I think b&w photography have characteristics VERY different from colour photography. In colour, you work basically within narrow limits... you have to do standard processes in order to achieve natural colours and normal contrast, and the creative process is basically the moment you work with the camera. In b&w, you don't work with colours; you work with shadows, and a the creative process involves the whole process from taking the photo with the camera through printing it with the enlarger or by contact. Having said this, I think that if you bring a photo to a lab in order to print it, if it's in colour, you can be considered the author of the photo but, if the photo is in b&w, there are two authors: the person who taked it with the camera and the person who processed it at the lab.
Start making it yourself. Prices of equipment for that are presently cheaper than never.
Yes, the trick is to convince my accountant of that.
Originally Posted by sergio caetano
With a bit more than 2 years in B&W experience total (just starting out at 53), I can't imagine using a lab for learning about B&W anything at this point. There are so many differing materials, techniques and methods which can go into a good print that a lab really isn't the best way to go for personal understanding.
While costs do seem prohibitive at first, Sergio's comment about the used market is true. People are dumping labs full of equipment to go digital and are giving away excellent high end systems for absurdly cheap prices. Can you afford and justify the cost in time, both in learning and production? To me that is the single most important issue about B&W. The money involved isn't that great, but the commitment in terms of time and quality of output can't be paid for with plastic, it must be earned in terms of discipline, work and evaluation. If you're working against a deadline, it imposes a variable which can work against a fine print.
My input is to get some used equipment, set up a darkroom, take the time required to learn and don't try to make a living at it until either you retire or can afford to make the mistakes. B&W has been one of the most rewarding learning experience of my life, but I'm glad I have a regular job to pay for it. tim
I have to disagree with the idea that, "With color you just do it - and that is it."
Color is in some ways, less flexible .. there is no variable contrast color paper, for example, but there are other techniques. You can control excessive contrast with "pre-flashing", for example. Burning, dodging, of course, cropping, and a host of other manipulations are equally as viable.
I process most - 99.999% - of my own work. The biggest problem with an off-shore facility would be communication ... I work, more or less, "stream-of-consciousness" - one print just completed will suggest another approach, and that one, still another. If I had a real, concrete, fixed idea of what each and every final print should look like, I'd probably choose a Commercial lab. As it is, to give them a negative (and LOTS can be done with film processing), go home, and return the next day to find another idea, ... and repeat, would be totally impractical.
Ed Sukach, FFP.
Sponsored Ad. (Subscribers to APUG have the option to remove this ad.)
Well, I've resolved to at least start making my own contact prints from my 4x5 negs. Also have preliminary approval from the accounting department to use the "throne room" in our master bedroom for a darkroom. This will be a challenge...the room has a small window above the throne, no electrical outlets and is only 7 feet long and 32 inches wide (!). I will take inspiration from David Goldfarb's darkroom.
Now to begin the hunt for a Omega D2...will it fit in my designated space?
"Accounting departments" can be such sticklers.
Originally Posted by GaussianNoise
All it takes is creative engineering, Brad. You might, for example, use a two-legged table for the enlarger, where the back of the table top rests on the top of the "throne back". Aluminum foil and black tape will handle the window. Similarly, there are various ways to light-seal the door. Here's what I did for that:
[COLOR=SlateGray]"You can't depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus." -Mark Twain[/COLOR]
Rio Rancho, NM
My first comment is this: I believe B&W landscapes are inherently abstract art. These images immediately depart from reality by removing color. The photographer uses his or her ability to modify light and shadow during the taking, development and printing process to convey the composition as originally visualized. I believe there is no such thing as a "normal" B&W landscape, other than in photojournalism perhaps. Producing a fine B&W landscape requires each stage of the process to be coupled to the original visualization. The result is a substantial abstraction, but if well done, has the appearance of reality to the viewer.
I also believe that exceptional black and white landscape are will cause the viewer to see the actual landscape, permanently, in a new way. I suspect that no one who has seen Adam's Half Dome images sees the real Half Dome in the same way ever again. I know it is the case for me. (OK, so maybe this paragraph is a little over the top, but I do think well executed visions in B&W can really be this impactful.)
OK, I may be about to embark in heresy here, so you are warned. I'd appreciate discussion of the viability of this approach though, since I have not tried it.
If you happened to read my comments in the critique gallery around my Redwood Grove image, you will note that I experimented on how to print this by analyzing the image in Photoshop and exploring various contrast, leveling, dodging and burning approaches on the computer. In this way, I was able to get a better understanding of a very difficult negative before using any chemistry or paper. (As I noted, the negative was so bad that I had not even considered proofing it for 10 years - a decision I regret, after discovering that it was, after all, a very rich image, packaged in a challenging negative).
I think this is a reasonable precursor to entering the darkroom. It allows an efficient method for negative analysis, offering rapid iteration of ideas, the best of which can then be explored traditionally in the darkroom.
Taking this a large step further, one might consider this a solution for working with a commercial printer. Again, I haven't tried this, but what about doing the following, if you don't have your own darkroom (remember that the heresy alert is active):
1. Scan the negative.
2. Do a straight, unaltered print. (Well, only alter sufficiently to account for any scanner-introduced issues that you know would not exist with a printer's proof. This would require some experience with such proofs - perhaps you could calibrate your judgement by getting a printer to do a contact sheet for some of your negatives, then scan them, print them unaltered, and compare.)
3. Edit your image in Photoshop to produce the result you seek. Only use tools that have analog equivalents. Make detailed records of the changes to the image.
4. Mark up versions of the proof and your photoshopped image (either by hand or inside photoshop) with useful data, like original zone info (perhaps show on the proof what you metered and what your intended zone was, and the other expected zones on the proof. Then show on the edited image areas that you lifted, dropped or otherwise altered. Perhaps use lines to indicate the shapes of the areas.
5. Bring this information to the printer and ask for a print along the lines of your edited postscript inkjet print. Specify paper, toning, size, etc. information separately.
Wouldn't this be a more objective way to communicate your original vision to the printer, who otherwise is somewhat of a mind reader?
Heresey! but, a very practical means for communicating with the lab.
Now, I have a confession. My wife has one of those other cameras and, while she was away this weekend, I did some experimenting with it (disguised as her so that my kids wouldn't think I'd lost it). I discovered that one can make pretty decent proofs of 4x5 negs & chromes by simply taping them to a brightly lit window, masking off the rest of the window with cardboard and using the hand-held scanner thingy (if you know what I mean) on a tripod. The three photos I have posted in the gallery were made in this manner. I used some photo editing software that came bundled with the camera but was very careful to do only the absolute minimum necessary to produce a proof....the details would, I suppose, properly belong in the gray area forum...but to proof a B&W negative, all that I did was, crop, invert, convert to grayscale (becasue although the neg is B&W the output of the camera is color), adjust levels, save, resize and save as. Hopefully, that is not crossing the boundaries.