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Author Topic: Waxing "poetic" about wet and digital.  (Read 839 times)


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Waxing "poetic" about wet and digital.
« on: October 05, 2010, 12:23:23 AM »

I've recently returned to the cult of the latent image. ;) Over the past few years I've read at least as many opinions, editorial reviews, and articles online that pertain to photography as I once did in print many years ago after I bought a Yashica MG1 and subsequently set up my first darkroom one summer break during high school.

It seems to me, if I'm remembering correctly, that getting the right print in a “wet” darkroom involved a bit of trial and error. The time I remember in a darkroom consisted of getting my makeshift dark room “light tight” (anyone else remember that term?) for the session, mixing chemicals, taking temperature readings and adjusting ice baths accordingly, shaking film developing canisters like a mad soda jerk (okay, it was more like gently stirring), then squeegeeing and hanging film strips to dry. Next session, I would tighten everything up again, mix chemicals, take temperatures, and make contact sheets that would help me to choose what images to commit to print. After choosing an image, I would take some time to consider what paper to print on and, after narrowing down my options, make test strips on those papers, determine overall exposure values, make a test print, determine what needed to be dodged and burned, then finally get to the hard work: creating a final print. I thoroughly enjoyed those sequestered days during the summer of my 15th year. It was a summer’s dalliance that lingered well into college and has made its influence felt again in my middle age.

Today the digital darkrooms that have replace wet ones for most including me seem to be populated (if forums are any indication) by a great number of people who have spent good sums of money on purchasing Photoshop, a “high end” monitor (or two), calibration HW and SW, a "Pro" printer, and as a result expect their prints to be a “perfect match” out of the gate as if a perfect print is only a matter of matching what they see on a screen (“calibrated” though it may be). It wasn’t easy when I was an adolescent and it isn’t any easier now. I'm glad its still not easy and I have to work as hard now as I did then. Choosing inks, profiles, and papers has replaced picking the chemicals, papers, and filters of my youth. Things have changed as much as stayed the same. Creating a satisfying print from a latent image will never be a mechanical process no matter how much mechanization and technology it takes achieve that goal.


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Re: Waxing "poetic" about wet and digital.
« Reply #1 on: October 05, 2010, 03:08:55 AM »

Agree with you that producing a good print in the digital darkroom is just as difficult as producing one in the old chemical darkroom. I still remember with pleasure those days in the light tight rooms and pulling wet paper from one tray to the next in very dim green light and inhaling the acidic stop-bath fumes. Still don't want to go back to them for a few reasons:
- Much quicker feedback now. The amount of prints that looked great in the fixer tray, but then looked muddy or blown the next day when dried up is not missed
- Reproducability of digital. Once processed (dodging/burning/contrast etc) it's much easier to reproduce the next print the same. My more complicated prints in the chemical darkroom of the same negative still looked different from each other
- Being able to do colour, I had a short stint with it in the Chemical darkroom, but quickly gave up.
- Being to stop in the middle of a workflow, and pick it up the next day, week or month at exactly the place you left it.
And as far as finances go, I think I spent far more money on chemicals than ever on photoshop, and that was in a time that I could afford it less than today  :o, so romatic and warm heart feelings yes, but no desire to return.
pieter, aka pegelli


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Re: Waxing "poetic" about wet and digital.
« Reply #2 on: October 05, 2010, 04:29:11 AM »

Still don't want to go back to them for a few reasons:
Ditto... In the digital world, the trial and error about inks, papers and profiles has only to be made once, and you're less likely to discover that now that you reached the ideal temperature for the rev bath after a few test strips, it is actually a bit exhausted...

I'd also agree that seeing the print slowly coming out of the printer is not as romantic as seeing it slowly take form in the tray, but that did not help me to make better pictures.
Nicolas from Grenoble
A small gallery
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