usually more) test prints until I’m satisfied with that part.  Then I make further test prints to make the remainder of the print look like I want it to.  Now since I do not live a Zone System life, by this stage of the game I have used at least two contrast filters and added dodging and burning with each of them.  It’s not unusual for me to have a dozen or so steps (written down, by the way) before I’m ready to make the final prints. 

Here’s where the thinking noted above kicks in.  During last week’s darkroom day I was making a mental catalog of the various ways to botch up the final print ….

Forgetting to close the cover on the filter tray so that when the enlarger light comes on white light fogs the paper.

Thinking about changing:

a.       Enlargement factor,

b.      Filter grade,

c.       Exposure time,

d.      Or f/stop
is not equivalent to doing so.

Dropping the dodging tool on the floor and not being able to find it without turning on the room lights.

Forgetting one or more steps.

And my very favorite – after I have the printing strategy in mind I usually rehearse it a time or two before actually putting paper in the easel – forgetting to put paper in the easel.  

Have I missed one that you do?

-- and one more from my printing session yesterday.

When using more than one filter on a print, forget to take the first one out of the filter tray before loading the second one in.

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