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Author Topic: B/W Dig Print Doubts versus Analogue  (Read 6575 times)
pgpgsxr
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« on: June 03, 2007, 04:08:32 PM »
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Hi everybody
 I would like to hear your opinions on what´s the situation with current digital printers and papers in B/W. How good are digital B/W prints compared to Analogue prints with the latest tech? (I´m currently using epson 2100 with ImagePrint with Hahnemule paper and I´m not totally convinced yet). Also is the art world begining really to accept digital prints or is it still niche market where only a few are managing to sell their work? Finally is it of any use in comparing the two processes or is it a waste of time.
 I have so many doubts on what I´m seeing that I´m really thinking of giving up using my 1ds II and photoshop and going back to 8x10, film and contact prints. Forget any comments on resolution I use the 1ds because there are no toxic chemicals with two little babies at home, but I got a friends studio I can use if I go back to film, though it´s a pain not working from home.
 Cheers Paul
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Geoff Wittig
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« Reply #1 on: June 03, 2007, 06:03:00 PM »
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This subject is nicely discussed by Mike Johnson in the course of a review of the HP B9180 printer in this month's Black & White Photography magazine (published in England, pricey, but sometimes very good articles).

There are really two ways to look at it. If you're expecting your digital prints to look exactly like traditional darkroom output, until very recently you were bound for disappointment. Lately using an HP Z3100 on luster/satin paper I'm getting a deep black as good as anything I ever saw from a darkroom, excellent tonal smoothness and, if I intentionally tone it this way, "color" just like a selenium toned darkroom print. The surface is just a little bit different, but overall quality is extremely close, with all the advantages of total digital control in Photoshop.

The other approach is to regard digital prints as sui generis, and judge them on their own artistic merits. Black & white prints on 100% cotton matte fine art papers have beautiful texture and tonality, closer to platinum than gelatin silver, and for some images this looks great. I got good results using Roy Harrington's QTR to drive an Epson 7600 on Hahnemuhle photo rag or Epson ultrasmooth, but the D-max wasn't quite dark enough for my images. Now I'm using all four black inks from the Z3100 on satin paper and find this suits me perfectly. I can' imagine going back to the darkroom.
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Brian Gilkes
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« Reply #2 on: June 03, 2007, 06:20:46 PM »
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Inkjet printers can produce excellent B&W with computer edits either not available or very difficult in analogue workflows.
Results are different. "Better" is a relative term , depending on personal aesthetics.
A contact print from a 8x10 " negative is in a class by itself, a whole different beast than any inkjet print from any 35mm digital camera.
If you want anything like the resolution of 8x10 film you might start saving for a Betterlight back.
The "look" though will still be different. Silver suspended in gelatin has a different appearance to carbon or colour pigments on art paper.
If you want to obtain optimum quality when printing inkjet monochrome you should have custom profiles for B&W, not the colour ones.
There are also specialised pathways to consider, including Jon Cones Piezography and Roy Harrington's Quad Tone RIP.
Fine monochrome in analogue is a highly refined craft and digital is no less so.
Good images sell- inkjet or silver. I have heard of some  resistance to digital in parts of Europe. Perhaps the current market situation could be reported and discussed in a seperate thread?
Cheers,

Brian
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pgpgsxr
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« Reply #3 on: June 03, 2007, 07:28:42 PM »
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Thank you Brian and Geoff for such interesting replies to my query.
Brian you are quite right "better" is a relative term, I suppose I meant nearest thing to darkroom print as possible, I miss the tonal smoothness which I used to achieve before I turned to digital. I find all the tones in the images much more abrupt without the subtle smoothness I achieved before. I´m not sure but I also find something flat without depth in some kind of sense compared to film maybe it´s my imagination but there is something always nagging me when I work a landscape image. It doesn´t matter if it´s 8x10,4x5 or 6x7, they feel better image wise to me, digital is lacking something. It gets on my nerves because I´m not against digital at all, for the last 3 years my workflow has been from begining to end digital. Only began using film last christmas after being given a fuji 6x7 rangefinder.
 Geoff you mentioned luster/satin paper, I´ve been wondering about these papers as I´ve given up on the matte rag papers as they don´t remind me in any way of anything like silver, I´ll probably give it a try.
 Well I hear both positive and negative comments on digital prints, I don´t know if it´s because of a lack of real information or just damn stubborness to anything new but I feel their is a resistance to digital. I´ll drop a post in the "Is it art?" forum on this topic see what people feel.
 Cheers Paul
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DarkPenguin
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« Reply #4 on: June 03, 2007, 07:47:14 PM »
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As an aside Mike Johnston made the print "Migrant Mother" by Dorothea Lange available on his print sale site http://topprints.blogspot.com/ as an example of what a modern inkjet printer can do.  (In this case the B9180.)
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Schewe
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« Reply #5 on: June 04, 2007, 12:11:17 AM »
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(I´m currently using epson 2100 with ImagePrint with Hahnemule paper and I´m not totally convinced yet).
[{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

That would be your problem then. To be honest, the 2100 (or 2200 in the US) simply didn't have ther goods. The K3 inks (with 3 blacks) of the 2400 and 3/4/7/9800 series did advance B&W on Epson by a wide margin. Recent releases from Canon & HP also have moved far beyond the 2100 as well.

Back in May, 2005 I wrote about the 2400 in an article and compared the results to traditional silver gel prints. See: [a href=\"http://photoshopnews.com/2005/05/16/epson-r2400-and-ultrachrome-k3-ink-report/]Epson R2400 And Ultrachrome K3 Ink Report[/url].

The only real lack at this point is the ultimate B&W paper...several have been released since that report and they're good, but they still don't really match a traditional DWDM silver paper in look & feel. The current stuff looks pretty good when you get it behind glass though...
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Per Ofverbeck
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« Reply #6 on: June 04, 2007, 03:53:12 AM »
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... To be honest, the 2100 (or 2200 in the US) simply didn't have ther goods. The K3 inks (with 3 blacks) of the 2400 and 3/4/7/9800 series did advance B&W on Epson by a wide margin. Recent releases from Canon & HP also have moved far beyond the 2100 as well.
...

The only real lack at this point is the ultimate B&W paper...several have been released since that report and they're good, but they still don't really match a traditional DWDM silver paper in look & feel. The current stuff looks pretty good when you get it behind glass though...
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=121007\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

FWIW, I second Jeff here.  I was happy with the B/W output from my 2100 using QTR (the Epson driver just couldn´t give decent B/W), but for other reasons decided to upgrade, and after briefly contemplating the HP9180, I got the 3800 (After factoring in the price of the extra ink that comes with the 3800, I decided to pass on the 2400, and go for the 3800, but that´s another story).

I have to say I´m very happy I bought it.  Now, the ABW setting of the Epson driver does what I want, without QTR.  Blacks are blacker, the entire tone scale far more linear, and the rather heavy bronzing of the 2100 is all but gone.

As for paper, I just "discovered" the Innova FibaPrint Ultra Smooth White Gloss 285 (phew.... remember when good papers were just called Agfa Portriga or someting short and snappy like that?).  Great paper, does indeed look and feel like good old silver baryta papers (if that´s important; in any case it doesn´t look like RC papers did...).  Expensive, but I´ll use it for a while for my best prints.
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adiallo
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« Reply #7 on: June 04, 2007, 05:38:53 AM »
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Paul,
You've received some good responses already so I'll just add one thing. In the goal to produce digital prints as satisfying as those we made in the darkroom it's easy to lose sight of the sometimes long and arduous task of acquiring the necessary skills in both editing and printing. The learning curve for high-quality digital imaging and printing can be steep. Someone who's worked for years in the darkroom has the advantage of knowing what they want, but the skillset needed to get there in a digital process is completely different. Lots to master, from equipment choices (ie ditch the 2100) to image editing techniques (effective use of localized contrast adjustments, for example).
IMHO the fastest way to determine if digital can provide the aesthetic goods you require is to have a very good printmaker produce a print from a film image you've printed in the darkroom and then compare the digital and analog prints. If the digital prints "sings" for you then it's a matter of honing your skills and perhaps upgrading some equipment. This is neither cheap nor easy, but is a much easier sell if you can see that the goal is indeed just over the horizon.
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John R Smith
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« Reply #8 on: June 04, 2007, 10:03:25 AM »
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As a B/W darkroom printer of thirty-odd years standing, and now having used scanned film and inkjet printing for a year and a half, I would have to say that inkjet B/W is nearly there, but not quite yet. I keep a few of my best darkroom prints on fibre base paper lying around as a constant reference, and so far I cannot match them. The big issues are -

* Highlight separation and gradation. Skies in particular are a problem.

* The paper. Despite all the hype surrounding various fibre gloss papers, they still don't match the look and feel of old-fashioned doubleweight silver papers.

* Certainly, matt papers look fine, if you like that sort of thing. In all my years of darkroom printing, I think I used matt paper once - we always thought it looked cheap. For me, photography is glossy, at least to a degree. Most published books of photographic art are on gloss paper, too, not matt.

And let's face it, printing from Photoshop via an inkjet, no matter how good, isn't half as much fun as sloshing about in the darkroom, is it?

John
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« Reply #9 on: June 04, 2007, 12:53:33 PM »
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And let's face it, printing from Photoshop via an inkjet, no matter how good, isn't half as much fun as sloshing about in the darkroom, is it?

John
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=121049\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Gotta disagree with you there.    I don't miss being in the dark at all.  The joy of seeing an image come off my Z3100 is just as great for me as staring in the developer tray.

Of course for me printing from Photoshop is just marginally better than a sharp stick in the eye.  Qimage makes more sense.
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[span style='font-size:14pt;line-height:100%'][span style='font-family:Arial'][span style='font-family:Geneva'][span style='font-size:8pt;line-height:100%']Regards,
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« Reply #10 on: June 04, 2007, 12:58:08 PM »
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First of all, get Amadou's book-

http://www.masteringdigitalbwbook.com/

I find there is a lot of misinformation out regarding the state of the art of B&W with ink.
You must try to see some good prints by a master printer to judge for yourself. We did the same to get a handle on silver prints. A Caponigro, or Gibson, Sommer (on and on) exhibition would teach us where the high bar is in various ways every time.
The real point to me though is that they will not match the silver prints and I wonder why we expect them to. The nature of the materials is dramatically different.
I test the new PK papers here all the time to try and come up with something that will make people happy to leave the darkroom. I have worked extensively with the new Innova and Crane papers and they do look good, and the surfaces resemble a sliver print, and yet the prints look quite different from silver to me.
I still think people who love silver should do silver. Interestingly, all these tests were laying around when an extremely rich print of a Jeff Corwin image was coming out, with a lot of blacks, with Cone ink on William Turner. We were surprised to note that the matte print gave the impression of a richer black, despite the dmax numbers.
Choose which most brings your particular images alive, master that. Don't try to mimic one with the other.
Go see some exhibits if you can, let us know where you are and we might direct you to some good people.

Tyler.
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Charlesu
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« Reply #11 on: June 04, 2007, 01:23:40 PM »
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Gotta disagree with you there.    I don't miss being in the dark at all.  The joy of seeing an image come off my Z3100 is just as great for me as staring in the developer tray.

[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=121073\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I've got a nice, dedicated wet darkroom in my home and it makes a great storage closet.  My Z3100, on the other hand, produces lovely B&W prints on an almost daily basis.  In the light, without fumes, without me getting wet or smelly and I can have the game on TV while I'm waiting for the print to emerge.
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #12 on: June 04, 2007, 01:27:04 PM »
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I agree with Tyler. Go with silver if the surface appearance is the most important factor for you.

I printed B&W glossy (air-dried) silver gelatin prints for forty-plus years before I considered going digital. A friend of mine, who teaches digital photography, had been trying to get me to go digital and invited me to a group exhibit in which her B&W digital prints were on display along with silver prints by three other fine photographers. Much to my astonishment, I couldn't tell which of the prints were digital.

My own early attempts at digital printing were pretty god-awful, but in about three years the best of my digital prints matched the best of my silver prints. I have recently been scanning old negatives and prints that I still like from the old days, and so far I have been able to match or exceed the quality of my silver prints every time. The control you have with curves alone lets you do things that would be impossible with conventional darkroom techniques.

The paper surface is still an issue, and inkjet papers have a ways to go before they match the appearance of good old air-dried F-surface. But if you do a decent job printing on good matte papers and display under glass, as I do, the surface difference is invisible.

For the record, I do all my color printing using Image Print and all my B&W using QTR.
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pgpgsxr
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« Reply #13 on: June 04, 2007, 05:18:54 PM »
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Once again thanks to everyone who has taken the time to post their thoughts on my "digital doubts".
 Yes I have had doubts about the capability of my 2100 to handle B/W properly for quite awhile and I agree with John R Smith that matt papers just don´t make it at least for me. Viewed on their own without seeing a good standard analogue print in a long time and I must admit I start to like matt, but side by side the matt print just looks odd to me.
 However I agree that all image editing techniques in photoshop are a step forward there is so much more control and this is why I still have this resistance to go back into the darkroom. Just the thought of dust spotting without photoshop makes me cringe.
 Who are the masters of B/W digital prints these days? Who is successfully selling their digital prints (and I don´t mean from their websites but real galleries) like a Michael Kenna, Keith Carter or a Sally Mann etc, because I want to see it. I´m starting to see a bit of digital in some fine-art photography magazines but nothing to write home about.
 Cheers Paul
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TylerB
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« Reply #14 on: June 04, 2007, 05:26:59 PM »
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...
 Who are the masters of B/W digital prints these days? Who is successfully selling their digital prints (and I don´t mean from their websites but real galleries) like a Michael Kenna, Keith Carter or a Sally Mann etc, because I want to see it. I´m starting to see a bit of digital in some fine-art photography magazines but nothing to write home about.
 Cheers Paul
[{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]


where are you? I know several of the best B&W printers in the country and can perhaps direct to to someone if they are in your area.
I don't know about who is selling, one name that comes up a lot that Antonis Ricos prints for is Nick Brant-
[a href=\"http://www.nickbrandt.com/popup.html]http://www.nickbrandt.com/popup.html[/url]
Tyler
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John R Smith
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« Reply #15 on: June 05, 2007, 04:11:50 AM »
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Hmmmmm . . .

Let's see how digital B/W photography in its current state of development would stack up if we offered this wonderful new technology to a master of the past. So we will warp back to the 1950s with our computers, printers, Photoshop and RIPs, and set it all up in Ansel Adams' place. "Here you go, Ansel me old mate", we say. "You can dump all that stinky old darkroom kit now, this is the bee's knees". “And what is it?” mutters Ansel suspiciously. “Well, Ansey old buddy, this super high-tech setup will print your snapshots without any chemicals, no darkroom, no print washing or drying and with far better results than you are getting now”, we reply, confident of making yet another digital convert. “Show me”, says Ansel.

So we set up our scanners, PCs and printers, all state of the art, and proceed to make digital prints from an old negative Ansel has lying around, some rather boring shot with a moon and a kind of a graveyard thing in the foreground. We were going to impress him with a load of stuff about colour gamuts and ICC profiles, but he doesn’t seem to have any colour pictures at all, just these old black and white ones. No matter. The first print rolls out of the printer.

“Here you go, Ansey – this is from the HP 8750 with the photo-grey Vivera inkset, guaranteed to last more than 100 years, perfect greyscale, on the Premium Plus paper. Just look at that gloss!” Ansel handles the print suspiciously. “This paper is beyond horrible” he says. “The white is cold, and what is this vile rough surface on the back?” He walks to the window. “My god! It’s gone green!” Slightly flustered, we attempt to mollify the Great Man. “Er, well, yes Addsy, they do tend to look slightly different under daylight. It’s called illuminant metamerism actually, but you can get around it by …” Ansel spits on the printer, screws the print up into a ball and hurls it under the table. Sensing that things are not going too well, we quickly hook up the next candidate.

“Yes, dye-ink printers do have their little problems Addso, but try this. The Epson pigment ink R4800 printer, loaded with the fantastic Ultrachrome K3 inkset on Moab DaVinci Picasso Rembrandt 400 gsm Photo-Rag fine-art paper. Just look at the DMax on that!”. Ansel picks up the print. “This is matt”, he says, “This is watercolour paper. This is not a photograph”. “No, Addsey, that’s what everyone is printing on these days, all the fine-art printers. It’s called giclee, you see, and of course all the best photog …” Ansel tears the print into small pieces. “I do not print on matt paper”, he scowls. “I have never printed on matt paper”.

Feeling slightly nervous now, we try to grasp the initiative. “Of course, of course Ansey old buddy, we should have realised. Glossy? Have we got glossy!” A superb A3+ print rolls from the Epson 4800. “Here you go, look at this – Fibaprint Museo Platinum Silver Rag Supreme, just the same as a fine doubleweight darkroom print!” Ansel takes the picture to his desk. “The surface is rubbery”, he mutters. “It doesn’t feel right. And what is this? When I hold it against the light I can see a strange gold sheen. And my clouds – the paper is showing through the ink and ruining my clouds!” “It’s just a little bit of bronzing and gloss differential, Addso, nothing to worry about, and Epson have really improved things over the older models, we can probably do better with a different profile. Perhaps you could take pictures without clouds in?” Ansel takes out a match, strikes it and sets fire to one corner of the print. He drops the smouldering remains into the printer feed tray.

Desperate now to convince the master, we play our last card, the killing blow – “But Mr Adams, once the print is framed and behind glass, no-one will know the difference anyway!” Ansel draws himself up to his full height, sticks out his beard and looks us straight in the eye. “Gentlemen”, he says, “I will know the difference!”

Well, there’s just no pleasing some people  

John
« Last Edit: June 05, 2007, 05:06:47 AM by John R Smith » Logged

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Ernst Dinkla
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« Reply #16 on: June 05, 2007, 06:56:18 AM »
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Hmmmmm . . .


Desperate now to convince the master, we play our last card, the killing blow – “But Mr Adams, once the print is framed and behind glass, no-one will know the difference anyway!” Ansel draws himself up to his full height, sticks out his beard and looks us straight in the eye. “Gentlemen”, he says, “I will know the difference!”


John
[{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]


Leave that printer there + everything digital he needs + a Photoshop CS2 copy and get back a year later. He might offer you his old darkroom that hasn't been used for some months. Very nice digital prints, different from the ones he made before but he likes them. Now you only have to find that method that makes his digital prints so good, he may be willing to tell you if he could ............


Ernst Dinkla

try: [a href=\"http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Wide_Inkjet_Printers/]http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Wide_Inkjet_Printers/[/url]
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Geoff Wittig
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« Reply #17 on: June 05, 2007, 07:09:45 AM »
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"I eagerly await new concepts and processes. I believe that the electronic image will be the next major advance. Such systems will have their own inherent and inescapable structural characteristics, and the artist and functional practioner will again strive to comprehend and control them" (Ansel Adams, March 1981, "The Negative") Introduction, page xiii.  

Ansel's opinion was quite a bit different than that expressed by Mr. Smith's straw man. In fact, his views were remarkably similar to those expressed by Tyler Boley and Mike Johnson. Each printing method has its own strengths and weaknesses, and the talented artist makes the most of each medium. I gladly accept some of the minor shortcomings of digital materials in return for the unprecedented control, flexibility and range of expression readily available. I have some images that look beautiful on soft textured cotton rag paper. I have others that really sing on satin paper with a D-max darker than any gelatin silver paper can produce. It's a brave new world out there.
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Rob C
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« Reply #18 on: June 05, 2007, 07:21:00 AM »
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Hi Paul

Digital or silver: you really have to choose one or the other because, if you don´t, you will probably always have that hellish doubt about how ít would have looked printed in the other medium.

I have had the very opposite reaction with matt paper to that of one poster here: for the first time I find a matt surface I like. In the wet, I tried a few times and gave up in disgust, not least of all because of the darkening down effect which made it dodgy to know when you´d got the print, but also because of the huge loss of tone when compared with glossy (glazed). I could never understand why anyone developed that thing about air-dried glossy - it just doesn´t have the same depth as the same paper glazed. Frankly, it always looked to me as an unfinished job.

I also think it is somewhat down the route of false analogy to talk about Ansel Adams and his presumed reactions to the digital world - we simply do not have the information.

I too have spent years and years messing about in the darkroom for a variety of employers and then finally on my own account; the truth of the matter is that once the shot´s been taken, then I start to lose interest in it. That was one of the blessing about shooting transparency: you shot it and forgot it. That does not imply that there was no worth in the shot - far from it. It merely says that the next job was going to be better (one hoped!) and that all one´s mental resources were needed there.

In fact, I´d go as far as to suggest that once one has acquired the ability to print well, then printing is just another time-consuming part of the photographic process, whether wet or digital. There are obviously those who think otherwise, but that´s just my gut feeling about the whole thing. It may fill vacant hours to engage in chat about various techniques etc. but at the end of the day, it´s just a means to an end: getting that image from camera to paper.

Enjoy the fresh air...

Rob C
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« Reply #19 on: June 05, 2007, 09:11:54 AM »
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I´m starting to see a bit of digital in some fine-art photography magazines but nothing to write home about.
 Cheers Paul
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=121110\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Paul, more and more digital is creeping in and more and more of it is of very high quality.  I subscribe to "Lenswork" and there is a growing number of digital submissions there.  Not only digital capture but digital prints as well.
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