TANSTAAFL

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Gerald C Koch, May 2, 2011.

  1. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    This acronym was popularized by the great SF author Robert Heinlein although it appears to have been in existence for sometime previously. For the few recently born under a cabbage leaf it stands for "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch." But more about this a bit later.

    I thought that the reason that people were still willing to do wet photography, and perhaps the reason for APUG's existence, was a desire to get the most from our photographs by asserting control over the development process. But it seems that every month or so there is a post by someone seeking some sort of "automatic" processing whether with the use of divided development, stand development, monobath, etc. The posters seem to want to put film in a tank, pour in a developer, walk away, and hope for the best. Isn't this concept contrary to the ideal of analog photography?

    This brings us back to the concept of no free lunch. If you want quality then you have to be willing to pay atention to details. For those that are either unwilling or incapable of making an extra effort there is an easy solution to your problem -- if is called DIGITAL photography. There I've said it and I feel better.
     
  2. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

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    I think they're not necessarily looking for automatic processing as much as just the "magic bullet" for perfect negatives every time. Because you know it's out there ... :wink:

    EDIT: - Oh, I think I just saw the latest thread you're talking about ... :whistling:
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2011
  3. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    You know there is so a perfect negative, Kodak sezso. "Just push the button and we'll do the rest." The pictures all came back perfect. Wait a minute, you didn't get a perfect picture? Not your fault, you just need a better camera, you know, the one that does all the work for you.
     
  4. Ottrdaemmerung

    Ottrdaemmerung Member

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    There's indeed a formula for getting a perfect negative from analog processing:
    FAIL AT IT! -- many times over.
    You'll then get into a routine and make fewer mistakes. But the wondrousness of the process is the point. An organic process like film photography means that you are always beholden to the wondrousness of the process FIRST. If the process decides that you have done everything correctly and that you deserve the perfect negative, then you will get the perfect negative.
     
  5. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    Sounds good to me!

    No, and I don't know where you could have possibly come up with that. I don't do analog photography because it's hard, or because it's expensive, or because it's anachronistic or any other reason than that I think analog photographs are beautiful.
    Photographs have many qualities. As the photographer, I decide which details are important.
     
  6. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    Bettersense,

    My post was based on a number of different postings over the last year. I specifically mentioned four different "automatic" techniques which have all appeared in posts to summarize this fact. It is something that I have been thinking of for some time. You were not being singled out which is why this thread appears under philosophy and not under BW development or under your OP.
     
  7. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    I don't feel singled out, but I still don't see why we should feel that analog photography should be hard, or that doing something the easy way is "cheating", or that something being hard and complicated automatically makes it "higher quality".
     
  8. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    BetterSense,

    You are correct when you say that harder is not necessarily better. But when someone wants to use one of the easy methods mentioned they do sacrifice something. For example, with two bath developers or monobaths you lose contrast control over your negatives.
     
  9. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    Yes, you lose contrast control, but you also gain something as well...a certain degree of freedom. As you yourself say, TANSTAAFL, and everything has a tradeoff.

    Also, there is this new thing called variable contrast paper.
     
  10. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    Yes, you can use a VC paper but what if your favorite paper doesn't come as VC? We can keep trading gotchas all day. I stand by my OP that there are no shortcuts to quality.
     
  11. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    that is exactly how i process my film
    i put it in a tank,
    i pour water in first, dump it,
    then developer ...
    walk away for 30mins
    and they come out great ...

    works fine for me ... but i still have to pay for my lunch
    john
     
  12. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    I've always thought of film as a sometimes harsh mistress:wink:

    I agree that much of the beauty of "analogue" photography comes from its controllable flexibility, but I also think that it is fair to look for parts of the process that can be made simple.

    Transparency films are an example. The process is essentially standardised - made automatic. That allows the photographer to focus his/her attention on the other parts of the process when deciding what controls to make use of.
     
  13. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Quality where?

    In lighting? Composition? Sharpness? Grain? The perfect paper? ....

    I really like MF negs but reasonably modern 35mm gear gives me speed and flexibility that allows me to catch more unposed "moments" and light better on-the-run. So in certain situations 35mm gets me higher quality compositions, more keepers, than 6x7 does.
     
  14. hoffy

    hoffy Member

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    What does automation give you?

    Consistency and Reliability.

    If I can automate as much of the process as possible, it means that any change that I make to get a particular effect is NOT effected by the inconsistency I might have by doing the whole process without automation.

    I can't see that as a bad thing…...
     
  15. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    My post was only about development and nothing else. The complaint was about people seeking ways of avoiding such processing details as time, temperature, agitation, etc. Perhaps the use of the term "automatic" was ill advised but at the time I could think of no other. It was always used in quotes to make the distinction that it was being used with a special meaning. I never said that you can't avoid these things but you do pay a price. Hence the title of the thread.
     
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  16. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    My point is not that development isn't important or that it should be ignored, but that it is just one piece of the puzzle. (Heck, I enjoy manipulating contrast with development.)

    The consistency and predictability of any development system is important to a good result but highly accurate times and temps are just one route to that goal.

    Systems that go to completion, or nearly so, or ones which take a relatively long time are very tolerant of timing and temp errors. They are naturally consistent and predictable.

    If you miss the timing on C-41 by 1-minute or 5-degrees you have significantly changed the result, if you miss the timing on a 1-hour stand in Rodinal by 10-minutes or 5-degrees you may not even be able to tell.
     
  17. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    gerald

    if one knows his or her materials,
    it isn't hard at all to "set it and forget it"
    as ron popeil would say ... and whether it is
    graded paper or vc paper the results are the same

    but my methodology didn't just appear .. it took
    about a year to "fine tune" what seems to many is just
    - random - so in that respect i agree, there is no such thing
    as a free lunch - understanding one's film, paper and chemistry takes
    time and effort ...