Having switched from Xtol to PMK and in the last 3 years, Pyrocat-HD, I find this one of the most fascinating threads in a long time. Both of you have very good insight...I just know for me that the pyro negs are easier to print. Period. Love the look.
Truly interesting thread, may have to try Pyro more in the future. Not rushing to buy though, still enjoying DD-X.
I actually "got" the zone system concepts real quick. What I was at odds with though for a long time was the application.
Originally Posted by Gerald C Koch
The bulk of the zone system examples and discussions and even most exposure discussions I've seen center on landscape and still-life's where shadow & highlight detail actually matter. That isn't always the case, the subject matters.
Applying the zone system in portraiture for example, where the placement of the face exposure trumps the rest of the frame, is possible but not near as straight forward as shooting to the shadows and measuring contrast range for landscape work.
Roll film complicates zone system application and understanding too. Practicalities with rolls pushes us away from changes in development.
Modern metering systems also throw kinks in the understanding, the zone system doesn't live in a vacuum.
When I came back to photography 6 or 8 years ago I got an L-358 incident meter right off. Since then I've tried every type of metering available and I am capable of applying them all, but when it comes to printing the negs, and once I got a handle on printing and VC paper, I found the ones where I used the incident meter's suggestions at box speed and my normal development regimes for a particular film, almost always print easiest and most pleasing and lack little if any needed detail.
In that context applying the whole zone system is confusing, there's always the nagging "why bother?" hanging in the air.
Reading Dunn & Wakefield's exposure manual was a zone system epiphany for me, it taught me where it was appropriate and where other methods could be applied for better result in my work.
My style in life is more like Weston's as described here.
Originally Posted by michaelbsc
When I was learning to fly small planes I used to drive my Dad who was already a pilot crazy because I flew more intuitively than procedurally. He expected certain things at certain times, but I'd apply different controls/strategies. The end results were very comparable, nice smooth landings. My Dad's approaches were linear, mine were more, well, artistic. (Just in case you are wondering, my instructor was quite happy with my "style". Always well within the capabilities of the plane and the safety of all concerned.)
Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR
"We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Ana´s Nin
I don't wish to take this thread off topic so this is only an aside. If you have seen Weston's darkroom you would be amazed as to how spartan it really is. No fancy gadgets only what has a real use.
A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.
~Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Thats pretty good description , way beyond what I could say.
When I first started with Pyro , 1992 -3 period, my conclusions were pretty much that the developing silver was not migrating/blooming and I did the naked bulb test and confirmed that one developer **Hutchings PMK** certainly worked better. this was a huge benifit to me as a printer as I was still using a lot of graded paper at that time and I hated burning in soft muddy highlights to get detail.
Modern VC paper and split printing were a godsend to me , on top I had the weapon of mass destruction, pyro developer.. remember I was and still doing this as a commercial process and my competitors were not in the ball park with their quick and dirty process techniques that made them fast money but their film was crap... To this day I still charge more for film not processed by my lab as I do not want to fix lazy workers film.
The rings of relief you talk about were very obvious to me , much like what you see around Transparancies.
I am not sure if the emulsions of today have changed that much since 92 , maybe they have and the effect is not as much.
Magic Bullets: I have stated in the past here on APUG about there being none.
Here are a few gems: fresh film: Pyro: Split Printing: distilled water for the dev:Rotary process with and initial hand agitation to prevent mottling: Stand Development: glass carriers: Apo enlarging lenses: laser aligned enlager:Ilford Warmtone: Dektol 1 1:5 : bleach sepia and selinium afterbath.
the list goes on and on , each worker can add their own secrets that make their work great.
I have said this before, there is no such thing as the perfect print> A lot of the workers on this site who take printing seriously are at a world class level> historically speaking there are very few printers that are making better prints before us that are coming out of the darkrooms today. What is different is the quality of the image, that is the hard part.
If you don't believe me go to as many shows , photo collectors collections and look for yourself, the prints are all within reach to all, its the imagery that is king.
The very best print I have seen in the last couple of years is one owned by Paul Paletti , it is an 11x14 print of a wave coming in to shore, the tonal range, and crispness jumps off the wall.
So if you accumulate enough good habits, work hard each year on your projects, and have some talent your work will stand out.
Originally Posted by Gerald C Koch
Just to name a few really , really good workers
Bill Schwab, Ike Eisenlord, Kerik, Thomas Bertlison, Andrew Moxam, Dan Lin, Steve Sherman, Papagene Guillume Zuilli, and I hope not to miss a few people here
I have seen all of their prints in person and IMO their skills are there. They have reached a stage where their printmaking is worldclass and no need to
improve . Their concentration should and is on image making as it should be.
The perfect print is in their past.
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The print I was talking about owned by Paul Paletti is a Brett Weston.
Ah, and there it is! Well put.
Originally Posted by Bob Carnie
Getting out and seeing as much work as possible in person. Get out and balance seeing Weston w/ maybe some Sander, or Penn, then find some Winogrands, then some Koudelka, then some Arbus or etc...they all did something tremendous, some w/ technique that can seem studied perfection, others w/ a seeming recklessness, but all w/ a method that can be revered. It's like reading Greenes' "The Power and the Glory" and then Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury, " completely different writing but such similar concerns...and both enough to change any readers life forever.
Oh, and on this airy sidetrack, I happened upon a docu the other night called "The Radiant Child." It's on Basquiat, and whether you're a fan of his work or not it's an excellent film to watch both for it's footage+comments on the art world, but moreover on a insightful (and understandably sentimental) look at a mind that created work in his early 20s of such immediacy and complexity that it'll put into perspective topics like developer discussions - not rule them out, just put them into perspective.
Aren't all artist's work a work in progress? I've heard Ansel Adams have reprinted negs later in his life with a different interpretation? Playing his score differently. The painter Wayne Thiebaud have bought back paintings to paint in them again? Striving for "Perfection" is at times dangerous. You'll never reach perfection and also the fear of not achieving perfection can be paralyzing. The worst danger is trying to be the perfect derivative of another artist. But this does not mean don't work hard at your art and at your craft.
Pick a developer and a film. Use it 'til you know this combo inside and out.
I think, at the end of the day, that it's all about knowing our materials.
Mistakenly, early in my photographer days, I was very keen on trying to improve by switching films, developers, and so on, but in the long run, it's technique that matters. It only took me five years to realize this.
Today I have established what materials I like to use, and it's mostly stay with one film/developer, and one paper/developer. I don't think I'm even close to reach their full potential, and wonder if I ever will. But I think to try to fully explore our materials is the type of progress we should explore, because that approach makes us think about the pictures rather than thinking about the materials, and a print can be absolutely glorious in print quality, but without a good picture underneath, it's still not interesting. The whole process easily becomes too much about the wrong stuff.
To find that balance between technique and subject matter is what I find to be the most challenging aspect of photography. I hope to continue learning about the materials I use, about lighting, about color (even in black and white), about framing, and about printing technique. I feel like a perpetual student. Someone else always knows something I don't. That's why the advice of someone like Bob Carnie is of invaluable help to me. The advice he gives me will be time proven in practical use.
So, to summarize, I think that all magic bullets are technique related, and none of them related to particular materials. This is my approach, and I admire others that can make beautiful or important prints using other approaches. There are many ways to get to the end result, for sure, so in my mind it becomes impossible to answer whether one developer is better than another. Just pick one and run with it and make the most of it. It isn't until you fully understand one developer that you can fully exploit and appreciate the qualities of another developer anyway, so either way you win by learning one developer first.
"Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank
"Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman
"...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh