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Wednesday, November 2

How would you print this?

Yes, this is going to be a challenge to say the least! Above are the before and after shots of this 6x9 cm HP5+ neg. The bottom shot is the unadulterated scan. The top pic is the same image after I'd almost beaten it to death in Photoshop.

It's a photograph I took a few years back when I was totting a large, unwieldy but surprisingly effective Mamiya Press everywhere. It had the 65mm wide angle on it (equivalent to a 28mm in the 35mm or full frame format). I remember having a couple of goes at printing it at the time and was never happy with the result. It needs a lot of work to get a good print and I think I got fed up.

I've started looking out some of my old medium format negs so that I can have another crack at them in the Durst L1200 once it's working again. It saw quite a lot of post-processing in Photoshop because I wanted to see what could be squeezed out of it. I really like the result but I'm not sure if I'll be able to get anywhere near this in a wet print.

It was worked up in Nik's Silver Efex Pro. I used the structure slider, which brings out a lot of local contrast, on the foreground, and the reverse of that effect for the hinterland to emphasise the detail-masking qualities of the fog. I also sepia toned it and cloned a plastic-wrapped hay bale up on the top right to help balance the bush on the left - and I can't do that easily in the darkroom, although I could live without it.

So how would you go about trying to duplicate the Photoshop look or would you just not bother? My first thought is to split-grade it. Print it at grade 0 to set the low contrast background tones and then use grade 5 to bring a bit of sparkle to the mud. The bush on the left would need to be dodged and the sky at the top burned in when the low contrast filter was in place. Possibly wiping the foreground with very dilute potassium ferricyanide on a piece of cotton wool would help in bringing out the sticky nature of the mud.

Anyone care to chime in? Answers on a postcard, please. Or feel free to add a comment if it's more convenient.


LF Steve said...

You cannot compare Photoshopped images with darkroom prints. There are things you can do on the computer that are not possible with an enlarger. But you can still make a good print of this image I think. The photoshop image has much more contrast in the foreground but you can get that by split printing as you say. Very good image, btw.

jd said...

I think the first image looks like a photoshop product. Anyway, I think I would dodge the tree on the left to bring out detail and try to bring out the bales on right as they are in the right spot. Extra contrast for the mud & water. Remove the hill (or whatever it is in the background so the road appears not to be stopped. Dodge it out so appears to be a bright light source between the two trees (nice symmetry) that fades out as you rise up above the treetops. That ought to be good for a half a box of paper!


Sounds good JD! Are you anywhere near Carnoustie? If so, I'll pop the negative in the carrier and let you do the rest... ;-)

jd said...

Love to; but, closest I've been is Edinburgh (Royal Observatory - Blackford Hill). Hold off on sending the negative. I'll try the pix in the blog first.


I've added an email link above my blog pic. Feel free to post your interpretation to me when you're done. This could be fun!

Mr.E said...

I love all the darkroom talk i see hear. Makes me feel like i'm home again. Love discovering this blog tonight and i will return often. Jerry E.


Hi Jerry and welcome aboard! If you know any digital photographers who might fancy discovering the world of film and the darkroom, please let them know about this blog. The more the merrier!