Monday, May 31, 2010

A print made yesterday from a 120 negative taken in April.  Tri-X Pan, yellow filter.  Printed out on Zone VI paper developed in Bromophen.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Revelation.

I never really understood the Zone System until I saw this example.  Two photographs.  One is of a Black Horse the other is a White Horse.  The light meter when reading the light reflected off of each horse will give an incorrect exposure for both horses.  Two different exposures will place the Horse in  Zone V in the middle of the Zone scale which makes them both Gray.  The Black Horse to be black needs to be "under exposed", the White Horse to be White needs to be "over exposed".  In Fred Pickers book he says, "Ansel Adams learned years ago how to manipulate this middle gray reading characteristic of reflected light meters to achieve predertermined print values.  He worked out a logical straightforward system that,...can be taught to a beginning photographer in an hour.  Teaching a photographer with more experience takes longer!"  This for me anyway was true. 

This is the first 6x6 negative I've printed on the new enlarger using sheets of glass for a negative carrier.  I printed this on some Zone VI paper I had that's a semi-gloss and I can't tell if it's a warm or cold tone paper.  I used Ilford Bromophen for the developer.  I experimented with a different printing approach using the soft and hard lights seperate for two exposures of the negative running a series of 2.5 sec exposures with the soft light from left to right and then a series of 2.5 sec exposures with the hard light from bottom to top so the lower right corner square would be the least exposed and the upper left corner the most exposed and then trying to figure out the combination somewhere in the grid between those two points.  I was trying to print with some detail in the shadows in the central branch that rises from the center placing that area in the print between Zone II and III with out  washing out the higher valued areas where the sun was hitting the tree.  I used a 135mm el-nikkor since at this point with this enlarger I don't have a lens board that can accomodate a nikon mount lens.  I prefer to print 6x6 with my 105mm bellows nikkor lens.

I worked on a print from this negative yesterday. I must have taken this in the very early 70's when the fountain was still very new. You can see in the image of the negative how it  had not been washed or properly fixed or something went wrong in the development.  Perhaps the film wasn't properly seperated on the reel and this little mass of unfixed silver particles had accumulated on the edges and were not properly treated by the fixer and left to develop over time to create a dense area on the edges.  This was only visible when light hit the negative at a right angle, but in the enlarger it created dense areas on the sides.  I also noticed how when I was taking the photograph my center weighted in camera light meter was reading for the vertical wall placing that at Zone V and that ended up over exposing the horizontal risers in the foreground that I tried to cut a mask to help burn in.  I've been reading Fred Pickers Zone VI workshop book from the early 70's on printing and may have just begun to grasp the meaning of  "The Zone System"when it comes to proper exposure.  It's embarassing to be practicing photography for so many years and then you run across the most basic concept, something you should have known right at the start and it comes across as a huge revelation that takes you back to square one.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Two prints I made this weekend using the new enlarger.  I wasn't expecting the enlarger to make my prints so much better than prints I made on my old enlarger.  After all I use the same lenses and working with the same negatives.  What this new system does best is make my attempt to create a great print more systematic rather then just a shot in the dark. 

Saturday, May 22, 2010

More experiments with the Zone VI.

The print in the upper right and lower left are the same print with a contrast setting on the variable contrast controller of CD or one level higher on the "hard" contrast (D) control then the "soft" contrast (C) control. I determined exposure after doing a test print in 2.5 exposure unit intervals.   I chose the exposure I liked the best and ran a series of test sheets  keeping the same exposure unit setting but changing the differences between the settings of "hard" and "soft"on the variable contrast control unit.  What have I learned so far?  Always make sure the unit is warmed up with the pre-heater switch turned on and perhaps turning the lights on for a couple of minutes to warm them up before running test prints.  After making this series of tests and feeling like I had accomplished quite a lot I realized I had left the pre-heater off which probably screwed up the exposures for each test print.  Another thing is I have to stop thinking of contrast using this dual light, variable control system the way I think of gel filters with a constant light source.  Each dial controls one tube.  The "soft" control is attached to the green light.  The controls from minimum to maximum with levels A-H between the extremes
control the light output like a dimmer switch.  The controls are the same for the "hard" or blue light.  To have the "soft" light on and the "hard" light off would be close to making a print with a 0 filter and a single balanced light source like a cold light or a incadescent light bulb in a condenser enlarger.  To have the soft light off and the hard light on would be the equivalent of a 5 filter more or less.  The differences between the two yield the different wave lengths of light to impact the different contrast emulsions in variable contrast paper.  If I start off by making my test exposure of a particular negative one way to do this would be to set the controls at equal levels probably each one in the middle of it's control say each at "D" then to increase contrast I would first change the difference between the soft and hard controls say D/E, D/F, D/G,D/H, D/Max.  If I still wanted higher contrast I would then begin to lower the soft settings C/Max, B/Max,A/Max,Min/Max, Off/ Max using the hard light exclusively.  If I wanted to soften contrast I would do the opposite reduce the hard control keeping the soft control at D and decreasing the hard contrast control;  D/C,D/B,D/A,D/Minimum, and if I still wanted to cut contrast begin increasing the soft control; E/Minimum,F/Minimum,G/Minimum,H/Minimum, Max/Minimum,Max/Off. AA and HH would be the same contrast setting but a less intense light for AA if you had a negative of low density (under exposed) HH if you had a negative of high density (over exposed). This  ability to vary the light intensity is new to me in printing and this is where the compensating timer made for this system becomes essential.  If I have the hard and soft controls equal and do a test strip to determine the proper number of exposure units I can maintain the same number of exposure units but by changing the controls to either decrease or increase the volume of light will be compensated for by the timer.  Equal light at a particular level may come out to each exposure unit equaling one second.  Lowering the light by half would change the exposure unit to two seconds, Doubling the light would change the exposure unit to 1 half-second.

I have been working on this print trying to experiment with the contrast controls using my new enlarger with a variable contrast light source which consists of two neon tubes in a grid.  One neon tube emits a green light which lowers contrast.  A print using light only from this tube would be similar to a 0 filter.  The second neon tube is blue and controls higher contrast if this light is used alone the contrast would be similar to using a 5 filter.  If both are used at the same setting contrast is similar to a 2 filter.  This particular image was taken with infrared film and the paper I printed on was Ilford VC warmtone semi-gloss.  Semi Gloss has a pure white base color.   This combination produces a contrasty image and I was trying to soften it.  The clouds though appeared pure white and deep shadows and certain colors like blue and red print out as pure black.   I decided on a particular start point which was E F which I assumned would be equivalent to a 2+ a higher "hard" contrast setting then the "soft" setting.  I then tried to determine the time of exposure by doing a test print in 2.5 second or exposure unit intervals hopefully going from hardly any exposure on one end and too much on the other. This was much easier with this "higher tech" timer that measures time down to 1/10th of a second and can hold the exposure rather then having to be reset and only having one second intervals like the old fashioned Gra-Lab timer which I have always used.  Also this timer measures exposure units rather than seconds so changes in light intensity change the duration of each exposure unit.  My goal was to produce a print with a good range of middle values, various grays and a pure black and less than pure white.I proceeded to reduce the "hard" settings leaving the "soft" settings alone.    The problem is the sky which was coming out pure white.  This may have been an issue because exposure was made for the light reflecting off the area below the sky retaining shadow details but over exposing the sky and bright surfaces.  The infra red film doesn't absorb the blue light so the sky comes out black, but the clouds are over exposed.  Pure white in a print should be reserved for a light source or glare of a light source off a reflected surface. Film though can only cover a limited range of values.  Since there were areas in the picture where no light was reflected I was okay with a pure black but I wanted the clouds to be the lightest value of gray rather than pure white.   Once I get all the middle values the way I want them I'll leave the darkest areas of the print alone and then "flash" the paper to shift the clouds from pure white to the slightest exposure possible or the lightest shade of gray. Flashing paper or pre exposing paper to eliminate Zone 10 or paper base is one way of manipulating the tonal range in the finished print by eliminating it.  This should be easy to do with the new t timer that can reduce exposures to a fraction of a second.  When you flash paper you want the minimum exposure possible to eliminate paper base where no exposure of the paper is made.

I took this picture with my cheap little Canon 5mgp digital camera I inherited from my son.  I shot this from the 11th floor of the Casey Eye Clinic in the new OHSU center for Health and Healing in the South Waterfront.  It is a bit like a futuristic Portland if you figure that Portland in the future will be a bunch of empty buildings with a nice view.

Another old photograph taken in 1972.  Broadway looking South.

Friday, May 21, 2010

I started photographing this building in 2008 that was being constructed across the street from where I work.  The black and white picture was taken in 2008 with a Nikon 24mm lens, the color picture was taken with the same lens a few weeks ago. 

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A recently developed roll of color film containing images starting last Summer and finishing last week.  Flowers from last years garden and pictures taken on lunch hour walks in downtown Portland.

Monday, May 17, 2010

This is the first print I made using my new enlarger.  I chose the negative because it is in very sharp focus and had a good range of tonal values.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

First Printing Session with the Zone VI enlarger

I don't think I'll be going back to the D-2.  I spent the morning experimenting with the new enlarger and was very impressed with the compensating timer which allows changes in exposure down to a .10 of a second or exposure unit and the ability to dial different variables of soft and hard contrast.  It allows me to make test prints much faster and more accurate and to really tweak contrasts and because the timer compensates for changes in light I don't have to rerun a test print when I change contrast controls.    The light is much brighter then it looks I was having to stop down my lens to f-16 and making only 20 second or exposure unit exposures.  I was using a 50mm el-nikkor and enlarging 35mm negs to roughly 5x7 on 8x10 sheets of warm tone ilford paper.  The focus controls are very fine.  So far the only thing I don't like is that the light when lifted up to install the negative carrier doesn't lift up very high so I can't do my spot cleaning of negatives while they are positioned on the negative stage.  Still the light has a gasket around it that really seals up any stray light and any stray bits of dust once you get the negative and carrier clean.  I also don't like that the safe light lacks a electrical outlet to plug in my safelight the way the Omega Gra-Lab timer does so that when the enlarger comes on the safe light automatically shuts off.  Small things that I have to give up for some huge benefits in the controls though more then compensate. 

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The New Enlarger.

I just finished assembling the Zone VI enlarger I bought last weekend.  Assembly was simple it was just the size and weight of the monster that  made it difficult.  I could lift my D-2 by myself but this one is too much for me.  I think the base is a bit of overkill it's 32x32" compared to my Omega D-2 which was 26x18". 

I was planning on building a table to support the base completely since it overhangs by about 6 inches but it feels pretty solid and I don't believe in making huge pictures so for the time being it is stable.  This system also comes along with the timer and rheostat controls for the dual lighting system which also uses up space.  I could mount the timer vertically but the rheostat takes up a lot of space. I have one lens board for it which accomodates most of my lenses, but negative carriers may be a bit of problem.  It only came with a 35mm carrier, and currently on e-bay there is a lot of competition for another negative carrier for 120 film where the bidding is currently over a hundred bucks so I may have to improvise.  I checked out the compensating timer and tested it against my gra-lab timer and it does compensate for light output.  If I set the lights at maximum output and set the zone vi timer for 30 exposure units, this works out to 15 seconds on my Gra-lab timer.  If I dial down the light controls to half of that 30 exposure units equal 30 seconds.  Hopefully tomorrow I can run some test prints but I am going to have to move my Omega D-2 to have some workspace.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Zone VI Ferrante Codelite

I have been trying to find more specific information about my new enlarger and light system.  Ansel Adams refers to this device as the Ferrante Codelite a grid light system made up of two aligned neon tubes one that emits green light and the other blue.  The green light control is listed as "soft" and if used exclusively would produce a contrast equivalent to a "0" filter or grade of paper.  This depending on the negative would produce a print that would be made up of values between X-V on the Zone Scale. If the "hard" light control was turned on and the "soft" green light turned off this would produce a print closer to a filter "5" or grade of paper limited to the extremes of the Zone Scale.  If both are turned on to an equal value this produces the equivalent of a "2" filter or grade of paper which is usually where I print and if I want to increase a "blacker shade of black" I will expose the print for a few extra seconds using a "5" filter.  What intrigues me about this system is the ability to dial a light combination between each filter grade as well as control the intensity of the light to stretch out the printing exposure time without having to change the aperture setting which I have discovered can significantly change the print.  The timer which uses a photo cell and allows further control of light volume doesn't measure time in seconds and minutes but in exposure units a "unit" of lowered light intensity will be longer then a "unit" with more light intensity.  If I understand the way this works if one were to dial a different setting to lower or higher contrast and this resulted in a reduction in light output the intervals between units would be increased to compensate.  I am kind of skeptical about this but  interested experimenting with it.  I am looking forward to setting this up and learning a new style of printing as soon as I can build an additional table to accomadate the enlarger and put my other enlarger in storage.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

My continued search for the ultimate printing machine.

When I first set up my darkroom and began learning how to make a high quality silver-gelatin print I worked with what I knew the Omega Enlarger with a very bright and hot incandescent light focused through a condenser system.  In reading Ansel Adams work on printing I was introduced to the cold light system.  The cold light uses a florescent light source that is cooler, and the bulbs last longer and produce an image that is not as sharp and contrasty as the standard condenser system which  gives the sharpest and highest contrast print which was very good for reproduction in Newspapers and Magazines at the apex of black and white journalistic photography.  The condenser system that "collates" light is bright and sharp and easy to focus on the easel but it has a few flaws like producing high heat which can make negatives buckle and it brings out all of the details in the negative including those you don't want like scratches, and imperfections in the negative.  Cold lights though also had issues.  The florescent light took time to heat up and could give varied light output.  One solution to this was to leave the light on during the entire printing session and just cap the lens when you wanted to shut off the light.  Eventually systems were designed with pre-heating that kept the bulbs warm so the lamp could produce a  consistent light output.  The next problem was that print contrast was produced through graded papers which became passe with the invention of variable contrast papers that used different colored filters to produce different contrasts.  The papers were designed to work with an incandescent light source which was more towards the red end of the spectrum rather then the blue of the early florescent light. My first cold light system called the Omegalite which was probably made back in the 40's used this system. It was hard to get graded papers and I preferred the versatility of the variable contrast papers so I went back to my condenser system.  Then I had an opportunity to buy a cold light that used a newer type of bulb that was balanced to work with filters.  I was to able find an old Aristo enlarger head that had a filter drawer and a pre-heater to keep the bulb working.  The bulb in the unit was broken and the replacement bulb was expensive but I invested in the new light and was very happy with it.  I knew though of the ultimate system which Ansel Adams used which was a light source made up of two bulbs, one green, one blue and a rheostat that controlled the output of both bulbs and could be dialed to different settings to give variable contrasts without filters.  The lights could be used in combination or alone in seperate exposures or split filter printing.  The systems though were way out of my price range.  Yesterday at Hollywood Camera Ed was selling a complete Zone VI enlarger with the dual light source, the rheostat control box, and a high end compensating timer.  The Enlarger was cheaper then what I paid 6 years ago for an old beat up D-2 but it was really big and required help in getting just the parts of it in to my darkroom.  I am going to have to build a stand for it and rearrange my darkroom, and I will lose all the versatility of my D-2 that I had bought all kinds of lens carriers and cool accesories for.  I am going to give the system a shot but I am not going to get rid of my D-2 just yet.  I want to see how this works for me.  I could probably sell or donate the system for a tax write off if it doesn't work out. 

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

  Another pair of Bushtits have built
a nest outside our window again.
They build the nests so secretly it
just seemed to suddenly appear right in
plain sight.  It seems to have some
kind of a web foundation that holds
it all together which if you read the
wikipedia entry is constructed of
spider silk.  Clever little tits.

I really wish I could have watched them build it.
Web Statistics