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Paper Negative Follies
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2011 7:24 pm    Post subject: Paper Negative Follies Reply with quote

I have been working with paper negatives off and on for more than a year.

That is, using photo paper as film, developing that as a normal print, and then scanning it on the platen. Photo paper can indeed be shot as ISO 3-6 film. The big advantage is that processing is easy as it can be done in open pans with an orange safelight and there are no timing or temperature issues. Just grab the paper, dunk it in developer, shake it around a bit, and look for when the image looks good. And one does not need a film scanner that can handle 4x5, any ordinary platen scanner will do, mine does 1200 DPI and it does do justice to the sharpness of the lenses and the size of the format, at least when pixel peeping.

And you can make your own "film" for any format, just cut it to fit your holders. And it is cheap ! Very very cheap !

I find this is a VERY difficult medium though. There seems to be potential here, but I need to solve some important problems.

For a while I thought the problems were mainly with my sloppy darkroom technique or with the quality of my paper (which is all expired Kodak Polycontrast and another off-brand Variable contrast), but even so. Maybe I need new paper ?

Also probably I haven't got the best out of my platen scanning.

Anyway, I have been shooting 4x5 and 3 1/4x4 1/4 on my Meridian and Speed Graphic cameras.

Some issues illustrated -

4x5 on Meridian camera with Kodak Ektar 203mm. Note "bubble" pattern in the middle, possibly a developing error, but possibly also bad paper. Also probably the image is underexposed. The "speed" of the paper seems quite inconsistent. I understand that may be an effect of variable contrast paper. The various spots, etc on the corners are probably my fault from cutting the paper or handling it.

Another 4x5 with the 203mm Ektar - you can see a fingerprint on the upper right, same contrast problems, light leak on lower right probably from mishandling the film holder.

4x5 with Wollensak 90mm wide angle - this lens doesn't have the coverage for movements on 4x5 (like rise and tilt), hence the vignetting.
The photo paper issue is the variable sensitivity to light - the center seems to have received little of the blue/UV it is sensitive to, hence the relative darkness.

4x5 with 203mm Ektar - uneven development, which I expect is due to my faulty technique. Also, like most of these, there are random black spots all over, which certainly aren't due to shutter pinholes as I use leaf shutters. These are present in the developed image, so I suspect the paper. Dust on the paper ? In the film holders ?

3 1/4 x 4 1/4 Kodak 152mm Ektar - The opposite of the other uneven exposure above I think, as the white building reflected more light than the overcast sky.

3 1/4 x 4 1/4 Kodak 152mm Ektar - "trick" double exposure ! Yes, really I meant to do that ! Anyway, the problem here is the same contrast problem plus scratches. Photo paper apparently is quite sensitive to handling problems.

PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2011 8:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good trick to play, result is .... not so good. I think good to test large format cameras at first time.

PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2011 8:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks so much for sharing these experiences and examples luisalegria! Very Happy

Sounds like much experimentation is necessary to establish the actual 'iso' for optimal exposures, but once that is done, results can be pretty good, and will be consistent.

PostPosted: Tue Jul 12, 2011 8:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Many thanks for sharing your results Luis.

I bought a 25 pack of 5x7 Ilford BW paper recently (#4 speed) with the intention of using it in a homemade pinhole camera I've made out of an old coffee can. No idea how the curved plane will work but I'm going to try it as soon as I get some trays and a safelight.

PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2011 1:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Keep us posted on the results> How did you cut your paper? Have you tried preflashing the paper?

PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2011 10:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for sharing your experience. I have also used paper negatives in the past, but contact printing them, which was not very satisfactory. It is a good idea to scan them. What resolution do you think can be obtained? or how many times you can enlarge the original to get a "good" copy?.

The bubble pattern looks like a paper defect, I don't think it is a processing issue: as you say the processing is quite straightforward. A graded (no VC contrast) paper would be a better choice, I suppose. I think usual papers are only sensitive to the blue side of the spectrum, so the color rendition would be strange: very dark reds, dark greens and very light skies. Perhaps a UV filter is mandatory, specially if you are using an old, uncoated lens. The sensitivity could change also by using this filter. Regards


PostPosted: Wed Jul 13, 2011 7:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I use an ordinary paper cutter - the old-fashioned kind with a hinged heavy blade on the side.

I have thought of pre-flashing but the problems that is supposed to solve is excessive contrast. I don't really seem to have that problem.

The resolution is just fine - I can pixel-peep when I scan to 1200dpi, which effectively gives 4000x5000 (20 megapixel) on 4x5
With a well focused picture that should easily "blow up" digitally to 11x14 or considerably more I would think, going by experience with other digital images. One can certainly do much better with real film of course, everything else being equal.

I am thinking of trying a new graded matte paper, to avoid the strange results that may be caused by the VC, and perhaps the surface will be less sensitive to handling.

PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2011 1:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

luisalegria wrote:

I have thought of pre-flashing but the problems that is supposed to solve is excessive contrast. I don't really seem to have that problem.

You are correct, my mistake.
Thank you for the additional information on the paper negatives. I have a contact printer on the way and will have to cut down my paper for a proper fit.

Is photo paper notched like film so you know which side to expose?

PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2011 10:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am really tickled by this idea!

Cibachrome anyone??

Is it necessary to use certain filters when exposing variable contrast paper? As that was done when enlarging to the paper, I presume you might need to slow even further the exposure in camera, by a suitable filter?

Fascinating exercie. I recall direct non-camera exposures by laying dead leaves onto paper and exposing to white light and then developing. This has the advantage of less handling.

I strongly urge you to buy small packs of a few sheets of newer paper?

Please keep up this work?

PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2011 7:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

No, photo paper isn't notched. You would have to cut your own sizes anyway, as even 4x5 sized paper won't fit in a standard 4x5 holder, you still need to trim it a bit.

The sensitive side has a different finish from the backside. Its easiest to tell with the glossy or pearl-finish coated papers, but with matte papers it can get confusing, or at least I recall it was, I haven't dealt with matte paper in 30 years I think.

I have seen where people recommend a yellow filter for use with paper negatives, though I am not sure whether this is specifically for VC papers. It may indeed help with possible UV problems. I need to try that. I would hate to extend the exposure time though, this "film" is slow enough as it is.

I do intend to get some graded matte paper. I have hundreds of sheets of expired VC though (got it for free at a garage sale), I would hate to have to just dump that. But if its useless, its useless.

PostPosted: Wed Jul 20, 2011 12:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for all the information with photo paper

PostPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2011 10:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My problems are definitely with the paper - I got some new Forte VC type from Freestyle, and this stuff has almost no artifacts like spots, bubbles and uneven sections. Allegedly this can be exposed as ISO 10, but everything I did was underexposed, so I think exposure should probably be doubled.

Now I guess i have to throw out a whole lot of photo paper, its mostly useless.

I shot just a few frames of 2 1/2 x 3 1/4 on sheet holders using a Busch Pressman -

PostPosted: Wed Aug 24, 2011 12:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The latest images are a big improvement. You are getting very good with the paper negatives. What photo paper are you tossing?

PostPosted: Wed Aug 24, 2011 12:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kodak Polycontrast and a no-name variable contrast, probably something rebadged from Europe.

These are old, how old I don't know. Both have given me a lot of trouble. This new stuff is much better.

PostPosted: Wed Aug 24, 2011 12:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow, that is significantly better! Surprised

For the underexposure, are you pre-flashing the paper at all? I'm not sure if it would help, but I've seen it mentioned quite a bit when people talk about paper negatives.

Also, have you tried any of the Direct Positive papers? Question

PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2011 8:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

More paper negatives - these were 4x5 on my Meridian
90mm Wollensak and 6 3/8 (162mm) Kodak Anastigmat (a Tessar, made in 1944 as per Camerosity; after the war this line was labelled Ektar).

90mm Wollensak - I messed up - came out underexposed - paper has little latitude and I should have exposed for the gate. I have to get that Ansel Adams Zone stuff out again ! Also I should have focused on the gate, foolish error. With 4x5 there are few shots available, every one has to count !
This new paper is reacting quite well though.

6 3/8 Kodak, the second one wide open.

PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2011 10:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Inspiring work Luis! Thanks so much for that.

PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2011 10:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

luisalegria,well done on the paper negatives. This is very challenging shooting negatives on paper. Please keep posting your results.

PostPosted: Thu Sep 08, 2011 6:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fascinating subject! I have always wanted to try this.

Has anyone used graded paper? I wonder what differences there are between soft and hard grades and which is most suited.

PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2011 2:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great work, Luis!

Big improvements, too!

For developing, you could try to vary results in a controlled way, by exposing a few negatives of the same subject, and then vary development times and developer concentrations. After the first positive you will be able to see problem areas. These can then be varied.

Even a sponge with a stronger or same developer could be rubbed onto an area to address development problems? You will need to take a note of strengths and times for future use! Rather like the original pioneer photographers!

PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2011 7:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm quite satisfied that I'm getting what I can get out of paper negatives.

The lessons so far, such as they are -

Use new paper !

Use graded paper, not variable contrast. This one is rated 2 but Freestyle says its more like a 3.

Use gloves while cutting and loading paper in the holders.

Cut slightly under-size for your film holders; if its exactly right it may not lie flat - paper is just slightly thicker than film, and in many holders it will fit rather snubly in the slots. This isn't a big issue if you want to be in the "f/64 club", but its a very big deal otherwise.

Do not under-expose. If Freestyle Photo says ISO 10, use ISO 5. Some advice out there says the goal should be a low-contrast negative; I have had no luck scanning and fixing contrast on those. A good dense negative seems to be best.

Use a VERY dilute developer.

PostPosted: Sun Sep 11, 2011 11:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

luisalegria thanks for the tips and suggestions. I will put this information with my notes for a future project.