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  1. #1

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    Ansel Adams Print - Analog Epiphany

    I'm embarrassed to say that until recently I had never seen a real silver gelatin print, mainly because I haven't been into photography very long. Several months ago I went to the art museum and saw an Ansel Adams print they had (Still Life with Egg Slicer, San Francisco). I had seen it online a million times, but it was breathtaking to see in person. It looked like the print had a third dimension to it (almost holographic). It was almost as if each element in the still life appeared to be "inside" the paper at a slightly different depth. There is obviously no dramatic depth of field in the still life, so how did he get the effect of relative depth in print? Was is a contact print from a large format camera? Is it the extremely sharp detail causing this? Is it something the average darkroom enthusiast can achieve with practice?

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    MaximusM3's Avatar
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    It's called darkroom skills, and the same concepts can also can transported into the digital world by the way. Depth in a print has mostly to do with contrast and every nuance, variation of it, between one or more subjects and backgrounds. There are those who simply stick a lens to 1.4 to create a depth of field play, and think that's what makes a great picture, and those who understand light, exposure, and again, more importantly contrast, to arrive at a beautiful print.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nathan King View Post
    I'm embarrassed to say that until recently I had never seen a real silver gelatin print, mainly because I haven't been into photography very long. Several months ago I went to the art museum and saw an Ansel Adams print they had (Still Life with Egg Slicer, San Francisco). I had seen it online a million times, but it was breathtaking to see in person. It looked like the print had a third dimension to it (almost holographic). It was almost as if each element in the still life appeared to be "inside" the paper at a slightly different depth. There is obviously no dramatic depth of field in the still life, so how did he get the effect of relative depth in print? Was is a contact print from a large format camera? Is it the extremely sharp detail causing this? Is it something the average darkroom enthusiast can achieve with practice?
    That image specifically is a large format image - depending on the print size you saw, it may have been a contact print. Contact printing will get you the best sharpness and contrast that a negative can produce, but as Maximus noted, that's not the be-all end-all of photography. There are camera skills and darkroom skills required to know how your tools interact with your materials to produce the best possible result. And sometimes, the best possible result for the image in question is NOT something super sharp with 3-D-esque depth-of-field properties.

  4. #4
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    I've seen large prints at our local art museum - they are something to behold.

    You can get similar, though less pronounced, depth in snapshots. I've shown people 4x6 prints from film and digital (just sharing snapshots) - both wet-printed at the same drug store - and have heard comments that some of the pictures have depth ("almost 3D"). Those pictures turn out to be from film, and the drug-store machine scans the negatives in order to print. As important as silver-gelatin paper is, there is still something to be said of the "capture medium."
    Truzi

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    That's the beauty of a darkroom print. The image actually is inside the paper, vs sitting on top of it like with an inkjet print. Plus, the image isn't made w/ ink. Of course, Ansel was a genius, and a master at all aspects of photography, especially printing. There's a lot of his books at your library I'm sure. You can learn a lot from them. His working methods were extremely top notch, and it shows in the prints. Keep in mind that silver gelatin is a $100 phrase for any B&W print made on real photographic paper.

    Years ago I was using a hybrid technique. I would shoot B&W film, send it out to be developed, scan it, then print it on an inkjet printer. Doggone it, I thought it looked pretty good, at least as good as what I was seeing locally. Then one day I visited a neighbor who shot 4x5 and darkroom printed the negs. My first thought was, I've wasted 3 years of my life. THIS is what it's supposed to look like. I never got on w/ LF, but I did finally start developing my own negs and printing in a bathroom (still do). It's a magical process, vs the scanning and inkjet printing, which was total frustration and stress. I learned so much from doing it myself. I still learn something new about photography every day. If there's a college that teaches a course, take it. Better yet, if there's someone locally that is good and will teach you the basics, even better. You can do it on your own. A lot of people did, including me. But it takes a lot longer.
    Last edited by momus; 12-18-2013 at 02:39 PM. Click to view previous post history.

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    Mainecoonmaniac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nathan King View Post
    Is it something the average darkroom enthusiast can achieve with practice?
    Yes of course! It's like anything else. But always go to museums and galleries to stay inspired. Inspiration will keep you motivated to get you in the darkroom.
    "Photography, like surfing, is an infinite process, a constantly evolving exploration of life."
    Aaron Chang

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    cliveh's Avatar
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    I would suggest inkjet prints today (not what was possible 3 years ago) are as good if not better than darkroom prints.

    “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”

    Francis Bacon

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    I saw Clyde Butcher prints a long time ago, they were great.

    Jeff

  9. #9
    MDR
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    Quote Originally Posted by cliveh View Post
    I would suggest inkjet prints today (not what was possible 3 years ago) are as good if not better than darkroom prints.
    I would say they can look as good and sometimes better than some darkroom prints. The true mastering of digital printing is an artform that few take the time to learn and a lot of people fail at just like the analogue darkroom. A good contact print still beats 99% of all digital and analogue prints imo.

  10. #10
    cliveh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MDR View Post
    I would say they can look as good and sometimes better than some darkroom prints. The true mastering of digital printing is an artform that few take the time to learn and a lot of people fail at just like the analogue darkroom. A good contact print still beats 99% of all digital and analogue prints imo.
    Is this worth even considering? I look at the picture not the print.

    “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”

    Francis Bacon

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