One thing that I pride myself on is the ability to develop negatives that print really well on the paper I use. I know, almost every time, exactly how I need to adjust my time and agitation to get exactly what I want.
For silver printing, this has become imperative to me, because have you seen the price of Ilford fiber paper lately? And have you seen what a poorly exposed and/or processed negative does to pile in your darkroom trash bin? Yeah, it grows monumentally. As hybrid techniques continue to grow, I find that knowledge about the skill of really targeting a negative to work well for silver printing, or even platinum/palladium, or most other alternative processes, will be lost - gone forever - and that disturbs me on some level.
Now, at the same time I think it's amazing to be able to use my iPhone to take a picture of something when I don't carry a film camera, process the file, and print out an 11x14 digital negative that I contact print to a silver gelatin paper, and get a wonderful print. This is exciting, folks! I'm not worried about film, at least not black and white. There are still lots of people shooting it, new people exploring it, and it's relatively easy to manufacture (compared to C41 or E6 film anyway). I've done it, and it's really wonderful to be able to contribute a print this way - on standard silver gelatin paper, made by Harman / Ilford, Foma, Fotokemika, or... Who else is there again?
See, what I'm really worried about is the darkroom in whole - photo paper, chemicals, and toners. If that goes away, there isn't much reason for APUG to exist anymore, other than learning how to make your own emulsion, coating your own paper, and how to make the chemistry. I think it's our duty to promote any way at all that helps in keeping darkroom printing alive, and possibly even growing. We owe it to ourselves, and in gratitude to those who still make them.
As long as I can have Tri-X, Ilford Multigrade fiber paper, and some chemicals to process in, I am not likely to participate in any digital intermediary steps. Quite frankly, the whole digital process bores me to tears. I absolutely detest doing the work on a computer screen. But at the same time you can't deny the potential of the new medium, and I think I can reconcile my fears of losing some skills, if only to retain a possibility to actually be able to continue with silver based photography until the day I am unable. Think about this. We have been blessed to have all of these wonderful materials, thanks to the community and culture that provided them. If the materials disappear, then what is the purpose of APUG?
And finally, to top it off - as it is anybody's duty to be responsible, to owe up to the responsibilities we have to ALL of society around us - we must try to minimize waste. Not only in photography, but in everything. While some things about digital technology is bad for the planet that is our home, compared to the pile in the trash can in the darkroom - well, in the long run the computer is a single time investment, at least over something like five years. In the meantime, the cost of silver gelatin products, or palladium/platinum products can be controlled, because with digital technique a lot of waste comes out of the process. Once you learn how to get it done right, the waste is truly minimal. This is a VERY strong reason, and SHOULD BE a really strong motivator, for any user of the photographic medium to contribute as little waste as possible. Digital can probably help you in this aspect.
It's inevitable, folks. A different time is upon us, and if we don't change with it, or even lead the very cutting edge, we will be left behind the wagon.
Last edited by Thomas Bertilsson; 07-22-2012 at 12:20 AM. Click to view previous post history.
"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
I first touched digital imaging way back in 1990 to 1994, while I was busily clicking away with Kodachrome 200. A background in typesetting and publishing in the 1990s never really took me away from those roots (film was being vetted, scanned, printed or reproduced and nary a digimon could be seen), and traditionally crafted photographic works were my staple and forté for a long, long time — then things changed. I need not recount my profound displeasure at the loss of traditional B&W darkroom printers that faithfully served the masses, those who don't have their own darkroom, or the bitter loss of Ilfochrome.
I'm very happy and contented with my and the printer's efforts (that's where I pay critical attention) with the hybridised workflow and do believe the quality is indeed comparable to silver gelatin prints. No doubt this is a hotly contested statement here on APUG. B&W prints, which I first approached with trepidation and a healthy serve of cynacism, are beautiful to look and to touch, even if they do not have the bespoke quality and workmanship of a traditional craft artisan — they still represent a great deal of work and reflect experience. I accept it's the way of the future and we can fight and cuss all we want but the future will be like this with more and more advanced materials. Archival quality is something else altogether (all of my prints are done to long life silk fibre or cotton rag stock, matted or conservation framed). Spotting, though, is a 4 to 5-hour chore for a 6x17 input, more intricate with 35mm and not much better with 120. So I've conveniently handballed this task to my printer while I reclaim that lost time behind the camera!
Thomas mentioned using his iPhone; 20 minutes ago I was on the local football chatting with friends when their dog came up. Being a Hearing Dog, it interacts very differently with people (with a hearing loss) and I instinctly reached for ... oh dear ... my Galaxy SIII. It's atrocious how far technology has come, to the point of replacing the cameras sitting on the shelves in dealers, even those at home! I'll bet there are many more guilty parties out there!! But fear not, my friends: I also had my trusty XA with me and that got my friends talking much more than an iPhone's nemesis...
I've been in the software engineering business continuously since May of 1986. That's 26+ years of weathering more rapid changes in digital technology than you could ever imagine. In fact, many of you out there have used software I've written and you don't even realize it. I think I have a pretty good big-picture feel for what the crutch of digitalization has done to society and those in it. And it's not a very pretty picture.
Many of you out there who say you just can't wait to embrace ever more computer-created abstractions in place of the inconvenient real-world realities you used to be forced to deal with - and eventually master - need to take a deep breath and make absolutely certain you know what it is you're really asking for. And what getting your wish means.
You might think that a mouse click in the umpteenth iteration of some image control application is the supreme act of creativity. But in reality the only choices you have are when and how many times to click. And even those are often tightly beyond your control. It's the hundreds of thousands of man-hours of design, implementation, testing, and upgrading by small armies of programmers that ultimately determine the extent of that mouse click's creativity. Your contribution begins and end with that click. Once the click event reaches the application event handler all you can do from that point on is sit and watch. And hope.
If you subsequently find you don't like the results of your creative mouse click, you're only choice is to seek out another image control application to try. And hope that that group of programmer's approach to abstracting the traditional photographic process is closer to what you want. If it is, great, you're "creative" again. If it isn't, damn, your screwed. Again.
Never forget that at its core the whole idea behind the process of digitalization is to at some level create a virtual version of something that used to be real. An email that was once a hand-written letter to a loved one. A "friend" that used to be a friend. A robot to build cars that used to be a human. A white rectangle on your monitor that used to be a piece of typing paper. Or a TIFF file representation of an algorithm that used to be a silver negative.
All of these abstractions are much easier, cheaper, and more convenient to deal with in a digital computer than to deal with in the real world. But is that what you really, really want in the long run?
Are your sure?*
"There is very limited audience for the arty stuff, and it is largely comprised of other arty types, most of whom have no money to spend because no one is buying their stuff either. More people bring their emotions to an image than bring their intellect. The former are the folks who have checkbooks because they are engineers, accountants, and bankers—and generally they are engineers, accountants and bankers because they are not artists."
— Amanda Tomlin, Looking Glass Magazine, 2014
That's a good point. The fact is that polymer plates often print darker so that has to be compensated for in some way - I have a compensation curve for my combination of materials which, to the best of my ability, means that the final print matches the original transparency.
Originally Posted by Bill Burk
But to be honest, this is a smaller variable than most of the hands-on stages - the choice of etching ink, how the plate is inked, how well it is wiped etc which often influences the final image much more. And as for missing dust, hair, scratches, believe me, there are a million plus ways to get these and more: from the developing bath, not blotting the plate correctly, fingerprints on damp plates, ink run on the plate edges, smudging the plate when laying inside registration sheet in printing press etc. The list goes on....
On a wider note, am pleased to see a proper conversation on this hybrid approach on APUG - regardless of my own position, there have been times in the past when my heart has sunk at the tone of previous discussions.
Originally Posted by Ken Nadvornick
You are absolutely correct in your assessment. But, it really is a matter of balance in the choices we make and the fact that progress (and whether it is progress is entirely debatable) is unavoidable. Arguing about the current state or fantasizing about how great it used to be, is not going to help anyone. No one here is interested in complete automation of the art and If we were, we'd all be spitting out inkjet already and APUG would not exist.
This thread started as "IS THERE A RECONCILIATION BETWEEN DIGITAL AND ANALOG WORLD IN ALTERNATIVE PROCESSES". The answer is YES and I do believe it is actually a good thing. Once again, the digital side now allows us to continue processes that would be effectively defunct by now, or close to it. In this case, there is a small portion of modern technology to our services and we are still far away from simply pushing a button and spitting out a print. This is not something anyone here is interested in.
As mentioned before, I've just finished a photogravure workshop. It involved making digital negatives, but it still took me two days to come up with a final print, which is the result of me working with my hands and chemicals to make it happen. After five 12 hr days, my body was in pain. Hardly a simple digital task. As far as image manipulation, well, as Thomas also mentioned above, I hate working in front of a computer and that was one of the very reasons I went back to the darkroom and ditched my digital camera years ago. But, like him, I've learned to use and control my materials so very little work has to be done to the image at printing time. If anything, I'm working on it later, with bleaching, toning etc. Therefore, once I start with a good image (one that is properly composed, exposed and processed) that can hold the viewer's interest (and that is the toughest part to accomplish and no digital gimmick can provide), I am essentially applying a slight contrast curve to output for the process. In most cases, the image itself is almost untouched. Of course, there may be those ultra-tough, screwed up negatives that now do hold some potential because of the digital process, which is not a bad thing at all. And then there is the casual digital capture: Thomas mentioned the iPhone and we both made some pretty nice silver prints from iPhone files. The mere fact that I can do that, makes me smile actually. I've had a few instances where the iPhone came in handy and had no choice. A few months, ago, I would have not looked at those pictures twice but now, if I really want to, I can actually make a good silver print, a lith, or using any wet process I wish. Not something I would do regularly but it's nice to have that option, for sure.
Unfortunately, digital did change some parts of our lives in a what I feel is a negative way (Facebook, social interactions, writing, listening, communicating), but in this case, we have a good chance at balancing and using the tools in a judicious and subtle manner, to allow us to continue certain processes and still make a fine print that we, a viewer, a buyer, can enjoy and cherish.
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When I made alt prints from small negatives I had to go through the following workflow and you can see by this workflow where some of the difficulty arose.
I am not talking about in camera 16 x20 negatives, Yes I know I could have bought the camera.
1. negative was cleaned
2. negative was contacted onto dupe material.. to make a very flat positive.. this usually meant about 3-4 trys to get rid of any hairs, newton rings ect.
3. dupe positive size of original was then placed into enlarger.
4. 16x20 negative film exposure sweep then developed in HC 110 dilution dfjdskfj - this exposure was very , very quick in fact under 5 seconds
5. This new enlarged film was then used for platinum prints.
Keeping the whole process clean was difficult, at the end of the process I could still send the negative to a retoucher(yes they were available everywhere) to fix certain issues. stage 2 . stage 4
The main problem was controlling contrast and dodge and burn due to the incredible speed of the negative exposure stage..4.
Sometimes this would take us two or three times to nail the negative..
The prints made were beautiful and I would be hard pressed to improve on those prints today with all the new equipment.
but the speed , accuracy, and cleanliness features of todays methods are compelling.
Equipment needed is a consideration.... Scanner, Proper PS workflow,(yes it is very important and not just pushing a bunch of buttons) output device- inkjet machine, LVT or Lambda device.
In Toronto you can join Gallery 44 and they have all this available as part of membership.
In Philadelphia you can join Project Basho and they as well have all this gear.
I am sure there are co ops in many centers that you can join and spend time, getting the negs made.
After that the equipment is the same and everything is required for both processes, and you have all that right.
Originally Posted by Mainecoonmaniac
When I sit in front of my computer with PS active I thank all those developers who made such an incredible program.. Yes I know it boils to on/off.
But when I see the red ruby mask pop up to hold back areas I smile.
When I can adjust my brush size and opacity I smile
When I see colour corrections to local areas of the image I smile
When I can make the image dance I smile
A program is only as good as the operator.
and lest I forget , 20 years ago I thanked my lucky stars guys like PE were on quality control making the film and emulsions ..
Originally Posted by Bob Carnie
The direction this thread has taken truly saddens me. Should the accommodation and integration of digital techniques by analog film and process users continue, then the fears that Thomas Bertilsson expressed about the loss of analog processing skills and knowledge are likely to come to pass sooner rather than later. That's certainly not a way to promote knowledge of darkroom skills, and it is counterproductive to efforts to spread and grow that knowledge and skill.
What I find most disturbing are the environmental guilt arguments used as a basis of advocacy for the adoption of digital techniques. I'm not at all against the use of digital or hybrid techniques, and I certainly don't advocate waste. If you are motivated by guilt to engage in digital or hybrid techniques, that's perfectly fine because it is your choice. But please don't foist environmental theatre on everyone else by claiming that we ALL must do or not do a thing because of a responsibility to society or to the earth that you suppose we all share.
On another note: Ken Nadvornik, thank you for your perspective on the source of the creativity behind the digitialization tools that are used to create a virtual abstraction of reality. I think you expressed that very well, and as a software engineer of 30+ years myself, I fully understand where you are coming from. At the same time, it should be noted that the image captured first on film and then transferred to paper in the darkroom, while chemical in nature rather than digital, is also an abstraction. We must make abstractions of what we see and experience in order to transform it into art. We abstract abstractions. The art transcends the abstraction, but without the ability to abstract, we can merely record the physical world around us. We do not say that the creative energy behind the art we create through analog film and darkroom processes is really attributable to the scientists and engineers who created the media and tools that we use.
Am currently learning to print polymer photogravures and recognise this decription. It's a steep, time-heavy learning curve, definitely not easy. Great fun though. (And the etching ink is a real b*gger to remove from your hands too - think you must need the pee from a nervous beagle )
Originally Posted by MaximusM3