Advanced Techniques & Processes 2B: Printing Medium Format in the darkroom

23rd February 2015

Equipment used

Dark room enlarger with
50mm lens &
Medium format neg carrier
ILFORD multi-grade fibre based film paper
Dark room enlarging easel (RR beard)

(See folder for all notes made throughout darkroom sessions)

The aim of this session was to learn the difference in printing medium format film compared to regular 35mm film. We also learnt about printing in different grades and getting the tones right when printing. Getting a definite black and not going too grey or too contrasted – the aim was to preserve and display the detail in the best tonal range.

I started at Grade 3 (23 yellow, 56 magenta, 0 cyan) which is quite a good amount of contrast. I loved the look of this however the blacks were slightly too dark so I tried Grade 2 (41 yellow, 32 magenta, 0 cyan). This was void of the contrast I desired for the image so I tried Grade 2 & 1/2 (32 yellow, 42 magenta, 0 cyan). I still preferred the Grade 3 so I adjusted the enlarger’s distance from the paper and re-adjusted the easel measurements to get the right exposure (because of inverse square law, the distance the enlarger is from the paper also makes a difference to the exposure). Then did a test and a print on Grade 3. I really liked the look of this and it was slightly lighter than the first but still had the deep contrast I liked. I then tried similar processes with other images I shot on the film. (see folder for notes and visible progression on my physical prints).

Through this exercise I learnt that medium format negatives are much sharper than regular 35mm and because the sensor on medium format cameras is much bigger, the quality is second to none. I really enjoyed seeing my images after being printed and the quality of them was very inspiring. Another thing I enjoyed was printing at different grades and having a physical print to compare with the previous one when testing out the contrast created with different grades. I feel as though my confidence with printing in the darkroom definitely improved in this session and I felt quite proud of my prints, because I was able to grasp the whole concept much better and have the confidence to know that what I was doing with my exposures was correct and I understood why.

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