The best blacks?

Discussion in 'The Darkroom' started by Efergoh, Mar 7, 2007.

  1. Efergoh

    Efergoh TPF Noob!

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    Up until recently, I've only used illford papers (primarily because that was the first paper I used, and it is the only one offered by my local shop), but recently I've begun experimenting with different papers.

    I'm finding that I prefer high contrast printing. Illford doesn't seem to give me the kind of blacks that I am looking for. I've tried Oriental, Bergger and Kentmere. I'm really enjoying what Oriental has given me, and the white base seems to give a really good balance to the rich blacks.

    What other papers should I be looking into for a good black? I mean black so dark bats run into each other....
     
  2. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    Blacks depend to some extent on the type of paper and your chosen developer.
    Use fibre base and one of the more expensive papers. I always used Ilford.
    Don't use anything other than glossy.
    Best print dev I have found is Dektol (liquid).
    Dmax on a print depend on base paper tone, surface finish and the amount of silver used in the emulsion. Cheaper papers tend to use less so Dmax is less.
    Agfa used to make a paper that had twice as much silver in than all the others but I believe it's been discontinued.

    The tone of the black can affect things, too. You can get neutral, warm, cold... Developer tends to affect this.
    You can enhance blacks on fibre by after treatments such Selenium toning. Warms and enriches the black. But the stuff is highly toxic. I used to only use it for exhibition and archive prints.

    You might also want to look at your enlarger lens. Cheaper ones, like cheap camera lenses, have lower contrast (less punch) and so blacks can look washed out. I always used the EL-Nikkors but Schneider and Minolta do good ones. But like good camera lenses they are not cheap.
     
  3. Efergoh

    Efergoh TPF Noob!

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    I'm using school equipment, so I can't do much about the lenses. I live in a studio apt that is roughly the size of a postage stamp so there is no where to put a darkroom even if I wanted one.

    I ditched RC paper after my first semester of school, and only use it for contact prints of 35mm and 6x6 negs for reference.

    The developers I'm using are Sprint (provided by the school), and Dektol and D76 that I have purchased on my own. It isn't just the flatness of the blacks that I get from Illford that has turned me off to it, but it is also the curling of the paper. When I dry my illford papers, they curl like the Dead Sea Scrolls.

    I've done quite a bit of toning. Mostly Selenium and Sepia. I've found that the warm tone papers when left in Selenium for longer periods turn a nice rosey color that I find kinda cool, but not great for a lot of shots I have.

    Selenium has saved many of my shots, and given me the contrast I was looking for, but I would like to push the envelope a bit further. That was why I was looking at perhaps changing the paper I use. Right now, Oriental is on top, but I'm willing to take other suggestions if anyone has a favorite paper (aside from illford... - nothing against it, just looking for something new to try).
     
  4. terri

    terri Administrator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I've not tried the Oriental, but it has such an excellent reputation it's probably a good one to start with.

    I use mostly Ilford MG IV. I appreciate what you say about the curling; mine curls some, but not enough to turn me off from it. It's never so bad that a stint under a weighted flat surface didn't fix it for me. The MG WT is pretty yummy in sepia, too.

    You might give Kentmere a try. You might like these papers a lot, and they have a glossy, a matte, warm and cool tone selections, etc. Great company that doesn't appear to be in any danger of disappearing. I've used mostly the matte for handcoloring. I have a small stash of glossy but not printed with it yet.

    About selenium: when your objective is only to enhance your Dmax, a short dip in a bath of 1:19 is usually all you'll need, especially for a cold tone paper. Anything stronger will give you that purplish tone.
     
  5. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    I would still give serious consideration to getting your own lens. It's easy enough to swap them around as they all have the same thread (I think it's Leica's old standard...).
    Most school get the basic lenses and they tend to lack punch. See which ones they are using and if it is just a cheapie get your own.
    I've known a lot of students who think their negs are flat or their prints lack depth who are pleasantly suprised when they start using a decent lens.
     
  6. Christie Photo

    Christie Photo No longer a newbie, moving up!

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