Incredibly Frustrated Newbie...Please Help!!!

Discussion in 'The Darkroom' started by BGAndrea, Jun 12, 2009.

  1. BGAndrea

    BGAndrea TPF Noob!

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    Hello,
    I just finished taking a black and white darkroom photography class in college to fulfill my fine arts credit. I was really good at it and enjoyed it so much that I had pretty much given up my digital camera for b/w film. Anyway, the class ended and I wanted to continue developing my own pictures so I went on craigslist and bought someone's enlarger, lens, trays, etc. I went out and purchased identical chemicals to what I used at school. I am having the following extremely frustrating problems and I don't know how to fix them:

    My pictures printed at home look milky, flat, not sharp, and lack detail. At school, my pictures had an almost 3-d, tack sharp, exhibition quality to them. The school enlarger was a Beseler 23CIII and mine is an Omega B66. Does this make a difference? I was usually using a #3 ilford filter at school. At home, my enlarger came with a System 7 kit and I am using the #3 as well. It seems that if I want highlight detail on my enlarger at home, I have to lengthen the time of enlargement to the point that the image is too dark overall. Some of my exposures that were 10 seconds at school are taking me 2 minutes with the same exact negative at home.

    Please help!!! I found darkroom photography really relaxing and enjoyable at school and would like to return to that feeling.
     
  2. ann

    ann No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    it is not unusal for these changes. altho, 10 secs to 2 minutes is extreme.

    is it just the burning in time for the highlights, or the over all time?

    you need to run some test with your present equipment to determine your new times, etc.

    I am not familar with System 7 but perhaps you need to use a higher grade filter .

    the lens, the filters, the timer will all have an effect on the outcome.

    in our lab i ran a test of the same negative , use the same variables on 11 different enlargers. none look alike. this was not a surprise for myself, but it certainly surprises students.

    i would suggest you start from the beginning, do the same steps with your equipment that you did in the lab from school.

    Double check that you have mixed the chemistry correctly, as sometimes if one is used to someone else taking care of that particular duty it can be confusing.
     
  3. Torus34

    Torus34 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    '... milky, flat, not sharp, and lack detail.'

    This sounds like more than one problem. 'flat' suggests low contrast. 'not sharp, and lack detail' suggests focussing or lens problems.

    Much more information is needed to diagnose this.

    Please indicate the enlarging paper [the full name] and developer you are using. At what aperture are you focussing the negative on the baseboard? At what aperture are you making the exposure? Please indicate the numbers of the filter set you are using.
     
  4. dxqcanada

    dxqcanada Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Exhausted fixer ?
     
  5. christopher walrath

    christopher walrath No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Paper
    Chemistry
    Aperture
    negative format
    paper size
    size you are enlarging to
    your process in detail

    all of this might help
     
  6. BGAndrea

    BGAndrea TPF Noob!

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    Paper: Ilford MGIV Multigrade IV RC DE LUXE 8x10 PEARL
    Developer: Ilford Multigrade Paper Developer (1:9) I make a working solution of 1 quart at a time.
    Aperture: F8 for focusing and enlarging
    Negative format: 35mm
    Negative carrier: factory Omega...enlarger came with homemade glass covered carrier but I have not used this yet
    Paper size/size enlarging to: 8x10
    Stop Bath: Kodak Indicator
    Fixer: Whatever cheap fixer is available...Adorama B/W fixer is what I am using now. I notice the problem before even getting to fixer so I know it is not the fixer.
    Enlarger: Omega B66-do not use aux condensor as I have the new lamp style.
    Heat absobant glass: on order
    Current lens: El-Omegar Omega factory lens
    Future lens: Nikkor 50mm F2.8
    Filtration: system 7 in filter tray (using #3 filter)
    Darkroom: converted bathroom. There are probably some minor light leaks. Not sure if this contributes to the problem.
     
  7. DSPhotography

    DSPhotography TPF Noob!

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    Have you printed a test sheet? I personally am still setting my darkroom up, but I've read many places that this is essential to ensure getting proper exposure for prints.

    Cut a strip off a sheet of paper and put it under the enlarger. Then use a piece of cardboard and cover all but 1 1/2" of the strip. Set your timer for 18 seconds, and every three seconds, move the cardboard down another 1 1/2", then develop the strip. You'll have 6 areas: one exposed for 3 sec, one for 6 sec, 9 sec, 12, 15 and 18. The first section that's as dark as you'd want the darkest part of your image to be is your exposure time.

    The only things I can think of that could be causing your problem is expired/fogged paper or exhausted fixer. Did you buy them new or used (old stock)?

    I would maybe talk to your old professor at the college and ask them if you can try printing a couple prints in their darkroom with your paper.
     
  8. BGAndrea

    BGAndrea TPF Noob!

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    Also:
    I spoke with an Omega dealer in Canada who suspected my problem was caused by a poor lens so I ordered a Nikon 50mm f2.8. However, I just thought of something: the problem still occurs when making contact sheets (I don't believe a quality lens makes a difference in contact sheet printing right?). What happens with contact sheets is this:
    If I set a normal exposure time (lets say 20 seconds), the highlights are still completely washed out while the blacks are too dark. For example, I can't read the name of the film on the edges of the contacts as it is too dark. The detail in the highlights in the images though are too light. I know it is not the negatives causing the issue as I made a contact sheet at school with the same negatives and had no problem.

    I have been developing for 3mts.
    Stop for 30 scnds.
    Fixer for 5 mts.
    perma-wash for 2mts.
     
  9. BGAndrea

    BGAndrea TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for your response. I do make test strips but I either get detail and too dark overall or too light and no detail. Also, the image ends up looking out of focus even though I use a fine grain focuser and have checked alignment. As far as paper, it is new and is the same box and everything as the paper I used at school.
     
  10. Sjixxxy

    Sjixxxy TPF Noob!

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    You may have a subtle light leak, or a safe light that isn't 100% safe.

    Try running this experiment that is pretty much essential for any new darkroom set up. You'll need a stack of coins.

    1) With all lights out, take a piece of paper and immediately develop it. If any area develops past perfect white, your box of paper may have been compromised.

    2) Turn on your safe light and put a sheet of paper on you enlarging easel. Lay the coins out on the paper in a grid, and DON'T turn on you enlarger. Every 10 seconds or so, remove one coin until they are all gone, then develop the paper. If you can see the outline of any of the coins, then your safe light is too bright, and it is muddying up your prints

    3) If you do see outlines, turn of the safe light and run the test again in complete darkness, just to make sure that there isn't a subtle light leak somewhere in the room. It can sometimes be shocking how bright a seemingly dark room can be after you sit in it for several minutes without a safe light on.

    4) Turn on your enlarger and cap the lens. Look around on the chasis for any light that may be leaking out. If you haven't already, put as much flat black material on the walls immediately around the enlarger as possible to help soak up any loose light, and try cover up any spots where heat doesn't radiate.
     
  11. BGAndrea

    BGAndrea TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for your response. Great suggestions and I will do them next time I develop. I do know that my enlarger head has some small light leaks around the screw holes, etc... How should I fix these?
     
  12. Torus34

    Torus34 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Focus with your enlarger lens wide open. Then stop down to an aperture that will give you about a 15 sec. exposure for a correctly-exposed print.
     

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