4/29/2017

Paper Negatives Revisited

I first explored paper negatives when I wanted to print a color slide and needed to create an inter-negative in this post. I have since made an 8x10 large format camera and made paper negatives to test it.  Andrew Sanderson at thewebdarkroom has written a nice treatise on the paper negative and I highly recommend buying it. It is available on Blurb.

Andrew's book introduced me to new ideas about paper negatives. Surprisingly for me he moves beyond contact prints and suggests loading paper in a medium format or 35mm camera. This can then be put in an enlarger. The result while not as crisp as a film negative has its own quality that he shows suits some subjects. I was inspired to try this out. Some time ago I found a good price on ebay for a rolleiflex/cord back that takes dark slide glass plate holders along with 4 plate holders. At the time the price was negligible and I  thought it might come in useful if I got into making glass plates.

It sat in the shelf for some time but I thought this the perfect venue to trying out paper negatives.
Rollei Plate holder system
It fits both my Rolleicord and surprisingly my Yashica MAT124-G. Each plate holder holds a 6x9cm glass plate but only a 6x6 image is exposed. It is a simple matter to cut your photo paper to fit the glass plate slot. I use the dimensions of 6.2x8.7cm. The plate holder has a clever spring loaded element to help with loading and once in place and the darkslide removed to press it against the film plane. Andrew speaks of the difficulty of loading individual paper pieces in to a camera in a dark bag in order to take each photo. With these holders one can take a number for photos before digging around in in a dark bag.

I cut up some old Fohar paper for use in this. This version is called 'raster' as it has unique dimpling pattern and I can only think it was inspired by television at the time. I write a little about it here. I chose Fohar because 1) I have a lot of it, 2) Andrew mentions that different papers given different effects, 3) it is 13cmx18cm meaning I can get exactly 4 pieces from one sheet.

I ran some bracketed exposures on the paper. I assumed ASA 3 which is the lowest setting on my meter and exposed there, one stopover and one stop under. It was a bright though cloudy day. At f11 I ended up at 1 sec, 1/2 sec, and 1/5th sec exposures.

These are the three negatives I got. If you look carefully your can see the 'raster' pattern in the paper.
f11 1/5 sec

f11 1/2 sec

f11 1sec
I printed the f11 1/2 sec version as it had the most detail. And this is where the process got difficult for me. The image is quite dim as the enlarger lamp has to penetrate the double weight paper. (Single weight paper is not made any more.) I opened the lens up to f4 and my enlarger is sporting a 150W lamp instead of the default 75 watt lamp. I could compose and focus only under complete darkness.

Next I made test strips. I wanted to stop the lens down a bit so the focus would be sharp. I chose f8. This resulted in no image on the #5 strip even at 64 seconds. A faint image appeared on the #0 filter at 45 and 64 seconds. I next ran strips at f4. A good range on the #0 filter but nothing on the #5 filter. (The #5 filter blocks an addition 1 stop of light compared to #0.) I next ran a #5 test strip in 64 second intervals (64, 128, 192, 256). I finally got images at 192 and 256.

I set up the print at #5 215 seconds (1/2 stop between 128 and 256 seconds) and #0 at 32 seconds.

The result is below,
8x8" Print on Ilford MGIV
The rater pattern is more pronounced. Also the image away from the center is not in focus. I attribute this mostly to the softness of the lens at f4. It is possible that the paper was not flat in the negative holder but it is a glass negative holder and as such clamps the paper strongly. The paper negative is very blue sensitive so the sky is blown in a way that orthochromatic film gives. Curiously though the brick path is reddish-orange and I expected it to show as black.

I may persist in this approach. I was disappointed though. The difficulty of long exposure in the darkroom makes the technique a little tedious. The result is not really to my liking . I have to say the little paper negative is a gem to hold.


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