Three days in a row, sounds like start of a good song. It was yesterday I heard music in my ears while working in the darkroom. Getting a good result for the first time after nine hours of trial and error making a wet print.
I started last Sunday, making as much mistakes as possible while having my eye on the troubleshooting list. I discovered some flaws in my workflow. Last monday I changed some things I the workflow, for example focusing one making one good print instead of ten different prints without any good results. Again having my eye on the troubleshootlist. It turned out the paper was bad, I ran a papertest and it came out all black. So I did throw away the box (placed it in the drawer, maybe I can use it some day for another purpose).
Yesterday I ran a couple of more tests: another papertest of a new box (opened a long time ago) it came out white, so that’s a good thing. I also ran a safelight test, by placing objects on a piece of paper, after replacing the bulb with a new one with some sort of plastic ring on it.
A safelight bulb is never completely painted towards the base of the bulb. This test worked great the safelight was now completely safe.
So now it was time to make the best possible print to my ability. Making good notes by every step. Something I need to learn to be consequent about it so I can reproduce prints afterwards and learn my process.
Turned out I needed 10 steps (read: ten times printing ± 3 hours of work) to get a print that was very fulfilling.
00) Installing a timer for controlling the enlarger
01) Paper test in complete darkness
02) Paper Safelight test
03) Lightening time test, setting a base for paper en enlarger
04) Testprint with the best time out of the previous test
05) After controlling the testprint, make another lightening test using a 2.5 contrast filter.
06) Testprint with lighteningtime found in previous test.
07) ‘Shiny side up’ of the negative turned out to be bullshit, after discovering the print was a mirror image.
08-10) Making contrast adjustments
The key to a good print is controlling contrast. This will take a lot of testing and practising. Overall I love the process of making a good print out of my 4x5” negatives. So I can work completely analogue now.