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manfrominternet
30-Jun-2019, 00:49
Being relatively new to LF photography, I've been extremely eager to experiment and play with different types of film. I appeal to you experts to point me in the right direction. Also, if you have any tips when using certain types of film, that would very much be appreciated.

When my professor gave me his entire 4x5 camera set, he included film holders of which six had Provia 100 (transparency). I bought a box of Kodak Ektar 100 (negative) to fill the other empty holders and was on my merry way. When I finally had the courage to get my film developed, I was blown away by how amazing the quality was by both types of film. I loved the immediacy of transparency, but I also loved the the extra wide gamut of negative.

I'm not sure where to go from here. My professor did say that he always recommends negative, especially for landscape photography, my preferred style. He said that negative renders more details and is much more forgiving/flexible. He also told me to rate negative at always half its recommended ISO, which I'm not too sure about.

1.) What type of film do you guys like to shoot and why?

2.) What type of photography calls for transparency or negative?

3.) Is there a certain type of film that's better/best for night photography?

4.) Is negative or transparency better for extremely large prints? (I know that Gursky and Struth use/used transparency for a lot of their work.)

5.) And finally, my professor (and, believe or not, Stephen Shore himself!) told me that, when metering, to rate negative at half its ISO (so, for example, for Ektar 100 to meter it at 50) and transparency at exactly its recommended ISO. Do you guys think this is generally correct?

Many thanks, as always!

koraks
30-Jun-2019, 13:12
Negatives all the way. I can print those in the darkroom. Basically that's where the reasoning ends for me.

It's a matter of taste/preference really. It's not like one option is better than the other for whatever purpose. There's many ways to skin a litter of cats.

Drew Wiley
30-Jun-2019, 14:26
I'm getting outstanding color reproduction in the darkroom printing on RA4 papers from contact internegatives made from large format chromes. Easy to state, rather complicated in real practice. But since Cibachrome is gone, it's one way to salvage one's stack of chrome sheet film shots and excel digital printing options. But once the handwriting was on the wall concerning the demise of Ciba, there was around the same time a real increase in the quality of color neg films, so I started shooting those exclusively going forward, which means I can print newer work directly onto RA4 without an interneg, though I still sometimes use supplementary masks. DO NOT rate Ektar at 50. That might have been routine advice in the old days, but it's counterproductive with these newer films. I don't care what your professor thinks. And no, it makes no difference if his name is Stephen Shore. Maybe he wants the same kind of muddy look like he got with old Vericolor neg film. But Ektar is a completely different animal, engineered differently, and is capable of very clean hues IF you understand it. Use true box speed (100), meter carefully just like you would with slide film, and pay attention to lighting color temperature. If you use corrective filters for strong imbalances in lighting, you won't need to fuss with altering ASA in a half-baked attempt to make sense of this film. I carry a pale salmon 2A or similar Skylight filter for modest correction of the cyanish tendencies of Ektar, an 81A amber filter for blueish overcast days, and sometimes an 81C stronger amber for deep blue shade at high altitude etc. Don't believe ANYONE who tells you they can post-correct just anything. It's a myth. Once mud has been mixed, it's awfully hard to separate out and wash clean afterwards. If you want a more classic, lower contrast, less-saturated color neg look in sheet film, use Portra 160 or Portra 400. Color neg films are better than ever. Few choices of chrome film remain, and none of the best in terms of printability. Perhaps Kodak E100 will be revived in sheets, but I wouldn't hold my breath. And learn the ABC's before you think about extremely large prints. Format-wise, 8x10 film will obviously hold more detail than 4x5, but comes with more of a learning curve; and any kind of 8X10 film is going to be quite expensive these days. Transparencies are somewhat easier for a beginner because you can judge your progress just by putting them atop a lightbox. With color neg film you either need to make sample prints or invert the colors via a scan to view them.

sperdynamite
30-Jun-2019, 15:35
I've shot a lot of both, and neither is a wrong choice.

If you plan to, or have access to a darkroom for your output, I would choose negative film. It'll work in your enlarger, so that is uh...a plus.

If you're scanning then either are good choices. I have been loving e6 film lately however for it's workflow simplicity. It's easy to scan and get fabulous color. It's true that you don't see as much shadow detail but this hasn't really mattered to my work, you just have to find beautiful light. When E100 is available in sheet sizes, that'll be all I want to shoot for color. Negative films are much more interpretive when it comes to color. You can go in different ways depending on your preference, where as a chrome is what it is for the most part. I sort of like that. The Portras are also very low contrast, which sense given they are portrait stocks. Ektar is just very punchy. I find chromes to be somewhere in between. They have a way of being vivid, but also neutral.

It probably used to be that chromes were finer grained than negative, but these days almost all films are basically grainless in large format.

Re rating film. Simply halfing the ISO is a little simplistic. I have some good rule of thumb ratings for popular color neg film.

Portra 400 - 250-320
Portra 160 - 100-160
Ektar 100 - 100

Ektar goes very red when over exposed. This is true of Kodak color neg in general so I wouldn't go too far over. Now the older generations of C41 films did like to be over exposed a lot more. The NC/VC stocks probably did want about double. You can't get it in sheets anymore, but Fuji 400H looks fantastic shot at 100 ISO. However the new Kodak stocks don't require as much over exposure. Personally the only film I over exposed is Portra 400, and only by 1/3rd stop (320). I also regularly push Portra 160 +1, and rate the film in my meter at 250. This gives a nice washed out, high contrast look.

E6 films should not be rated outside of a 1/3rd stop window from box speed. I shoot Provia 100F at 100, and bracket when needed (often).

For night work I would shoot negative.

jp
30-Jun-2019, 15:48
Transparency film is sorta like digital; you can easily lose the shadows or highlights with some bad exposure. If your shutter is 50-60 years old and not in perfect tune for the weather, it might complicate your work. Cibachrome/Ilfochrome printing options for transparency are pretty much gone. You'll have to scan it or make a negative of it.

Negative film is more flexible in exposure. Yes, lower contrast, but you can add contrast in photoshop if you scan it. If you need to match the color to the original scene, take a DSLR photo with manual white balance for reference.

Pere Casals
30-Jun-2019, 15:54
5.) And finally, my professor (and, believe or not, Stephen Shore himself!) told me that, when metering, to rate negative at half its ISO (so, for example, for Ektar 100 to meter it at 50) and transparency at exactly its recommended ISO. Do you guys think this is generally correct?



This is a good advice for negative film as an starting point, it is a suitable safety factor, for example you may have not tested your shutter speeds or the aperture calibration. When you have a controlled workflow you can predict what density will have each scene spot on the negative, so "rating" film at a different speed is not necessary.

Me, I use the true ISO speed, and I adapt my metering style to get what I want, but this is a YMMV.


With slide film... by rating slides to the half you can burn many things.

interneg
30-Jun-2019, 16:27
I'd like to re-emphasise Drew's comments about Ektar, you see the same behaviour in the digital domain if your inversion is halfway competent - especially the effects of overexposure & the cyan. Both are easier to solve at the taking stage.

Tin Can
30-Jun-2019, 16:42
Why are so intent on color?

How do you process the color?

B&W is very popular.

Drew Wiley
30-Jun-2019, 18:03
Tin Can - the topic of the thread is color film options. Pere - once again you're totally guessing. Ektar is quite contrasty for a color neg film and has especially STEEP well-defined sensitivity spikes. That's why I've repeatedly stated, IF you are comfortable with chrome film, Ektar will be no problem. But cutting the rated ASA in half can take you right off a cliff. Nobody hoping for good results in a chrome would ever be that careless. Unless you want to go broke buying expensive color sheet film, forget all that "latitude" nonsense and act like a pro. I don't know how much pushback I've had on this subject by the usual "I can fix anything in Photoshop" hacks; but when you look at their actual images, it's pretty much galvanizing a corpse. They whine and complain about Ektar being a lousy film with awful blues etc etc, but aren't willing to equalize the three curves with a simple warming filter! So they spend several days futzing around in PS and come up with something half-baked. Talk to any Hollywood cameraman who doesn't get paid if he shoots from the hip and doesn't do it right the first time, and ask him about the need to balance color neg film to actual color temp conditions - and those are wide-latitude films! Ektar is even less forgiving. Or someone is going to whine that it costs nearly $30 a shot in 8x10, developed, but they can't afford a basic 81A filter! Why bother. Therefore what you call "safety factor, Pere, amounts to incompetence in this case. You should have your shutter speeds tested and known, your meter properly calibrated, and a basic knowledge of color temperature correction just like any color pro was expected to know in advance in the past. Even with digital cameras there are certain hue reproduction problems far easier to solve with a corrective filter in place than any push-button options.

BrianShaw
30-Jun-2019, 18:30
“...forget all that "latitude" nonsense and act like a pro.”

“Therefore what you call "safety factor, amounts to incompetence in this case.”

Gulp.

Drew Wiley
30-Jun-2019, 18:48
What can I say? I cut my teeth first shooting Kodachrome, then scaling up to chrome sheet film, then printing Cibachrome. I just took it for granted that exposures needed to be spot on. Just standard practice; otherwise, you ended up with nothing worthwhile. There were thousands of photographers, both pro and amateur who thought like that. Slides were routine with amateurs, and sheet film chromes the standard fare of commercial color work. Only portrait studios and wedding photographers used low-contrast color neg films with a degree of latitude. Tremendous latitude was built into amateur snapshot films like Kodacolor Gold, but the expectations were low too. I just kept working the strict way, and it has tremendously helped even my black and white work. And frankly, I can't afford to do it any other way. Large format film and excellent printing paper aren't cheap; how many misfires can one afford?

BrianShaw
30-Jun-2019, 18:54
I understood, Drew. But most of us can’t be you... yet we muddle along and make decent images occasionally nonetheless. :)

BTW... I started out with Kodachrome, then shot tons of Ektachrome but have always been happier and more successful with B&W and color neg. My favorite film seems to be everything you don’t like. Dang...

Drew Wiley
30-Jun-2019, 19:03
Can't be me? Why would you want to be me? Do you know how much money and time I wasted screwing things up in order to come to the point of understanding films like Ektar, or how to print them up to their real potential? I just wish someone had told me things in advance that I had to learn the hard way. But I guess when you do learn things the hard way you don't easily forget them.

Bernice Loui
30-Jun-2019, 19:55
Posted this before..

"Pro".... Back in the days when color transparency films were the daily film for working commercial and similar photographers was exposed within 1/3 f-stop or better. This was based on gray card test on a specific batch-lot of color transparency film processed at that specific E6 lab with controlled studio lighting, lens-aperture (yes, lenses have their effects on color balance), shutter, camera. Once the gray card test color transparency film was color densitometer tested. The required exposure correction and CC (Color Compensation) filters required to bring the color balance to near neutral would be applied to either the lens-camera or lighting as required or what is possible. The E6 processing lab would do their best to keep their chemistry and processing as consistent as possible to achieve consistent results.

Goal was to take out as many variable as possible to assure proper and consistent color balance and proper density (exposure) in the color transparency results.

Given all these supporting requirements are essentially gone today, producing GOOD color transparencies IMO, is not really possible.

The other "pro" market which was large at that time was Wedding Photography. One of the most common color negative films for this market was Kodak VPS. Eventually Fuji introduced NPS and NPH which proved to be that much better than Kodak VPS. While color negative films do have more exposure tolerance than color transparency films, getting the exposure and color balance correct at film exposure is equally important as color transparency films if good results are to be expected.

The business (The Rules) of proper exposure and proper color balance was know to any who were serious about producing GOOD color images. The belief that color can be "fixed" during the printing process is mixed at best as there are limits to what can and cannot be fixed after exposure and processing of color films.

Really GOOD color prints can be simply stunning. Difficulty here is achieving this standard and what the audience perceives and believes is a GOOD color print can be quite different.

The whole high contrast, over saturated, poke the viewers eyes out color might grab the views eye and mind for some short span of time, would color prints made in this form endure the test of time for holding emotional appeal to the given viewer?


Bernice



“...forget all that "latitude" nonsense and act like a pro.”

“Therefore what you call "safety factor, amounts to incompetence in this case.”

Gulp.

manfrominternet
30-Jun-2019, 20:24
ALL great advice!

If I'm shooting Todd Hido-esque night shots with Kodak Ektar 100, what is the reciprocity failure of said film? How should I meter a street scene with just a few neon lights and street lamps at night using that particular film either at 4x5 or 120 medium format (specifically 6x12 or 6x17)?

Many thanks again! You guys are a life and money saver. Coming from a pretty impecunious student, this means a lot. :)

BrianShaw
30-Jun-2019, 20:34
“Given all these supporting requirements are essentially gone today, producing GOOD color transparencies IMO, is not really possible.”

... and this is true for folks like me who only worried about half of those issues! I think I’ve only shot 2 sheets of E-6 in the past decade... mostly because of the demise of reliable labs.

Corran
30-Jun-2019, 20:36
The cheapest education will be a couple rolls of film, bracketed appropriately with your own equipment. I'm sure some of our members will be happy to fill many pages on this subject though.

Personally I think Ektar is a horrible film but that's just me.

BrianShaw
30-Jun-2019, 20:45
You are not alone...

Bernice Loui
30-Jun-2019, 21:10
Inspired to find this on the web:
https://www.photrio.com/forum/threads/new-lab-san-francisco-is-closing.49163/

This post is an example of the volume of 4x5 E6 color transparency film was processed per month by a small customer. The BIG customers would flood The New Lab with so much film that the normal two hour turn around would drag out to 4-8 hours or the next day. There was a time when they were SO backed up with E6 film TNL ran more than one lab shift to keep up the demand for E6 processing.

"This is a sad day. Newlab used to be a beehive of activity in SF. I've just been shredding my old taxes and saw that I ran about 2,000 sheets of 4" X 5" E6 each month a few years ago, and I was small potatoes. Good luck to all the employees."


Those days are now long gone... It is also why I'm SO down on doing any kind of color transparency film today...


Bernice


“Given all these supporting requirements are essentially gone today, producing GOOD color transparencies IMO, is not really possible.”

... and this is true for folks like me who only worried about half of those issues! I think I’ve only shot 2 sheets of E-6 in the past decade... mostly because of the demise of reliable labs.

Corran
30-Jun-2019, 21:31
It's never been easier to get stunning color from transparency film. Plenty of modern photographers out there using that exclusively or at least for a major part of their output. Scanning + color correction in Photoshop is easy. Of course there is a limit to what you can do to the colors but correcting for slight color shifts caused by home development or expired films is not hard at all. Hybrid printing is the only game in town obviously and so this is just how it is in 2019.

I encourage those who think you "can't" shoot E-6 today and get good results, to perhaps actually look to what is being done today by passionate photographers who simply do it, and do it well.

While I'm not much into color, it just so happens I just finished 7 rolls of E-6 development a few minutes ago. All expired films, 35mm and 120. I'm sure you'll see some in the Image Sharing subforum.

Eric Leppanen
30-Jun-2019, 21:50
1.) What type of film do you guys like to shoot and why?

I scan and print digitally so I have no intrinsic preference for neg versus chrome. I primarily shoot landscapes and exterior architecture, and historically have used chrome for low contrast subjects and color neg for high contrast. Chrome has the benefit of being WYSIYWIG (you can immediately proof it on a light table), has more native contrast and color saturation and requires less post-processing work as long as the subject stays within the film's limited dynamic range. Digitally printing color neg can be challenging (getting the colors right can take more work) but it's the only game in town for high contrast scenes. When shooting directly into the sun during sunrise, for example, I use Portra 400 which I expose for the shadows (at box speed), then use a three-stop graduated ND filter to hold back the highlights (sky and sun). In this case Portra actually resolves the disk of the sun, which would not be possible with chrome film.


2.) What type of photography calls for transparency or negative?

Color neg is vastly more popular than chrome. The currently available LF chrome films (Provia and the Velvias) are both color saturated and high contrast, so people photography tends to be color neg by default (at least until more neutral E100 becomes available in sheets). Landscapers are more mixed, depending on how much color saturation you like (some folks like the Velvia look, others find it over the top and hideous). Color neg is also available at higher speed versus chrome (400 vs 100).


3.) Is there a certain type of film that's better/best for night photography?

Not my bag, can't help you here.


4.) Is negative or transparency better for extremely large prints? (I know that Gursky and Struth use/used transparency for a lot of their work.)

With LF film sizes I think the format size, good capture and printing technique makes more of a difference than the film type.


5.) And finally, my professor (and, believe or not, Stephen Shore himself!) told me that, when metering, to rate negative at half its ISO (so, for example, for Ektar 100 to meter it at 50) and transparency at exactly its recommended ISO. Do you guys think this is generally correct?

Routinely exposing one additional stop with color neg is a variation on the theme of "expose negative film for the shadows and let the highlights fall where they may", arguably an analog counterpart to the digital notion of ETTR (Expose To The Right of the image histogram, i.e. provide shadow areas with as much exposure as possible without blowing out highlights). This advice is frequently given to SLR/TLR/rangefinder camera users who are using the in-camera exposure meter (which calculates an averaged exposure for a scene) and reflects negative film's ability to retain highlight density even with significant overexposure. When recording high contrast scenes there may be no choice but to do this. However, deviating from nominal exposure progressively introduces color shifts (particularly with a relatively saturated film such as Ektar) which you may or may not find bothersome. Most LF shooters use dedicated handheld meters to manually calculate an exposure which more accurately reflects their process workflow and aesthetic preferences. When shooting color neg I like to open up shadows quite a bit (around Zone 4 using Zone System nomenclature) and avoid overexposing highlights by either shooting in early morning light, during cloudy or overcast conditions, or (when feasible) using graduated neutral density filters. In cases where high contrast is unavoidable, I'll make an aesthetic decision to either allow shadows to be blocked up or accept some color inaccuracies due to overexposure, which I'll try to correct in digital post-processing (I scan and digitally print my images). Sometimes half a loaf is better than none.

Chrome has to be metered nominally at box speed, otherwise highlights will be blown. Shadow areas have to fend for themselves, fortunately drum scanners are very good at retrieving seemingly lost shadow detail (although drum scans are expensive).

I have to admit that in recent years I have developed a new appreciation for the exposure latitude and more subtle color rendition (some have called it pastel-like) of color negative film. In hindsight I wished I had learned to use B&W film first (rather then color), with its emphasis on precise shadow/highlight placement and tonal transitions. High contrast, high color saturated prints are eye-catching and dramatic, but they are difficult to display (unless spot lit they will be overly dark). How many homes have dedicated spotlights for wall-displayed prints? I have chrome images that I am very proud of, but color neg tends to have more of the nuance that I experienced with B&W, and images rely more on form and substance for visual interest rather than dramatic contrast.

Drew Wiley
1-Jul-2019, 11:10
It all depends on the method of printing you have mastered, or that is somehow available to you. Current inkjet printing has unquestionably revived and invigorated do-it-yourself color printing, while color darkrooms are getting scarcer; but alas, sheer ease often gravitates into mass-acceptance of mediocrity. Equally good prints can be made from either chromes or color negs. I have a pile of recent prints in my darkroom at this very moment which probably not a single one of you could tell had come from a color neg versus a chrome; and every one of them was 100% darkroom done, optically - absolutely no digital input. There's no need for the old stereotypes. If you want soft pleasing skintones, there are still color neg films that will do that for you. But Ektar is a real alternative to chrome films IF you know certain things in advance. It is not at all like old color neg films, and you'll pay a hefty price in hue quality if you revive the antique advice of overexposing it. You need to expose Ektar with the same care as a chrome film. Yes, it will give you about a stop more either side; but things start going astray pretty fast if you push your luck. There are very good technical explanations for that fact; but I'm getting awfully tired of arguing with people who don't know how to properly interpret dye curves, or don't understand the ABC's of color temp balancing.

manfrominternet
1-Jul-2019, 18:00
What should I know about Kodak Ektar 100? (It's the film I'm using for my 4x5 and medium format backs.)

What I mean by that is, is it good for landscapes, night photography, and/or portraiture? Do certain colors become oversaturated if overexposed/underexposed? Should I use a corrective filter? All I have on my lens right now is a B+W Nano UV filter.

Also, does anyone know what Ektar's reciprocity failure is? I'd love to shoot some street scenes here in crummy/apocalyptic LA.

Drew Wiley
1-Jul-2019, 18:20
Well, it's obvious you DON'T know a lot about Ektar even if you are shooting it. But you are asking questions, so that inherently puts you on the right track. Have you read a single thing I've already posted about recommended filters, and why? It's not good for much of anything if you don't get that part right - you'd be better off sticking with something more forgiving like Portra 400. Some people use Ektar for night photography and might be able to answer your long exposure questions; but it's a complicated subject because of the potential for disparate kinds of light sources at night. So I have always approached that subject with roll film testing before using any specific sheet film. Portraits? Now that I can answer. It's a contrasty saturated film, so probably not a good idea for high school yearbook pictures and kids with zits. It isn't artificially warmed to create "pleasing skintones" like traditional color neg films, so you need to use it with caution, or switch to Portra 160. Landscapes - superb results, but only if you understand color temp filtration; otherwise, you're going to be cussing about cyan-blue shadows and cyan inflected blue skies. Overexposed/Underexposed, do certain colors become "oversaturated" - NO; they either overlap at the dye curves when overexposed to create poorly differentiated mud, or shoulder off at the top of the curve into a color imbalance in the highlights. Ektar is capable of reproducing quite a range of hues extremely well if you properly expose it and properly filter under blueish lighting conditions, and of course, know how to print well. And let me repeat, use BOX SPEED of 100. I've never tried it in "crummy/apocalyptic" LA. I haven't even been to LA in the past 45 years. I think a passport has to be stamped atop the Grapevine to get there. But I have shot some Ektar in crummy apocalyptic San Joaquin Valley smoggy conditions with excellent results. In such cases, the smog itself can act like a warming filter. I don't know about Bakersfield; that kind of air might corrode even titanium camera hardware, so I try to avoid driving through there; but maybe a NASA space suit would keep me alive doing it.

neil poulsen
1-Jul-2019, 18:29
. . . Digitally printing color neg can be challenging (getting the colors right can take more work) . . .

No kidding! I find this to be frustrating, to the point where I may purchase a Phase One digital back for color work. To scan color negative properly, one has to overcome the orange mask on color negative film.

There are threads in the Forum that discuss how to scan color negative film. But even with those threads, it's tricky and elusive.

Pere Casals
1-Jul-2019, 18:41
No kidding! I find this to be frustrating, to the point where I may purchase a Phase One digital back for color work. To scan color negative properly, one has to overcome the orange mask on color negative film.

There are threads in the Forum that discuss how to scan color negative film. But even with those threads, it's tricky and elusive.



Neil, just try 3D LUT Creator and you'll do what you want with color.

Drew Wiley
1-Jul-2019, 18:47
Alas, all the convoluted complications of modern conveniences. My idea of digital printing is using my ten tactile digits in a real darkroom.

Alan Klein
1-Jul-2019, 19:18
It all depends on the method of printing you have mastered, or that is somehow available to you. Current inkjet printing has unquestionably revived and invigorated do-it-yourself color printing, while color darkrooms are getting scarcer; but alas, sheer ease often gravitates into mass-acceptance of mediocrity. Equally good prints can be made from either chromes or color negs. I have a pile of recent prints in my darkroom at this very moment which probably not a single one of you could tell had come from a color neg versus a chrome; and every one of them was 100% darkroom done, optically - absolutely no digital input. There's no need for the old stereotypes. If you want soft pleasing skintones, there are still color neg films that will do that for you. But Ektar is a real alternative to chrome films IF you know certain things in advance. It is not at all like old color neg films, and you'll pay a hefty price in hue quality if you revive the antique advice of overexposing it. You need to expose Ektar with the same care as a chrome film. Yes, it will give you about a stop more either side; but things start going astray pretty fast if you push your luck. There are very good technical explanations for that fact; but I'm getting awfully tired of arguing with people who don't know how to properly interpret dye curves, or don't understand the ABC's of color temp balancing.

I've bracketed Portra which is a pretty flat negative film compared to Ektar. While I think you can use all, what I found was that colors shifted when over and under exposed even +1 and -1.

Corran
1-Jul-2019, 19:27
but only if you understand color temp filtration; otherwise, you're going to be cussing about cyan-blue shadows and cyan inflected blue skies.

Or, Ektar simply has a different look and color palette, which some of us dislike. What you describe is simply what Ektar looks like.

neil poulsen
1-Jul-2019, 19:38
Alas, all the convoluted complications of modern conveniences. My idea of digital printing is using my ten tactile digits in a real darkroom.

Exactly!

Of course, that assumes one has the print processor to do color darkroom work. (Few do.) At least in that case, one's swimming downstream; they're printing color negative in the way that was originally intended.

Corran
1-Jul-2019, 19:45
To scan color negative properly, one has to overcome the orange mask on color negative film.

There are threads in the Forum that discuss how to scan color negative film. But even with those threads, it's tricky and elusive.


Exactly!

Of course, that assumes one has the print processor to do color darkroom work. (Few do.) At least in that case, one's swimming downstream; they're printing color negative in the way that was originally intended.

Why do you think it is that every negative film produced today still has the orange mask? I shot a lot of Digibase CN200 a few years ago (and have a 100' bulk roll in the freezer) which has no mask, but I don't think it's made anymore. Anyway, it was very glowy and I assume the orange mask is part of the "secret sauce" that makes these films work. While we can quibble over color accuracy / precision and all that with digital tools, reversing and color-correcting a negative scan to "normal" colors is fairly easy. IMO it's harder to understand and execute a decent scan of dense color neg material on consumer flatbeds (especially with the advice of overexposing so much!) than the reversal step.

neil poulsen
1-Jul-2019, 20:13
Neil, just try 3D LUT Creator and you'll do what you want with color.

This sounds interesting; does the training or documentation specifically cover how to render color negatives? I'll check it out. (Thank you.)

In the meantime, I'm fairly well along towards getting a digital back. (Refurbished models have become almost affordable.) Then, I can swim with, versus against, the current.

neil poulsen
1-Jul-2019, 20:24
Why do you think it is that every negative film produced today still has the orange mask? . . .

Years ago, I heard that the orange mask was included so that darkroom printers could more effectively see the image that they were attempting to print.


. . . IMO it's harder to understand and execute a decent scan of dense color neg material on consumer flatbeds (especially with the advice of overexposing so much!) than the reversal step.

Hmm. I'll keep this in mind.

manfrominternet
1-Jul-2019, 23:13
Well, it's obvious you DON'T know a lot about Ektar even if you are shooting it. But you are asking questions, so that inherently puts you on the right track. Have you read a single thing I've already posted about recommended filters, and why? It's not good for much of anything if you don't get that part right - you'd be better off sticking with something more forgiving like Portra 400. Some people use Ektar for night photography and might be able to answer your long exposure questions; but it's a complicated subject because of the potential for disparate kinds of light sources at night. So I have always approached that subject with roll film testing before using any specific sheet film. Portraits? Now that I can answer. It's a contrasty saturated film, so probably not a good idea for high school yearbook pictures and kids with zits. It isn't artificially warmed to create "pleasing skintones" like traditional color neg films, so you need to use it with caution, or switch to Portra 160. Landscapes - superb results, but only if you understand color temp filtration; otherwise, you're going to be cussing about cyan-blue shadows and cyan inflected blue skies. Overexposed/Underexposed, do certain colors become "oversaturated" - NO; they either overlap at the dye curves when overexposed to create poorly differentiated mud, or shoulder off at the top of the curve into a color imbalance in the highlights. Ektar is capable of reproducing quite a range of hues extremely well if you properly expose it and properly filter under blueish lighting conditions, and of course, know how to print well. And let me repeat, use BOX SPEED of 100. I've never tried it in "crummy/apocalyptic" LA. I haven't even been to LA in the past 45 years. I think a passport has to be stamped atop the Grapevine to get there. But I have shot some Ektar in crummy apocalyptic San Joaquin Valley smoggy conditions with excellent results. In such cases, the smog itself can act like a warming filter. I don't know about Bakersfield; that kind of air might corrode even titanium camera hardware, so I try to avoid driving through there; but maybe a NASA space suit would keep me alive doing it.


Yes, of course I read about what you recommended for filters - pale salmon 2A to adjust for the cyanish tendencies, amber 81A for any blue overcast, and a stronger amber 81c for any deep blues at high altitude. I'm basically asking for the consensus in the forum, but I take your word for it. Again, I'm relatively new to LF; using corrective filters is still something I'm learning.

Nonetheless, this is excellent advice. I'm kind of bummed out that I've used/wasted 5 slides and 4 rolls of Ektar using my professor's advice, but oh well, you live and learn.

What are your go-to color negatives or transparencies for landscapes and architecture besides Ektar?

Larry Gebhardt
2-Jul-2019, 03:38
Years ago, I heard that the orange mask was included so that darkroom printers could more effectively see the image that they were attempting to print.


The mask is there to fix the color accuracy of the primary dyes in the magenta and cyan channels. See http://www.brianpritchard.com/why_colour_negative_is_orange.htm for a more thorough explanation.

Nodda Duma
2-Jul-2019, 05:59
Yes, of course I read about what you recommended for filters - pale salmon 2A to adjust for the cyanish tendencies, amber 81A for any blue overcast, and a stronger amber 81c for any deep blues at high altitude. I'm basically asking for the consensus in the forum, but I take your word for it. Again, I'm relatively new to LF; using corrective filters is still something I'm learning.

Nonetheless, this is excellent advice. I'm kind of bummed out that I've used/wasted 5 slides and 4 rolls of Ektar using my professor's advice, but oh well, you live and learn.

What are your go-to color negatives or transparencies for landscapes and architecture besides Ektar?

For landscapes I prefer Velvia 50 or 100. For architecture I lean towards Provia 100. This is in sheet film. Shadows lean toward blue for Fuji slide, which goes well with the vegetation and greenery here in New England -- even in the fall when the colors are as brilliant as anything on the western side of the Sierras. If I still lived out in Eastern California, however, I'd prefer Ektachrome.. it leans towards warm tones which would go well with the desert and in So Cal. Of course, similar considerations regarding filters as Drew discusses apply. If you were to shoot Fuji transparencies out there then I'd think you'd want a very light warming filter in front of the lens.

For color negative I haven't honestly settled on anything since Kodak discontinued Supra so I don't have much to say. I did start using Fuji Super HQ 200 but then they discontinued that. Then I started using something else and it was discontinued. So I stopped shooting negative film for the sake of the community. :) Now that I'm past my large-format-swath-of-transparencies kick, I will be playing with Ektar and Portra in sheet film sizes to see what works well for here and for me. There's really no other choice in color negative sheet film, which is part of why I haven't shot it as much. But I want to do some color printing and contact printing, so cest le vie.

I think that's key .... what works best for you and for your specific photography? Drew's advice is very good, and is likely applicable to you since you're both out in Cali in similar (not quite the same tho) terrain. So keep that in mind and take everyone's advice with that little grain of salt.

Cheers,
Jason

Pere Casals
2-Jul-2019, 07:06
This sounds interesting; does the training or documentation specifically cover how to render color negatives? I'll check it out. (Thank you.)

I don't think, but it allows to create a conversion 3D LUTs from samples, this is using an scanned RA-4 print and the image scanned from the negative to find a conversion LUT, you can also calibrate color with a color checker: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6er_PI8XqvI

But best it offers it's an easy and powerful color edition in what you say what color will result from each original color, anf from that the original color space is "deformated" to fit your taste. This is useful, of course, also for digital.

Then, beyond editing an image, you may save those 3D LUTs to be used in Ps or video edition software. So in Ps you may use masks to apply a 3D LUT to a region, say the people's faces, to get perfect skin tones and gradation.

IMHO 3D LUT creator is the perfect complement for Ps to enjoy a totally Pro edition. IIRC there is a demo version that cannot save images or LUTs, but you can anyway take screenshots that at least can be used for internet images, enough to judge if the investment it's worth.



Another choice is: Nobe Color Remap , it has a PS plugin for $55 http://timeinpixels.com/nobe-color-remap/

Drew Wiley
2-Jul-2019, 09:11
The orange mask makes it hell to see what you are doing under an enlarger. So that takes some practice. I obviously have zero interest in consensus opinions, unless its from people who really know how film works, which are more likely to be in the motion picture industry than on still photography forums with the pies being thrown from every direction at once. My advice is very solid because it's what makes my prints effective. I don't know anyone else who can produce hues in nature from color neg film as accurately as I can, that is, in basic chromogenic printing. There might still be some dye transfer practitioners alive who can do superbly it their own way, but the only person I knew who worked with color negatives rather than chromes no longer does. Anybody can make a colorful print; but try saturated clean hues in the same scene as a variety of complex neutrals without contaminating those neutrals, earthtones, and so forth. Very few people even make supplementary masks for color neg film. But I'm constantly testing my own parameters and still sometimes trying to salvage early Ektar shots before I knew the ropes. Right now, I'm doing much more complex images which started with 8x10 chromes, then involved multiple masking steps to produce master printing duplicates for Cibachrome printing, but which also proved excellent for yet another step making very high quality internegatives for RA4 printing. Every single step from initial exposure onward has to be spot on. No guessing. Of course not every one of these has turned out perfect; but that's how I've learned what works, and what doesn't. But if you're just going out shooting Ektar per se, the most difficult situation is mixed lighting where noticeable deep blue shade and warm sunny areas appear in the same scene. If you warm the whole thing with an 81-series filter, then you might solve the problem in the shadows but end up with an amber Godfather-film look in the sunny portions. The way you fix this is to pre-flash the film with a warm diffuser using just enough exposure to affect Zone III, if you're into that lingo, or two stops below middle gray. I have a special flashing attachment and foldable neutral gray disc that allows that, but rarely use it. I just tend to avoid troublesome shots to begin with. I was trying to print a near-miss situation like that yesterday. Got a decent print, but not precisely what I wanted; so I switched the neg carrier and put in a different neg that I know in advance will be hell, but will learn something important from anyway.
Mistakes are the biggest asset you've got if you stop to analyze what you did wrong rather than blame the film.

Corran
2-Jul-2019, 09:15
I don't know anyone else who can produce hues in nature from color neg film as accurately as I can

Just one scan / photograph / whatever of a print from Ektar. Surely you can manage that, considering the mountain of words you post on a daily basis here.

Drew Wiley
2-Jul-2019, 09:55
First of all, Corran, trying to show these kind of color nuances over the web is an utter waste of time. It's like trying to play a violin with a chainsaw instead of a bow. I'm not being impolite, just realistic. And I don't need to prove anything. I did call someone's bluff a couple years ago with real prints; but they had an international reputation as owner of a past major color lab from the heyday of color film and were very prominently badmouthing my personal techniques without ever testing them. When they couldn't even distinguish which were Cibachromes via transparencies vs Chromogenic prints via color negs, that instantly shut them up. Yes, I do have fun kidding around like everyone else, but my technical advice is generally solid. Take it or leave it. Second, the computer I'm using is my wife's new one she uses professionally, and she doesn't want it used for imagery. My own old Mac is disconnected. I do have a deluxe new copystand replete with pro DLSR, all calibrated, for sake of cataloging my actual prints down the line, or perhaps for web communication, but I'm going to be printing, mounting, traveling, and just plain being lazy for awhile before I get back to that project. It's not a high priority. I worked my butt off for half a century, and juggled a moonlight printmaking and color consultation career on the side, and think I now deserve a little retirement slack.

Corran
2-Jul-2019, 10:09
I'm not asking you to prove anything. But advice is only valuable if you can understand the source. You should realize that, considering the comments some make here derived purely from hypothetical datasheet conjectures and no real experience. Not that I am accusing you of that, but as they say, the proof is in the pudding. And right now the pudding does not exist.

hornstenj
2-Jul-2019, 13:57
... I did call someone's bluff a couple years ago with real prints; but they had an international reputation as owner of a past major color lab from the heyday of color film and were very prominently badmouthing my personal techniques without ever testing them. When they couldn't even distinguish which were Cibachromes via transparencies vs Chromogenic prints via color negs, that instantly shut them up. ...

Name?

Drew Wiley
2-Jul-2019, 16:53
No. I won't give his real name. He used various web aliases, and got kicked off more than one forum. A major commercial printer of the past, not a photo artist per se. Seems to be a bit off his rocker now. Some of these guys had closely guarded trade secrets, custom runs of dyes and paper and so forth, viewed other practitioners as not just competitors for business, but as downright enemies. Absolutely nothing I've ever encountered on this forum is as remotely vitriolic and some of the things I've heard DT printers say about one another. Rivalries in Hollywood were probably capable of getting even nastier, I'd imagine, since true Technicolor was part of that same mix, but involved even bigger money and egos.

Drew Wiley
2-Jul-2019, 17:11
Corran, I'm doing you and others a favor by stating certain things - things which entire generations of skilled commercial printers would instantly recognize as valid. It's not my fault that the current generation has forgotten all those basics and somehow thinks the web is the end-all of information. I'm not interested in becoming part of a visual version of Wickedpedia. The pudding exists in hundreds of real prints. Web images are not my pudding. Been there, done that. I had a high quality website up for about 15 yrs (at least for relatively early expectations of web image quality within the confines of slower speed back then). People chimed in from almost every country in the world; I stopped counting how many. Didn't do me any good. People who like web images, web surf; people who buy prints do so because they see real prints and understand the significant qualitative difference. Yes, if I set up a site again the images would be a lot better because the technology has dramatically improved in the meantime. And I have no qualms perhaps someday posting shots of equipment tweaks or even images for sake of subject content. But if you think the immediate topic can be settled by posting alleged web evidence, you are quite mistaken. People do NOT learn to make fine prints by looking at web images. Certain aspects of craft can be taught that way. But developing an eye for critical color evaluation needs direct standards of comparison. It's just a fact. You don't learn to mix pigments in a sophisticated manner by looking at a Van Gogh subject on the web - you go to a museum and look at a real painting.

Corran
2-Jul-2019, 17:29
Whatever you say Drew.

Let me repeat to the OP what I said a few pages ago:


The cheapest education will be a couple rolls of film, bracketed appropriately with your own equipment.

Drew Wiley
2-Jul-2019, 17:38
Why do I bother wasting words here? It's your money, your time, and you've been smoking something if you think you're going to learn the ropes just by bracketing. It just isn't that simple. That's why all these web-heads start blaming Kodak or whoever for making a bad film, or turn loose fifteen gorillas out of their Photoshop cage to try to torture the image back into submission when they don't even understand the ABC's of color temp balancing. The three respective dye curves have to be kept within certain parameters with respect to each other, RELATIVE TO EACH OTHER. Dye spikes in Ektar are steep, and that's why you get more contrast and greater color saturation, and UP TO A CERTAIN POINT, better hue purity reminiscent of chrome film. Now if you put on a pair of skis and ski down a steep mountain, you go faster than on a gentle slope, right? Likewise, ASA changes plus of minus from the rated speed have a more dramatic impact on Ektar than on films engineered for lower contrast. Then you hit a rock or tree if you go too far down the slope. If you like hitting trees, that's fine. I don't. I want to get the most out of those dye curves as I can, without overlapping the other curves and creating hue contamination at the bottom. Comprende? I didn't write those rules; they're engineered into the film. And Ektar is engineered for a different flavor profile of pudding than Portra, etc, which have skintone reproduction as their priority. So... if you start out with one of those dye curves out of synch with the other two due to a lighting imbalance, your ski trip is going to crash on that particular little mountain first. That's why you need to start out with it in balance to the rated color temperature ("photographic daylight") using appropriate filtration. Mere bracketing won't cure that problem; it will probably just get worse.

Corran
2-Jul-2019, 17:53
A picture is worth a thousand words.

To riff on that:

A couple rolls of film is worth a thousand opinions.

Drew Wiley
2-Jul-2019, 18:11
A thousand rolls of film aren't worth five cents if you can't bag the scene correctly, Corran. A million pictures on the web aren't as good as a single print accurately made if actual printmaking is the topic. But I guess if someone has never tasted a real steak, eating at McDonald's every day might seem fine. So if you are simply unable to sort out untested opinion from words accurately describing a helluva lot of real experience, get some decent pro color photo textbooks, even if they're old and relatively out of date concerning specifics. At least you'll learn some pre-web terminology and just maybe learn some valid concepts too. But I have my doubts. I'm gonna put you on ignore for awhile - not that I dislike you; you seem like a real nice guy; but you need to do some homework.

Corran
2-Jul-2019, 18:14
Good, I'm tired of the insults. God forbid I suggest shooting some damn film. More people should do that around here.

LabRat
2-Jul-2019, 18:26
OP, the advice given to overexposed CN film given to you will produce kinda a "lingering trend" kind of look popular with contemporary fine art photographers with that light yellow cast warmer look (think Richard Misrach desert series look), but looking at Type C prints of it, it gets a little old fast (a little washed out in the sun), so more of an effect color... (esp films that come in an orange box...)

CN films that have the widest range + more accurate, balanced color are shot at box speed and processed (N), and generally are easily printed or scanned... You have a scale that generally can hold some detail in a daylight scene from highlight to open shade without much burning or dodging at all... Usually color shift is minimal at all... For night use, Type L films are good, even with filters for the available light...

Shooting chromes today are too $$$, can look good on a light box, but most all of the Type R papers are gone for darkroom use, but one thing I noticed while recently finding a large stash of 4X5 commercial chromes I shot a decade or two ago, is that my "new" eye sees balanced, well exposed chromes as being "skinny top/fat bottom" as in the highlights tend to be very slightly thin, but the shadow regions slightly heavy/darker than CN film, but with more saturated color... And it was harder to expose something neutral without some color shift creeping in, so a trade off... If scanned, there would be less shadow range to work with...

As suggested, a roll film back on your camera, or MF, and some 120 rolls of close to the type you would shoot on sheet film will give you a cheaper way to test your color choices before spending a fortune using sheet films, then decide...

The last LF color I shot was CN, but will shoot chromes sometimes for art repoduction if requested...

Happy testing!!!

Steve K

Larry Gebhardt
2-Jul-2019, 18:38
Drew how would you suggest a user of Ektar test for their ideal film speed? Assume they have common equipment like gray cards, incident and spot exposure meters, and color correction filters.

BrianShaw
2-Jul-2019, 18:43
I wouldn’t assume cc filters, though.

Drew Wiley
3-Jul-2019, 09:18
Hi, Larry. In one aspect, Kodak has already tested the speed for you. But if you need to fine-tune it to your own equipment, you really need to do that in relation to your full output, whether as RA4 print, or as viewable scan, whatever. And you need to factor in actual hue reproduction because that is what is really the crux of such testing and not hypothetical dynamic range. Here's how I do this. I have a MacBeth Color Checker chart that is clean and unfaded. The color patches on them are very thoughtfully chosen and manufactured under strict quality control. The gray scale on it is also precisely made and color-neutral, unlike most ordinary gray cards, and there is a gray patch midway of 18% gray; the others are evenly spaced. So I set up the camera and given sheet film - Ektar in this case - and take a shot of the Chart that will become my master negative - bellows extension factored in, if applicable, precise shutter speed, and significantly, color balance filtration to standardized temperature using necessary filters. A color temp meter helps. I like to standardize on 5000K, but if you prefer 5200 or 5500 that's still in the ballpark of this film; but it's important to standardize. My critical print viewing station is also 5000K, though I keep other lights around for sake of viewing a print under various hypothetical display conditions. I won't go into all the details for my choice of 5000K, since some of my lab usages for that master neg get complicated. But you want to be careful this master neg is not exposed by light either too warm (tungsten), too cold (direct blue daylight), or wacko (fluorescent). Most of us probably know how to use gels or filters to achieve precise color balance, as well as have access to a color temp meter. ... Then if you are actually darkroom printing like me, the point is to take that master neg and calibrate your colorhead settings and paper batch till you match that original gray scale in print as accurately as possible. That might sound obvious, but few people really understand how to do this right. No only do you want the full gray scale reproduced, but with complete neutrality and no hue bias when viewed under your official viewing light. All the primaries (R,G,B) as well as secondaries (C,M,Y) should "sing" with the same intensity. Each should be very clean hue-wise, and equal to all its companions in how it hits you - its intensity. That is why you need a high-quality viewing light. Ektar can achieve this in a very balanced way. Then you start looking at all the tertiary color patches, and see if they're as good as you can get them. Of course, no film is perfect, so even after you've done you're best, there might still be some tertiary color issues; and these are quite important because they teach you something about the film's limitations. Color in nature are more involved, and you can learn the film's response to these via experience; but if you have a neutral starting point beforehand with a good Chart test, life will be a lot easier. And of course, you can do something analogous with digital workflow if that is what you prefer, but still try to do it the first time with everything calibrated to your equipment set to a standardized conditions, without tweaking the Chart colors digitally. You want a home base, so to speak, in terms of color reproduction. After that, real-world images can be adjusted for color correction or esthetic reasons. But if you battle with all that up front before a truly standardized film test, it takes way more effort to correct native film or lighting idiosyncrasies. So I hope I haven't confused anyone; but film speed and accurate hue reproduction are completely linked, and need to be tested in combined fashion.

Drew Wiley
3-Jul-2019, 10:13
Steve, I got to see a lot of that experimental 70's work before it really caught on. I think it started in LA, but the best known practitioners were on the East Coast, plus Misrach in this neighborhood, who lived here but tended to photograph in the SoCal desert. Some of them were simply awful color printers; Meyerowitz was an exception and got very good at it. But back then 8x10 contact prints were the Museum thing - not huge prints like now. Most of them wisely let pro labs make their enlargements afterwards. The whole point of the "creativity" aspect was to identify and exploit, or even exaggerate, the color reproduction flaws in color neg films of the era. Sally Eauclaire championed that era of color photography in a couple of well-known books. Vericolor L was a popular film choice, or sometimes tungsten film used uncorrected in daylight for odd effects. Stephen Shore turned the whole poison-green vs pumpkin-fleshtone tendency of Vericolor into a whole body of work. Misrach painted the entire desert homogenized pale false hues. Most of these people never left that mode of working, though Misrach went digital and obnoxiously academic. Meyerowitz has a relatively recent wonderful example, a book of LF shots in Tuscany all washed-out and exaggerated off-color, much like his early work but devoid of the blue hues of Cape Cod. If anyone can find remaining stocks of Fuji S or L sheet film, that might work for such looks. The current Kodak films are better corrected, and the crisp geometry of the dyes in Ektar are simply not amenable to the same kind of effect.
You really need a classic portrait film to do that kind of thing. I find it all quite dated by now. Time to move on.

SergeyT
3-Jul-2019, 10:59
>> I've been extremely eager to experiment and play with different types of film.

Why not to do just that and see what suits your needs?

Drew Wiley
3-Jul-2019, 11:41
Some advance precautions can help, Sergey. Not everyone can drive a stick shift; there's a learning curve to it. On the other hand, I have trouble with these newer cars with all their distracting electronic nonsense on the dashboard, resembling an airplane cockpit. Learning new films can be like that too. Chrome films are easier to monitor your progress with because you can just slap the result on a good light box and assess the qualitative result intuitively. But color neg films need something properly calibrated in between if you want to realistically evaluate them. People who might have been comfortable making portrait prints for years using traditional color neg films might find Ektar challenging - not because it's a tricky film, but because they're unprepared for it, having stereotypes about color neg film which no longer apply in this case. Even worse are these newer people who think they can mess up exposure any way they wish and simply recover it via PS manipulation afterwards. But the best digital printers I know had years and years of color darkroom experience behind them, and understood specific films. I've not only played with, but
printed almost every kind of chrome film made within my lifetime, including some which were almost extinct when I had my first camera, and then later, quite a selection of color neg films too. Each had its own kind of personality.
Specializing in chromes made it fairly easy for me to transition to Ektar as my current primary outdoor color film. But I would have saved a lot of time and money if I had understood at the start what I understand now, because I happened to "play around" with 8x10 film, and made certain assumptions extrapolated from previous 160VS film usage which, as it turned out, didn't apply well to Ektar.

SergeyT
3-Jul-2019, 17:58
Fair enough Drew. Ektar is a beautiful film and also, as any other negative film, can be used for many interpretations of a photographed subject.
"Experiment" was one of the key words in the "opening statement". Following someone's steps leaves almost no room for a true experiment and new discoveries.

Drew Wiley
3-Jul-2019, 18:46
There are endless possibilities to experiment. Having a home base of exposure does not deprive you of that. A common example of what might work in one case but not another is how scenic photographers would often omit balancing filters with chrome films and print or publish them as is, with a deep blue bias intact. But when they try the same thing with Ektar there's a significant color shift to cyan which they find quite obnoxious, so they condemn the film rather than try to understand it. But there are cases where the same "flaw' in Ektar can render a true rich turquoise very hard to capture otherwise. I've exploited that in tropical shots where the water really is that color. But of course, these are accurate color reproduction issues. If you want to veer off the path, as we all like to do sometimes and "experiment", I just recommend doing it with roll film first, since it's far less expensive than sheet film. I had a little too much self-confidence when I started gunning with 8x10 Ektar. That cost me some big bucks until I realized its differences.
Lots of the "experimentation" people did with color neg films in the past just doesn't work with Ektar because of its significantly higher native contrast. I prefer to bag a solid exposure then leave the interpretive experimenting for the printing phase. There are also all kinds of alternative printing methods for those who want something different. A few people are even doing reversal processing of RA4 papers to get direct-positive images from chromes. But that's a whole different topic, I guess. It's all fun.

Larry Gebhardt
4-Jul-2019, 17:20
Thanks for the detailed explanation. It’s pretty close to what I did years ago and for the most part I was happy with the colors in my prints. Lately I’ve been shooting very little color film and have gotten a bit careless on filtering for color correction-I probably should fix that, especially with Ektar.

I gave up wet printing a few years ago after way too much struggling with contrast on the remaining papers. What’s your method of dealing with Ektar’s high contrast combined with the higher contrast papers on the market these days?

Drew Wiley
4-Jul-2019, 18:46
I'm getting pretty comfortable with Ektar, and about 60% of the time it has just about the right amount of contrast as is. But no film is a silver bullet. Significant contrast modifications are quite easy via either contrast reduction or contrast-increase unsharp masking.
Quite a bit more easily done that in Ciba days with chrome film, when you had to bludgeon-mask the film into submission; but that was really the fault of color repro idiosyncrasies in the Ciba print medium itself. When masking color negs you want a much gentler mask; but that means you need a very low gamma developer. I won't go into detail here. Minor tweaks in contrast can be done via specific paper choice or even specific enlarger lens selection. Right now I'm working with both Fuii CAII glossy RC paper and Fujiflex polyester base medium, which has more contrast and comes out a bit richer in color; but certainly not all images are suitable for the very high sheen. The various sheens of Super C are all similar in contrast. There are low contrast portrait papers available; but I'm not interested in them. It's pretty rare I want a predictable ole washed-out color neg look. But at the other extreme, I utterly hate color being used as noise, like so much digitally altered work. Both great hue subtlety and punctuations of intensity can exist in the same print to achieve modulated harmony. Anybody can make noise with film; and it seems anyone can do something bland and pretend its minimalistic. I'm tired of all the artsy games; seen enough of em already. Every image should be handled in its own specific way; no rubber stamp mentality. Technique-wise, masking allows a great deal of interpretive control and flexibility. This same approach can of course be mimicked to some extent in digital printing, but the outcome is not as seamless in my opinion. And the greatest flaw I see in digital workflow is the temptation to go overboard - way too much salt or sugar or whatever, killing the native flavor of the image. But that's enough sermonizing for today. I must admit that I prefer the tactility of hands-on darkroom film work.

Larry Gebhardt
5-Jul-2019, 03:12
Thanks again Drew. I was making masks for contrast control, and that hassle was one of the reasons I have mostly moved to the digital approach. The other is I'm not a fan of the RC paper surfaces, though I was mostly printing on glossy. If I pick it up again I'm going to better investigate the surface choices available. I've never used Fujiflex because of the lack of cut sheet availability. I would love it if Fuji rereleased a few different contrast ranges for their papers and FujiFlex in sheets. But I assume the market just isn't there.

I'm also not a fan of over done color or contrast, but I see that as an issue with the photographer, not the printing medium. I find digital printing's control allows one to get exactly what one wants in a print, but you need to be wary of blindly following recipes, adding "filters", or just cranking up the sliders.

Drew Wiley
5-Jul-2019, 10:52
Fujiflex is more robust than Ciba, but still a hassle to cut from a big heavy roll in the dark. I have a special table setup to do that precisely. The first version of Fujiflex was available in sheets up to 30x40 inches, just like their C papers, but no more. Probably 99% of its usage involves big automated XY roll cutters feeding into laser printers. I try to avoid any kind of big fancy gear I can't easily maintain myself.