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  1. #1
    B-3
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    converting color to B&W: all analog?

    I recently spoke with a film photographer who told me that he shoots all in color, but converts many of his images to B&W in order to make prints for sale. Is it possible to do this as an entirely analog process, without resorting to a digital stage? I ask because he didn't refer to any digital steps, and he is vehemently anti-digital, so I'm assuming he must be doing this "all analog". My personal preference has been to work with b&w film, but I'm curious to know if there might be other options to experiment with. Could I possibly do this too?

    (forgive me if this is a dumb question)
    Last edited by Bruce; 04-20-2005 at 02:50 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  2. #2

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    Good Afternoon, Bruce,

    Assuming the photographer is using color negative film, it's simple to get B & W prints on Kodak Panalure. I've done this at various times, but I'm not sure if Panalure is still being made. Even if it is, the contrast range is limited; I think that only two different grades were ever produced.

    If the originals are color transparencies, it will be necessary to make a copy negative. That's not too hard, but the resulting prints will probably lack the crispness of prints made from normal B & W negatives, especially if the transparencies are 35mm or on faster film--or both.

    Konical

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    It's entirely possible he is merely sending his color negs to a lab and requesting a b&w neg in return. If so, they are probably doing it digitally -- a very easy process. As you may know, many, many alternative process print makers use digital negatives. But like Konical said, they way it was done in the past was with Kodak's Panalure. It is possible to print a color neg with a VC paper, but I've never seen a satisfactory print doing it this way.

    pitchertaker

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    B-3
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    Thank you, Konical.

    It's been a very long time since I've used transparency film - how does one make a copy negative? Would the results be sharp enough to make small prints - say up to 8x10 or so? Or does it make a potentially pleasing diffusion effect?

    If one wanted to find a current equivalent of Panalure, what would I look for? Is convertability to b&w an "advertised feature" of the film, or any film?

    Thanks for your help.

    Bruce

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    B-3
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    Pitchertaker:

    You might be right. I thought about a digital step - personally I'm not opposed to this sort of thing (just another tool in the toolbox), but this fellow foams at the mouth when it comes to anything digital so I wondered if I was missing something. I should have asked him when I had the chance, but didn't think of it at the time. He didn't have any examples of his work with him, so I can't say how well they turned out.

    Bruce

  6. #6
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    Panalure is not a film, it's a panchromatic B&W photographic paper with a gelatin silver emulsion, and it can be processed and toned in ordinary B&W chemicals. Because it is panchromatic, of course, it needs to be handled in total darkness. I believe it is still being manufactured, but only in RC. I don't think there are any other panchromatic B&W papers around.

    A B&W dupe from a color transparency can be as good as your technique and equipment. It's best to dupe to a larger format than the original if possible. It can be done with an enlarger or a camera on a copy stand with a light box.
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
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  7. #7
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    The simplest analog method of converting a color negative to a B&W print, as suggested above, is a panchro paper. Panalure has been out of production for some time, but I recently saw some at a local photo store (which is now out of business, and the Panalure long gone); Seagull used to sell a panchro paper as well, and it also is out of production; I don't know that there is such an animal still available.

    The second simplest is to contact print the color negative to panchromatic film and develop a reversal positive (which becomes a grayscale copy of the color negative, of course), or use a slide/film duplicator to do the same job (you could also make an enlarged copy negative for contact printing the same way, but this, IMO, more complicated than duplicating the negative at original film size). This avoids the contrast gain of a two-step copy by eliminating the interpositive, though it is dependent on a reliable B&W reversal process -- commercial processing at .dr5 is one possibility, but Kodak and Foma sell reversal kits that work well with any film (a couple test rolls or sheets are surely in order); cross-processing XP2+ in E-6 might work, also. With a bit of experimentation, it's even possible to do reversal with the addition of only a single chemical to those normally used for B&W: you need a bleach that won't rehalogenate the image silver (plus a clearing bath, usually sodium sulphite, needed to remove the bleach, so really two chemicals).
    Photography has always fascinated me -- as a child, simply for the magic of capturing an image onto glossy paper with a little box, but as an adult because of the unique juxtaposition of science and art -- the physics of optics, the mechanics of the camera, the chemistry of film and developer, alongside the art in seeing, composing, exposing, processing and printing.

  8. #8
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    Panalure is still listed as in stock in common sheet sizes and available by special order in long rolls at B&H, and it is not listed as discontinued at www.kodak.com.

    There is also a panchromatic Portra B&W paper that can be processed in RA-4 color chemistry.
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
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    B-3
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    Excellent information!

    Donald and David,

    Thank you both for all of the great information. There is more for me to learn and try (= fun!).

    Bruce

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    Donald:

    It is beyond me why anyone would want to shoot color neg with the intent of printing to B&W....ON PURPOSE. I don't see the reasoning or benefits. We still have good B&W films. I admit to scanning color negs (shot some years ago) and printing them monochromatically via digital means. But I also maintain and use my wet darkroom -- even teach it a a university. And I have a lot of experience teach Zone Workshop (with Oliver Gagliani) in the 80's. So, someone please explain to me why you'd shoot color neg for B&W printing.

    Pitchertaker

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