ilfochrome

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by DKT, Sep 22, 2004.

  1. DKT

    DKT Member

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    fwiw--just thought I'd mention that a friend at a local dealer showed me a fax from Ilford a day or two ago--said they were phasing Ilfochrome out by the end of 2005. They claimed it had nothing to do with their current financial woes--and in a way I believe this. I heard a rumor from a tech that sales had really dropped on ilfochrome materials at the bigger labs. This guy said it was "history" and that was like almost a year and a half ago. These were labs that were using the cibatrans materials for backlit graphics in advertising and in slot machines and the like. Apparently they've gone over to RA materials and inkjets.

    Make of it what you will, until an "official" release comes out.

    KT
     
  2. L Gebhardt

    L Gebhardt Subscriber

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    I've been waiting for this news ever since I started using the stuff a few months ago. Sorry for ruining it for the rest of you. Does anyone know how long the paper and chemicals last in storage?
     
  3. Tom Smith

    Tom Smith Member

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    No one and nothing's going to stop Ilford from making awful decisions are they - it's an irreversible trend isn't it?

    I heard this and thought it was a rumour by a working pro' who thought that ilfochromes will be collectable in calibre - the stuff that hangs in museums....whereas the digitised papers will be as common as toilet paper. At least digitised papers have a second use then!
     
  4. steve

    steve Member

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    I'm not surpised.

    A pro lab that I use hasn't been able to get P-3 chemicals in the U.S. for the past 8 months. He was ordering them from a source in Europe to keep his Ilfochrome processor working.

    The labs with LightJets have killed Ilfochrome. Between Fuji Crystal Archive and Kodak Metallic paper, there's no sales for Ilfochrome prints. The home darkroom market is so small as to be almost non-existent. It's a product that's way past it's time. There are so many problems with getting good prints from it - from having to make masks to the color crossover - that I have no qualms about seeing it go away. There are far, far better ways to make color prints from transparencies.

    I can understand the company's decision. That's a lot of money to keep tied up in facilities to produce products for a very, very small market.

    As to Ilfochromes being "collectible" just because they're Ilfochromes - I don't mean to puncture your illusion of rarity - but, it hasn't happened with dye transfer prints. It's the artist that matters, and NOT the printing media.
     
  5. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Obviously the artist matters more than the printing media, but I think there's a grain of truth in the notion that collectors prefer Ciba/Ilfochromes to other media. If the same artist were offering giclee/Ultrachrome/inkjet, C-prints, and Ilfochromes of comparable quality, I'd bet the serious collectors would take the Ilfochromes over the others, in part because it's been around longer and has a more proven track record of archival stability. Fuji claims that Crystal Archive is at least as good, as do the producers of the inkjet pigments, but we all own faded C-prints and have probably seen inkjets that have shown problems such as fading and metamerism.
     
  6. steve

    steve Member

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    Except Crystal Archive dyes and Ultrachrome ink pigments can't be compared to C-prints as they're different technologies. You've set up a false analogy, totally without proof or merit.

    My experience with inkjet pigments inks is that they are far more stable than C-prints - and Wilhelm (and other independent testing sources) verify the stability claims. They're probably also more stable than Ilfochromes which have an archival rating of about 30 years.

    I've done my own accelerated aging tests on C-prints, Ilfochromes, and inkjet prints by setting prints in a south facing window that gets direct sun for at least 10 hours per day. I live in New Mexico at 5,000 feet so we also have a lot of UV energy. The first test I did was in 1988 with a C-print and a Cibachrome. The C-print (Kodak paper) faded badly in about 1 month. The Cibachrome color shifted about 7cc magenta after 6 months. My latest test is with an inkjet print with pigment inks. After 1 year in the window, the print has not changed from the control print kept in a drawer.

    This is certainly not scientific testing as the amount of illumination is not consistent from day-to-day, and is not monitored for total radiant flux on the surface - but, in real world terms, it certainly shows that a pigment inkjet print on rag paper is at least (if not more) stable than an Ilfochrome under direct sunlight.

    It's not exactly like pigment technology is a new thing. Pigments have been used for hundreds of years to create all types of art work. Color pigment inks have been used for at least 200 years to create printed works (etchings and lithographs). While pigment inks formulated for inkjet printers are "different" (carriers / viscosity) than lithographic printing inks, the chemistry and formulation of inkjet inks is far more controlled and tested - specifically because the manufacturers are sensitive to archival issues.

    Metamerism is a totally different issue - and is not archival issue - but an ink / receiver (paper) compatibility problem. Metamerism can be eliminated - you just have to know what to do (use a good RIP and the correct ink/paper combination).

    Color crossover in Ilfochrome CANNOT be eliminated easily. The only way to control it is to treat an Ilfochrome print like a dye transfer print and make black and white separation positives and print each one individually though separation filters. This makes Ilfochrome printing as much a pain in the butt as a dye transfer print - but without the look or longevity OF a dye transfer print. My, there's a bonus.

    If "been around longer," and "more proven track record of stability" are true issues, then your faux collector would be demanding color photographs made only by dye transfer or carbon pigment. I don't see any lines forming at galleries with people demanding a certain technology or "nothing."

    Sorry, David - can't find one shred of truth in your postulations.
     
  7. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I'm not talking about the materials, but the market. It may be true that inkjet pigment prints are more stable or that Crystal Archive is just as good, but I'm not so sure that the art market widely perceives inkjet pigment or Crystal Archive prints as good investments at this point. That doesn't mean that inkjets and LightJets don't sell--when the work is really provocative they can sell for a lot--but I think it will be some time before the new media have the same level of acceptance as Ilfochrome.
     
  8. steve

    steve Member

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    If that were true, then the "art market" would not be buying any C-prints at all. Yet, many photographers make and sell C-prints through photo galleries - and the buyers look at them as "investments."

    It does, however, make one wonder what photographers like Christopher Burkett are going to do in order to hype their photos with statements like:

    "This is why I am the only one who will print any of my own photographs, both now and in the future."

    and...

    "You can be assured that each exhibition print is meticulously handmade by me, one print at a time. Through many hours of patient work, the photograph becomes more refined, as I labor to bring the luminous quality of the image to life. These are not mechanical reproductions, but images in which I have invested my heart and soul."

    My, how heart rendering....pardon me while I strap on my chest waders - it's getting a little too deep for me. I guess the poor little dear will have to invest in a scanner, LightJet printer, and learn Photoshop...(eyes tearing up...can't type any more...snifff...snifff)
     
  9. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    Uh huh....I am sure people would pay the same for an Elliot Porter in ilfochrome than they will do for a dye transfer of the same print......NOT!

    Said it before, and I say it again, the process is an integral part of the image. It lends the image a particular feel, and a good phtographer chooses the process to enhance the image. Leaving aside the longevity issues, there is nothing that compares to a well done Ilfochrome. I recently had the chance to compare Ilfochromes to ink jet prints and there was no contest.

    Saying that it is only the artist that matters and not the process is a red herring argument, the artist chooses the process as well for a specific reason. You cannot have one without the other. I know it galls ink jet printers when a photographer is proud of making each print and being personally involved on the process of each and every print and he/she says so, the same way they keep chanting the "process does not matter" mantra, I think many of us will keep chanting the "it is not the same as a machine made print" mantra. Time will tell which will become more valued. So far, a hand made Ferrari is still worth more than a Chevy.....
     
  10. mobtown_4x5

    mobtown_4x5 Member

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    heart rendering? Something to aspire to in imagemaking to be sure.

    Both David and the quoted photographer are absolutely correct. The handcrafted element to wet processes does add a lot of value which is born out in the art market. As a gallery-owner friend of mine (owns galleries in NY, NJ, SF, IL, MA, and LA) told me in confidence about inkjet prints- "nobody serious collects that sh**").

    I suspect that as the quality of inkjet prints that people are producing of thier snapshots at home improves, hand printed images will continue to dominate the fine art market.

    I doubt you will find much sympathy for your pro-inkjet rant here at APUG.
     
  11. Tom Smith

    Tom Smith Member

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    Thanks for all the views David and Steve. It's always good to hear from others - I'm certainly learning more about diversity of opinion on this website than photography!

    I think I'm leaning more to David's position on ilfochromes, but that's my bias - I love the textural glossiness and richness inherent in the depth of an ilfochrome. Squirted ink on the scratchy surface of a rag, varnish or no varnish is okay - really. And I've only got a college education. I was just taken by what this pro' said about ilfochromes because I never really thought about it . I guess his clients preferred photographic prints made by traditional processes - ilfochrome being one distinguished one........over the home-made printer which more and more photographers are resorting to (even film-based ones). Commercial organisations who buy up photos for libraries etc aren't going to really care now. Are they?

    "It's the artist that matters, and NOT the printing media."

    By gum, when I read that. I happily agree with you but the fact you had to write such an obvious point makes it funny. I'll have to remember that for aspiring artists: Go fetch! You can do it ! Get the Andrex canvass out!"
     
  12. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Inkjet, C-print (Fuji Ca or Kodak endura), Cibachrome all the same image created by an expert and I'm buying.

    Inkjet gets bounced from the running 1st -- it lacks the colour gamut, and intensity (especially in blacks reds and yellows).

    The c-print and the ciba might be a tough call. If the c-print was on a flex material I might pick it. Great detail, wider latitude, wider gamut, but less intense colour and it would look like a ciba. If the C-print was on an matte or satin I would probably pick the ciba. The difference between these is a taste thing.

    I have compared the three and continue to compare c-prints in all their forms with high end inkjets in its many variations. Inkjets are a good commercial tool, and it is wonderful to get a quality image on a nearly limitless variety of materials, but it is still a bit short.

    The credibility of the claims made by the producers of inks as well as those of Wilhelm are thin. I have printed 100's of inkjet with UV/pigmented inks for backlit display, many 100's more for window display and many many 100's if not thousands for interior display. The manufacture gives them anywhere from 5 years to 150 depending on lamination and exposure. We Will guarantee them form a 1 to 20, based upon non-anecdotal evidence, experience and depending upon exposure and laminate.

    Is the art buyer full of sh!t? Could be -- my eyes are brown. The proof of the pudding, when it comes to a 'print', is in the viewing.

    Unless you are taking advantage of an inkjets strengths it fails at one to one comparisons.
     
  13. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Actually, this is wrong.
    1. The rip has no effect on metamerism. The rip simply translate one language (tif, jpg, eps, etc.) into the printers page description language.
    2. The couplers in the paper do effect the quality of the print, but will not remove metamerism. The couplers in the paper reduce dot gain, help to increase colour fastness and reduce drying time.
    3. The pigments (the things that reflect the colour you see) used in the inks (especially blacks) that give the colours their resistance to fading have this 'special' reflective quality.
     
  14. sanking

    sanking Member

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    Putting aside value to collectors and archival consideration it is my opinion that when the prevailing consideration is purely aesthetic the preference of the artist trumps all other consideration. Many people prefer the high Dmax and wide range of densities seen in silver gelatin prints on glossy and semi-gloss papers, while others are much more drawn to the qualities of alternative prints on textured surface, which typically have a much narrower range of densities and lower Dmax. This is a purely subjective preference for one kind of media over another. It is ridiculous to assert that one media is better than another because of personal preference for a kind of look.

    The same is true of color prints. Some people love the glossy look, wide density range and very saturated colors of cibachrome prints. Prints made with the old three-color carbon and carbon processes are unique in that they have a kind of three-dimensional quality but unfortunately many color carbon prints made with the more recent Ultrastable process were placed on white mylar final supports and have the same place mat look of glossy cibachromes. Dye transfer printing offered much more control of color than any other process but in the end the look is not all that different from that of a c-print, and if displayed in the light, they are not that much more stable. Prints made with inkjet printers on fine art papers using pigmented inks in turn have an entirely different look. I have personally made c-prints, ciba/Ilfochormes, dye-transfers and three-color carbons and carbros, as well as color inkjet prints, and I have had some made on Fuji Crystal Archive so my prefererence is based on considerable experience in looking at prints made on different media

    My personal opinion is that the most unique and beautiful of all color printing processes is three-color carbon, especially when the final print is made in the traditional way to maximize relief. After that I like the look, in this order, of other types of color prints.

    2. Inkjet prints made with pigmented inks on fine art papers.
    3. Fuji Crystal Archive
    4. Dye Transfer Prints
    5. Regular c-prints
    6. Ciba and Ilfochromes


    You can probably surmise from the above that I am relatively indifferent to the passing of Ilfochrome. The only good thing I have to say about the Ilfochrome look is that my disgust for it (Cibachrome) some twenty or more ago was the stimulus that initially got me involved in three-color carbon and later other types of alternative printing.

    Metamerism, BTW, is not a defect of inkjet printers. It is a characteristic of virtually all prints made with pigments. You see it in color carbon and carbro prints as well as in inkjet prints made with pigmented inks.





    Sandy King
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 24, 2004
  15. Tom Smith

    Tom Smith Member

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    That's fascinating sanking. Thanks for enlightening about carbon colour prints.

    You still haven't stated why you don't like cibachromes and rated them as 6th of 6 choices.

    Are there any available samples of carbon colour prints generally available anywhere for viewing? It sounds like they're really worth seeing.
     
  16. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    It is a taste thing.

    My point was to illustrate why one art buyer, me, would choose on type of print over another -- a tast thing.

    If we are comparing colour prints, then we are talking about colour -- or not?

    Inkjets have many strengths, the strongest being the ability to print on anything from silk to ceramic tile. The down side is colour and dmax.

    Preferring a print on fine art paper is different than saying it produces superior colour prints.
     
  17. sanking

    sanking Member

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    Comparing color prints is not the same as comparing color. What is your understanding of a superior color print? One that has more saturated colors and Dmax? Not for me. My concept of the superior color printing process is the one that produces prints that I visually prefer to those made by any other process. Saturation and/or Dmax are technical issues that matter but they are not necessarily determinative.

    By extension, your logic would appear to be that the superior monochrome printing process is the one that produces prints with the highest Dmax. No doubt there are many who would agree with you on this, but I don't. I much prefer the look of a beautiful carbon or Pt./Pd. print on matte surface to most prints on silver gelatin papers, and the Dmax of silver prints is almost always higher than that of Pt./Pd. and usually higher than that of carbons.

    Sandy
     
  18. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    It is a taste thing. The subject was why one over the other.

    You would pass on the ciba for the inkjet.

    I am glad that we both know what we like.

    My logic may evade you, me or possibly none may be present at all.
     
  19. sanking

    sanking Member

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    Yes, that has been my point. What we prefer is a subjective issue.

    For the record, the original subject was not why one over the other, but simply that a friend said "they were phasing Ilfochrome out by the end of 2005."

    Actually I thought your logic was fairly clear, i.e. that the superior process was the one that gave prints with the highest color gamut and Dmax. If that is not what you meant please accept my apologies for the misunderstanding.

    Sandy
     
  20. steve

    steve Member

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    I always find it interesing that when someone can express themselves in coherent terms for more than four sentences, it gets called a "rant." When, in reality, you're calling it a a rant in an attempt to dismiss a point of view you don't agree with.

    I thought my posts were lending a different point of view - and at least I have made Ilfochromes for over 20 years for myself, museums, and other photographers. I've also printed C-prints, dye transfer prints and lithographs - I like print making of all types.

    If you've bothered to read any of my previous posts, you might find out that what I really advocate is to do what is best for the image - whether that's a silver print, gum bichromate, Ilfochrome, C-print, etc. - or the dreaded inkjet print.

    As for your friend, the gallery owner - he's going to be selling inkjet prints. When he finds an artist he likes (or finds out is popular = sells a lot), and the artist only makes inkjet prints - he'll be selling inkjet prints.

    I make inkjet prints for a photographer who sells through several galleries, including one that has an on-line website - so someone is collecting that sh** as you so eloquently put it.
     
  21. steve

    steve Member

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    Yes, I can understand your interest in Ilfochromes. I've worked with the material for over 20 years. Specifically because of the unique glossy surface, and the semi-metallic look to some of the colors. As with any material, it has some shortcomings, but you accept that as part of the process when you make the choice of materials. I guess after working with the Ilfochromes for that long, I'm now looking at other options for my color images.

    I think you will find that 90 percent or so of the transparencies will require a contrast mask. They're so easy to make that you shouldn't even give making them a second thought - just do it. Use 3-M 835 (? - comes in a blue box from the art store) graphic arts tape to fasten the mask to the transparency. The tape will not dry out and will not leave an adhesive residue, even if left for extended periods of time (I have some that have been taped together since about 1985).

    Also, if you can still get DEZ additive (an Ilford product) - use 30ml in the 2 liters of P-30 developer. It helps reduce streaking (if you're using a CAP 40 processor) and makes the colors a bit cleaner.
     
  22. steve

    steve Member

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    "1.The rip has no effect on metamerism. The rip simply translate one language (tif, jpg, eps, etc.) into the printers page description language."

    Metamerism is a perceived color change when the print is viewed under different light sources. Gloss differential (sometimes called "bronzing") will not be affected by a RIP because it has to do with printing pigment inks on a gloss paper surface. A clear varnish overcoat is the only solution to gloss differential.

    A RIP will affect metamerism. The RIP does not use the manufacturer's printer driver, but controls the inkjet head directly giving much more sophisticated ink control.

    Metamerism is mostly associated with the yellow and magenta inks - NOT the black ink. The RIP provides far better ink control - way more control than any Epson driver even with custom paper profiles.

    The best example of the ink control difference, is printing a B&W image with a RIP using the full color inkset. You can print a totally neutral, metamerism-free black and white photo using the entire color inkset. You can't even come close to a neutral B&W print with the Epson driver - never mind the metamerism problem.

    Basically, Epson printer drivers aren't the best, and don't use the full capabilities of ink or the inkjet head. With a good RIP and Ultrachrome inks, you can reduce metamerism on a color print to the point where it is no worse than a standard wet darkroom color print viewed under different light sources.

    Metamersim is a problem associated with all color pigments and dyes, and can affect color perception of any item (car, clothing, carpet, etc.) viewed under different light sources.

    Ilfochromes also have metamerism problems associated with the dyes used in the print. When I print Ilfochromes, I do a "best color" color balancing routine using a daylight fluorescent source, warm white source, and tungsten source. When I can get the print to look acceptable (little color change) under all three sources then I know I have the best color balance for the print.
     
  23. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Steve,
    Different inks may suffer different reflective issues on different printers. If you are talking about one printer -- the epson 7600/9600 -- I could be very wrong. I suspect a truly bad rip or driver could affect metamerism. I stand corrected.


    I use 3, 6 colour epsons. One with archival B/W, one w/ archival colour and one with dye colour, an 8/12 ink colorspan and a 6 colour HP designjet. I have 3 different rips (printer specific, ranging in cost from 2k to 9k) as well as manufacturer printer drivers, an untold variety of papers, fabrics and plastic print materials (all manufacter and ink specific).

    The same printer/image using rip or not will suffer from metamerism on a variety of materials. Fabric and canvas being the only material that does not suffer from metamerism.

    The dense areas, blacks, followed by dark blues are where I see metamerism on the prints I make as well as most uv/pigment inkjet output I have seen. Your experience may be different.

    Finally, I don't mind metamerism that much. I took exception to your statements and as I said I stand corrected.
     
  24. steve

    steve Member

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    Yes, I agree with you that different inks and printers have different metamerism qualities. I print with an Epson 1280 using MIS pigment inks and have no metamerism problems with that combination.

    I also have an Epson 9600 with the Ultrachrome inkset. I tested 9 different matte papers with differing results ranging from no percievable metamerism to a slight bit of metamerism. The metamerism differences seem to be paper color related (different color reflectivity), but may also be related to dot gain characteristics and some ink mixing. I did not profile the papers for the tests because I wanted to see the "worst case" characteristics of the papers - knowing that profiling the paper would only improve the performance and end results.

    My final choice of paper was Moab Entrada natural (300 gsm) with Crane Museo heavyweight a close second for producing the best image (no metamerism, best color reproduction, and shadow detail).

    Black and white is a whole different issue. The Epson printer driver is absolutely incapable of producing a neutral print on the 9600 using the full inkset. The Colorbyte Imageprint RIP totally solves that problem - including the metamerism in a full inkset black and white print.

    With the Ultrachrome inks, the metamerism shift is always green/magenta under different lighting. Green under daylight, magenta under tungsten light. The green shift is from poor control of the yellow ink and the magenta shift is poor control of both magenta inks. The Imageprint RIP corrects that in two ways. The first is better control of the inkjet heads, and the second is through a better dithering algorithm.

    A side benefit to the IP RIP is it also nearly eliminates the gloss differential problem using pigment inks on a glossy surface because of the better ink control and dithering.

    My observations and tests are specific to the Epson 9600. People who use the HP printers seem to report little to no metamerism. I can't comment on that any further as I've never used the HP wide format printers. However, the FLAAR folks really flog the HP as "the" answer to wide format printing and as being superior to the Epson products. Then again, HP gives them free printers to use for a long as they want them, and Epson just ignores their pleas for free products.

    Using the inkjet printer and a combination of film and digital technologies is certainly a learning experience (part of the fun for me). It has also allowed me to realize certain goals that I could not achieve without the benefit of this type of technology.

    One example: in 1992 I shot a 5 frame panorama of the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers in northern North Dakota at sunset. I thought long and hard over the years as to just how to make the images into a true expression of what I saw and experienced. Nothing I tried was totally what I wanted. Earlier this year, I put the 5 frames together using a panoramic stitching program and now have an image that I print 36 inches wide by 10.5 inches in height.

    I finish the image by ripping the paper down to final size to have 1.5 inch white borders with a deckle edge. The image is framed like a lithograph or etching by floating it on a 1/8-inch thick matte board (slightly smaller than the print) that is attached to the primary matte board giving 2-inch borders on the top and sides and a 2.5-inch bottom border around the deckle edge.

    Floating the print leaves the deckle edges exposed and generates a small drop shadow around the print when it is displayed. The final finished and framed print is everything that I hoped to achieve with that image - and I could not have achieved it without the aid of digital technology.

    I'm sure someone will read this, and post yet another tantrum about this being a digital "rant," and to get off APUG as the site is dedicated to analog... blah, blah, bubbba blah. Before you do that, let me say that all I'm trying to do is have a civil exchange of ideas about creativity and image making. I'm not promoting one method as being superior over another. For me, life/fun is about learning and creative image making -- NOT processes or equipment.

    If your photography revolves around processes rather than images - fine - I just no longer relate to that state of mind as it is so restrictive to creativity. Use whatever method you want - just open your mind a little to other possibilities, and you may learn something that will help you realize the full potential within some future image.