Coming from a digital world

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by McErland, Oct 14, 2013.

  1. McErland

    McErland Member

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    Since I don't have any person IRL to talk about these things, I will share it with you...
    Started photography as a kid with some instamatics, Pentax zooms and if I recall correctly, Kodak Gold and Fuji Superia. But my family bought a digital Ixus in 2000 and ever since I always shot digital. But I always loved the look that only film could give me, so I started with analog photography again, mainly with Tri-X and toy cameras, but switched to Olympus OM system instead, mainly because of the quality the final image would give me. I still shoot digital with a Canon 5D, but mostly with my Zuikos attached with an adapter. My Digital workflow is with Lightroom and mostly Alienskins Exposure 4.

    Why am I telling you this? Well, today I scanned my 4 latest rolls of Tri-X, just to be able to get a digital contact sheet and to be able to archive my negatives in a better way.
    So I scanned a strip using an old HP scanner, at 300dpi, auto everything else. And the result gave me a mixed feeling.
    I got Ilford MGV44m paper at home, and am very pleased, but the scans on the screen of my macbook pro just popped more than I would have expected. Sure the highlights and the blacks were cut to early, and the perceived sharpness was somewhat... "dull", But it really changed the way I want my real paper enlargements to look like the next time I go in to my darkroom!
    My guess is that the digital world and perhaps all the photoshopping I've done has in some way destroyed my preferable "film look" into something fake.
    Until now, all my darkroom work has been trying to get the most tones, get every information from the negative on to the paper, and now I think that maybe that has given me a rather dull image, missing contrast and pop.

    Looking at alot of photographers work, 90% of the time, it is online on my computer, So my next thing is to go to the library and look in photography books instead. Hoping to get a more natural way of looking at images, in the way the photographer wanted the print to look instead of the online version.
     
  2. Nuff

    Nuff Member

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    Take a look at Daido Moriyama. Very little detail in highlights and shadows, but I find his photos irresistibly interesting. Since through their imperfection they tell a great story. He works with trix and d76 if it helps.

    I don't think high contrast is anything new introduced in digital. It is just another tool in the toolbox. Personally, on average I find overly detailed photos fairly boring. But then I like the use of negative space and minimalism. I think it adds mystery to photo. IMHO
     
  3. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Just a suggestion:

    When you are printing, evaluate your contrast based on how the mid-tone detail appears.

    Then use dodging, burning and split grade techniques to adjust the appearance of the shadows and (separately) the highlights.

    IMHO, many people pay too much attention to the shadows and highlights, and not enough attention to the mid-tones.
     
  4. McErland

    McErland Member

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    MattKing I think you are right! Because one of the things I found missing on my prints are mostly contrast and detail in the midtones. I've been reading about split grade techniques so I will try this the next time.
    Unfortunately I can't be in the darkroom that very often, and not many hours at a time either, so trying to get a consistency and evolve is really hard!
     
  5. Jesper

    Jesper Subscriber

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    I can recommend Ansel Adams' books on photography, especially The Print if you want to learn more about darkroom technique. Try also to visit museums and exhibitions to see actual prints. Books and online images are just substitutes and cannot show the print for what it really is.
    It will take time to learn to print.
     
  6. Neal

    Neal Subscriber

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    Dear McErland,

    My experience is similar to Matt's. I find I'm happiest when I concentrate on getting contrast right for the subject, even though I might end up dodging or burning the subject later on.

    Neal Wydra
     
  7. PKM-25

    PKM-25 Member

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    If you can, always try to make a straight grade 2 print with no dodging or burning, fully dry it and then sleep on it, look at it the next morning. The reason I say this is that you are essentially taking the photo again, only this time you really don't have the distraction of color in the viewfinder, it is now truly black, white and everything in between.

    Deciding how a final print should look is just as personal as when you made the photograph and a well exposed and correctly processed black and white negative will have far more possibility in it than you might initially realize.
     
  8. ROL

    ROL Member

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    Well, I would certainly second (third?) what Matt has written, and while that is basically how I begin a print, I feel you may have misinterpreted his intent. You seem to be jumping around in your appreciation of the process, not uncommon for beginners who need to see results, before their passion wanes. I would encourage you, as you have intimated, to pace your learning and become reasonably adept at each technique until you have understood it. If your negatives have, as seen in a proof print, good highlights and shadows, detail or not, you will have detail in your printed mid tones (e.g., in the middle of your exposure range) assuming you have captured detail in your composition. Unless, given a properly exposed negative, you have printed with so little contrast that no detail is resolved anywhere, and I'm not sure I've ever seen this, then you cannot fail to have detail in the middle of the range. And then there's the matter of taste, full tonal vs. high and low key printing...
     
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  9. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    I agree with ROL, with one tiny qualification (for beginnin printers).

    Do a good proof print with contrast chosen to best reveal the mid-tone details.

    Most likely, you will be able to bring out the best in the shadows and highlights with a bit of dodging and burning (at most).

    The exception? If your subject is illuminated with multiple sources of light, or if the surface textures of highlight and shadow areas require radically different contrast treatments, then you may need to add split grade contrast printing tools to allow you to customize your approach.

    Once you have considerably more experience printing, then it makes more sense to use split grade contrast printing tools more extensively.
     
  10. McErland

    McErland Member

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    I got all of Ansel's books at home, but haven't had the time to even open them up.

    My Current workflow is more or less like:
    Develop the film, using stand development just because my son can sometimes require a laaaarge amount of attention, and if I miss my time in stand development it won't result in as bad negatives as if I do it with a normal development technique.
    I then photograph each frame using my phone against a brightly lit white wall, and invert it to see what each negative contain, both in a subject matter and in tones.
    Whenever I get the time to print (around 3-5 hours) once a month, I normally print 2-5 different negatives:
    1. Proof my exposure with 5sec increments using a 0-2 grade filter depending on how much contrast the negative has.
    2. Choosing the correct exposure I focus, expose and develop and rinse my print briefly, go outside and evaluate my print i either daylight or in our hallway lit by bright Led light.
    3. If I want the print to look brighter or darker I go and make a new one, adjusting the time, or if I want more contrast I use a higher grade of filter.
    4. Evaluate the new print, if not satisfied step 3 again.
    5. Do it all over with the next negative.

    The thing is, I am not a beginner in the digital darkroom, since I've spent insanely many hours in front of my computer with images I've made with portraits, weddings, newborns etc, and I am well aware of how I want my images to look like.

    I started shooting B&W and color film, for 3. reasons. 1. I have to slow down, just using 36 exposures instead of 190 on each card. 2 I love the certain look of color film, and since I just let my local camera dealer develop and print it for me, it is a more "shoot and just enjoy the results" way, instead of manipulate each photo in lightroom. 3. The look of Tri-X is just amazing, and while I can simulate colorfilm pretty good in the digital world, it is darn difficult to get the Tri-X using a fake digital way. The grain is just so pleasing!

    So, when I usually print my Tri-x the end result is pleasing when it comes to the amount of tones, but after scanning them, and looking at them that way, I think the next time I will strive for a more Pop (only on the right picture of course) instead of getting the most amount of tones and the "Correct" exposure.