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  1. #1
    gma
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    In the previous millenium photographic films exhibited a quality known as "grain". That was before the T crystal low silver technology became the standard. When press photographers used 35mm cameras for newsworthy and sporting events we became accustomed to the grainy b&w images in every publication. Photo hobbyists and artistic types accepted the grain effect as an inherent property of the few high speed 35mm emulsions that were available. If you can find a 1960's Popular Photography annual you will notice that half of the b&w images are really grainy. You might say that the artists embraced the technology and used it to enhance the gritty subject matter of the times and the 60's had plenty of gritty themes, including civil rights struggles, all sorts of political unrest, SE Asian war, etc.,etc. Does anyone remember the book, The Medium Is The Message? It should be required reading before the purchase of a camera.

    I hope there are still some photographers who like to use film with visible grain structure when it benefits the subject. So far I have not seen any examples in the galleries. Maybe it is just that the scanners are depriving us of the real qualities of the actual prints. I believe that most people are trying to avoid the presence of grain in their work. Does anyone have an opinion?

    gma

  2. #2

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    I agree that grain does enhance certain subject matter. My thoughts are that this fits very well, for the most part, in the field of photojournalism. I shoot big cameras with big film to eliminate grain and also to obtain smoother tonal gradations.

  3. #3
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    I wonder how different in composition Tri-X really is from the 60's version. Many of the prints I've seen from folks using Tri-x today (Including my own) seem to have no, or hardly any grain. Or what grain there is seems to be different in appearance (structure- wise) from the 1960's journalists' stuff you mention. Developing in Dektol or whatever can accentuate grain, but can it change it's "structure"?
    This interests me because I like grain too, sometimes...but the 3200 ASA stuff is not availible in my format (I think)...

    Matt

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    Sean's Avatar
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    One of our members Bjorke has some great grain in his rodinal pics..

  5. #5

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    Grain is something that should be left at the beach. It's a shortcut to the photo as object goal similiar to other photography affectations such as blurry, out of focus, tilted images. Why emphasize a shortcoming of film size you happen to be using when an increase in format enables usage of faster film? Guess I'm in clarity of image camp.
    van Huyck Photo
    "Progress is only a direction, and it's often the wrong direction"

  6. #6

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    Doughowk, is grain a shortcoming of the film? or is it just a characteristic of each film like tonality or sharpness for example. Surely all monochrome film by it's definition has one major shortcoming? After all we have had colour film freely available for a good 50 years now!

  7. #7
    gma
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    Wow! I must have struck a nerve here. Let me make a few clarifications. Tri-X of today is different than back then, but it has always been sharp. Sharpness and visible grain co-exist in Tri-X. I never said I like out of focus or motion blurs. I do not consider grain to be an inherent defect in silver emulsions any more than I consider Impressionist paintings to be defective because I can see the brush strokes.

    I have always appreciated the quality of LF images and I use 4x5 for architectural color transparencies for publication and for enlargements for display. In monochrome work LF can produce a range of tones impossible to obtain in 35mm. Whatever film/format is used to produce the image, it still results in a representation of reality - not reality itself. I favor using appropriate film for the subject and incorporating the qualities of the emulsion into the final result. Don't get me wrong. I really like the 8x10 view camera photos on this site. I would also like to see more 35mm "old school" work.


    gma

    Where has all the film grain gone?
    Long time passing
    Where has all the film grain gone?
    Long long time ago
    Where has all.... (you know the song)

  8. #8
    Leon's Avatar
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    Sharpness and visible grain co-exist in Tri-X
    I think that sharply defined grain enhances overall perceived sharpness (and I dont mean resolution here) in the smaller formats. If i compare my MF delta 100 and MF FP4 prints, the FP4s always "look" sharper.

    So, IMHO, grain improves my work. It has to be tight and crisp though, mushy grain adds nothing to anything.

  9. #9
    127
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    Quote Originally Posted by jdef
    What were the '60s press photographers using that led to such grainy images?... our materials haven't changed all that much.
    Maybe it was the lenses. By the 60's they'd be using 35mm (small neg), with prime lenses. Without a zoom, in unpredicatble (ie newsworthy) circumstances they'd be forced to crop far more than nowdays.Given the choice between getting a grainy shot and spending 30 seconds changing the lens I guess they'd grab the shot, and crop it.

    Ian

  10. #10
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    I met a young fashion photographer not long ago who always shoots 400-speed color print film in 35mm to emphasize grain. It gives his work a pointillistic texture that sets him apart from the crowd that's gone digital.
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
    Photography (not as up to date as the flickr site)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com/photo
    Academic (Slavic and Comparative Literature)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com

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