Reading helps, but Doing helps it make sense
In some recent posts I've shared the resulting images of my experimentations with new to me alterative printing processes Kallitype and Cyanotype. Whilst I've learnt the first steps of these, and managed to produce some acceptable images I've also managed to cement other learnings.
When starting to take film photography seriously you hear and read about the Zone system and how to rate your film, how to meter, how to expose and develop appropriately for your target medium. I've followed some of the things you are supposed to do but not with any great accuracy and my exposure handling for pinhole has been somewhat looser... Until now I've been mainly scanning my negatives and processing digitally. The dynamic range of scanners and the ability to adjust curves and levels make "fixing" loosely exposed and developed negatives reasonably simple in most cases. Trying to make physical prints with some of my 4x5 negatives my looseness has bitten me in the backside somewhat.
The following prints were made trying to ensure that maximum "blacks" were achieved and contrast adjusted (where possible) to push details up the curve and show as much detail as possible in the highlights.
For the Kallitype prints I used the recommended maximum amount of contrast booster in the sodium citrate developer. Even with this the shadows are not well separated and we don't have all the details in the highlights as the tree disappear into the fog.
The Cyanotype prints have no contrast control, but you can see the shadow details have better separation, the contrast in the mid-tones is better and we have more of the trees in the fog. There is some unintentional contrast control with the Coffee toned Cyanotype as the process requires bleaching which works faster on the highlights than the shadows. So whilst the original print was darker than the untoned version this has been lifted during the toning process and as a result this version looks to have the best local contrast and thus detail. Look at the wheel details in all of the prints to see the effect.
In the spirit of Kaizen, what small change can I make to make the biggest improvement...
There are lots to be fair, but probably the most important is to focus on my intention when making the original negative. Have a mind to the end result and how I might print it. This will better lead exposure and development decisions.
Other things to consider:
- Switch back to Moersch Tanol/Finol tanning developer to aid physical printing
- Use spotmeter for pinhole exposures to ensure proper Zone 3 placement (at the least)
- Further investigate digital negatives as an additional method of contrast control
As always, let me know what you think, what I've got wrong, and what I could do differently.