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Saturday, September 22

A Coffeehouse In Cunda


I was so impressed with Omar Ozenir's website in his native Turkish language that I asked him if he would be willing to translate some posts for this blog. He kindly agreed. Omar (left) is happy to provide further translations if reader reaction is positive (don't forget to leave a comment!). Since people who visit this website all share my and Omar's passion for film photography, I think I know what the reaction will be. Over to Omar.



A Coffeehouse in Cunda

by Omar Ozenir

 


A picture from Cunda (pronounced Djunda), a small island off Ayvalik on the Aegean coast of Turkey. It’s the early hours of a sunny May morning. Sparrows are circling above my head, their chicks are screaming from nests high up on the ceiling; the world is beautiful, life is beautiful. After taking a final sip from my Turkish coffee I stand up slowly and…click, click, click…silently finish off a roll of medium format black and white film in this place which has long enchanted numerous other photographers.

Some technical details for the interested:

This kind of picture poses a typical technical problem. The difference in light values between the indoors and outdoors is so vast that it’s not easy to transfer both ends onto photographic paper. For example, if we print for just the indoors we get a result like this:


The problem is obvious: all windows are blank white, as if an outside world does not exist. Although I can see that the negative has captured plenty of detail in the windows, this information has not been transferred onto paper. To understand what‘s going on here it’s enough to have a look at the chart below, which shows the relationship between exposure values and tones on photographic paper.


The horizontal axis represents the amount of light the paper is exposed to, whereas the vertical axis is the corresponding darkening of the paper (#1,3,5 show changes in the graph according to different contrast filters). The important thing to notice is that the paper shows no darkening at all until it is exposed up to the point shown with the red arrow.

We can conclude that the windows of the coffehouse are so dense in the negative that light passing through it simply isn’t strong enough to pass the threshold shown in the chart above, hence it can’t produce any tone on the paper. As far as I’m aware, there are three potential solutions to such a problem:

The first is to foresee the problem and expose and develop accordingly. In other words, had I developed the film less the windows in the negative wouldn’t have been this dense and might have printed through.

The second is to use a low contrast filter at the printing stage. I don’t like this solution because we lose local contrast in the indoors whilst trying to capture the outdoors.

A Third Way

The third solution, and the one I prefer to use in similar situations, is flashing. The logic is clever: if photographic paper starts to develop tone only after being exposed to a certain amount of light, then if I can somehow coax the paper to that point, any further tiny exposure should start to record as tone. What we do is extremely simple: remove the negative and expose the paper with some light!

We can flash before or after exposing with the negative, the order doesn’t matter. We even don’t have to use any contrast filter. We only have to determine the flashing exposure, and for this I revert again to a test strip. I raise the enlarger head a bit, remove the negative, close the lens aperture as far as possible and expose a piece of paper in intervals of a second. What I get is something like this:


Here, the leftmost strip hasn’t received any light. Moving to the right, every further strip has received 1 second more light. If you look carefully, you won’t see any tone until the 5th second. It’s only after the 5th second that we can see a trace of tone. In other words, if I expose the paper for 4 seconds I will have moved it up to the threshold described above and every further small amount of light (i.e. that which passes through the dense negative parts) falling on the paper should now record. If you find there is no grey on the test strip, that means you aren’t exposing it enough and you should repeat the test strip by e.g. opening up the lens aperture a bit. If, on the other hand, even the first second on the strip is grey, then you are exposing it too much and you should repeat it by reducing the intensity of light, e.g. by raising the enlarger head further, closing the lens down a stop or two or using a neutral density filter (some enlargers have built-in neutral density filters).

I’ve printed the first picture in this post by using the flashing method. Here is a detail comparison between a flashed print and a straight print:

Note the difference in tone and detail in the window and gas tanks.

One final note before I forget it. If you decide to use flashing you have to flash test strips of the picture as well and base your decisions of exposure and contrast on these flashed test strips (you are likely to find that you will want to use a slightly higher contrast filter).

A print fresh from the oven:

54 comments :

Anonymous said...

This is well written, and useful, information.

I wish I had a darkroom so I could try this!

Anonymous said...

Excellent article. Keep them coming, please!

steve said...

l hope this will continue, it is an interesting article and Omar is an excellent photographer.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting and informative.

I'd like to see more articles!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this!

I need more of that!

Steve said...

Thank you Omar a very useful article. I look forward to seeing some more.

Jan Moren said...

This was great! Hope for more posts.

BRUCE ROBBINS said...

If we keep piling pressure like this on Omar he'll have no option but to translate more posts! Joking aside, I think Omar is quite keen as he's doing his thing for exactly the same reason I'm doing mine - to get as many people as possible using film.

Marcel Schepers said...

A beautiful print to go along with a well written article. Thank you very much!

karkwai said...

Thanks for this article, more please! :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for posting this! Very well written and illustrated! Keep these coming!
VicS, Rangefinderforum.com

Colin Corneau said...

Finally, a technical aspect of analog photography explained without jargon or incomprehensible engineering-speak!
I understand this concept now...whereas before I didn't. Brilliant.

Anonymous said...

Nicely and clearly written. Glad you added the comment about the change in the filtration.

Do you quantify your technique as to paper and developer combination, or do you work more from feel?

It is about time for a new book on what has become retro technique and the approach of controlling more completely the process of making a fine print-- I have a feeling you are quite capable in that regard.

Andrea Ingram said...

Thanks. Look forward to reading the next one !

Anonymous said...

Very well written and concisely explained. It is as if he is speaking to you rather than you reading "dry text"

We need more of his articles in English. I'd certainly read them


Michael Lehrman said...

Thanks so much for this. It's fascinating. BTW, Google Translate does a reasonable job of converting his webpage into English.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Omar for this article, and thanks Bruce for getting it posted in English. I'd love to see more of Omar's articles and sincerely hope he considers translating more.

Omar Özenir hakkında said...

Dear all, I'm overwhelmed and encouraged by your responses. Thanks a lot.

Kyle Sanders said...

Bruce and Omar - thank you for sharing your passion and experience. It is very encouraging to those on the fence like me - about ready to throw in the towel for film, so to speak.

Kenny Wood said...

More please, I tried Google translate but it left a lot to be desired!

Paul Glover said...

Excellent article!

John said...

Thanks to both of you, it's great to see prints actually being produced rather than just talked about!
A picture speaks a thousand words.

Please can we have more.........?

Anonymous said...

Excellent article with simple and clear explanation. It's good to know someone is still interested and so committed to traditional photography. Thank you both, Bruce for bringing to our attention and Omar for sharing his craft.

Dave Green said...

Great post! I've heard of this technique before but didn't quite understand it until this article, so thanks :-)

I'm using a hybrid workflow with LR3 and PS-CS4 (I love using film but don't have a darkroom). Do you have any tips for handling(printing)a high contrast scene such as this without a darkroom. I won't be offended if you tell me to look elsewhere :-). Thanks both and keep up the good work. I enjoy and take inspiration from your images and posts!

Omar Özenir hakkında said...

Sorry Dave, can't help you with that one.

Dave Green said...

Thanks Omar

Jeff Warden said...

Bruce and Omar, thanks very much for your generosity. I've been practicing in the darkroom for two years and articles like this keep me interested in exploring further. It's amazing what can be done with light and chemistry.

jojonas said...

thank you for bringing this together so we could partace in it. I think it is very easy to understand and it seems like a technique well worth exploring!
I have to chime in with those that have said that they had heard about this before but had not understood it until now. thanks for illustrating this so well!

and Omar, that is a very nice shot :)

Anonymous said...

Very interesting and new to me. When I have a darkroom, I'll try to remember this lesson, which I have bookmarked in any case.
Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting and informative. I shall look through my old files and re-examine some of those "hard to print" negatives and give this a go.

Jandak said...

excellent reading :)

Willem Masman said...

this is great! good storyline and very usefull information, i will definitely use this technique when i have all my contrasty mountain landscapes developed!

BRUCE ROBBINS said...

If most of the contrast comes from bright sky then you can modify the flashing technique so you flash just the sky area of the print. You don't have to mask off the sky or anything like that: just shade with a moving straight edge the part of the print where the land will be. Flashing usually lowers contrast a little requiring a harder grade of paper. By selectively flashing the sky, you wont need to use a harder grade.

Richard said...

Thanks to both of you. Having reached a certain level, rarely do I find any darkroom writings online that I can actually learn anything from. I found this so worthwhile I actually browsed through Omar's entire blog from beginning to end through Google translate--in Turkglish. Would love to read more in more understandable English... Again, thanks.

Bobby Todd said...

Thanks so much for such an interesting article. As someone who is just now exploring the wonders of the darkroom, I found it to be fascinating. Thanks Omar.

Anonymous said...

Although I develop my b&w films myself, my experience in printing is very limited. This is a whole new world to me so please keep up with this great work.

Anonymous said...

That's a remarkable technique and easy to do! Thanks for your article.

Anonymous said...

I hope you will go on...

Nick Marshall said...

Thank you both very much, Omar and Bruce. I'm a rank beginner at photography, yet I found this explanation perfectly easy to understand - a beautifully written article, and lovely picture, and an adornment to an excellent blog.

BRUCE ROBBINS said...

Thanks Nick. Hope you feel encouraged to buy a film camera if you haven't got one already - and some film of course!

Ralph W. Lambrecht said...

keep going

Omar Özenir hakkında said...

Again, I'm amazed and encouraged by the sheer amount of responses. Thank you! I shall try to contribute one translation every month until either
A) I haven't got anything worthwhile left to say
B) Bruce has had enough of me :)
Kind Regards

BRUCE ROBBINS said...

You can never get too much of a good thing, Omar. ;-)

morris 1800 said...

Very interesting technique , I have recentely been looking at andrew sandersons work with the paper negative and positive , this would be great for preparing the paper before exposure in camera , many thanks to Omar for sharing this and to you Bruce for the introduction

BRUCE ROBBINS said...

I believe quite a few photographers who use paper negatives do just that - pre-flash the paper to reduce contrast and increase the sensitivity of what is usually a very slow medium.

mARTa said...

Excellent article. Please keep them coming. How about a link to Omar's site, even though we can't read it I would love to see more of his work.

BRUCE ROBBINS said...

mARTa,

Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. There are a couple of links to Omar's site. You'll find one in the opening introductory paragraph I wrote for this post. For future reference, there's also a wee section in the right hand column of the blog just under the search bar. I'm going to post all of Omar's articles there so that people can find them more easily. If you visit his Turkish website, you'll find that Google translate manages to just about make everything understandable.

Stepan Lapkin said...

nice to see Bruce and Omar sharing experience for the passion and keep this going - thumbs up !!! I experimented with flashing on VC papers and came up with the conclusion that similar results can equally be produced just fine with split/contrast filtering controls. May be Polymax paper has a certain quality that made use of flashing so effective in this case. great work.

Robert Versteegen said...

Thanks for sharing al this very important information. I started just after 10 years digital to film prossing again.

www.rv-photo.nl

cheers Robert

tjen dezutter said...

this is clearly explained,better for me than steve anchell

Anonymous said...

Even though this is an old post it was quite informative and enjoyable to read.

fred said...

thank you very much for the translation !
I already knew and enjoyed very much the blog GelDurKal... but sadly I am not able to read any turkish word. That was very frustrating, as I like very much black and white photography and printing. I really appreciate the pictures, and the tips and techniques you show to us.
I hope you will continue it, keeping analog photography alive !
Thank you.

Ray Heath said...

Great info, extremely well written Omar. Explained in easily understood terms.

Anonymous said...

Very useful. Learnt something I didn't know.