Printing.. Do you keep it simple?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Sean, Dec 15, 2004.

  1. Sean

    Sean Admin Staff Member Admin

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    A few random thoughts since I'm finally back in the darkroom...

    I am curious how far members take their printing efforts. Do you keep it fairly simple? Such as a test strip, adjust contrast, time, dodge/burn, finished. Or do you crave a more complex approach to squeeze every last bit out of your image? Do you believe finding a balance is necessary because too much complexity and effort hinders your enjoyment? I think I am trying to find a balance of production that I am happy with, yet not making things so complex it becomes a chore..
     
  2. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Depends on what satisfies you. In my experience, as time has passed, my awareness of what constitutes a fine print has changed. Consistant with that has come a simplification of process.
     
  3. TPPhotog

    TPPhotog Member

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    Sean I will never be able to consider myself an expert and the older I get the simpler I like my photography. When printing I do a test strip and decide which filter to use if I need to and the time. Then I do a straight print at the grade / time I have decided on. Then I do a second print dodging / burning as I feel. Then maybe a third or fourth print changing the dodging / burning before I put it to bed and move onto the next.
     
  4. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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    KISS. Always KISS.
     
  5. John McCallum

    John McCallum Member

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    Oh yes, I try to keep it simple. Very complex prints I do find a chore also, although perhaps more satisfying when a good result is obtained. Personally I prefer a natural look to a print; that is I guess without obvious signs of manipulation. It allows me to enjoy it longer.

    That being said, there are one or two negs that come to mind that I just know could produce a good print .... but haven't yet.
     
  6. Thomassauerwein

    Thomassauerwein Member

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    Sean, the answer to that is easy compared with reality. Personally the fewer tricks required during printing an image the better. Every time you burn and dodge an image you subject it to unpredictability. Invisible layers of information from scattered light as reflected by burning tools or dogging restraints. With that said no image is ever perfect as exposed and processed. I know I've processed enough of my film over the years that my system has evolved. Evolved to a point where much of the test I used to do is no longer necessary. This is so important because you learn that the darkroom effort are only 15% percent of the actual effort required for the final print. To me the two keys for success are: fundamental exposure as related to the subject. And developing a process for your film processing that refects the light range for the image on the film.
    Every scene has its unique assets, and finding or understanding these assets is key to exposure. Then exposure re- emerges through processing. Once this equation becomes second nature then in the darkroom you free up brain space to be creative rather than trying to solve problems and being satisfyed with just re-producing the scene. We are not copy-machines! This equation is a personal journey, one that every self respecting photo artist has to take. There is certainly enough data out there to get close. And it is not rocket science. This personal journey starts in the darkroom with all this testing you are talking about then that testing should be used as a basis for decisions you make while you are shooting. Then hopefully hopefully after a few thousand times through this cycle you will find that the darkroom effort reflects opinion of the scene you photographed.
     
  7. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    Simple. Simple is good. Simple is tasty. :wink:

    Seriously, while I seldom do anything terribly complex when printing, I flip-flop a little on the issue. When I feel production-oriented, I lean toward printing a roll or two of 35mm negs with minimal manipulation. After 40 years or so, my negatives are pretty consistent, so I can whip out those 35mm 8x10s like Mrs. Fields' cookies. :wink: Large-format negs I spend more time on, and don't feel bad if it takes a couple of hours to nail a problem negative.

    If you're doing the work for enjoyment, productivity probably shouldn't be the issue. If, on the other hand, you're doing it commercially for $2/8x10, split-personality printing is more useful than split-filtration.
     
  8. Francesco

    Francesco Member

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    Sean, as I like to say, it is all in the negative. I keep it "complex" during the creation of the negative so that printing is as simple as switch on, countdown, switch off. Sometimes a burn here and a dodge there is needed but nothing more than a maximum of 3 sheets of AZO would not cure. When you work with the same materials long enough you kinda get an idea what is needed at the printing stage.
     
  9. BruceN

    BruceN Member

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    Me too! Simple is great!

    and yet, somehow I still find myself wanting one of those fancy RH Designs Analyser Pro timer/analyzers...
     
  10. photomc

    photomc Member

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    KISSing is good...but like life not always as easy as it should be :D
     
  11. TPPhotog

    TPPhotog Member

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    But practice and lots of it makes perfect !! :D
     
  12. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Sean

    For years I tried to make a printers , print. As far as I could push the envelope, I think this is a good approach in the beginning as it will make you try a lot of different styles.
    Now I am not as crazy in my day to day printing and sometimes I leave areas in a print that in the past I would have tried to fix. Little abberations actually seem to add character. As well when I am close to being finished with a print I will make one darker and lighter to see the next day, funny how I sometimes pick the second or third print.
    When you make contact sheets of random images , when you get the balance you like , make a contact 1/2 stop darker or 1/2stop lighter.
    It is amazing what you will see with a darker or lighter print.
    I agree with making your life simple in the darkroom, but only after you have developed a good working style and approach to your photographs.
    I still make very complex prints, but only when required .
     
  13. lee

    lee Member

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    like those before me good negs make it simple. That is where I would consentrate first. Then the print is easy. Also, the bigger the neg the easier to print in my estimation.


    lee\c
     
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  15. Konical

    Konical Subscriber

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    Good Evening,

    I agree with Lee's comment about larger negatives. 4 x 5 negatives often just seem to fall automatically onto the paper; 35mm usually requires more effort.

    Konical
     
  16. James Bleifus

    James Bleifus Member

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    Couldn't agree more. Big negs help a lot. A little dodging or burning and a water bath with Azo and I'm usually getting what I want in a couple of test prints.

    Cheers,

    James
     
  17. Loose Gravel

    Loose Gravel Member

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    Nature seldom, if ever, puts the light down just right.

    A year ago I printed a portfolio of negatives from a 10 year span, 1983 to 1993. They were all 4x5 or 5x7. Many of the negs I had printed before, some not at all. I started by printing about 60 of my favorite (from several thousand) on RC paper. These were just proof prints. Not much if any alteration. These I lived with for a while. From this I printed about 20 really good prints on fiber and from this I chose 12. None of the prints are straight. Some are simple prints -- a little dodge or burn. If some print required life threatening surgery, sorry...RIP. But there were some that I felt were worth extra effort. I'd print a quickie in some direction to see if it was where I wanted to go, think about it, and work on it the next weekend. I was printing 20 hours a week and sometimes it would take 4 or 5 hours to get a really good print worked out. By this I mean that the composition could be enhanced by stearing the eye within the photograph. I usually do this with a mask of plastic over the negative that I apply pencil to. If is very effective and once you have it, the subsequent prints are easier. The majority of the time is not spent on the print, it is spent on the discovery of how to control the composition.

    As others have mentioned, I don't like prints that look contrived or that have the look of 'the hand of god.' There are many very popular photographers that print this way and I know there work is very popular, but this is not how I see my world.
     
  18. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    I like my printing process to be as organic and tactile an experience as possible. I like to mold the image under the lens using my hands, held in improbable contortions, to burn and dodge. Sure, I use some other basic tools but I don't want the printing experience to become a tedious, technical effort. That's what they make computers for. Millions of pixels in an image and if you have enough time, you can adjust every single one of them just exactly as you like. What fun.
     
  19. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Well said! That's just how I feel, too.

    KISS to me is measuring the negative with my EM10, deciding on paper grade, then making one full unmanipulated print. Then process and dry that, look long and hard at it, then back to the darkroom for final prints with appropriate burning in. For some reason I don't dodge, but may burn in everything but one tiny spot...

    Sometimes this process fails; I then try a different paper. Not often.
     
  20. djklmnop

    djklmnop Member

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    Personally, I think people do what they are capable of. Ansel Adams did more simply because he understood his materials and how they interacted like the back of his hands.

    As for myself, if you look at my gallery, you can see that a few of my prints contains extreme modification in the darkroom, etc. BUT, I know where my limitations are. I still havent tried Contrast Masking, for lack of courage. I also have not tried selective reduction using Farmers Reducer, etc.

    My train of thought is, the more well rounded you are at facilitating your craft, the more options you will have to come to what you see in your minds eye. Some people are constrained from their inability to interpret what they see in their mind because they don't have the full understanding of the craft to make it a reality.

    Andy
     
  21. modafoto

    modafoto Subscriber

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    That's my style. If I do more I mess the print up, as I still am in the beginner category :tongue:

    Morten
     
  22. Lee Shively

    Lee Shively Member

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    As I discovered recently, I've been complicating things too much when I print. I can achieve the same results more simple methods. It's time to simplify.
     
  23. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    Yes.
     
  24. Soeren

    Soeren Member

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    There is no need to complicate things to mess them up. I do my prints as simple as possible, still mess them up and it dosn't help when I fix them :D
    Regards Søren
     
  25. noseoil

    noseoil Member

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    I've learned more from "difficult" negatives about printing than from easy ones. The simplicity of printing comes, as Francesco said, from a good negative. All of the contortions are worthwhile, but nothing beats a well exposed, well developed piece of film. I strive for a good grade 2 print from a good negative.
     
  26. eagleowl

    eagleowl Member

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    very simple

    All I do is a test strip to determine exposure and contrast grade(mostly,I just go for grade 2),and that's it.