Does this count as alternative process?

Discussion in 'Alternative Process' started by Joanna Carter, Oct 27, 2018.

  1. Joanna Carter

    Joanna Carter Active Member Registered User

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    You may remember I made my first LF portraits last year and posted the results here. Well, I've been experimenting with DxO, which I use primarily for my digital work. I wanted to see if I could successfully emulate the look and feel of some of the earlier/alternative processes, digitally, without using the presets, which always seem to look a bit contrived.

    Therefore, I submit the following images for your scrutiny. But be gentle, it's early days yet :)

    Youenn Peron_2_DxO.jpg

    Laurent Latouche_2_DxO.jpg

    Jacques Scouarnec_1_DxO.jpg
     
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  2. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Active Member Registered User

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    It's an emulation of a process rather than a process itself, I guess the extreme of this is the film plug-ins to emulate a film stock when shooting fully digital.

    B&W Photography magazine here in the UK is full of articles on how to emulate alternative processes digitally.

    Ian
     
  3. martin henson

    martin henson Admin Staff Member Registered User

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    Ian is quite correct, I see as no different to any other type of digital workflow of curve manipulation to an end result.
    As regards the portraits, very nice and they do have a certain look of the older processes.
     
  4. David M

    David M Well-Known Member Registered User

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    I often tease a friend who is extremely competent at all sorts of alternative processes, that it can be done in Photoshop. Sometimes he admits that I might be right, but only sometimes. At other times he points out the differences, which are all dependent on having the actual print in you own hands in front of your own eyes. I think he's right. On screen the differences are small.
    They look quite convincing to me, except in one particular. People in alternative portraits never look so cheerful. In general, nobody can hold a convincing smile for long enough.* They should look glum and if possible, a little bit baffled.
    Would it be immoral to fake some clip marks in the corners, some mottling, or a bit of frilling?

    * On this basis, it's possible that Mona Lisa began with a big toothy grin and over the years of Leonardo's perfectionism, it gradually faded to the enigmatic expression we see today.

    If I may offer a very small criticism, the shadow detail seems a bit too good for an alternative process.
     
  5. Alan9940

    Alan9940 Active Member Registered User

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    First, I must admit that I always chuckle a bit when I hear about digital products to emulate the look of film or see folks trying to replicate this look digitally. I'm always thinkng...why not shoot actual film? ;)

    That said, these are quite lovely portraits and I do think they reveal an "early process" look to them. If I may, I would add a touch of grain and print on a textured cotton rag paper.
     
  6. Stephen Batey

    Stephen Batey Well-Known Member Registered User

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    I think that's the most interesting art theory I've come across in a long time. :)
     
  7. David M

    David M Well-Known Member Registered User

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    One thing that digital printing cannot do is curly edges. Can it be that people who claim they can spot the difference are unconsciously looking at the edges and not the image? I'm only speculating.
     
  8. Alan9940

    Alan9940 Active Member Registered User

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    David, don't know about curly edges being the "dead giveaway", but I can tell ya that after printing hundreds of my own digital images over the past 18 years, and printing hundreds of analog prints over the past 40 years (I'm talking finished prints, here, not test strips, work prints, etc) I can easily identify a digital print vs analog print. I cannot really pinpoint exactly why, but there is something about the tonal characteristics, transitions, "look" (for lack of a better word) that I see in a fine analog print that I don't see in a digital print. I'll admit that putting a digital print behind glass quickly closes that playing field, but I still prefer the analog print even behind glass. Please understand, though, that I'm talking mostly monochrome prints of my own work. I've seen some mighty fine examples of digital monochrome prints by other photographers. :)
     
  9. David M

    David M Well-Known Member Registered User

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    You may remember Clever Hans the Calculating Horse.
    On screen, we see only the image, but in real life, we see both the image and whatever carries it. We might even handle the prints, adding the sense of touch to the sensory clues. Some digital papers are very pleasant to handle, some less so. This might not matter on the wall, but for things like a portfolio it may be significant.
    These days, I suggest that the differences must lie between individual prints, rather than between two categories.
    Digital printers seem keen to be able to imitate a wet print, but I've not heard of anyone trying to imitate a digital print in the darkroom. Perhaps it's really the people who advertise inkjet paper who are responsible for this, rather than the printers themselves.
    Personal preferences are personal of course. De gustibus and all that.

    (I am not comparing you, or anyone else, to a horse, even a clever one, although they are noble creatures.)
     
  10. Joanna Carter

    Joanna Carter Active Member Registered User

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    Not wishing to do too many contortions but, isn't the business of "emulating" equally as much a process ?

    Yes, I could have simply taken a preset or plug-in and applied that but, what I did was to carefully analyse the result I wanted and worked out what it was about that result that gave it its distinctive look.

    The image started life as a carefully worked out 5x4 negative on Fuji Acros 100 film. The depth of field was deliberately reduced to a minimum by using a Fujinon T 400mm lens at f/8. The lighting was a window to the left and a white reflector to the right to gently fill the deep shadows.

    So far, no different to any other analogue image. However, I don't have multiple LF cameras, old brass lenses, wet plate facilites, etc., but I did want to invoke a sense of times gone by.

    I wasn't trying to fool people into believing that it really was an "old" print. All of the changes I made could just as well have been made in a wet darkroom, using traditional darkroom processes but, since I can achieve similar results using a computer and software…

    I am making no attempt to emulate the old process; instead I am using a modern process to achieve the same look and feel (inasmuch as it is feasible). I am not even attempting to emulate a particular film, otherwise I could have simply chosen one of DxO's FilmPack presets.

    Yes, there may be "connoisseurs" who are obsessed with everything about the images they buy being "authentic" but I would argue that that is something we can never truly achieve; on that basis, why don't we insist that all flash pictures are taken with powder flashes, or that all continuous lighting is provided with carbon filament bulbs rather than LED lighting?

    In the end, we are looking for a particular end result. How we achieve that result is a process. The term "alternative process" has somehow been translated as being an alternative chemical process. Surely, isn't using a computer just another alternative process?

    At the end of the day, the customer is king and, if the customer is willing to pay good money for a silver print, processed on a computer and printed by Ilford on their excellent papers, how much are we fooling ourselves that the "process" is what matters?

    Apart, that is, from our own sense of achievement in having managed to keep an historic craft alive ;)
     
  11. Joanna Carter

    Joanna Carter Active Member Registered User

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    I would be really interested to see if you could discern that difference between a darkroom print and one of Ilford's laser prints on silver paper. Before framing, they even curl just like they should:cool:
     
  12. David M

    David M Well-Known Member Registered User

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    Joanna,
    It has recently been discovered that moons can have moons of their own. But what to call them? Moonmoon seems to be the favourite, so far.
    So you must be producing alternative-alternative prints Alt-alt, perhaps?

    I've had another look. Perhaps a light breath on the lens to emulate uncoating?
     
  13. martin henson

    martin henson Admin Staff Member Registered User

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    If I add grain to my digital files then this is an alternative process, yes it is an alternative way however, its not the only way to get to that in Digital software, hundreds of alternative ways are possible to create a different look and that's all your pictures are, the wet plate, platinum, tin type etc are processes that need to be gone through before you end up with a picture, its totally different to what you are trying, keeping in mind your question "is this an alternative process" Ian G summed it up perfectly "It's an emulation of a process rather than a process itself". If you cannot achieve it then you must emulate it through digital manipulation, this is what you have done quite successfully IMHO
     
  14. Alan9940

    Alan9940 Active Member Registered User

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    Um, well, I've never seen an Ilford laser print on silver paper, but it sounds like that process is leaning more toward analog output. A digital enlarger is exposing a sheet of silver gelatin paper which is then processed in a wet darkroom through the normal chemistry, yes? I was speaking specifically to fully digital prints. That is, digital files processed on the desktop and output on an inkjet printer. And, again, please allow me to emphasize that I'm talking about what I've seen over the years in my own work.

    Going back to your original premise of emulating an alternative process and/or what constitutes an alternative process, personally I could not give a hoot for how an image is made; if it moves me in some way, who cares if it's the "real" thing, some emulation of something, etc? I don't. ;)
     
  15. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Active Member Registered User

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    Now if you used say the same processes as Julia Margaret Cameron to make modern si potraits that has more validity to many of us.

    I don't have an issue using Digital techniques to emulate but the "reality" often lacks something, the artefacts of the original process,

    We can't claim digital manipulation as "process" but as long as the photographer or editor isn't claiming an image made digitally is actually made by the original chemical process does it matter. I don't think so, I've used a lot of "emulation" for creative use for Album, Single, CD covers over the years.

    Well many would use a different starting point, so not just post a later darkroom process.

    I think the term "Process" is important because most "Alternative" processes need negatives of different contast compared to traditional darkroom printing, off course we can make digital inter-negatives. Some prefer to be purists.

    Ian
     
  16. Joanna Carter

    Joanna Carter Active Member Registered User

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    Please excuse me for being a little insistent but, what I'm trying to say is that I'm not trying to emulate a process; rather I am using an alternative process to create a certain look and feel in the final image. I am starting with a sheet of LF film and, instead of using an enlarger, I am using a computer to produce a file that can be sent to Ilford for printing on silver gelatin paper.

    The process is silver film/digital file/silver paper. You will notice that there are no dust spots or emulsion imperfections because I didn't want to emulate that part of an old process; instead wanting to develop my own process, resulting in a clean, low contrast image with a tint and a vignette. It just happens to look similar to an older process :)
     
  17. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Active Member Registered User

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    Many years ago Edwin Land predicted this digital analog work flow that could go n many directions, I think it was in the 1980's.

    Now we can use a Digital enlarger to make conventional prints, or use Ilford's modified Fuji Frontier machine service etc. We scan negatives and make digital inter negatives, we can convert digital originals to internegtaives of again Ilfords Fronier machines, Lambda C41 or B&W etc.

    There's nothing wrong with trying to achieve a certain look similar to an "Alternative" digitally, it's not really a process though when done digitally.

    Ian
     
  18. Joanna Carter

    Joanna Carter Active Member Registered User

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    As I said, I'm not trying to emulate any process.

    So, you are implying that something is more "pure" simply because it involves chemistry?
     
  19. Joanna Carter

    Joanna Carter Active Member Registered User

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    According to the dictionary: "A process is a series of actions which are carried out in order to achieve a particular result" - no exclusions
     
  20. martin henson

    martin henson Admin Staff Member Registered User

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    I think that any digital editing is more what we would call an action by the user to change or alter a picture rather than a chemical process that actually generates a photographic print, whatever way you choose is fine so I will digress.
     

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