Quote Originally Posted by PDH View Post
An ideal negative is a negative that has printable shadow details and texture in the highlights, then it is up the printer to fine tune the print to express his/her experaince.
An alternative approach is to completely abolish these known 'standards' and go out on a limb, push the boundaries, and try something different.

I have tried the Ralph Gibson approach I mentioned above, and of course my prints aren't going to look like his, because he's a much better photographer than I am. But it was an interesting exercise to print negatives that I otherwise might have considered unprintable, and to see that something really cool could come out on the other end.

Today I make negatives with highlight densities that most people would probably shy away from (for silver printing and scanning anyway), because after I work hard to print those highlights down, I find that I end up liking the results better. A straight print at any grade would render no highlight detail at all and the shadows have way too much information in them.

I guess it's all about intent, as mentioned by several here. You have to push boundaries and go beyond what you think is possible to see what's there, and sometimes you make interesting discoveries. Like thinking outside the box, but perhaps even disregard the box all together.