Testing films V. Darkroom practice

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by thefizz, Feb 8, 2005.

  1. thefizz

    thefizz Subscriber

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    With my present job I don't get to devote as much time to photography as I would like. But I have put a lot of effort into testing various films and developers over the last year. This has resulted in less time spent printing in my darkroom and I have more films/devs to test.

    My question is this:

    Am I wasting too much time trying to get the right film and developer combination for my needs and should I just spend more time in the darkroom practicing my split grade printing, flashing, fogging etc., etc.

    I think that I am too much of a perfectionist and should just pick a couple of films I like and just go with them. I feel I need to get back into the darkroom and start working on my backlog of negs.

    Time is precious, am I wasting it?

    Peter
     
  2. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    If you have found several films and developers that you like just go out and shoot and work on your darkroom tech.

    Regards

    Paul
     
  3. eric

    eric Member

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    Yes :smile:

    I don't know what type of photos you like to do. But don't get stuck and categorized as one of those people that like to shoot brick walls and USAF resolution charts.

    Unless your darkroom is in a vacumn, there are sooooo many variables that so hard to control. EG, h20 quality (changes once in a while), emulsion differences, measuring control (did you measure 3 g or 3.2 g?), did you pour EXACTLY 10ml of chemicals or 10.5ml?

    Go to some galleries and borrow a whole bunch of photo books from the library. Look at them. Don't ask "hmmm, wonder if that was tri-x developed in hc110 or hmmm, wonder if that was agfa 100 in rodinol". Who cares? The print that you see...the image is what counts.

    I don't care if people developed their film in Charles River water.
     
  4. Peter Schrager

    Peter Schrager Subscriber

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    Film Testing

    Peter- it's always been fairly common knowledge that the people who belong to the film of the month club will never make decent prints. Go to some shows and see how some well known photographers worked. Usually they settled on one style and kept with it. The materials today are basically very good. Even improved over 20 years ago. Find the one's that match YOUR style and go for it.
    Albeit there is nothing inherently wrong with testing. It just should become a means to an end.
    Regards, Peter
     
  5. rjr

    rjr Member

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    Peter,

    settle on a limited range of papers and films, of developers and learn to use them, get known to their characteristic. Test them with either a densitometer or -if you don´t want to get into the abyss of sensitometry or have no friend who is into that dark matter ;-)- with the practical approach propagated by Barry Thornton or how Les Mclean describes it in his book.

    You´ll end up with knowledge and a process that is adapted to your personal style, you´ll prevent many errors in the future and hassle in the darkroom.

    Once the process of testing is done, you´ll save time since you can relax and concentrate on the image - which is the aim of all that effort, isn´t it?

    The Thornton page is offline, but there is an archived version at
    http://web.archive.org/web/20031202032607/barry-thornton.co.uk/pfs.htm
    and
    http://web.archive.org/web/20031202025523/barry-thornton.co.uk/devtime.htm
     
  6. tbm

    tbm Member

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    If you are experiencing the emotional concept of guilt, switch to printing some of your negatives. I test films and developers when I have no other negatives to print, and that becomes a learning process. But I am always eager to continue to improve my darkroom printing skills, and with that goal I find balance between testing films and developers and printing.
     
  7. Dean Williams

    Dean Williams Member

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    Pick one of these films you've tested and go out and shoot it. Shoot as much as you are able to, and make some photographs.

    Keep this up and you are on your way to becoming a habitual film tester. The various photo forums on the web are littered with people who feel the need to test everything available, searching for the perfect combination. They have loads of mediocre test shots that are a result of their search.

    Do you want to be a film tester, or a photographer?
     
  8. noseoil

    noseoil Member

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    Pick a film/developer combination and then spend a year with it. Testing is good for figuring out properties and exposures, but we don't do film tests for fun. It is to aid in the making of photographs.

    That having been said, I have some really nice step wedge prints. They show tonality and banality at the same time. tim
     
  9. thefizz

    thefizz Subscriber

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    Thank you all for your advise, much appreciated.

    I think Dean hit the nail on the head: "Do you want to be a film tester, or a photographer?

    Thanks,
    Peter
     
  10. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    One thing that I have found very helpful is having an on line community of people discussing their various successes and failures with different materials processes and results.
    You still have to do your own tests but at least you have some direction to focus on.
     
  11. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    As Noseoil suggested, stick with one film and one developer for a long period with one caveat. I would work with 2 films like a 100 and 400 speed combo. That way you can take advantage of any light available for shooting.

    The more film you shoot of one emulsion and use the same developer, the more of a baseline you establish for trying other film, paper chemistry down the road.

    The same applies to paper. Pick one paper or two (one neutral, one warmtone) and ring out the possibilities before trying new papers.
     
  12. BradS

    BradS Subscriber

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    On the other hand, if you derive pleasure from testing films, do it. Follow your passion. Life is much too short to do otherwise.
     
  13. gbroadbridge

    gbroadbridge Member

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    I buy whatever film developer is cheapest and go with that. For some reason I always use ilford film for B&W even though it is a couple of cents more expensive per shot than Kodak.

    I do keep the zone system in mind when taking photos and never use AUTO exposure except for 35mm photography. For MF I always use a light meter.

    Do I get perfect negs? Maybe 6/10 are good enought to print on grade 2, the rest print from grade 00 to grade grade 5.

    Do I care? No. To me the art is the image not the dev nor print process. Sure I can push/pull a neg to make it easier to print, but that creates a different image.

    Do I think you worry to much? Yes, I think you are wasting time in the dark that is better spent taking photos

    Just IMO:smile:


    Graham
     
  14. thefizz

    thefizz Subscriber

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    More good advise, thanks everyone.

    Peter
     
  15. Tom Kershaw

    Tom Kershaw Subscriber

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    I have recently done some film testing with Delta 100 using Les McLean's method. This was something I had been meaning to do for several months, especially after I started to use a Pentax Digital Spotmeter to achieve more accurate exposures.

    Basic film tests and the spotmeter have definitely improved my photography from a reliability standpoint, and forced me to think more about how the final print is achieved. However, I do not plan to do massive amounts of testing, now having settled on Delta 100, and Ilfotec HC as a film/dev combination that works for me.
     
  16. djklmnop

    djklmnop Member

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    Theres nothing wrong with testing.. As previously stated, it is merely a means to an end. Musicians do it when they're not performing. They're practicing their tempo or tuning their instrument. I don't know what painterrs do, but I'm sure they're perfecting their craft as well. Perfecting their color pallettes and stroke techniques?

    You can't expect a masterpiece unless your image contains all the intricacies of a great image. The subtle difference between a good image and a grand image is all very subtle! Photography consists of mechanical parts working together to create an image. Where you point your camera and compose your image is entirely a different issue. If we dismiss the mechanical aspects of photography, then we might as well be shooting with a point and shoot camera.

    The best quote I've read in a while was through zonesystem.com:

    "Sometimes, photography makes perfect sense. Little-by-little the relationships within the media will assemble themselves into a cohesive whole. This will happen faster if you can figure out when to let go of concepts you think you know in favor of concepts which I think I know . Such an understanding is difficult to come by and all of us love to believe a thing until it is proved wrong beyond a shadow of a doubt."

    But then again, too much testing and no shooting is also damaging. Minor White couldn't have said it better: "A technical photographer is like a butcher who spends most of his time sharpening his knives, but never gets to cut with them."

    I strongly feel that the photographer has to balance both technicality and creativity evenly. But dismissing one for the other is pure stupidity.

    Andy
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 9, 2005
  17. Canuck

    Canuck Member

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    Good thoughts Andy on the balance of technicality and creativity. I'll admit at times I well get too tied up in getting all the technical stuff down perfectly. I do it just to eliminate all the tech variables so that I can just concentrate on taking the picture I want. At times, to eliminate one source of consternation (and wondering whether I my development time is suitable for the film and conditions), I take a deep breath, smile, and shoot anyways :smile:.

    I use the ZS all the time but not necessarily all the time to do the +/- development. I can't got too bent out of shape and chant the ZS montras, but I feel the ZS is a great tool, and not an end to itself.

    I have gotten more into testing recently due to newer equipment and all my usually things being discontinued on me. I think the manufacturers are trying to get back at me for abandoning colour for black and white years ago. Still mad at Kodak for dropping Kodachrome II just when I had FINALLY down all its idiosyncrasies in all kinds of lighting conditions :D Hmm, I maybe in the middlle of an evil conspiracy to prevent me from ever taking pictures again by taking away all my favourite films. Interesting thoughts ... not necessarily stable, but interesting .... :D