Anyway, due to shooting into the sun the subject brightness range was immense and the first straight print had no tone whatsoever in the sky. That print went in the bin. I tried a simple burn in and it looked awful so after a bit of thought I figured out that perhaps this was a negative that might benefit from pre-flashing. I'd never done it before so read all I could about it in a short space of time - like here, from Ilford. If you are into darkroom printing then you probably already know about the toe and the shoulder of the negative-density exposure curve. Pre-flashing gets over the inertia of the paper, gets up past the toe and gives you a chance to get a little more tone into the paper for negatives where the highlight detail might normally be lost. But don't take my word for it - do your own research, as they say.
So I did a pre-flash test print - wound the enlarger up high, closed down the lens and set filtration to 00. As a result I reckoned that for my situation, using Ilford Warmtone RC I could get away with about 4s before tone started to show on the paper. So I pre-flashed a few sheets. I did wonder how long the paper would hold it's 'pre-flash' for and the only mention I could get of it was from Roger Hicks, who reckoned a few hours to a day. Good enough, anyway.
My first attempts were moderately successful - I got tone and detail in the sky but lost a lot of sparkle in the rest of the print:
So I regrouped and read some more and someone somewhere said that when pre-flashing it was appropriate to increase the contrast in the rest of the print and decrease the exposure. Makes sense I guess when you think about it since you're effectively fogging the print a little...I think. Anyway, this afternoon I took a deep breath and ventured forth again into the darkroom to try just that and yes, pretty much it worked.
I ended up pre-flashing at grade 0, printing at higher contrast/lower exposure than suggested (grade 4), burning in the sky at grades 2 and also grade 4, an additional burn-in at grade 4 for the top half of the print and lower-left (Simon's jacket) and a 9s dodge around Simon's face. Whew. After all that we get the result shown at the top of the page and shown here again just 'cos:
It's been a 2-day self-taught workshop with one negative and while 24 hours ago I never wanted to see that negative again now I think Yes, I can deal with it. I'm happy.