Wow, thanks for all the replies so far, I wish other forums on the net were as helpful (not naming names).
Anyway, some very good ideas so far that I'm definitely going to follow. Just to reply to some specific points:
- My monitor is a Dell U2711 factory-calibrated 27", 2560x1440, almost every review of it says how great it is out of the box, best you can buy if you can't afford an NEC/Eizo. Rest of the PC is set up for ICC-profiled sRGB, including GIMP.
- I've bought a printer, just waiting for it to ship, Epson R3000.
- Unfortunately a real Wet Darkroom is out of the question, unless I can convince my mum to let me steal one of her wine cellars (not likely), or find one to borrow in my small country town called Adelaide. But then there's an unfortunate mould problem down there.
As for my scanning workflow, my general way is this:
- Scan a preview, set Gamma to max (5, lowest contrast, makes blacks easier to see), White-point to max (darkest), then set black point (usually around '1' which sets it just above 'true black' on the colour curve).
- Then set Gamma to min (0, max contrast, makes burnt highlights easiest to see), set the White-point to just below White-clipping level.
- Then set Gamma until it looks good (usually 4-5 on B+W, 1-2 on E6).
This gives me the widest-range between darkest-lightest, I confirm that by looking at the curve once scanned, if it's not I might tweak and re-scan.
Anyway, here's a few shots that illustrate my 'lack of shadow detail' problem:
You can see how i've set the black and white points, and gamma.
You can see that the black-point was just a little bit above 'true zero', this is about perfect because it gives me room to manoeuvre around the low-end.
It's this 'kink' at the low end that I find myself perenially having to do, first the boost to get shadow detail, then the low-bit to get some sort of contrast or everything looks like it was taken in fog.
OK, no artistic merit, just a street snapshot in Melbourne a few weeks ago. But now you can see a lot more detail in the shadows compared to the first shot, especially in the top left by the garage door.
Thing is, it's not the scanner, it scans Slides and colour Negs perfectly. And some films do it more than others, but on multiple cameras. This particular one was FP4 125 on my Bessa L, which has a kind of centre-weighted strip of metering off the shutter curtains. It's happened with my EOS3 which meters perfectly, as does my Mamiya 645AF (although i'm still getting used to the spot-only meter with non-AF lenses on that).
Maybe i'm just expecting too much of film? This particular shot was first on the roll, last on the previous roll was on Velvia 50, exact same shot. On the Velvia, i'm well aware that dynamic range is limited to not much, there's no shadow detail at all on the garage door, and the highlights are blow out on the top right. But the Velvia shot just looks good to me, the B+W doesn't work with all the black imho, so i'm trying to get more tone gradation rather than just get a splodge of black.
Anyway, but that's besides the point, I'm still going to develop my own.
The suggestion of 'pick one and stick to it' is definitely a good idea, so I've gone through the freezer and found:
- In 120, 10 rolls of PanF50, expired 2009, 4 rolls of Neopan 400, exp2008, 4 rolls of Efke KB25, 3 new 1 exp2006, 4 rolls of new P3200.
- In 135, 3 rolls of KB100, 2 of KB25, 4 rolls each of new TMax 400, ATP1.1 iso32 exp2011, APX25 exp no idea, plus an unopened 30m reel of Rollei Retro 100.
So I'll stick to the PanF50 in 120 and reel-out the Rollei to play with I think. The TMax 400 I also want to play with, my lab pushes it great to 800 so I want to see if I can match that. But I tend to use that on my EOS 3 in dark-venues, wide-open, spot-metered on a spot-lit face, so I might keep letting the Lab do them because whatever I do and he does, together it works (last thing I need is burnt-highlights there, I can live with black shadows).
Practising in the light is also something I'll do, got heaps of C41 that I paid $1 a roll for that I'll never use. And for some reason a lot of Velvia expired in 1991 that I was going to XP Lomo, I'm sure I can spare one or two.
I've got lots more readinf to do by the looks, thanks for the chemical suggestions, I'll check out prices/shipping/opinions on the ones mentioned (so far I've only ever heard of Rodinal and Xtol before I started researching, good to know more that I can read up on too)
Thanks again, and still more suggestions welcome...