Discussion in 'Talk About Anything Photography Related' started by Ian-Barber, Sep 13, 2016.
Since there seems to be the need for digital scanning of either the original negatives or 'physical' prints in order for them to be submitted to any one of the numerous forums, my curious mind seems to want to know how many... or if any... of the members of this forum make prints from either the original negatives or 4x5 negatives that have been scanned, slightly enlarged and printed out onto a substrate for printing out in any of the archaic non-silver print processes.
The non-silver print processes usually require a longer investment of 'time' required to be able to hold the final physical 'print' in one's hand after the required UV light spectrum exposure from either direct sunlight... or a electric light 'source' that emits both the required ultra-violet AND some portion of visible wavelength spectrum.
One cannot usually be as 'productive'... i.e. prints per hour, but there is a certain... if not greater amount of 'self satisfaction' when one can show/hang a print that has been 'made from scratch' onto a good quality paper... and know it will survive (should it so deserve) much longer than its 'creator'.
The alternative, or non-silver, photographic print processes seem... to me anyway, to provide greater feeling of 'self satisfaction'... or as my daughter used to say in her early years... "Yes.... I did it all my byself"
Might I inquire if there are other enthusiast.. or anyone who might be 'interested' in the non-silver print processes, 'here' at 5x4??
Well ken I do contact printing from 4x5 and just started to do bigger wet prints again contact type, the bigger ones are scanned files then printed with inkjet on to transparent material to create a negative, seems to work very well indeed, will have to thank Ian for doing a step wedge which he did spot on for me, (I am not a tech type guy).
The end product on photo paper had as totally different look to the inkjet print, more depth and better seamless tones, are they better than the inkjet print on quality paper, i would say they are, the advantage inkjet has is the ability to print on some beautiful papers, (I love matt paper).
For uniqueness the darkroom print is king, no two exactly alike.
Having seen a number of 'home printed' as opposed to 'commercially' produced ink-jet prints from both digital cameras and scanned negatives that have been submitted for 'adjudication' by a panel of 'judges' I have resolved the use of 'my' digital "Pictorico" negatives solely for the archaic non-silver print processes... for my own creative 'pleasures'. While I do expose and make use of 8x10 film for the occasional silver-gelatin contact printing, I now much prefer the 'experience' of working in the non-silver processes. I have enlarged scanned 4x5 negatives to print 2x linear onto Pictorico 'film' for Cyanotype, VanDyke Brown, Salt prints... and now my next 'self challenge' is making some Carbon and Carbon transfer prints that I watched my mentor make some 50-odd years ago. Somehow I anticipate a somewhat of 'up-hill' battle, but I think I'm still willing to give it a try.
The Carbon Transfer print, will very interesting to see how you do ken
Of course... I could also take advantage of Sandy King's more recent knowledge and experiences since the last Carbon... or Carbon transfer print I watched being made, which was about 52 years ago (I think). The older I get, the more I have to forget .... to make space for the more recent.
But... The benefit of a using a 'digital' negative allows for an easier 'flipping' of the negative for a 'correct' direct carbon... and it may be 'slightly modified' for a 'better' density/contrast range and 'stored' on the "CLOUD" for re-use at a later date.
Ken, I print pt/pd from both in-camera negs and digital negs. Use of one or the other depends on the end result I'm trying to achieve or if I don't want to risk an original neg, I'll make a digital version. Never tried any of the other alternative processes--well...silver contact printing which is an alternative process now--but I've seen some of Sandy's work which is gorgeous!
Earlier this year, I 'rescued' the front panel of a neighbour's dishwasher that was on its way to the dump. I've been going to cut it into two pieces for a base for magnetic 'edging' for pouring the glop and just recently invested in a metal cutting disc for my table saw. I have the flexible magnetic 'dam'... its a case of getting off my butt and doing it. Now having my own scanner I can now 'enlarge' my 4x5 negs to any appropriate dimension... as long as they will fit 'inside' the 8.5 x 11 inch that my el-cheapo ($75) Cannon printer will use... and I don't have to put the originals in any 'risk' .
There IS a special 'something' about the archaic processes that a silver-gelatin print does not meet. The printing out processes are a lot more 'labour intensive'... but they become more a 'labour of love'... and, all going well, will last a LOT longer than the majority of 'normal' (and now quite popular) B+W resin prints .
I 'hung' 20 VDB's and Cyanotypes for my last course (Advanced Studio') and receive a LOT of 'positive' feedback from both my class mates and ...a significant number of the Profs who made their unofficial walk-around. My classmates gave me a nice round of applause at the end of critique and... (I was later informed (by the Assistant Dean that that was the first time any student had received such a positive 'reception') and I WAS asked by some of the faculty and a few of my class members if they could have one after it was signed... and the prof took the first choice of 3 prints. I was 'left with 3 out of the twenty... but 'inside' I was 'grinning from ear to ear!
Having seen a LOT of B/W prints over the years... and while the 'new paper and inks have improved since the days of Gicle, (can't remember how to put accent in there) I do not really have any inclination to make them when I have my own darkroom (greatly in need of a cleaning out)... and my home built UV light source.
I would certainly agree that there's something special about hand-crafted prints made via one of the now archaic processes. But, I will respectfully disagree regarding B&W silver prints; at least, finely crafted prints made by a skilled darkroom worker on fiber paper. I've personally made 8x10 contact prints on chloro-bromide papers developed in Amidol where the silvery tones just seem to radiate light! It ain't easy, but once you've got it the print simply sings!! I guess what I'm saying is that I'll never tire of any finely crafted print, regardless of the method used to achieve it.
Congrats on your VDB and Cyanotypes showing! That must have been very rewarding and satisfying.
Regarding B&W prints generated from the desktop, I have made a few quite nice examples myself and seen some very well done examples by other photographers. For fact, I own an early inkjet print by another photographer that to this day remains as my example of what I try to achieve via the desktop. I look at that print, occasionally, and think "why can't I do that?" No matter...it's all a journey which I've enjoyed for 50+ years! That said, though, I still prefer finely crafted prints from the darkroom which is why I keep mine around.
I have seen some of the large 'machine made' prints on exhibit and have been somewhat impressed as to their quality. That being said, they are also expensive. My personal use of resin-coated papers has been somewhat limited. While the 'speed' of which they come 'out of the process' is impressive, and... at work we were more than 'encouraged' to adapt to the faster production regime. IMHO the earlier 'glossy' papers always seemed to somewhat 'veiled' in comparison to a 'paper' print coming off the ferrotype plate or the Pako drum dryer, and our section was reluctant to 'get everything onto the same bus' that the company representative was doing his best to sell.
We were somewhat regarded as being stubborn Luddites even though we provided a number of examples of the same negative printed 'both ways'. The prints that somewhat destroyed the top-down mandate were of stained high magnification microscopy cross-sections of rat brain printed out on both 'paper' and resin-coated papers... but I also 'repeated' the 'challenge' by taking the same microscope, putting it into the Durst 138S, and using the point-light source projected the same cross section onto film, processing and then making a B/W print from the Durst negative and providing what I might describe as our 'standard quality' paper print on both paper and RC paper. Head of administration, the scientist, and the company representative were more than impressed with the 'sharpness' of the ferrotyped paper from print from 'my' negative over the RC paper made from 'my' negative.
Twenty five (or so) years later, I still refrain from RC paper use in my basement darkroom. I still have my 'stack' of 16x20 inch ferrotype plates (over half of which have never been used since I still much prefer to 'blotter-dry').
Printing from either the original... or from digital scanned (and printed onto Pictorico to provide negatives) for any of the archaic can be time consuming... as are all the printing out processes, but there is greater amount of 'self-satisfaction' when the finished product is (nearly-all) "Home Made".... and I never seem to be able to retain a 'pile' of prints for my wall.
The only RC enlarging paper I ever warmed (no pun intended) up to is Ilford MG Warmtone, especially when developed in MCC developer. Other than that, it's strictly fiber for me when printing silver with my absolute favorites being a contact print on either Adox Lupex or Lodima developed in Amidol.
Pt/pd printing is a whole 'nutter thing! I can generally pull a pretty nice print, but if the stars are aligned properly and I have on my lucky underwear sometimes I can produce a great print! (IMHO, of course!)
I think that although technology with papers and chemicals has moved forward we have in fact gone backwards compared to the old hands on methods of creating prints.
When I look at some of the old photographic prints, there is a certain magic to them, not always perfect, but a quality that modern darkroom prints cannot reproduce, its the hands on approach and probably the older lens that makes that differance.
"Moved" yes; "changed" certainly. But better? That's not so clear cut. When I first started in photography, I almost invariably overexposed by a considerable margin. I didn't have a meter, and nor did I have exposure tables. I never noticed any instructions with the film, but did have a fixed idea in my mind that photographs were only really possible in bright sun, so when the sun wasn't bright - well, I overexposed. This meant that I early on developed an interest in chemical reducers and to a lesser extent, intensifiers to recover the negative. One intensifier used uranium. With later reading in my older years, I found that different intensifiers and reducers did give different results, and uranium (like all of them, really) couldn't be exactly mimicked by anything else. These days, you can't buy uranium intensifer as far as I know. And therefore any unique characteristics it offered can't be reproduced.
Similarly, earlier printing papers (meaning, still within my lifetime and memory) contained heavy metals such as cadmium. Like uranium, they are now banned. I know that some old hands felt that the newer materials were inferior. Obviously, "inferior" depends on what you're comparing it with. Newer materials are better on health and safety grounds, but do they produce better results?
Anecdotal evidence suggests that when the older types of optical glass were banned for containing heavy metals, until newer optical designs could be computed using alternative glasses (that were less than ideal, or they would have been used before the ban) new lenses actually performed worse than older ones. I suspect that given that in 35mm/digital cameras most work has gone into zooms and moving elements to reduce the effort of autofocus, older prime lenses in this size may still outperform most new primes. But this gets us away from large format...
Summing up - not all change is good. Modern limitations on which materials can be used may well mean that inferior results are inevitable.
So I take it that's a yes, that old processes produced better prints, or is it a no because there was a health and safety issue.
"Old processes" has a slight ambiguity in that it could refer to older processes not using silver gelatine (platinum, palladium, salt prints, etc. etc) or older materials used in the silver gelatine processes today. For various reasons, I think that older silver gelatine materials had a greater variety in terms of both physical (base tints, surface properties) and chemical (depth of blacks, colouring) than we have today; and given that a very small (and almost unnoticeable) change in any of these can have a profound effect on how we react to a print then with older materials people had greater flexibility and could produce a greater range of effects. And some of these would be an improvement on a print that could be produced with today's materials.
So, yes, older materials were capable of producing a better print; but as to whether they did, that would be down to the printer. You'll recall that when one particular paper went off the market, Ansel Adams couldn't print one of his negatives to his standard until years later another paper appeared.
The reverse can apply, of course, in that some modern materials might be better suited to some old negatives. However, given a greater variety of older materials, the odds are very much in favour of the gains being outweighed by the losses.
Sorry, I respectfully disagree that older processes produced better prints; different yes, but better? For example, IMO today's Lodima and Adox Lupex chloro-bromide papers are far superior to Azo; better tonal separation, faster printing speed, etc. How do I know that? Because I contact printed on Azo back in the late 70's and now print on both of the aforementioned papers. I will concede that old Plationotype paper for pt/pd printing is, perhaps, better than any hand-coated papers of today, but we still have some damn fine papers to print on.
Perhaps, we can look at this from another direction... Maybe the photographers of "old" were better; more sensitive to how light plays across a subject, more technically adept, worked harder and longer and...well...more than most photographers today. Just sayin...
Interesting discussion nonetheless!
..or perhaps looking back somehow turns our perception slightly rose tinted?
Separate names with a comma.