Landscapes in low contrast light

Discussion in 'Darkroom Developing and Printing' started by sreenath, Jul 18, 2007.

  1. sreenath

    sreenath Guest

    Hi All,

    I recently shot a roll of 35mm film; mostly landscape in cloudy
    conditions. Since I use grade2 paper, I decided
    to increase contrast by developing for more time.

    I learnt from that an increse of approximately 30
    percent in development time would increase
    contrast by one grade a paper; and that would also increase film
    speed. Therefore, I metered the film at 200(the
    speed mentioned on the box is 125. This is a generic 125 ASA film
    imported and cut repacked in India).

    I was not sure if shadow details would be recorded properly, and when
    I developed the film, shadow areas were almost non-existent. Even
    though I used a variant of Ilford ID-68, a phenidone based developer,
    the shadow areas were not developed.

    So my question is, how should I meter for landscapes in low contrast
    lighting situations? If I meter at the speed
    mentioned by the manufacturer AND develop the film for 30 percent
    extra time, would the negative not be too dense?

    sreenath, Jul 18, 2007
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  2. sreenath wrote:
    The following is pure opionion based on no facts, treat it
    that way.
    Normal film exposure and developing is based upon everything averaging
    out to the 18% gray. If you use an 18% gray target to meter your
    exposure, and then expose a "normal" scene and develop it normally, you
    will get a "good" picture.

    That's how old style enlarging light meters worked, a diffuser was
    placed in front of the lens to "average" the exposure.

    Until APS cameras came out, this was the standard for developing labs
    that actually metered their printing exposure and for color film, color
    balance. APS film included a magentic strip for recording exposure
    information and APS printers were supposed to read it and use the
    information to make a better printing exposure.

    This technology was improved to the point that a digital scan is made of
    a negative and the information from the scan is used instead. That among
    other things doomed APS, as you could get the same results from film
    without the magnetic strip and 35mm cameras were so much more common and
    had bigger (which is better) negatives.

    I mention this because, you as a photographer and printer can use your
    brain to do the same thing, and produce negatives you like and prints
    you like from them.

    The most famous system of metering parts of scene and using it to
    determine how to expose it is the ZONE system. There are others and
    hardware, from a camera that used multiple manual metering and averaged
    them (one of the Olympus OM cameras, but I forget which), to the Nikon
    multisegment meter in the 8008 which has since been improved and used by
    many other companies.

    When I first met my wife, she had an 18% gray poodle, who gave me a
    metering target in every photograph he was in. :)

    Before you start all sorts of development and printing tricks, I suggest
    that you use a simple method. Find a scene you wish to photograph and
    pick a spot in it which you want to see the most detail. Meter
    that spot and use that exposure. While you are there, take exposures
    in have stop increments above and below for about three stops.

    Do this several times until you have used up your roll of film.

    Develop it normally.

    Look at the negatives. A simple way, since you already have a darkroom is
    to use your enlarger to project them on the back of an old print.
    Look carefully. Choose the one that gives you the best combination of
    shadow and hightlight detail that you want.

    If you can't get both, try a different film or developer. This IMHO is
    far easier than trying different combinations of development, though
    you can obviously do that too.

    Eventually you will hit on a combination of film, developer and exposure
    that suits your liking and meter.

    Or maybe not. As you say later you are in India, some films are not available
    there, too expensive to buy locally, or the postage would be prohibitive
    from an overseas order if you can do it.

    You will get something close and you can work with that.

    So once you have your "ideal" negative, you can play around with printing it.

    Besides adjusting contrast grades (or changing papers), you can adjust printing
    exposure. Adjusting printing development never did much for me, you may see
    it differently.

    Remember that prints look different when they dry.
    I think that's an almost impossible question to answer accurately. 30%
    extra development will probably (not all developers work that way)
    result in a much denser negative. If it is too dense or not is a matter
    of personal choice. Some films handle overdevelopment or overexposure
    gracefully, some (T-Max?) don't.

    Geoffrey S. Mendelson, Jul 18, 2007
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  3. sreenath

    Peter Guest

    I note you haven't mentioned anything about the highlights.

    That you want to raise the paper grade by one, since the scene is
    somewhat flat, sounds conjectural unless you've tried normal exposure
    and development with that film and developer combination. Normal
    processing and exposure sometimes hits #2 paper pretty close.

    If the shadows were gone with mild under exposure, there are a number
    of possibilities. Getting a range of experience with the film first
    should be high on the list of tasks. Some films and scenes I find I
    have to over expose no matter how much I develop if I want to use an
    incident meter. With a spot meter and metering the shadows that you
    want to keep your choices should have produced ample shadow detail so
    there is more work to do if that is what you did. Still, in cloudy
    conditions, there would normally be a bit more shadow detail than you
    seem to suggest.

    The general tone of your message leaves open a bit of uncertainty
    about the film ("This is a generic 125 ASA film imported and cut
    repacked in India"). This sounds quite different from describing your
    test results with the film.

    The remark about a variant of ID-68, a phenidone developer is also a
    worry. The agent or trade name of the developer may not be as
    important as the freshness, temperature or experience with the
    "generic" film.

    Well, I really don't know what is wrong, but there are some
    Peter, Jul 19, 2007
  4. First of all the developing agent has little effect on
    shadow detail.
    If there was no shadow detail the negatives were
    underexposed even if given more development.
    Since the scene is of low contast the density will
    probably not be excessive even if given normal exposure and
    extended development. What you want is to get shadows of
    normal density and highlights of greater density, that's how
    the contrast is increased.
    To get a better understanding of this study the
    characteristic curve of a film. Kodak data sheets have good
    graphs of the film curves, sometimes with several developing
    times shown. The graph shows exposure along the X axis
    increasing as it moves from right to left. Density is shown
    in the Y axis increasing as it goes from bottom to top. The
    slope of the characteristic is the contrast, i.e., the rate
    that density changes with exposure. You will notice that the
    low exposure part of the characteristic does not go straight
    into the base line but rather is curved so that its contrast
    increases gradually until the body of the curve is pretty
    straight. This low exposure section is called the "toe". The
    idea of correct exposure is to place the minimum expoure
    that is to have any detail up far enough on the toe so that
    it will have adequate contrast for printing. Note that for
    many films the slope of the straight portion of the curve
    does not change very much up to very high values of exposure
    and densities, often further than the usual film curves
    show. When exposure is increased it moves all values to the
    right. So, the contrast of the low exposure values increases
    but the higher exposure parts don't change much. This is the
    way to increase shadow detail where highlight detail is OK,
    in short, increase the exposure.
    When development is increased the slope of the entire
    curve is increased. This increases contrast for all values
    of gray but the low exposure part (toe) is still lower than
    the rest. Where most of the desirable exposure is in the
    toe, as in great underexposure, an increse in exposure will
    make the toe section high enough in contrast to print well.
    If there is exposure in the "normal" section of the curve it
    will become very high in contrast. This is a condition quite
    familiar to those who push film for available light
    The overall increase in density caused by increasing
    exposure will, of course, require an increase in printing
    exposure of about the same amount _except_ that there will
    be a change in the tone rendition for the shadows which will
    have more detail. Where overall contrast is low due to a low
    contrast scene its probable that an increase in development
    with _normal_ exposure will result in better shadow detail.
    The usually recommended reduction in exposure is to keep the
    highlight densities about the same despite the increase in
    contrast, but here, the highlight densities are probably too
    low to begin with so reducing exposure will make the problem
    worse despite the increased development.
    This is a sort of wordy explanation of something that a
    few illustrations would make clear but, since I don't have
    that alternative, I hope the word description is helpful.
    Write back if its isn't and I will try to do better.
    The name for this whole area of photography is known as
    sensitometry. I don't know if there is a good elementary
    treatice on it on the web, it would be helpful if there was.
    Richard Knoppow, Jul 20, 2007
  5. sreenath

    sreenath Guest

    Thanks for all the informative responses.

    This film is supposed to be repacked NP22 film from erstwhile ORWO.
    This is a descent film.

    Zone suggests "expose for shadows.., develop for highlights" That was
    basis for my experiment. Since I decided to increase development time,
    I automatically reduced the exposure.

    So I guess, I will expose normally, AND overdevelop. The highlight
    details might still be more, but perhaps one cant help that.
    Perhaps it would have been easier to use higher grade paper!

    When I see famous photographs of landscapes, even cloudy ones with lot
    of clouds, they appear to have proper highlights. So I was wondering
    how it is done.

    Once again, thanks for all the helpful comments.
    sreenath, Jul 20, 2007
  6. The modern method is to lighten them in photoshop. Before that,
    gradient netural density filters were (and still are) used.
    They are darker at the top than the bottom. The trick in using
    them is to position the area where they fade, or the split if
    they are just split filters where it "looks natural", around
    the horizon.

    Without using the filters, you use a film/developer combination that can
    stand several stops of overexposure. For example, NOT T-MAX. Then using
    a piece of carboard covering the top, you expose the bottom of the
    picture, which will contain the shadows, and then remove the cardboard
    to finish the exposure.

    This gives the bottom the total exposure and the top a shorter exposure.
    You can also do it by placing the cardboard on the bottom. Either way,
    if you have an under lens red filter that works well enough to not
    expose the paper, you can use it so that you see what you are

    If you move the cardboard slightly, without moving anything else
    or wiggle you hands over the edge, you can soften its effect
    so that there is not a clear line on the print.

    If you have a gradient filter and enough room in your negative
    carrier, you could also use when printing.

    As for ORWO film, their KB25 film is IMHO wonderful for landscapes.
    I don't know if it is still availble, or the replacment is available
    in India. Over the years, it was made by Adox, then ORWO, then Efke,
    and now I think is sold under the Adox name again. I've long since
    lost track of it, and have no way of getting it.

    Geoffrey S. Mendelson, Jul 20, 2007
  7. sreenath

    Peter Guest

    Last I checked foto impex in Germany carried it (try ).
    Peter, Jul 20, 2007
  8. The modern method is to lighten them in photoshop. Before that,
    gradient netural density filters were (and still are) used.
    They are darker at the top than the bottom. The trick in using
    them is to position the area where they fade, or the split if
    they are just split filters where it "looks natural", around
    the horizon.[/QUOTE]

    Hmmph; I don't think the likes of, say, Ansel Adams ever used such
    filters, and yet got perfectly-rendered highlights and shadows.
    David Nebenzahl, Jul 20, 2007
  9. Hmmph; I don't think the likes of, say, Ansel Adams ever
    used such filters, and yet got perfectly-rendered
    highlights and shadow

    Sometimes with the aid of heroic burning and dodging in
    printing or printing masks. One reason Adams got interested
    in the Zone System was that he had problems with making good
    negatives of some of the subjects he photographed.
    The Zone System is based on the idea that the contrast
    and density range of the negative should be adjusted
    according to the subject so that prints can always be made
    on "normal" contrast paper. That sounds like it makes sense
    but does thats not always so. For instance, the visual
    contrast of the print must be acceptable to the eye. The
    eye judges contrast mostly by mid gray tones. So, it a very
    high contrast scene is rendered with much lower overall
    contrast it will not look natural but, rather, will seem
    grayed down, even though there is a full range of tones from
    maximum black to paper white and detail in all sections.
    When a low contrast scene is made high contrast the eye may
    accept it because the eye seems more tollerant of an
    increase in contrast, but again, if the scene is a familiar
    one, it will look wrong.
    Adams was also concerned with getting all the values in
    a scene recorded on the film. Although its often thought
    that the films of the time shouldered off at fairly low
    densites the published curves for 1940's films show that
    most of them had pretty a pretty good range of densities.
    Probably the most thorough work on tone reproduction was
    done under the leadership of Loyd A. Jones of Kodak Research
    Labs. He and his associates published many papers describing
    their measurement of actual scene contrast and its
    reproduction. Jones also worked out the Kodak Speed system.
    This was later adopted by the ASA with some unfortunate
    changes. The current ISO method, while different than Jones'
    method still retains his idea that exposure should be
    sufficient to get the dark parts of the image which are to
    have detail far enough up the toe to have adequate contrast.
    Jones' criteria, based on tests with hundreds of prints of
    many differing subjects, was that the minimum contast point
    should be no less than 1/3rd the gamma (contrast) of the
    straight line portion of the film characteristic. He found
    that images with less exposure were judged to be inferior
    while an increase in exposure did not make any difference
    over a range of a great many stops. In effect he found that
    there was a certain minimum exposure needed for good quality
    but that once this was reached increased exposure made
    little or no difference even though the negatives might be
    dense enough to be hard to print.
    Because materials of the time showed increased grain and
    image spread with density (image spread leads to lower
    sharpness) he decided to base his speed system on the
    minimum exposure for good shadow detail.
    All negatives were developed to the same contrast. The
    contrast was such as to result in a gamma of about 1.0 on
    the mid tones of the print. Reflection prints have a
    relatively limited range of tones from minimum to maximum,
    they can not, if viewed normally, have any tone brighter
    than the ambient illumination. Transparencies can be back
    illuminated or projected resulting in a much longer range of
    reproduced brightness.
    The usual method of the time (and more so now with VC
    paper) was to make negatives of "normal" contrast and adjust
    the paper grade where the nature of the scene required
    something other than normal toner rendition.
    Where the tone rendition must be distorted, that is
    different contrast values in shadows, mid-tones, and
    highlights, it must be done by burning and dodging or by
    using a mask to accomplish the same purpose. Simply
    adjusting negative contrast will not do it.
    Richard Knoppow, Jul 22, 2007
  10. sreenath

    UC Guest

    You did everything wrong.

    1) You should not attempt to make landcsapes on a cloudy day. There is
    simply not enough modelling in the light to make them interesting.

    2) 35mm is best suited for dynamic photography, not landscapes

    3) You should use grade 3 paper with 35mm, not grade 2

    4) You should NOT increase negative contrast to get more print
    contrast; instead, use a higher grade.

    5) You should NOT underexpose the film, ever.

    6) Why are you doing landscapes anyway?
    UC, Jul 24, 2007
  11. sreenath

    UC Guest

    No. You need to expose the shadows.

    No. Wrong. Don't do that.
    Yes. Quite.
    8x10 view camera.
    UC, Jul 24, 2007

  12. Damn! Your disposition has not improved over the years, has it?

    As to your points:

    1. Modelling? Anyways, you weren't there. He may have seen something very
    interesting. My advice would be to pre-expose the film to the sky for a quarter
    second or so to add density to the shadow values, then overexpose the film when
    taking the shot by at least one full step (EI 50 to 60). That way, there will
    be a greater likelihood of getting some shadow detail and the highlights would
    be one further step up, thereby increasing contrast.

    2. You shoot what you have or have with you. 8X10 sheet film will give better
    results than 35 mm film for most images, but I don't keep such a camera in my trunk.

    3. Or grade 4, or, perhaps, variable contrast and crank it up.

    4. I have no trouble increasing negative film contrast. That can be done
    either by extended development, or even post-development, by toning the negative
    in Kodak Rapid Selenium Toner.

    5. The particular situation does not call for underexposure. However, UC,
    should know full well that there are situations calling for underexposure. If
    your meter informs you that the contrast range is, say, 12 stops, and your film
    generally handles no more than 10 stops, then some underexposure will be
    necessary to keep the highlights from blowing out.

    6. Why are you complaining about the subject matter of his pictures?

    Francis A. Miniter
    Francis A. Miniter, Jul 24, 2007
  13. sreenath

    jjs Guest

    UC wrote:


    Maybe you should go back into treatment, "UC".
    jjs, Jul 25, 2007
  14. sreenath

    CALI Guest

    CALI, Jul 29, 2007
  15. David Nebenzahl, Jul 29, 2007
  16. sreenath

    UC Guest

    Why is it that the least competent are the first ones to jump on the
    digital bandwagon, and the first ones to expose their crappy work via
    web sites?
    UC, Aug 5, 2007
  17. sreenath

    pico Guest

    pico, Aug 5, 2007
  18. UC, I'm surprised at you. You're losing your grip. That's practically a
    rhetorical question, isn't it?
    David Nebenzahl, Aug 6, 2007
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