Dodging/Burning techniques and tools
Old 02-25-2007   #1
cestjeffici
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Question Dodging/Burning techniques and tools

I have a lot of experience in figuring out how much I have to dodge and how much I have to burn to make a print into an image that I like. However, sometimes it gets so complicated I feel like I should set it to music and hire a choreographer! Does anyone know a good source for techniques and/or tools for accomplishing a complex sequence of print modifications in a reliable, repeatable fashion?
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Old 02-25-2007   #2
Bryce
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Practice....
I've heard of people recording on a voice recorder as they are doing their work, then following their "instructions" for subsequent prints. Never tried it.
I use a scrap print to mark instructions for later printing sessions, so I don't have to re learn how to do the entire job. I keep track of: basic exposure data, i.e. which lens, what f-ratio, how long with which filter (see the recent thread about graded vs. VC papers, I use the split filter technique with V.C. paper). Then I track how long I burned or dodged which areas with which filter, and how exactly I processed the prints.
I hope this helps.
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Old 02-25-2007   #3
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Ansel Adams used to compare the negative to the muscial score and creating the print to directing the symphony. His book on "The Print" is worth looking for. For complicated prints, I have kept lab notes in the past, or writing and sketching the process on the back of a finished good print.

I haven't printed in a darkroom in a long time. I used to count seconds in my head instead of using a timer. With a correctly exposed negative, it's helpful to have the enlarging lens set so that the baseline exposure of the print is about 10 to 15 seconds. This allows enough time to dodge consistently without making burns too horribly long (or you can open up a stop to cut the burning time in half).
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Old 02-25-2007   #4
eric
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Have you tried an f/stop timer? I believe the RH design is programable.
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Old 02-25-2007   #5
drewbarb
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I took a class in printing with George Tice, a great photographer, and one of the best printers alive, and I learned a ton from him. First, take really good notes. I have developed a short-hand for all the darkroom techniques I use; every print gets a series of notes in pencil on the back, on an edge which might get trimmed off later. Once I'm done with a session, I transfer all of this shorthand into regular notes in a print notebook which lives in my darkroom.

Another thing I learned from George was to pin my base exposure around the physical center of the print. This is the hardest part of the image to get to for burn and dodge adjustments without adversely affecting other areas. I then do all my adjustments around the edges(relatively speaking). I almost never dodge, but rather I try to use the times needed for the areas that might need dodging, and then burn the other areasback in, since I find burning easier to do repeatably than dodging.

Nest- practice. Generally, I will decide what adjustments are appropriate to a print slowly, through a series of work prints. I try only to make one or two changes per version of a print, so I will have experience with the changes I will keep from earlier versions. I walk through each step in my head to make sure I know what I'm doing, and I will do a "dry run" with no paper in the easel for particularly complex adjustments or prints. Practice making the shapes with your hands, and performing the movements with the cardboard or whatever other tools you are using. For tools, I mostly just use cardboard and my hands. Very occasionally, I'll make a mask from a test print of a given image; but most of the time, whatever I need to do can be done with only the simplest tools.

Finally, take a class with a master printer. I can't tell you how much my printing overall, and my grasp of good adjustment technique specifically, improved after I took George Tice's "Master Printing Techniques" Class at the Maine Photographic Workshops. I also learned a tremendous amount from Jim Megargee of MVLabs in New York. He teaches at various places- too many to name; but there are quite a few master printers out there, and they can all teach you something, if you look. There's no substitute for being in a darkroom with a master.
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Old 02-25-2007   #6
cestjeffici
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I need some help in the mechanics. Let me give a concrete example: I have a negative that has a complex shape in the middle of the print that needs 1.5 stops of dodging and I can't figure out how to keep from getting a halo around the edges of the shape. If it was 4x5 or 8x10 I would make a dodging mask with lith film but this is a 35mm negative.
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Old 02-25-2007   #7
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Scan it into PhotoShop?

Expose for the complex shape, then burn the rest of the print?

Learn to love that 1970s halo look?
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Old 02-25-2007   #8
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With an X-acto knife, cut out the complex shape from a reject print and use THAT as your dodging tool.

If the middle is too dark and the outsides too bright, why not lower the contrast of the print?

If that's not enough, you could use the aforementioned dodging tool as a mask during a pre-flash.

Typically when I find my own negatives this hard to print I just forgo the idea of making a nice silver gelatin print and just bang out a cheap 9x6 on the 'ol epson 7800.
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Old 02-26-2007   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cestjeffici
I need some help in the mechanics. Let me give a concrete example: I have a negative that has a complex shape in the middle of the print that needs 1.5 stops of dodging and I can't figure out how to keep from getting a halo around the edges of the shape. If it was 4x5 or 8x10 I would make a dodging mask with lith film but this is a 35mm negative.
I would approach this the other way around- as I talked briefly about above. Establish the correct exposure for the complex shap in the center, and use that as your base; then burn the outside areas up to their correct density. It's always easier to burn, even large areas, than to dodge; plus, you shoudln't get that lame halo effect.
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Old 02-26-2007   #10
drewbarb
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cestjeffici
I need some help in the mechanics. Let me give a concrete example: I have a negative that has a complex shape in the middle of the print that needs 1.5 stops of dodging and I can't figure out how to keep from getting a halo around the edges of the shape. If it was 4x5 or 8x10 I would make a dodging mask with lith film but this is a 35mm negative.
I would approach this the other way around- as I talked briefly about above. Establish the correct exposure for the complex shape in the center, and use that as your base; then burn the outside areas up to their correct density. It's always easier to burn, even large areas, than to dodge; plus, you shoudln't get that lame halo effect.
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