Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2000/06/09

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Subject: Re: [Leica] OT Heiland Splitgrade- Lengthy reply, sure to rouse the ire of 'Purists' everywhere
From: "Robert Stack" <>
Date: Fri, 9 Jun 2000 10:09:10 -0500
References: <> <00e101bfd17c$35d0f5e0$>

Greetings Dan:
Your discussion of your method for establishing exposure times for split
filter printing was both interesting and instructive.  I've seen variations
on this approach used by some very fine B&W printers and I use a similar
approach for my regular (read non-split filter) printing.  I would like to
offer an observation on your comment "  I often wondered why anyone would
spend a lot of money on a camera, get the best meter they could to make the
best negatives possible, then refuse to meter in the darkroom!"
My own experience suggests that using the densitometer (meter) in the dark
room can be separated into two stages - (1) testing materials and (2)
creating a "fine art print".  Observing a number of great printers working
at their craft, it is clear they all are intimately familiar with their
materials acquired through testing and constant use.  The testing, however,
ranges from the most through, empirical work using densitometers to testing
new papers by inspecting prints from negatives with which they were
thoroughly familiar (a similar approach is used for film tests).  When
attempting to create that "fine art print", I have never seen the negative
read for contrast range or any other purpose as part of the printing
process.  The reason for this, I believe, is that they all start the
printing process with a vision of the final print and for them it doesn't
matter to what the densitometer might tell them is the "best" fit paper.
Invariably they start by inspecting a contact print to assess the paper
grade and exposure they feel is most likely appropriate to their vision.
The initial exposures are determined either by test strips or inspection of
the amount of light falling from the enlarger.  They may refer to test notes
when changing filtration (not many of them do this), but even then, they are
seeking approximations and use their eyes to determine if the result is the
one they want.  Often the grade finally used will be quite different than
that which is suggested by sensitometric measurement.  In no small part this
is the result of the printer's judgemet that they can handle some important
dodging or burning best from a straight print of a paper grade significantly
different than that suggested by the sensitometric tests. This is not to say
that using the densitometer is not the way to go for many people.  Rather
that for those great printers whose working procedures I have seen, the
densitometer is left behind when they enter the stage of creating a "fine
art Prints".  Sorry for the long post, but I hope it was useful.

Replies: Reply from Jim Brick <> ([Leica] Doing it manually, using the gray matter computer.)
Reply from Mark Rabiner <> (Re: [Leica] OT Heiland Splitgrade- Lengthy reply, sure to rouse the ire of 'Purists' everywhere)
In reply to: Message from ([Leica] OT Heiland Splitgrade)
Message from "Dan Post" <> (Re: [Leica] OT Heiland Splitgrade- Lengthy reply, sure to rouse the ire of 'Purists' everywhere)