Well, for anyone that cares, I'm off the fence for the time being. Money shortages are pushing for RC. I still have some fiber paper laying around, and I'll probably continue to mess with it. In the short term I'm planning on buying a bit of RC paper, hopefully I'll sell something and be able to afford a nice 50 sheet box of Kentmere Fineprint VC. I'm in a bit of a mad dash for cash to keep the film thing rolling and RC looks like it'll get me there the fastest.
Thanks for everyone's feedback! I did a run of 8 FB prints yesterday and they all had the same problem. Paper curl in the development tray made for odd lines at the sides. Turns out you need to start with at least 4L/1gal (maybe more) of developer with 16x20 fiber and I started with 3L. It's discouraging because it took so long to turn out garbage. I'm still on the fence though I don't know how much longer I can be. I'm running low on 16x20 paper.
@TheFlyingCamera I'd love a 4 blade 16x20 easel, but the speed easel was all I could afford at the time. I have decent drying screens like you've described. I've also hung them back to back with ok results. Still, they're not flat when they're done. Might have to try the press. For 11x14 and smaller prints I use what I call a ghetto press. It's a FB print dryer and I sandwich the prints between ferrotyping plates to keep any nasties off them. It works probably about as well as ironing in a T shirt.
There is a good reason to learn on RC, namely that it takes about half as long to churn out a print. This makes it possible to learn more quickly. There's not a whole ton of learning to be done while a print sits in chemicals for 10min so why not duck that down to 5? Also RC doesn't eat chems like fiber. That stuff soaks up developer like a sponge! So if you're making "learning" prints why go through more chems than you have to and spend more time than necessary?
I'm not sure sloppiness is an advantage, at least in some parts of the hobby. I will not pretend I'm a master developer, but at least making sure my baths are at a temperature I know and can repeat has the great advantage that I have a fairly good idea of what will be needed to contact-print them.
Concerning horizon line, may be shots fitting your style are better with some tilt... So this might not be sloppiness ?
I started FB printing two weeks ago, and I agree it's more work. BUT the result is so much better (I compared prints of the same neg, printed the same day, in the same fresh developer) that I might give up on RC in a while...
At the moment I don't think I'll do because I have to be ready for a show in less than two months and have 40+ prints to produce, but as soon as I have a chance to reorganize this darkroom I'll sure do more FB than RC...
I realize that fiber paper is more work than RC, but when I had the chance to switch to fiber, I did and never looked back. The end result was so far superior in my eye that I wondered why I started with RC to begin with. I know why - everyone was telling me "learn to print with RC". There are a couple of things you can do to help deal with the fiber paper issues you've got. First, get rid of the speed easel, and get a proper 4-blade. Second, get good drying screens - you can make them easily enough out of fiberglass window screen material if you are handy. Your fiber paper will still curl, especially if you dry it quickly. Dry the prints face down, so that they will resist the natural urge to curl. To flatten them, just get two pieces of 1/2" plywood cut to the biggest size you print, plus an inch or two in each dimension. Seal the plywood with a good urethane varnish so it's nice and smooth and water resistant. Put the prints you want to flatten between the plywood sheets, then stack some books on top. Let sit overnight, and you're good to go. Failing that, for smaller prints (11x14 and smaller), a clean, lint-free cotton T-shirt and a household iron work wonders. Put the print inside the T-shirt, set the iron on high, and iron away. Just keep the iron moving and don't let it sit in one spot for too long so it doesn't scorch the print (thus the t-shirt).
a lot of galleries and collectors care ... they would rather have something that is known to have archival properties
than a RC print. i say this, knowing even that Digital C Prints ( light jet ) which are one of the few non-ink ways
of getting a color image printed, are on something like RC paper .. maybe not exactly the same but close ...
color papers are said to last about 75 years ....
i think if you like printing on rc you should and maybe make a fiber back up once in a while.
after a while you might like printing fiber as much or better than rc. but do what YOU want ...
some say that RC papers if processed correctly are as archival as fiber prints, who knows if they are or not ..
i know what you mean about ease of use.
i have printed on fiber for 25-30 years. during that time for about a year
i printed pr photos day after day after day for almost a year for a portrait photographer.
fiber prints once in a while for commissioned work .. but for bread/butter it was all rc.
these days have started printing on rc paper and enjoying it ( making prints for family mostly )
and i have been wondering why after all these years i didn't do it more often
Here's a shot from the excursion:
Sounds like you had a great day of photography. Sure, the images may not be breath-taking, or blow even your own socks off, but you got out there, had fun with your camera and will remember the day for a long time coming, I'd bet.
Thanks for posting this, I enjoyed reading it, even as I sit in sunny San Diego after shooting beach/surfing pictures yesterday in shorts and a t-shirt. I grew up in the northern Midwest and sometimes miss the vast changes in climate and scenery that came with the seasons. North Shore of Lake Superior is a sight to behold, and Duluth, MN is beautiful in it's own way in mid-winter.
Your photography has to satisfy you first, IMO, before anyone else. If sloppy brings satisfaction to you, who can argue with that. Myself, I couldn't think of letting myself go that way, it's not for me. Does that mean I'm striving for perfection? No. I strive for the best and most easily printable negative that I can make, as I find no glory in printing difficult negatives, only frustration. But to each his own.
It can be a style.
In art school my profs branded the saying on my crania - we've all heard it a gazillion times.
"A great idea executed poorly is better than a poor idea executed well."
But again, it's no excuse either for shoddy work. Obviously, there is a fine line....... Cheers.