Hopefully this is a little more specific than the usual 'What should I start with?' question (although not by much). I've spent several years using 35mm Velvia while backpacking and want to try out B&W. No prior darkroom experience, although plenty of chemistry experience (academic, not narcotic =). After having spent the last week or so scouring this and other forums to make sense of the various 4x5 B&W film/developer combinations and the pros and cons of each, I decided to do the online equivalent of walking into a store and asking. I do mainly western landscapes (Beartooths, Tetons, Olympics, Cascades, San Juan Islands, etc.) in fog, snow, full sun, shaded forest, and sunrise/sunset.
Here's what I'm looking for:
-smooth tonal gradations
-unblocked highlights: if that bright cloud has subtle tones in it, I want to see those on the neg.
-rich shadow detail: ditto the above, but for patterns on tree bark and understory vegetation.
I realize these things are perhaps more strongly influenced by exposure, development times, printing times, etc., but from what I understand some films and developers are less successful towards these ends than others. Acutance is more important to me than grain. Speed isn't much of an issue, although 100 would be nice to match the Velvia 100F I keep loaded in my Minolta (doubles as my light meter). Price isn't much of an issue either, although 100 Tmax is getting up there as film prices go.
I just bought a Jobo 2905N tank for development, which I'll likely use with the hand roller accessory since it seems easy and less wasteful than hand inversion. Because scanning is likely at some point, I thought that perhaps Delta or Tmax would be good due to the reduced apparent grain, but many examples of Tmax that I see don't seem to have that velvety B&W look I always liked as a casual observer. I'm a grad. student in biology, so moderately complex developer concoctions are technically possible (but not desired). Product longevity (in the marketplace) and wide availability would be nice.
Basically, I love the look of 'classic' large format work a la Ansel Adams and Alan Ross (especially the latter's Cabin, Grand Tetons) and hope to emulate it. My suspicion is that I need some basic combo and lots of experience working with it. Suggestions? Feel free to throw in development times/temps and agitation regimes for the Jobo if you have them...