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  1. #1

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    I use to think that contact printing was a chore, a secondary task to the real work of enlargement.

    NOW I feel it is the purest form of image capture. In this I mean that the negative is faithfully represented, that is, the pictorial moment is captured nearly unmanipulated (nearly because dodging and burning, developer and film combinations can affect the final "look" of the print). Enlarging changes the aspect ratio which for me changes the "look and feel" of the original scene - I adjust my emotions according to the size of the viewfinder and when I check out the groundglass there is a specific emotion associated with it. Contact printing is somehow faithful to that emotion or seeing or capturing.

    Before this gets construed as partisan, I am not making a value judgement on print quality - results are what matters. But what I am concerned about is faithful representation of what was seen and felt under the hood or through the looking glass. I find it interesting that the same negative can be offered for sale in a multitute of sizes (u can this in 8x10, 11x14, 12x16 or 16x20). It seems that size does matter after all. Is it possible to see a scene in a variety of sizes before the shutter is released? I suppose it is but I certainly do not have the nack for it.

    Just my thoughts Contact Printing.

  2. #2
    Alex Hawley's Avatar
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    I quite agree. I fell into contact printing last year when I got my first LF rig, a 4x5. Not having a 4x5 enlarger, I was contact printing the negs on regular enlarging paper. WOW, I said. Posting a forum question about papers for contact printing rendered a resounding AZO. One thing led to another and here I am with an 8x10, Azo, and Pyro.

    Borrowed a friend's 4x5 enlarger, but I found most of those 4x5 negs just don't look as good on an 8x10 print as they do a 4x5 contact print. The 4x5 contacts have their place. There's some subjects that just beg for it.

    Still have the 35mm and had to use it last weekend when the available shooting time on a subject didn't allow using the 8x10. But I felt like just another snapshooter out there grabbing quick shots on the fly. It just didn't feel as good. I'm having anxiety pains about developing the film because I'm afraid I will be disappointed and this was a once-in-a-lifetime subject opportunity.

    Using the 8x10 camera has in itself, been a complete joy. You can actually SEE what you are doing with no scrunching down or squinting through the viewfinder. I thought the difference between it an the 4x5 was profound. The 8x10 is also so versatile. With reducing backs it will also do MF roll film, 4x5, 5x7, 4x10 or whatever one wants to invent.

    I'm quite happy with contact print photography. No snobbish elitism on my part; I hate that stuff. Its just flat out fun and leaves me with a more joyous experience than I've felt with the other formats. If I were starting out completely from scratch, with no photographic knowledge, my wish would be for some mentor to start me with an 8x10.

  3. #3

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    shhhhhh, you guys are going to tell all the secrets about LF and ULF being fun.

    Then everyone will want to be in on it.
    George Losse
    www.georgelosse.com

  4. #4
    Alex Hawley's Avatar
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    George is just being shy. If you want a real treat, visit his website for excellent examples, and variety, of contact printing.

  5. #5

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    You are absolutely right jdef. I should have used another term other than aspect ratio. I am trying to allude to the original viewpoint (viewfinder if yoo like) versus the final output (the enlargement). I use to enlarge my 8x10 negs up to 20x24 and although the size increase is breathtaking it seems that after s while all there is to captivate me is the size. It feels as though I was never there somehow. Remember: this is a personal issue not a critique of enlargements in general - how can I possibly know what the photographer really felt, whether he contact prints or not. But I know how I felt that day and somehow I lose something if I enlarge it and I keep the original feeling when I do not. Strange?!
    Francesco

  6. #6
    Ole
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    Quote Originally Posted by Francesco
    ... although the size increase is breathtaking it seems that after s while all there is to captivate me is the size.
    Funny that - most of my MF pictures looke best when really HUGE - like 4x5 feet or so. While my 5x7" negatives print best as contacs. I think it's something to do with perspective, viewfinder/groundglass visualisation, and the old "smallest significant detail"-thingy.

    This is a lot easier, as my trays are only 9.5x12": Saves a lot of spilled developer all over the darkroom
    -- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
    Norway

  7. #7

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    While I have to please myself first, I'm not the only one involved. If I put a series of images up on the wall, I get strong responses to 2-14 x 3-1/4 contact prints and equally strong responses to 8x10 contact prints or 2-1/4 x 2-1/4 blown up to 30 x 30. Some people love my favorite print and others gush over my lesser children.

    It's the image. Some love to be enlarged and some should remain small or brown or somehow different from the rest. As you go larger you sometimes get closer to the truth and sometimes retreat from it. Each image has to be interpreted individually. Other people keep me honest (most of the time!).

    Enter the circle of confusion.

  8. #8

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    Contact prints have a different look, somehow. A good one, a really good one, has almost a jewel like quality to it. Someone once said that grand vistas should be huge, intimate portraits should be small. I think instead it depends more on the individual picture. To me, part of the satisfaction is the direct hands on involvement. Sure, you don't see me hunched over a tray in the final print, but for me it is part of it.

  9. #9
    Black Dog's Avatar
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    There's a clear difference even on nasty RC paper-and it's a difference for the better.
    "He took to writing poetry and visiting the elves: and though many shook their heads and touched their foreheads and said 'Poor old Baggins!' and though few believed any of his tales, he remained very happy till the end of his days, and those were extraordinarily long "- JRR Tolkien, ' The Hobbit '.

  10. #10
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    After playing with 4x5 enlargements on RC paper, I ended up with a box of postcard stock last year. I realized that cropping was necessary due to the difference in formats (4x5 to 4x6). Finally sent for a box of Azo paper and things changed completely. I find using the enlarger less appealing now.

    Looking at a mounted and framed contact print on azo now seems to be more gratifying. Since all are the same size, content becomes more critical. Composition is a larger factor than before, no cropping of a full sheet of film, just the image as taken.

    All in all, I seem to enjoy a nice "small" contact print to a larger print on enlarging paper now. The small size does tend to draw one into the print more and has a more "complete" feel when looking into the frame. A sense of intimacy exists with the smaller print that I find pleasing. Hard to explain.

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