How do you make good prints when looking at maps?
OP might like the App related to the brand new Ansel Adams book. It has printing detail for several examples. Not sure if they are in the book, but I'll know soon as my copy just arrived.
Bob, I'm assuming it's just curiosity on OP's part. It's not like you can apply someone else's print maps to your own prints, but it's both fun to see how a print you like was made, and it can also help a less experienced printer to see what is possible when it comes to manipulating a negative into a print. In my opinion that can only benefit people, as it highlights the importance of printing skill - which to me is not focused on anywhere near enough. Everyone's obsessed with trying create perfect negatives that print themselves. Great prints are not made that way, and Ansel is actually a good example because as much as he is seen as someone who made technically great negatives, many of his most popular prints were made from negatives that were substantially less than perfect. The prints succeed despite an imperfect negative. I think it this is important. Printing skill is where it's at when it comes to making great prints. You want a negative that contains the information you need (rather than just targetting a negatives that "fits" the paper scale), and then you go to work under the enlarger.
Last edited by Michael R 1974; 09-27-2012 at 09:53 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Ok I should have been more clear.
I doubt any top end printer, at the moment of printing, with chemicals and paper out is looking at a print map.
I think this is a myth about printmaking.
The only thing that I ever concern myself about when making prints is the easel and the progression of moves.
I have even gone so far as to not ever change the apeture or timer during a complicated printing session.
I understand that seeing how others have done images can be benificial, I happen to have both Eddie Ephrams books which have a lot of
print maps , but never would I consider walking in a darkroom and look at notes. I would lose my timing and ability to concentrate on the image.
Usually we're in agreement on printing/enlarging matters, but I'm not sure I'm entirely with you on this. Suppose you pull out an old negative to print again, a complicated bitch of a negative/print with lots of burning/dodging, perhaps flashing etc. You would really rather start from scratch than have a set of reference "instructions" to follow that would at least get you to reasonably good work print relatively quickly? Of course I'm not saying you necessarily want to prefectly duplicate the way you had printed the negative before. You might tweak things, make improvements etc. But unless you are truly going to start from scratch with a completely new interpretation of the negative, why would you not want to make some use of the print plan you had originally come up with?
I know what I am going to say will sound arrogant or flippant.
But in the years I have been printing I have never made a print map.. I don't need one, it was not the way I was taught to print.
I use a dodging tool as the weapon of mass destruction/creative manipulation, with minimal burn. What needs to be done is obvious the moment the first test print comes out.. I cannot think of one thing I would need to be reminded about.
I have worked with hundreds of different printers in my career who were taught the same way, no print maps.
Print maps are in books, that I know, but to think HCB , Towell, Sander, Brassai, Kertez printers followed a map to me does not ring true.
I do not think Helmut Newtons printer would put up with that. Either the printer knew how to make an individual photographers work sing or he/she did not. There are many photographers who are good printmakers, but there are many more who are not. Bill Jay and a Magnum photographer wrote a nice little book about this very topic.
Actually when I see reference to photographers talking this nonsense I just shrug my shoulders and smile, as the amount of photographers who get fired by printers far outweigh the amount of printers who get fired by photographers.. Just the nature of the industry.
I have pointedly not printed for any photographers work that has been done by other printmakers, it just is not what I want to ever do.
I prefer to walk into a darkroom with a clean slate and do the best I can and hope the photographer likes my work. I started Silver Shack in 1991 and I am still walking into a darkroom making prints so I must be doing something right.
The idea I am trying to get across is simple, and I hope not overbearing, but I believe is very important for young printers or young to printing , understand including the OP that use your eyes and make the time at the enlarger as easy as you can, without complicating things.
for example :lets talk about your own work the *Hallway Series* I have seen posted online ( the prints on screen look very good, but I imagine tough to accomplish), from neg's you have processed, contacted and work printed and I assume you have done quite a few, over time it becomes obvious to you what to do in the printmaking stage. I cannot imagine that the moment you see your first test print you need to look at a map to know where to go next. true/untrue?
So I am talking about the physical moments of printmaking, sure you may have mapped out in your mind where you want your highlights and shadows density's to be, but to think you need to look off to a set of notes to tell you what to do next just does not sound logical to me.
I have worked with so many various negatives, that just looking at the negative, gives me the starting points, after my first test print, full sheet, and looking at the easel while I print I know where I am going. If an area needs dodging or burning, I do not need a map to tell me where to go, I use my eyes, and I believe you work the same way. true/untrue? sounds like a good poll question.
To answer your question, I do not need a print plan as there never was one in the first place.
Yes there are many good books that go into that aspect of learning and probably valuable to some, but I think pretty dam obvious to anyone spending enough time in front of an enlarger.
As I write this I am chuckling to myself thinking of Fred Picker and the famous 5x7 master print series that if you were lucky enough to get one and put it up in your darkroom you would see the light and become the next great printer.
Well I fell for this one, and when I got the print, which was by far the worst rendition of snow and water and ice, this Canadian has ever seen I concluded that the only way to make good prints was to look, see what needs to be darker, what needs to be lighter, is the overall density/contrast ok, and make the print.
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Forget whether you want to be looking at notes when re-printing, I'm looking for educational material. I'd be interested in hearing any disagreements over whether they are a useful teaching tool.
Bob, thanks for sharing. I will remember your post for quite awhile.
Last edited by arpinum; 09-27-2012 at 12:08 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Reason: new post above
I'm going to disagree slightly with you.
One huge advantage you have is that you know what a good print looks like, and you know what effects you can obtain using the techniques available to you.
If the OP is trying to improve his/her printing, it is a really useful educational tool to be able to see examples of before and after results, and a print map showing how another printer travelled that road. By mimicking the approach of others (using a similar negative) one can learn what effects can be obtained using the techniques available.
The only real danger of learning by mimicking what other printers do, in order to learn how to do it oneself, is that one may end up trying to "see" a print in a way that is not intuitive to one's own vision.
“Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”
Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2
I think a point's being missed here.
While I agree with Bob in always approaching a negative fresh these prints maps are important as teaching/learning aids purely as they are the only way to show how a photographer/printer has reached the final print.
I've seen John Blakemore printing some of his better known images and he goes in fresh so over time the interpretations change, but a sketch mapping how a print is dodged and burned is the only way to put things across in publications.
I was not trying to hijack your thread, as I too have the books with maps, but I am really talking to the physicality of printing.
Originally Posted by arpinum
Well, yes and no. Except for the absurd notion that I would qualify (haven't taken the exams yet) as a "top end printer", I make printing records only for my own use, mainly for the purpose of repeatability and scaling up of enlargements. But, true enough, they are not gospel, but mere guides to ease the printing of a previously printed negative. Every day is a new "performance" – the charm of hand made analog printing.
Originally Posted by Bob Carnie