Having a wee bit of a crisis of faith . . .
OK, I've been messing around with LF and alt processes for a couple of years now, but am really still a LF newbie. I have an old Ansco 8x10, a couple of lenses in barrels, and shoot mostly on Efke 25, tray-processed.
I have a lot of darkroom experience from past years shooting 35 mm for a newspaper, so for the most part I get good negs. Last year I played with pt/pd, but found the process difficult to get consistent results in my little darkroom/lab.
This year I tried Van Dykes, and have had much more success making contact prints that look good. Good shadows and highlights, etc. They are decent prints, I think.
Here's my crisis.
I VDB printed a photo, then just for fun, I printed the same scene from a digital file on my Epson 3800 with glossy paper. I took the digital pic same day and time with my Canon G9. I use my G9 as my light meter, so I always have duplicate files.
Printed at 8x10, the G9 is virtually indistinguishable from the VDB contact print. With a loupe, you can see the contact print has more detail but not without it. I can tone/colour the digital file so it matches the look of the VDB.
So the question is -- why am I playing with alt processes? It's discouraging, because for 1/100 the effort and time, I can pop out a digital print that equals in appearance the effort of the contact printed LF/VDB print.
I've read a bunch of times how contact prints are supposed to outshine everything else. I'm not seeing it. I don't see how I can make the neg any sharper, it's damn sharp and has good tonality, but the digital camera does a darned good job at 8x10 prints sizes. And this was my G9! If I took out my Pentax K7, it would do even better, as it noticeably outresolves my G9. A Canon 5D or other full frame sensor machine would be that much better again!
Obviously, at big print sizes the LF neg starts to win. I've scanned the negs and printed 16x20s from my Epson 3800; they look awesome compared to digital. I can't alt process big prints like that, however. It's a contact printing game.
Please help me understand why I am messing with 100-year-old technology when 2009 tools do so capable a job. I love the idea of playing with LF and the alt processes, but it seems hard to justify when the output is so easily matched by digital. Thank you.
Originally Posted by Kami-the-Trout
And that is either irrelevant or not depending on your reasons for doing it.
Originally Posted by Kami-the-Trout
You don't have to do everything by the most convenient method just because you can.
"People who say things won't work are a dime a dozen. People who figure out how to make things work are worth a fortune" - Dave Rat.
Detail is only one advantage of a LF negative. Here in Florida I'm frequently shooting into high contrast situations. I've been at group photo outings where others using digital will walk away from a scene that I'm capturing on film. They can of course do multiple exposures for the HDR scenes, but multiple exposures adds constraints.
I haven't done VDB, but Kallitypes are similar. I've now switched to pt/pd, and am really enjoying the greater control and better end results as compared to Kallitypes and other alt processes. The NA2 version makes printing high contrast negs a snap. For truly detailed images I do Lodima; but the pt/pd also yields surprisingly good detail.
But, in the end, if you don't enjoy the process, then switch
van Huyck Photo
"Progress is only a direction, and it's often the wrong direction"
As Doug says, where we live, film handles the great contrast much more easily than digital. And I also shoot digital. But I enjoy the process of getting out from in front of a computer and dealing with real images, not 1s and 0s. It's what you like to do.
This may not help you too much as this is a bit of a nebulous reply but....
I think it is fair to say that most processes can be replicated by digital/photoshop. Most of the stuff that I shoot for myself could be done faster, quicker etc using digital but I choose a different route, not because I am looking for the difficult route but because I enjoy the process. I like using film, I like using (and trying to understand) the chemicals, I like the finished print. Personally, I gain satisfaction from applying the processes to reach the final print. I do not get the same satisfaction when producing digital based work despite having a faster turnaround.
If all that interests you is the final photo - does it matter how you got there? Go digital and you will get there faster, but if the actual process (and understanding/conquering) the process is of interest then digital will only replicate the process. It is a fine distinction I admit!
Another point is that L/F can do things that the digi G9 or Mk11 cannot do e.g. easy application of movements, differential focus etc. If the actual capabilites of the L/F format are employed then the picture can be something that may be not possible with inexpensive digi capture.
Failing that - shoot digi, output to transparent print media at any size and contact print that. 20"x20" contact prints? Easy. Have seen some articles about hybrid capture/output especially with platinum/palladium prints that are very interesting.
I think it really depends upon what you are wanting from your time?
Not much help,
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there really isn't any reason to use film or a large camera ( or smaller camera ) or alt process
or do anything in life ... unless you want to.
it is much easier to get bored with a numeric file ...
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It is a handicraft, that is why. Look at it this way:
Why build your own wooden chairs when you could go to the store and buy them? Why do some people insist on playing on big old pianos when they can do it in a computer? Why do some people use hours and hours on hand making clothes out of bare fabrics when they can buy them at the supermarket? Some people even love to make their own butter the way it was done 200 years ago. And so on, there are endless numbers of examples...
And also, we are keeping an old handicraft alive, that is in some way important.
There's more to a photograph than simple resolution. LF gives you a handful of things that digital capture can't do right now. It gives you a larger range of tonality which you can easily see in B&W. It can capture a huge amount of subject brightness range (SBR) in a single exposure -- what usually takes several exposures and HDR processing for digital capture. LF also captures a huge amount of visual detail information if you want to make really large but "nose-sharp" prints -- it takes extremely expensive (twice what my car costs) and heavy gear to come anywhere near what a sheet of 5x4 film can do, for less than $1.00 USD, and just a few grams of weight.
I could go on....
The one and only reason I'm getting back into big film is to make huge prints that can hold their detail on close inspection. That said, 8x10 will be my limit because I want to shoot color. BTW, I would love 5x12 but I haven't found a source for 5" aerial color negative film.