tirsdag 30. august 2016

Paper grades. Go grab your machete, cause it's a jungle!

Back in the days when I first went into a darkroom, I had to stand on top of a chair to even see what was going on. My father was handling everything, switching the light on and off on the enlarger, checking the time carefully using his wrist watch, picking out delicate negatives to print and things like that. 
He used to explain to me what was going on, why he did exactly what he did, all the time. Burning, dodging... the use of this tool and that, and also trying to explain the art of picking the right paper for the current negative. 
As time went by I found that picking the right grade of paper for the current negative was not exactly a constant with a definite right or wrong answer. He would always find a quite good reason for picking one, but there were times I thought he contradicted his own words told just a few days before. 
You have to keep in mind that this was before I even knew multigrade papers existed. My father never mentioned them, for whatever reason. He has never been too keen on testing out "new" things and techniques anyway, so that could very much be why. Multigrade (in a simpler form with only three available filters) has been available since around the second world war, as it happens, so he would surely have heard or read about them at some point before I arrived on the scene.
He would more or less constantly use the lack of the right paper grade as an excuse why the final print did not get the looks he was after, and I certainly can and will not blame him. It's a tricky path, as it happens, and very much a question of the eye of the beholder and what you like, and do not like. 
I still use old fashion graded papers from time to time, and they will certainly not fit every negative. That's just a fact. And you will need a good variety of grades to get things the way you want them, and even then you may run into a pitfall every now and then. 

So, what would be the best way to deal with grades then? Well, still the answer is very much blowing around in the wind, I think. The big difference these days is that most of us usually got all kinds of available grades hidden inside one paper, which is both a good thing but also sort of a curse at times. 
Sometimes I find myself just more or less pointing my finger in the air, picking a grade around what seems to fit the negative, just to find out after some trial and error (also known as test strips, or in my case usually a few small single pieces of paper) what looks the best for whatever I'm looking for in that particular print. It's not always the easiest approach, as you will have to adjust times according to how much filtering you are using for the particular grade you are working with. Still, with some experience, you could end up with a print you might like. From there things will hopefully evolve, as you get more experienced and find your way to do things. 

There is a slightly different way to search for something close to the best fitting grade as well. I don't use it all the time, but I find myself using it more these days than I used to do a few years ago. 
If you use only the softest (00) and the hardest (5) grades, you can mix them to find something slightly useful and maybe fitting to the final result. I would use the softest grade to get things right in the highlights, and grade 5 to hopefully nail the shadowy bits of the snap. It's a bit weird in the beginning, and you will not always end up with something like a masterpiece, but even I seem to learn as I move along this path. There should be hope for all then, I would think.

The final print as sort of explained below. My younger daughter all dressed up in her traditional costume for the Norwegian constitutional day on the 17th of May, 2016. Rolleiflex 2.8E TLR camera and some old and expired ORWO NP22 film. I could have used something better, I know, but that's what was loaded this day.

I used this approach on the snap above. It's probably not the best example in the world, just to make you all aware of that, but it's the only one I got available with the test papers and everything right here and now. Please find the test papers for the grades 00 and 5 below, then compare them with the final result. Beware the fact that the scanner wants to make everything look the same grade, so I had to do a few minor tweaks to the files to make them look a bit similar to the original results. 

Grade 00. In this case I would look for the very fine transition between the white shirt and the light background. I find it hardly visible here, but the print is a bit more defined than the scan. It's quite important to only look in the highlights and not much more. It's always good if there's not much extra work to be done on the print when it comes to dodging and burning and stuff like that. It can be done, of course, but it makes everything a lot worse.

Grade 5. This is where to look inside the shadows only, and you will more or less have a very black and white and contrasty image to look at. This seems to be a bit overdone on my screen, but in the actual print you can just barely tell apart the outlines of the hair and such inside the deep shadows to the right. 

A crop of the combined result of the two grades melted together in a final print. As soon as the times for both grades has been determined it's just a matter of going for it. You will have to print the thing in two stages, but sometimes I find it worth the hassle. 

It would probably also be possible to figure out the final grade based on the times used for each grade of the two above. The end result would be the same, but you would then be able to do the print in one session. I have not been reading too much about the theory around that, but I would find it hard to believe if there's not some kind of table or explanation around the internet showing you how to do stuff like that. 

I know, it's not exactly a great tutorial, but then again you'll most likely find plenty of that all over inside the usual places if you go check. I never do that, as I think I learned everything I ever need to know about things like these some time back in the 70's... Not the multigrade stuff though, as I found out about that some time between the day my father walked out of his darkroom for the last time and the introduction of internet as a useful tool for finding answers on things you do not know too much about. The problem these days seems to be the total overload of stuff out there, and thinking about it I just added even more to the ever increasing pile of nonsense. 
Well, that been said it's not all nonsense, as a few people out there actually have something useful to say. It's just the fact you have to find it that gives me some light breathing trouble at times.

mandag 29. august 2016

Seen the dark a bit, lately

Finally I made it to the darkroom, if only for a brief moment or three. There are things to be done, as you know, and places to see as well. 
This weekend we went away to the island of Smøla again, and it was a very nice trip. Brought the sister and the mother in law this time, which was very nice indeed. 
Even managed to visit the brilliant artist Kari, who grew up on more or less the same spot where I used to go fishing back in the days. I never had too much time to go see the folks down on that farm back in the days, but I did this weekend. You see she's an artist these days when she's not working on all kinds of other projects, and I want to have something she has made on one of my walls somewhere. You will see, some day, I hope. We have even briefly discussed the possibility of a sort of cooperation by throwing something together for next summer. Things to hang on walls, you know. I am not too sure yet... 

I kind of liked this print. I don't like the scan, though. There's too much going on in the sky there, and on the far left side where the sea is. The print does not contain too much of that rubbish, and looks even more graphic than the scan. More black and white only, with not much gray if you see what I mean. I wanted it to be like that, I need to hurry to say. Everything else looks quite OK, I think. 

Ah, the darkroom session you might ask?
Well, it was a session with a plan. At least it started off like that.
Then I went in there, and threw the plan somewhat away. As you normally do when you find yourself inside a dark place like that. 
Anyway, I ended up with a few prints. A couple of them were actually rather nice if you take a close look at them in daylight. The scans are just that... scans. 

We found this on our travel to Bulandet about a week ago. Someone had ripped the wheelhouse off an old fishing boat and put it aside for it to get some patina, or something. It seems to work, anyway. I had to stop, as you might understand. This was done on Fomapan 100 film on the Rolleiflex, washed the film in some kind of HC-110 mixture and made a couple of prints. This one is on warm tone Ilford FB paper. I might find a place for it, somewhere.

I printed the bigger ones on Ilford warm tone fibre paper. The only reason for that was that I have run out of the more normally toned, or not toned at all, paper of the same quality. Or not completely run out either, but there was no more of that size anyway. I got a bunch of bigger stuff, but I did not like to start cutting away on that batch. Not yet, anyway. That day will come soon enough anyway.

Bog Cotton, Eriphorum, Cottongrass or Myrull. You may call it lots of stuff, but it's usually the same thing. It's nice anyway, and looks great in the wind we usually gets around this bits of the world. This was snapped on the Rolleiflex, and the print was made on warm tone Ilford FB paper. It's going to show up on somebody's wall at some point, I have heard. 

So, I printed the Bog Cotton from the 6x6 negative I posted a few days ago, together with a couple of other 6x6 negatives this day. I like to print from 120 film I must admit. They got a nice size about them, and they seem to fit my eyes a bit better than the old 135 format. Another thing is that the enlarger I use for 120 film is a bit easier to get to than the beast I use for 135 film. Bad excuse, I know.

torsdag 25. august 2016

Marshland, late summer

We went over there to this island one long weekend this summer, to where my mother was born and grew up. I kind of grew up there as well at times, as we went there a lot back in the days when I was just a kid. 
I got memories from this place. Lots of them. I might steal a few negatives from my father at some point just to show you what I mean. 

Nothing much has changed in 40 years or so. This snap could just as well has been taken back then, or probably a 100 years ago for all we know. The barely visible wind turbines in the background would not be there back then, but the rest would be just as it's pictured here. I used the Rolleiflex and some fine Fomapan 100 film. 120 format, of course.

There was this small river, or maybe more like a tiny stream, more or less full of trout. Brownish mostly, but every now and again we managed to catch a few shiny silvery ones. 
There was a grandmother and a grandfather, and the uncle racing around in weird cars probably trying to hook up with a girl or something. It didn't help much, as he's still living in the same house all alone. I think he has stopped trying now...
There was clean air with the smell of sea and marshland, and the grandfather cut peat to burn through the winter. And there were coal to burn as well. But only when or if the nights got really cold or they had visitors coming from far away. 
And every evening there was fried trout with sour cream and potatoes. At least in the summertime.
And life was good.

You may call it Eriophorum, cottongrass or whatever. We call it Myrull over here in Norway. If you translate that directly you will get something like Marshwool... which might make some sense. I like this plant when it moves in the wind. Not much wind to make movements in this snap though. Rolleiflex and Fomapan 100, again. I like that combination at times. I printed it this morning, on some warm tone paper. I should have chosen a different one because the whites should have been white, I think. The print was nice though, but you will have to wait because it's still wet.

The world was so small back then. Only the grandparents, a few uncles and aunts, and the cousins. Me and one of them cousins grew up in that river. At least that's what I like to think.

onsdag 24. august 2016

Back from my travels

First there was a four weeks more or less busy period at work, and then I went home just to change some of the content in my bag before we threw ourselves into the car and went away for a late summer holiday, my wife and myself. 
First few days we spent out there on the tiny island of Ona, before we headed south along the coast line of Norway. Not along the coast line as such, as that would be a bit difficult around these parishes, but as close to it as practically possible would be the right term I suppose.

The path the old guardian of the lighthouse flame used to get to work everyday some time back. This would be his view, more or less, from his kitchen window inside the big house right behind me when I snapped this photo onto some old Kodak Tri-X film using one of the rangefinder cameras. I love this view, and got a few snaps of it if I start counting. No reason for that, I believe.

Anyway, we ended up at a nice spot located more or less in the middle of the North Sea, called Bulandet and Værlandet, which suited us just fine for a few days. You will probably see that for yourselves whenever I'm able to post a few snaps from the trip. 
I have already developed a few films, but the scanning has not been far up on my list of priorities as for yet. That has to do with life in general, as it happens. I got a few things to take care of around the house, to put it simple. That's the price of being the "handyman" of the area. Not that I'm particularly handy, but maybe rather the handiest there is to get inside this house... which means there will be things to do from time to time. 

Same camera, same film on the same trip to "Onakalven" which is the name of the small bump or top onto where the lighthouse is built. Strange how people react when they see a camera appear. The two male humans looking down to the ground and kept walking down the narrow track, while the female one immediately stopped and went looking out towards the sea in some kind of pose. Strange.

News from the tiny island of Ona then: As you may know my cousin Mette is a quite known writer, author and a playwright (if that's the right terms... but I think so) on this lump of stone we call Norway. We used to have a very well known Swedish author walking around this tiny island from time to time, as Henning Mankell used to have a house out here before he passed away. A part of his early career was taking place in the small city of Molde not too far from Ona, and I think that was how he fell in love with this place at some point. 
Anyway, to make the story short the norwegian union of playwrights or dramaticians has now inherited his house on the island, and my cousin will be able to use the place for writing stuff... or whatever people like her do from day to day. I can't wait to see what she'll get out of it at some point. There should not be any lack of weather, if that's what she's after...

And the last one, snapped from the lighthouse itself over a small part of the inner harbor and outer skerries of Ona. When checking the negatives themselves it turns out that the three snaps posted here were taken in this very order on the film. That does not happen every day inside this place, just saying. All done on the rangefinder then, and with the same 35mm lens onto the same Kodak Tri-X film. And all developed using Kodak HC-110 developer. They were also sloppily scanned by me on some Epson scanner... as usual.

Well, I should go outside to have a look if yesterdays work payed off or if everything has been ruined at some point during the night. 
I will be back, though. Quite soon, I hope! With more snaps to see, hopefully, and maybe a few words to go along with everything. 

søndag 7. august 2016

This weather... as usual

Sorry, and all. 
I know, I should have been in here a bit more frequent, told you I'm alive and such. But here I am, again. It's been busy, as you should have guessed. At work, as it happens. Not that I have been working 24/7 since i was here last, but it kind of feels like it.

I got nothing much to speak of, though, unless you're deep into mechanical problems and broken bits and bobs. I recon you're not.
The weather is coming up. I feel like I have to mention that. It's a bit early for gale sort of winds, but that's what's coming at us right now. The sea is rising as well, so then we know what we're all in for during the next few days. 
We just went off DP, because them tiny little ROV's can't work in any bad weather anyway. So we just have to wait then... for better days to come at some point. I heared someone mentioned thursday might be fine. Well, that's OK with me, as my plan is to be home by then.

I have not even been able to put any of my two cameras I brought into any good use either. At least not the last couple of weeks. See, I must have been really busy!

I almost forgot...! I promised you all a snap from the gable side of the roof of that old viking house in the viking village over where I spent a few weeks during my last trip to work. It would have looked maybe at least twice as good if I cropped it stylishly and printed it on some decent paper. Well, I did not... as you probably notice. However I might, some day.

I will be back, hopefully a bit sooner than this late!