That the ultimate purpose,-the end of all photographic endeavor insofar as the average amateur is concerned, is the pictorial expression,-the arrangement of lights and darks in what is commonly spoken of as "the print" would seem to be conceded. Furthermore, the negative that best serves our purpose is the one to use quite regardless of appearance or whether in technical excellence it is one to claim admiration. The clear, crisp, transparency-like qualities in a negative usually appeal to the beginner, nor are there wanting photographers who ought to know better who talk of such a result as one to emulate.
For many a long day was the novice misled in being taught to consider the negative the end rather than the means to an end. As for myself I remember more than one authority who constantly impressed upon the beginner the importance of developing the snapshot (as a rule notoriously undertimed) in solutions stronger than normal. Also to carry the process to the extent of entirely burying the image until all was an even blackness.
Starting with such wrongful instruction, and absorbing the idea that the negative of density," with clear glass shadows, alone constituted the "Ultima Thule" as regards plate deelopment in the realm of photog-phy, it is small wonder it took the misdirected a considerable time to realize their mistake.
In my own case I soon discovered my error, but a friend of mine never did, and today continues to overdevelop his negatives and in the case of non-halation plates simply went to a ridiculous extreme. Many a good pyro developed negative he has thrown in the dump without ever printing a proof because thoroughly convinced from much reading of wrong instruction books that such a negative was too thin. Continually, and persistently, overdoing the business with ordinary plates, and reading that non-halation plates required to be carried further in development, he did so to the extent of burying the image completely, producing a negative, a time exposure so dense, it took a professional printer a full half a day to print from it. There are many like him so accustomed to the blackened, all-over, dense negative, they simply cannot believe a thin one though full of detail can possibly answer requirements. Most of these people have been alone familiar with the negatives developed through stock houses and the like who rarely use pyro.
Fortunately we have today got beyond the fallacy in question, and for much of our enlightenment we must thank present day pictorialists. We, most of us, concede now that the remedy for both over and under exposure is the same,-development in dilute solution as to preserve all possible detail which by the old time forcing system of the under-timed snapshot was a thing quite impossible.
Regardless of appearance the "perfect negative" for anyone is of necessity that which best carries out our pictorial purpose. Nor is it generally the one with the sharpest image and clearest shadows that will do so. While the backed plate is an advantage in a considerable, or many, subjects there are cases where it is clearly a detriment. For certain effects halation is to be sought rather than avoided, in fact a good many photographers would be the better for a reduction in sharpness. For white dresses, snow scenes, trees against the sky and such, the backed or non-halation plate is decidedly in order. In the case of many low-toned subjects where extremes of contrast are lacking, the unbacked plate will answer quite well.
In counter lighting, working into the sun, where the scheme calls for atmosphere in abundance, there is not the slightest necessity for the backed plate. The blackened tree trunks,-usually in such scenes too much in evidence,-will be none the worse for a little spreading of the light. Why, have all not heard how the old time photographers were accustomed to intentionally fog the shadows by exposing the plate either before or after taking the picture, to the light of a match. Such a scheme might do no harm at the present day in the case of some landscape pictures that come our way when all in the shadow is as black as night. While the exposure to a lighted match would not furnish lacking detail, were pictures from such negatives printed on rather rough paper the halation in the shadows might be made to answer for it.
The thin negative with all possible detail is without doubt in the ascendent and for some of the best papers on the market its use is imperative. Workers who are still wedded to contrast, or those who habitually overdevelop should mend their ways, for artistic work is not thus possible. Professionals we can plainly see as the overdeveloped negatives in the whitewashy appearing but the beautiful texture of human flesh is completely lost in density. It is quite easy to distinguish the oerdeeloped negatives in the whitewashy appearance of the resultant prints, more especially when in a black and white medium.
By thin negative one does not necessarily meari a flat one. In the pyro developed negative contrast is present though to those accustomed to the use of the modern reducers such as metol it might not seem to be the case. The property developed negative when our old friend pyro is the reducer will look rather thin but under the pinting light it will develop an astonishing amount of contrast and pluck.
Once all possible gradation has been secured we gain nothing by piling up density. We simply slow the printing and where there is a stain of a pronounced character we doubtless impair the quality of the image. Many a well blackened negative gives a surprisingly limited degree of contrast, the blue color permitting the light to pass without leaving the record of gne half tone in the image.
The forcing process in deevlopment in hope of gaining detail is foolish. Once the detail has ceased to grow in the shadows we may as well consider the job done, for no amount of forcing will then alter the steepness of gradation. No more can we force out detail in a plate than we can in a velox print and in the latter we but dirty the whites by prolonged development.
We cannot help but see the detrimental result where gaslight papers are involved, and it should carry a lesson to those who continually and persistently overdevelop plates and films.
In my own practice I have found Carbutt's Pyro-soda formula a good one because of its elasticity, and the getting of the full strength of the reducer by using the dry pyro, adding it just before starting to develop. The formula I employ is as follows:
Sulphite of soda, dry .............3/4 oz.
Carbonate of soda, dry ........... 1 oz.
Hot water ........................ 10 ozs.
Weak solution 1 to 10, medium solution 1 to S, strong solution 1 to 5, and from 1 to 3 grains of the dry pyro to each ounce of solution used.
In my own practice with fully timed exposures I employ 1 to 8 and 2 grains of the dry pyro to the ounce.
Where there is a great deal of white in the composition, snow scenes, white dresses or white flowers, start in a dilute solution, 1 to 16 with 1 grain of pyro to the ounce, and when detail is well out if not sufficiently dense immerse in the full strength until opacity is obtained. Where more yellow stain is wanted, use but a half an ounce of the sulphate instead of three-quarters as stipulated. A slight yellowness of the film I hold is an advantage, the slightly stained negative making a much better printer.
Some who object to pyro for the reason that everything it touches is apt to get stained may find in ortol a satisfactory substitute, using the same quantity of the yowder as recommended for pyro. A good metol-hydro developer is as follows, though with that a much more opaque negative will be required on account of the blue-black nature of the image which allows for the light filtering through much more than with some other reducers.
Metol, 32 grains.
Hydro-quinone, 32 grains.
Sulphite of soda (dry), 120 grains.
Water, 16 ounces. SSolution B.
Carbonate of soda (dry), 120 grains.
Bromide of potass, 15 grains. To develop take one part each of A and B and an equal quantity of water. When there is too much contrast simply dilute still further or use a less quantity of solution A.-"Western Camera Notes."