Intuitive or scientific grasp of a photographic alternative process?
I sometimes see on APUG descriptions of chemical processes in terms of characteristic curves and time/temperature variations/formulations for a variety of alternative processes (as one reads in books on this subject). I am only familiar with a few types of alternative photographic process, due to the time I can spend on them. However, with these processes my approach is to experiment again and again with alterations of variables to try and gain an intuitive feeling for the process rather than one that is scientific. That is not to say that I ignore basic chemistry, but any formulations I read about, I take as a guide rather than gospel. I find this works for me, but what approach do others take?
“The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”
Some people approach photography like a science and some like an art. I suspect most consider both paths but naturally lean more to one side than the other. I don't think it is necessarily a choice between technically perfect but boring or sloppy but creative.If you add a little nudge to the formula you might come up with something even more wonerful or a big mess.
I tend to be improvisational by nature, but when working with alt printing processes, I do find a bit standardization goes a long way. I learned to keep copious notes, change one thing at a time, and make A/B comparisons, lest frustration sap the pleasure from these pleasurable activities.
I am of the type that makes prints, experiment a little and keep notes so I can repeat the successes.
At least with LF landscape, a bad day of photography can be a good day of exercise.
I would do a Stouffer 21 step grayscale on every experiment. That way when results come out weird I know where I am. Others may enjoy doing it by feel. But I like looking at a strip that shows "where I am" and "where I want to be", and I can count the f/stops it takes to get there.
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Photography is both a science and an art at the same time which allows people to approach the subject in many ways that fits how they think. None are wrong, most folks are somewhere in between which makes photography so interesting.
Sounds like you are doing a scientific approach and may not realize it. From what you describe you try something, then alter the process and see what effect it has. If you are doing this in some controlled sort of way, like change one variable at a time and see what happens then you are following a basic scientific approach.
Personally, I use step wedges and I even have a densitometer and make graphs... It helps me visualize the process better and understand what is changing. What defines a "keeper" from a "reject" is how I feel about the result independent of what the graph says. Many on this forum can get to the same result without step wedge or measurement device.
Last edited by jlpape; 03-09-2013 at 06:17 AM. Click to view previous post history.
First thing I do is contact print a step wedge to find out as Bill states. Where I am and Where I am going.
Then I make a lot of film , make a lot of prints and see with my eyes where my failings are and where the processes are difficult or need modification.
I then go back to the drawing board so to speak, and show my results to mentors and get advice and advanced training.
Then I go back to the darkroom and try to improve on what I have done.
This is something I am going through right now and its been a 3 year journey so far with no excellent prints to show for it, but I am close and I feel within another two years of making prints, I will
feel as comfortable with three new processes as I do with silver or RA4 or inkjet printing.
Originally Posted by Bill Burk
i used to take notes,
but i am the kind of person who
takes notes not in a binder or notebook
but on scraps of paper, cardstock that is included
with sheet film, 8.5x11 paper folded in half
and then the notes are misplaced or thrown out or ???
so i end up playing and paying attention rather than
playing, taking notes and paying attention.
You can learn a lot from the science, and in fact you should, but most of the time I have found that in actual practice there are factors (humidity, personal agitation habits, etc) that require adjustments. Like most things in photography, alt process is best approached with a good foundation of knowledge in tandem with an open mind. That doesn't mean you can be inconsistent.
To me it sounds like you are collecting empirical evidence testing different variables, you learn how the process work. Then you hypothesize what will happen if you alter any of the variables, because you collected evidence by experimenting. Well it might not be an exact science, but your method is almost scientific. Probably you don't want to deal with measuring or calculating all molar calculations, dmax measurement, humidity amount and stuff like that but your approach is very close being scientific, IMO of course.
Originally Posted by cliveh
I do use a similar approach like yours, but I feel there are times that require calculations for solving certain problems with a specific process.