Intuitive or scientific grasp of a photographic alternative process?

Discussion in 'Alternative Processes' started by cliveh, Mar 8, 2013.

  1. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    I sometimes see on APUG descriptions of chemical processes in terms of characteristic curves and time/temperature variations/formulations for a variety of alternative processes (as one reads in books on this subject). I am only familiar with a few types of alternative photographic process, due to the time I can spend on them. However, with these processes my approach is to experiment again and again with alterations of variables to try and gain an intuitive feeling for the process rather than one that is scientific. That is not to say that I ignore basic chemistry, but any formulations I read about, I take as a guide rather than gospel. I find this works for me, but what approach do others take?
     
  2. artonpaper

    artonpaper Subscriber

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    I tend to be improvisational by nature, but when working with alt printing processes, I do find a bit standardization goes a long way. I learned to keep copious notes, change one thing at a time, and make A/B comparisons, lest frustration sap the pleasure from these pleasurable activities.
     
  3. Vaughn

    Vaughn Member

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    I am of the type that makes prints, experiment a little and keep notes so I can repeat the successes.
     
  4. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    I would do a Stouffer 21 step grayscale on every experiment. That way when results come out weird I know where I am. Others may enjoy doing it by feel. But I like looking at a strip that shows "where I am" and "where I want to be", and I can count the f/stops it takes to get there.
     
  5. jlpape

    jlpape Member

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    Photography is both a science and an art at the same time which allows people to approach the subject in many ways that fits how they think. None are wrong, most folks are somewhere in between which makes photography so interesting.

    Sounds like you are doing a scientific approach and may not realize it. From what you describe you try something, then alter the process and see what effect it has. If you are doing this in some controlled sort of way, like change one variable at a time and see what happens then you are following a basic scientific approach.

    Personally, I use step wedges and I even have a densitometer and make graphs... It helps me visualize the process better and understand what is changing. What defines a "keeper" from a "reject" is how I feel about the result independent of what the graph says. Many on this forum can get to the same result without step wedge or measurement device.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 9, 2013
  6. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    First thing I do is contact print a step wedge to find out as Bill states. Where I am and Where I am going.
    Then I make a lot of film , make a lot of prints and see with my eyes where my failings are and where the processes are difficult or need modification.
    I then go back to the drawing board so to speak, and show my results to mentors and get advice and advanced training.
    Then I go back to the darkroom and try to improve on what I have done.
    This is something I am going through right now and its been a 3 year journey so far with no excellent prints to show for it, but I am close and I feel within another two years of making prints, I will
    feel as comfortable with three new processes as I do with silver or RA4 or inkjet printing.
     
  7. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

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    i used to take notes,
    but i am the kind of person who
    takes notes not in a binder or notebook
    but on scraps of paper, cardstock that is included
    with sheet film, 8.5x11 paper folded in half
    and then the notes are misplaced or thrown out or ???

    so i end up playing and paying attention rather than
    playing, taking notes and paying attention.


    john
     
  8. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member

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    You can learn a lot from the science, and in fact you should, but most of the time I have found that in actual practice there are factors (humidity, personal agitation habits, etc) that require adjustments. Like most things in photography, alt process is best approached with a good foundation of knowledge in tandem with an open mind. That doesn't mean you can be inconsistent.
     
  9. Herzeleid

    Herzeleid Member

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    To me it sounds like you are collecting empirical evidence testing different variables, you learn how the process work. Then you hypothesize what will happen if you alter any of the variables, because you collected evidence by experimenting. Well it might not be an exact science, but your method is almost scientific. Probably you don't want to deal with measuring or calculating all molar calculations, dmax measurement, humidity amount and stuff like that but your approach is very close being scientific, IMO of course.

    I do use a similar approach like yours, but I feel there are times that require calculations for solving certain problems with a specific process.
     
  10. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    Yes, I think you are about right in this description of how I work and like you I do accept the need to make some calculations within the chemistry and practice.
     
  11. jovo

    jovo Membership Council

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    Like cooking food, following a recipe strictly is a very good idea at first. But, with experience, tweaking, tasting and fiddling around seems inevitable. Just from years of experience with developing and printing, I can do many things intuitively now that would have been risky or disastrous early on. Still, I always keep notes on a legal pad. Toning, however, is always done by eye. Haven't figured out yet how to be empirical about it since there are so many variables, and so many nuances that depend on the image.
     
  12. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    Provides just the right amount of variation that allows you to judge quality!

    I thought about this yesterday with a new coffee shop down the street. I know how I like my coffee. First time I went in I thought the coffee was a bit weak. So I felt like I wanted to show them my formula. And yes, the second time I went in and asked them to do it my way. It was a bit messy and clumsy but damn good cup of coffee.

    Now if I go in again, I'm going to have to find another way to get it the way I like, they are going to have to fiddle with the "recipe" to suit my taste.

    I was wishing for something like a 21-step Stouffer scale for coffee because there just isn't any measure I know. Do you check for baume? Do you check viscosity? Color?
     
  13. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    To be truly scientific, you need to take the next step.

    Based on your experience, develop a hypothesis about why or how something is or will happen, and then figure out a way to test it.

    So as an example only, you might do something like refine a process at a particular temperature, then develop a hypothesis about what the effect of a change in temperature might do, and then test it.