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Thread: Please share thoughts on shooting B&W and Color

  1. #1

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    Please share thoughts on shooting B&W and Color

    B&W: In January of 1973 when I was a student at RIT, I started shooting 8x10 film. That winter and spring studied the Zone System under Nile Root and with the help of George DeWolfe. Started out with using the ZONE SYSTEM MANUAL by Minor White but quickly turned to photography: CONTROL & CREATIVITY by Bollman and DeWolfe. Over the next few years used calibration methods as described in the Handbook for Contemporary Photography by Arnold Gassan. Over the following years did the calibration tests many times over when films and papers were discontinued. Finally exposed my last piece (from my stash) of 8x10 Super-XX in the early 1990s. From around the year 2000 to maybe 2015, did little LF photography. Then got back into shooting sheet film again - 4x5 up to 11x14. Favorite format to shoot with has always been Whole Plate. In 2016 started to print exclusively Platinum/Palladium for negatives. Very quickly converted to making Digital negatives... the cost savings (in materials) of producing prints from calibrated digital negs was no less than immense. Was about to do another Zone System calibration with my now used B&W film Ilford FP-4 Plus, but on reading an article in the now (so missed) VIEWCAMERA magazine process most of my film in Diafine and then scan it. Sometimes when shooting 120 and 4x5 film, process it in Rodinal so I can also print the negatives "conventionally" with my Durst 4x5 enlarger. Next year intend on purchasing a stash of Ilford LF and ULF film to last me till when...

    Color: Over the years have shot thousands of 4x5 Chromes. Most commercially and many using a Nikon Multiphot for personal photomicrography work. In the outdoors shot many, many rolls of 120 chromes for personal work (4x5 film and processing was getting out of hand). Printed on Ilfordchrome till just after 2012 when it was discontinued. Had enough of paper and chemistry to last me a bit longer. Did a comparison of a few scanned 6x7 chromes (made by me with an Imacon that I had access to at the time) with a few digital files (of the same scenes) from my Nikon D4. Printed 11x14" color digital prints with an EPSON 4900. I honestly subjectively and objectively preferred the prints made with my DSLR. Was teaching Digital Photography on the college level back then so I humbly have to admit that I know what I was doing. So then, with a bit of nostalgic regrets, switched over to shooting exclusive digital for my color work. Do I miss holding and viewing my 4x5 chromes... definitely. Do I miss the bills I had accrued over the years for the color film and processing... not in the least bit.

    Am interested in how other FORUM members have evolved in their choice of their shooting media.

  2. #2
    SE Penna.
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    Re: Please share thoughts on shooting B&W and Color

    Nice topic, Greg, thanks.

    Late 70s: started black and white with 126 in an Instamatic. Moved through the formats over the years. Present day, I shoot mainly 4x5, with 120 and 135 thrown in. I am comfortable with my craft in black and white, and look forward to refining vision, aesthetics and impact. I have enlarged up to 11x14 in my own darkroom. Shot mostly Plus-X and Tri-X, with few rolls of Verichrome Pan in 120 through a rented Hasseblad.

    1990s: shot a few rolls of Kodak color material in 135 and 120, both negative and chrome. More of a curiosity and a "special treat".

    2011: started 4x5, strictly with black and white, strictly TXP320 in D-76.

    2017: started C-41 in 135, 120 and 4x5. Using 120 C-41 for client work, 4x5 and 135 for my own work. Color is great, lots more information (aesthetically and objectively) on the negative. Love the process control of C-41, and the subjective expression of color. Color is tricky especially for client work, especially portraiture, where color balance needs to meet the aesthetic of someone other than yourself. Much less creative wiggle room IMO with C-41, given the process parameters and color requirements for some situations. I have never printed RA4, but would like to at some stage. Printing is the weakest link in my workflow, so I send digital files to third parties for hardcopy images for both black and white and color. Film materials today include TXP320, TMX, TMY, all of the Portras and Ektar.
    Last edited by chassis; 9-Oct-2017 at 04:55.

  3. #3
    Foamer
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    Re: Please share thoughts on shooting B&W and Color

    I'll sort my experience as "PD" and "AD". PD (pre-digital): pretty much only shot color C-41 starting in the mid 1980s, then switched to E6 trannies about 1995. Mostly used a 35mm until 1995 when I bought a Bronica 645 and loved the bigger negs. About 1998 bought a 4x5 Shen Hao. Mostly shot trannies and a little C-41. I sold images to a local stock photo company, specializing in winter scenes and agriculture/farm life.

    AD (After digital.) Bought a Nikon DSLR in 2005, shot no film until about 2010 as I began to get bored with digital. Began buying classic and antique cameras of all sorts (Rolleiflex, Leica LTM, Kodak Brownies, German folders pre-war, etc.) Also bought a Chamonix 4x5 and later a Gundlach Korona 5x7. I almost always shoot with antique lenses (1845-1930.) I mostly shoot Ilford FP4, HP5, some Acros, and very little C-41. I scan my negs to make prints, but am considering making contact prints from the 5x7, and switching to using stitched shots from Nikon D800E DSLR for scanning. I never shoot b&w with digital; and virtually never shoot color film. I'm after a different experience and different results depending on what camera I use.


    Kent in SD
    Die Gedanken sind Frei

  4. #4
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Re: Please share thoughts on shooting B&W and Color

    1975 -- Started to expose a roll or two of 120 B&W through my dad's Rolleiflex and processed at the camera shop. In 1977 while pumping gasoline in Grand Canyon National Park, I made my first B&W prints in the employee's darkroom (film processed in Flagstaff). Continued to use B&W and some Ektachrome down in the Canyon until Fall. Then planted trees in Montana and saved enough money to take a photo class at college. After that I could take one photo class per year until I graduated from Humboldt State...which I stretched out a bit.

    1979 -- used a 4x5 for the first time for a class assignment, Royal Pan. 1980 -- had Thomas Joshua Cooper as a teacher. I bought a new 4x5 and lens. Hitched hiked around New Zealand with it for 3 months -- major light leak, only one or two images...many lessons learned. 1986 -- New 4x5 (used for 3 years by this time), new bicycle, and six months bike-touring in New Zealand to work with the light I began to explore 5 years before. Exposed 75 sheets of 4x5 TMax100 film. Nice 20 piece portfolio, which after 30 years, I would narrow down to a stronger 12.

    Mid 80s to early 90s -- workshop assistant for Friends of Photography, Carmel. 1991 -- retire from US Forest Service job (12 yrs, wilderness ranger, mule packer, etc) and became darkroom tech for HSU. 1992 -- begin to learn the carbon printing process and making the switch to a 5x7 camera. 1994 -- getting carbon prints I like. 1995 -- 5x7 camera stolen, insurance helps to get 8x10. 8x10 carbon prints -- sweet!

    1997 - triplet boys born, stay-at-home-dad. SX-70s, manipulated; was great until the boys learned to crawl. Back to 8x10, whatever film I could get, and learned platinum printing to 'save time'. 2001 -- boys learning to hold still for 30 seconds -- start series of environmental portraits of the boys. Eventually returned to carbon printing, including giving workshops. I went in with a friend on a 100+ yr old 11x14 camera. Continued to use the Rolleiflex with color negative film for images of the boys. Made prints. Divorced, retired, boys off to colleges and other places far away.

    2017 -- Just bought a new Chamonix 11x14 camera. Very sweet!! In the middle of an Artist-in-residence at PhotoCental, Hayward, CA (also in a great show there). Pulled off a great workshop with a lot of help and support (Sandy King especially was amazing!) Using the Rolleis these days to make 2 1/4 sq platinum/palladium prints. I am pretty big on small and occasionally I'm on the big side. No color for a long time, a lot of Ilford FP4+ when I can get it. I still love the film to hand made print workflow.
    Last edited by Vaughn; 9-Oct-2017 at 17:09.
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

  5. #5
    Randy's Avatar
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    Re: Please share thoughts on shooting B&W and Color

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg View Post
    Am interested in how other FORUM members have evolved in their choice of their shooting media.
    Oh...that's easy...by necessity I shoot as inexpensively as possible...that's why I shoot 8X10 X-ray film.
    https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/52893762/bigger4b.jpg

  6. #6
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    Re: Please share thoughts on shooting B&W and Color

    1988-95. shot tons of B&W film doing sports photography in high school/college. Gained much experience in the darkroom from this work. Shot a little bit of kodakchrome/fujichome during this time for nature photos as labs could not make good realistic color prints from c41.

    didn't do much photography till 2001 when I got an Agfa digital camera, then a Nikon DSLR in 2002. The instant feedback fueled some big creativity and wasn't a crutch, but a learning aid. Eventually I got bored with digital's perfection and quality and sometimes frustrated with it's inability to match the dynamic range of negative film scanned.

    Around 2008, I started getting back into studying photo history and picking up cheap cameras from people who had either died or converted to digital, including a couple LF cameras and Rolleiflexes. Things I couldn't afford as a student fifteen years earlier. Now most of my color photos are with a DSLR and B&W with the Rolleiflex or 4x5 speed. I don't do film testing. I have mostly settled on tmy2, fp4+, and a little bit of Portra 160. I've sort of gone off the deep end with regard to photo history in general and enjoy using old gear with traditional (but updated) materials.

  7. #7

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    Re: Please share thoughts on shooting B&W and Color

    When the aerial reconnaissance photography industry switched to digital, the 9.5 inch roll film started showing up on Ebay. The panatomic X aerial film is to die for, but mostly extinct now. I just bought 750 feet of it out of Russia. That may be the last of the last. I also just bought 750 feet of aerial XX and am just getting the first 8X10's with that film. It's a bit long in the tooth, but the faster Kodak films always did have some film base plus fog going on even when new. The Model A woodie pic was done just last week on the XX aerial film.

    You have to cut twice. 10" is the first cut, then 8 and load the holders. Extra handling and labor, but I'm making pictures for very little $$ and having fun doing it. Not for perfectionist types. I never don't make the picture because I'm pondering whether my choice is worth an $11 sheet of film.

    Same idea, the Hungarian film maker made a bunch of 10" long rolls for Cirkut camera people. Not enough got sold and the supplier got panicky. When the 200 foot rolls got down to $85 I bought 10 of them. I'm just using up the last of the 10 long rolls of 100 asa. It didn't age as well as the Kodak and I've had it going on 10 years. Even now, still very usable.

    I've got film in the freezer to get me about half way through the millenial reign of Christ. I may sell some of the XX as it's clock is ticking. The Panatomic ages like it would still be crystal clear 50 years from now. And talk about contrast for Pt-Pd negs, that stuff is very contrasty. Hard to control.

    I use a venerable Kodak 2D 8X10 with a Packard shutter inside. The Model A picture was taken with a $49 Schneider dagor type G-Claron 210mm lens. So my images are costing me pennies each. I burn lots and lots of film. I use Sandy's original Pyrocat HD formula and mix the dry chems up myself. Initial cost to get set up to work this way is notable, but now that it's all bought and paid for, I'm very prolific. I make lots of pictures and have a heck of a good time doing it.
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    He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep..to gain that which he cannot lose. Jim Elliot, 1949

  8. #8

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    Re: Please share thoughts on shooting B&W and Color

    I started shooting 35mm in 1982. Soon after I started shooting Kodachrome. I felt that B&W was dead. Boy, was I wrong on that one!

    Now I shoot 8x10 B&W, medium format color and B&W and digital color. It took me quite a few years to really appreciate B&W. Sometimes learned tastes like B&W film, Classical Music, Beer and Pistachio nuts are the best tastes!

  9. #9
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Please share thoughts on shooting B&W and Color

    Shot Kodachrome as a teenager, then acquired a Sonar 4X5 and shot chromes exclusively and printed on Cibachrome. I was good enough at it to get attention from certain b&w printers who were famous at the time, and remain so. That jump-started my own interest in parallel b&w work to this day. The main difference since is that I acquired 8X10 equipment and have transitioned into printing color neg film (mostly Ektar), now that Ciba is extinct. But I shoot MF too, not just LF.

  10. #10

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    Re: Please share thoughts on shooting B&W and Color

    I can afford to shoot, develop and print B&W 8x10.
    Far from being limiting I found B&W opens up a new way of looking at the world in shapes and shades, whereas I now find color is more the limitation as the abundance of man made yucky colors prove a distraction.
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.
    I'm not OCD. I'm CDO which is alphabetically correct.

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