Contrast Filters – Black and White Dark Room Photography

Last week I had the chance to try out a contrast filter for developing a photo during  my black and white dark room photography lesson.

I’m already aware of contrast filters being used on cameras on the lens.

Contrast can be high and low (depending on whether you want your picture be dramatic and bold or if you’re after a more subtle and soft photo).

I learnt that in the darkroom, you can use contrast filters to alter the tonal contrast of your prints (providing you use multigrade or multi-contrast paper).

Contrast filters are built into some enlargers but if the enlarger you’re using doesn’t have this, then a contrast filter can be added to the enlarger (usually fitted into a slot below or above the negative holder).

A contrast filter on the enlarger will allow some light through and alter the way the the tones look on the enlargement.

Contrast filters for the enlarger are numbered and go up in half increments as follows

00 0 1/2 1 1 1/2 2 2 1/2 3 3 1/2 4  4 1/2 5

The lower the number (e.g. 00), the lower the contrast.

The higher the number (e.g. 5), the higher the contrast.

One final thing to note is that when a contrast filter is used on the enlarger, the exposure time will be affected, so I would always need to do a new test strip with the filter in order to work out the new correct exposure time needed.

The title image in this blog is a photo taken during my recent trip to Singapore on my Pentax K1000 camera using Kentmere 100 black and white film. I used a 3.5 contrast filter in the enlarger to make the hotel building more darker and at the same time, make the sky almost white.

My Contact Sheet Obsession

Back in July I took an adult education course in Black and White Darkroom Photography (which I’ve written about in some of my previous blogs).

I decided to take the course again from September because it was slightly longer (eight weeks rather than five) and I felt I’d be able to expand on knowledge from what I learnt in the original course.

One of the parts I have really enjoyed from doing the course is making the contact sheets. For some reason I love this process over actually enlarging a photo and making a larger print and have ended up spending the last few weeks of the course purely doing contact sheets from some of my existing black and white negatives.

Developing contact sheets has almost become second nature to me from working on a test strip to establishing the length of time the negatives need to be exposed under the enlarger.

Here is a contact sheet I originally developed back in July with some negatives that unfortunately had a light leak (please refer to my previous blog post about this).

The negatives were taken on my Pentax K1000 using Kodak Tmax 400 black and white film:

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On this particular contact sheet I placed the negatives over the photographic paper and placed some glass on top to keep them nice and straight. My first rookie mistake was not placing the negatives in number order and also the first row of negatives are upside down.

However, I had learnt from this mistake and was ready to do better in my current course. What was even better was my tutor introduced me to a really handy piece of darkroom photography equipment called a 35mm contact proof printer which is made by Paterson:

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The reason he had suggested I use this was because the negatives I was trying to develop into a contact sheet were really curly and it was proving impossible to get them straight under a piece of glass.

In this current course I initially wanted to develop some black and white half frame negatives I had taken on my Olympus Pen FT camera using Cinestill BWXX film.

However, after doing the test strip and then using this device, to my disappointment I found the contact sheet came out really blurry:

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After chatting to my tutor, I’d found I’d made yet another stupid mistake……I hadn’t shut the door of the contact proof printer properly, hence the blurry images.

I had to wait until the following week of my course to develop a couple more of the above contact sheets until I got the exposure I was happy with (as the first one was under exposed):

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I absolutely love the Paterson Contact Proof Printer and for me, it’s the best and quickest way of developing my black and white negatives into a contact sheet.

I developed a further contact sheet from my black and white negatives I had taken on my Pentax K1000 camera using Kosmo Foto Mono 100 film and the Paterson Contact Proof Printer:

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I’m hoping to develop another contact sheet in my lesson next week from another set of black and white negatives.

 

Dark Room Photography Part 4

Yesterday was my fourth lesson in learning about dark room black and white photography.

I was quite excited because I knew this lesson would involve making an enlargement of one of my negatives.

I had already decided on the negative I wanted to initially try which was a picture I had taken of one of my cats who is a Silver Tabby using my circular fisheye lens which was attached to a 28mm lens on my Pentax K1000.

I liked the fact this picture had my shadow in it and the white walls and patterned tiles in my garden also made the picture more interesting.

First of all I had to make a sample sheet once I had decided on the size of the enlargement.

In this lesson I unfortunately picked an enlarger with a temperamental digital timer so if pressed slightly wrong, the image wouldn’t expose for the full second which was annoying.

I set my first sample sheet using F/11 as per last week although I was informed by my tutor that the times wouldn’t necessarily be the same as before because I was doing the photo at a different size and distance to my contact sheet, hence why we do a sample first. Here is my first sample sheet:

I decided I liked the area that had exposure of around 4 seconds but because my timer was temperamental, I wasn’t sure if this was entirely accurate. Here is the result

I decided it was a bit dark so tried again at 3 seconds:

I preferred this contrast to the previous one but I discovered a little lighter circle in the left corner where I must have accidentally splashed some chemical before developing (that will teach me to wash and dry my hands before using a new piece of photographic paper!).

I wasn’t quite happy with the alignment of the images on the photographic paper as shown below:

I therefore decided to do another enlargement making the image larger on the paper. This meant I had to do a sample sheet again due to changing the focus:

On this sample I again used an aperture of F/11 and decided on an exposure of 4 seconds. Yet again the timer had not worked correctly so I wasn’t 100% sure if this would be accurate and here was the result:

I was really happy with the border but the image was too light. I was nearing the end of my lesson with 5 minutes to spare so my tutor suggested I quickly do it again with an 8 second exposure and here is the result:

I was really happy with this image and exposure plus the border.

For a first attempt I’m definitely pleased with the end result. In next weeks lesson I shall be developing more photos but perhaps I’ll use a different enlarger with a timer that works properly.