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Author Topic: Digital BW Discussion  (Read 4236 times)

graeme

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Digital BW Discussion
« on: July 14, 2017, 08:43:43 AM »

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rdonson

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Re: Digital BW Discussion
« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2017, 09:09:52 AM »

Thanks for sharing!!!
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Ron

Eric Myrvaagnes

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Re: Digital BW Discussion
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2017, 10:00:57 AM »

Very interesting, and I think his ideas are worth considering.
I liked his comment about how to make a digital B&W print from a B&W negative: "Make a darkroom print and scan it."
After some 40+ years doing black and white darkroom prints, when I went digital I wanted to digitize my best darkroom prints. For some of them I couldn't find the negative to scan, so I scanned my best darkroom print and found it very easy to make good digital prints from the scanned print instead of the scanned negative.

Whoulda thunk.
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Paul Roark

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Re: Digital BW Discussion
« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2017, 11:54:47 AM »

For those who know what they're doing, digital B&W is wonderful.  I appreciate those photographers & printers who keep the old, "alternative" processes alive (silver included), but there is no way I am going back to film.

Color is beautiful, and human visual systems are clearly very sensitive and oriented to color.  That is what most want, and digital has made it much easier than with film.  The cameras, most workflows, and printers are clearly oriented to that market.  But for those who want fine art B&W, the modern tools have also raised the bar and potential in that (now) niche segment of our market.

As far as I'm concerned, as a B&W photographer/printer, I like the fact that most of the shooters and printers have stayed with color -- it makes my B&W prints all the more unique.

FWIW,

Paul
www.PaulRoark.com
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rdonson

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Re: Digital BW Discussion
« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2017, 12:30:52 PM »

I enjoyed my darkroom days (1965-2000).  It was a bit of magic.  B&W prints could be special. That said I don't miss hanging out in the dark, the fumes or the discolored fingers.   ;D

These days I'm happy printing with my Epson on Baryta or Platine to achieve similar results to my B&W prints. 

Disclosure:  no one will ever mistake my work for Ansel Adams or Weston   ;)
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Ron

Paul Roark

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Re: Digital BW Discussion
« Reply #5 on: July 15, 2017, 11:10:08 AM »

I enjoyed my darkroom days (1965-2000).  It was a bit of magic. ...

The younger generation of photographers, who will not experience that magic of the negatives coming out of the tank, is missing a major part of the experience we had.  It's bound to affect the medium, and I suppose the greater dominance of color photography is part of that.

Then there's the dominance of cellphone photography and selfies.  I proud to say I've never taken a selfie with my phone.  (But I do appreciate the relative weight of my Sony a7r + primes compared to my Rollei SL66 system with the equivalent range of lenses.)

Paul
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rdonson

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Re: Digital BW Discussion
« Reply #6 on: July 15, 2017, 05:29:49 PM »

Perhaps a bit of the magic has returned with the recent bloom in printing work ourselves.  Inkjet printing and paper stocks have really come a long way. 

I don't worry about selfies and cell phone photos probably because I see those as an update to Kodak Brownies and the like.  Dedicated photographers do ascend the ranks from snapshots to serious work just like in the past.  Once you get the bug it's hard to shake.  Not everyone needs an MFA to be a good photographer.  Heck, all people really need is to enjoy the work and to continue to learn. 

The first camera I bought on my own was a used Argus C3.  I had a blast with that camera.  The joy still remains even though at times I think I've gone over the edge with the technology of digital.   
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Ron

Ferp

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Re: Digital BW Discussion
« Reply #7 on: July 15, 2017, 07:30:27 PM »

For those who know what they're doing, digital B&W is wonderful.  I appreciate those photographers & printers who keep the old, "alternative" processes alive (silver included), but there is no way I am going back to film.

Color is beautiful, and human visual systems are clearly very sensitive and oriented to color.  That is what most want, and digital has made it much easier than with film.  The cameras, most workflows, and printers are clearly oriented to that market.  But for those who want fine art B&W, the modern tools have also raised the bar and potential in that (now) niche segment of our market.

As far as I'm concerned, as a B&W photographer/printer, I like the fact that most of the shooters and printers have stayed with color -- it makes my B&W prints all the more unique.

+1.  This exactly mirrors my views.
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David Sutton

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Re: Digital BW Discussion
« Reply #8 on: July 16, 2017, 03:58:34 AM »

I agree with Mike Johnston's post.
My first DSLR camera (a Canon) had quite shocking noise in the shadows, and exposing to the right on the raw file made a lot of sense.
No longer.
Shadow recovery on my Fuji is just fine. But I do notice that if I ETTR there is information lost in the highlights that can't be recovered easily compared to exposing for highlight detail and letting the shadows fall where they may. And yes, I do know what I'm doing in my raw converters.
I hardly use the histogram now but go by what I see in the viewfinder. Compared to my previous practice I'm underexposing, and am closer to what I did with slide film.
A lot of digital B&W images (in particular) I see now lack highlight detail and the mid-tones look odd. Going for shadow detail has IMHO made many a photo look strange. In hindsight, many of mine included.
David
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jisner

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Re: Digital BW Discussion
« Reply #9 on: July 16, 2017, 10:14:21 PM »

I do notice that if I ETTR there is information lost in the highlights that can't be recovered easily compared to exposing for highlight detail and letting the shadows fall where they may.

I'm curious as to how you were losing detail in highlights with ETTR, unless you exposed so far to the right that you clipped one of the color channels.
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jisner

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Re: Digital BW Discussion
« Reply #10 on: July 16, 2017, 10:32:05 PM »

The younger generation of photographers, who will not experience that magic of the negatives coming out of the tank, is missing a major part of the experience we had.

At the community college where I teach (we have maybe the best photography program in the state), the young students are almost all doing film and alternative processes.  The digital people are mostly old guys like me who have sworn that they'd never go back into a darkroom.  I have a couple of theories as to why this is so.  (1) Film is perceived by the young students (who are art majors) to be easier to learn than digital.  If they can follow a recipe, they can develop film and make a print (not a good one, of course!).  (2) Students are told that if they have any hope of making it in the fine art world, their work needs to be "hand made." 
« Last Edit: July 16, 2017, 10:55:57 PM by jisner »
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Eric Myrvaagnes

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Re: Digital BW Discussion
« Reply #11 on: July 16, 2017, 11:28:30 PM »

I'm curious as to how you were losing detail in highlights with ETTR, unless you exposed so far to the right that you clipped one of the color channels.
I think what he is referring to should be properly called ETFTTR (Exposing Too Far To The Right).   ;)
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-Eric Myrvaagnes    (A sampler of my new book is on my website.)
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TommyWeir

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Re: Digital BW Discussion
« Reply #12 on: July 17, 2017, 07:57:11 AM »

I literally just spent a morning editing a bunch of B&Ws and essentially did just that, slid my midpoint on the Levels adjustment over a tad.

kers

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Re: Digital BW Discussion
« Reply #13 on: July 17, 2017, 08:15:16 AM »

These days I'm happy printing with my Epson on Baryta or Platine to achieve similar results to my B&W prints. 

The quality of the best BW-wet papers still have more detail in the dark area's i think.
In the 1990's Kodak produced some thick and expensive glossy barite paper that was realy awesome.

...
I liked his comment about how to make a digital B&W print from a B&W negative: "Make a darkroom print and scan it."
After some 40+ years doing black and white darkroom prints, when I went digital I wanted to digitize my best darkroom prints. For some of them I couldn't find the negative to scan, so I scanned my best darkroom print and found it very easy to make good digital prints from the scanned print instead of the scanned negative.
...

I disagree- just discovered going through my old slides/negatives that i get better results scanning a BW negative than from a print.
More contrast, more detail and less dirt to clean in the dark areas.
-Of course a wetprint is already a selection of what the negative has to offer- it has been worked on.
But with the digital camera from 2017 and a good macrolens you can get all the detail out of your negatives just by making a backlit photograph.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2017, 08:18:35 AM by kers »
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David Sutton

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Re: Digital BW Discussion
« Reply #14 on: July 17, 2017, 06:05:23 PM »

I'm curious as to how you were losing detail in highlights with ETTR, unless you exposed so far to the right that you clipped one of the color channels.

Sometimes it's not obvious in LR that a channel is being clipped, so I agree that is a possibility. However if there is any doubt I usually go to PV 2010 or a different converter, and check the colour information there. Particularly the blue channel. It's in the skies I see loss of detail particularly.
One could argue that's due to blue channel clipping, but on the other hand that's also where the highlights usually lie in my landscapes. After processing tens of thousands of images with Fuji cameras I'm certain enough I'm not clipping and that avoiding ETTR (if possible) is giving me better highlight detail and colour, and overall a more malleable file.
David
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Rob C

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Re: Digital BW Discussion
« Reply #15 on: July 18, 2017, 12:56:08 PM »

Scanning a print should be a last resort. If you don't know why yet, just look at a "good" print under a low-powered magnifyng glass: it's mush. It doesn't retain what a negative does. A print looks good at the size of the print. Which means yep, you can sniff it and it should still look good because the final arbiter is just your vision. So sure, if you intend to print digitally, smaller than the print you copžed, then fine, just as long as your equipment and technique is good, nobody will know your little secret!

Making copies, entirely within a traditional b/w darkroom workflow, always led to the same problem of increased contrast unless you knew how to make a flatter intermediate that would then end up giving a print looking more normal at the end of the process. (Colour copying used special colour emulsions for the task.)

As for in-camera exposures: I use two old digitals - a D200 and a D700 - mostly the D200 because I like the effect of the 50mm and 180mm lenses on that format, and simply go for auto ISO using the Matrix system. Only exceptions are shooting against windows from inside a room. Photoshop handles that Matrix measuring just fine. Before you throw your hands up in horror, I have been a pro since '60 and did very nicely, thank you, both in b/white and transparency work; I'm not coming here just based on theory. In my b/w darkroom, I used only one film developer (D76 1+1 with water) and for papers, D163. Period. The trick was not to play games, but to standardise and learn how your very few films would work for you. 6x6 was always TXP 120, and nothing else except Ektachrome 64. Neg colour was almost never used in my commercial advertising work - very few folks wanted colour prints! For 135 format, I did not use Kodak b/w film at all, liking Ilford's 125 and 400 ASA emulsions more. Almost all my 135 format colour was on Kodachrome; if time was of the essence, I shot 6x6 Ektachrome and got it processed locally.

I did all my b/white prints in-house and only farmed out 40" x 60" display stuff for department stores or exhibition stands; I couldn't handle that size of print.

Now, I have also discoverd that some other popular (photographic) myths are also popular fallacies. Scanning Kodachromes on my CanoScan lets me make damned nice black/white prints or monitor images. According to most of the online pundits, this should not happen. So what am I doing wrong? ;-)

Wet prints from film changed as you were making them: the final print in the wash invariably lookd better than the print coming off the dryer. Unglazed prints on glossy paper look awful but always better than any I saw on textured papers, which I have always thought of as camouflage for rotten work.

A digital print doesn't look like a wet one either, because it isn't the same physical thing, which should be blindingly obvious. A wet print has a look that I prefer, perhaps because of my lifetime making wet prints, but also because at the end of it all, a wet print feels honest. I know what can be done in making wet prints, and I also know what can be done in the making of digital images. Part of the digital problem stems, I firmly believe, from something stated by others either here or in the OLP: folks with no darkroom history don't know how good a wet print can be made to look, how damned rich its flavour. And the same folks may also not be aware of the deadly influence of going on and on making minute adjustments to a file until you get so bored with it you could scream. That's where the "honesty" thing comes into play: knowing when to stop.

Just as in writing.

;-)

Rob C

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Re: Digital BW Discussion
« Reply #16 on: July 18, 2017, 05:47:31 PM »

One thing I remember with early Canon D-SLRs was their tendency to smash highlight tones together even when the brightest tones were below clipping. This was independent of the RAW processor used, so I suspect it was either a sensor thing or something Canon was doing to the RAWs before saving 'em. The 6mp Sony sensors used in various cameras c. 2004Ė06, including Epson's RD-1 rangefinder, produced tonally richer files that were a pleasure to work with in comparison. And as much as I like the m43 format, both Olympus & Panasonic files tend to have "hot" highlights too. Not as bad as the old Canons but still less finely gradated than I'd prefer.

-Dave-
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Rado

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Re: Digital BW Discussion
« Reply #17 on: July 18, 2017, 06:17:23 PM »

I'm one of those people with no darkroom experience and when I make b/w conversions I just go by what looks good to me, but it's not a very educated guess. Any suggestions on how to improve my b/w vision? How representative are photo books? I have Nick Brandt's books about Africa and by all accounts those are beautifully printed. Maybe some veteran b/w printer could sell some "this is how good a b/w print can get" technical examples.
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Mike D. B.

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Re: Digital BW Discussion
« Reply #18 on: July 19, 2017, 01:03:14 AM »

I'm one of those people with no darkroom experience and when I make b/w conversions I just go by what looks good to me, but it's not a very educated guess. Any suggestions on how to improve my b/w vision? How representative are photo books? I have Nick Brandt's books about Africa and by all accounts those are beautifully printed. Maybe some veteran b/w printer could sell some "this is how good a b/w print can get" technical examples.
I have yet to see a book with b&w prints equaling the tonal depth and beauty of a darkroom print enlarged well.  I recall visiting Leica (in Solms, Germany) some 10 years ago when they exhibited b&w prints from their own lab.  Impressive and beautiful!

I no longer maintain a darkroom and the only film I plan to shoot is with a newly acquired pinhole camera (just for fun).  Iím quite satisfied with the b&w conversions I created in LR and print on Moab papers.

I miss film, but wonít return to shooting it in earnest.  Too expensive (though digital is costly too) and Iím been spoiled by working in daylight.
« Last Edit: July 19, 2017, 01:44:34 PM by Mike D. B. »
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nma

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Re: Digital BW Discussion
« Reply #19 on: July 19, 2017, 10:33:13 AM »

An interesting Mike Johnston post on digital BW processing:

http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2017/07/how-to-cure-the-digital-bw-nasties.html

Mike Johnsonís article is an interesting read but his advice is rather personal and not so easily repeated by others. He advises a -2/3 stop exposure; but he never defines exposure.  His conclusions are most relevant to his work.  It is well documented that any underexposure leads to increased shadow noise. With M43 this can be a problem and is also a problem for other formats as ISO is increased. There is no logical reason why ETTR properly done cannot give optimal results. If levels are not clipped, the information is there.


I am an experienced photographer (old) but what do I know? This is just my take on the problem. I work mostly in color, with a few B&Wís using ABW, on an Epson 17 inch printer. I practice ETTR and usually have no problem with the highlights. The histogram is a useful tool but it has its limitations. For example, there can be a relatively low number of pixels with intensities close to clipping, making it hard to judge subtle adjustments. This is an important problem that must be solved when making a print. Otherwise the highlights are lifeless, with little detail. Often, it is sufficient to merely reduce the exposure level and highlights in LR but it is sometimes additionally beneficial to reduce the contrast substantially. In this case I get the best results by carefully reintroducing contrast with curves, gradients and local adjustments of intensity.

Once upon a time, I had a dark room. I do not long for its return. Once upon a time I relied on photo finishers and custom labs for prints. I do not long for the good old days of film. Perhaps dulled memories account for the nostalgia of film and recall our youth wasted in the dark?
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