View Full Version : Anyone else moving backward instead of forward technologically

24-Nov-2003, 14:52
My dad just bought a color printer. He is happy with the advances in technology. He is looking forward to the day, a few years down the road, when he will buy a digitial SLR. Since he is my father, by definition he is older than I. While he is gladly moving forward technology wise I am happily traipsing through the daisies on my way back to the early twentieth century. As things get more technical and computer driven I am looking for more mechanical and simple. I am actually looking forward to getting my shutterless lens on my 5x7, trudging through the cold for a picture to take, hand developing the film, printing by contact in a very old process.

Is anyone else happily traveling the wrong way on the technological interstate?

Jim Galli
24-Nov-2003, 14:58
Mark, Curious, what did you end up with for a lens? Yes, thinking of selling ALL the cameras and pounding pictures into the local rocks with harder rocks. :>)

Ron Bose
24-Nov-2003, 15:05
I'm right behind you Mark.

All my photo mentors over the years are now waxing lyrical about dpi, megapixels, where you can get cheap printer ink, photoshop this, gamut that ...

Whereas, in two years I've probably spent as much money on LF lenses, 4x5 and 8x10 view cameras as they have on digital bodies.

But digitypes need to worry about obsolesence as much as us, look how long the latest DSLR stay current ...

And how many people want to spend MORE time in front of a computer screen ?

Bottom line is that I get more out of the process of making an LF photo than I ever would with the instant gratification of a digital camera.

Emrehan Zeybekoglu
24-Nov-2003, 15:10
You're not the only one, Mark. I have also adopted the "back to basics" approach. I have recently ordered a 4x5 after many years of using modern technology, and will be manually processing negs soon. However, I do not deny the advantages that one might find in digital cameras, printers, etc.

Kevin M Bourque
24-Nov-2003, 15:13
You have to ask yourself: is the new stuff in some way better than the old stuff? “Better” is a highly subjective assessment, of course. Figure that out and make your choices. Resisting technological change for no good reason is just being stubborn. And it might ultimately be futile, as the ugly guys on Star Trek point out from time to time.

Having said that, I understand the intent of your comment. It sounds like you don’t want photography to be just one more thing you do on your computer. That’s your choice, of course. The good news is there’s still lots of potential left in the traditional wet darkroom. Many thousands of stunning photos were crafted with these tools. These methods are no better or worse than they were before digital.

Digital makes some tedious things easy, and makes some nearly impossible things practical. What it won’t do is turn any of us into a good artist.

The photographer was and will continue to be the weak link in the chain. Turn out the lights, mix up the chemicals and don’t look back.

David A. Goldfarb
24-Nov-2003, 15:18
A little of both, but more backward than forward. Recently I decided that I ought to learn how to retouch negatives by hand while there are still people around who know how to do it. It's hard to walk down the street these days without getting hit by an Adams Retouching Machine flying out the window [okay, I'm exaggerating, but really, it's hard to give one of these away].

Walter Glover
24-Nov-2003, 15:19
Sorry, I fail to see it as either moving forward OR backward — it is simply a matter of seizing or exploiting the extended range of possibilities offered today. What I do think is progressive is that by pursuing any field we are in fact moving forward internally or personally. We are expanding our own knowledge and skills base. yes, our enjoyment and reward also. Large Format, Alternataive Process, 35mm, Digital do not compete against each other - rather they provide us a plethora of choices never before known and we should take advantage of any and all that may appeal to us.

Mark, might I suggest that you investigate the recent work of Sally Mann who has kitted up a wagon as a mobile changing bag so that she can coat and process her own wet collodion plates in the field.

We are spoiled for choice. We are well catered for in whatever genre or method we aspire to with the support of modern materials as diverse as black-out fabric that doesn't leak light, water tempering, air conditioning,and exhaust devices, expansive research material on the internet ... the list goes on and on and on. In 2003 we are pretty blessed aren't we?

Paul Metcalf
24-Nov-2003, 15:26
Backwards, way backwards. I thoroughly enjoy rebuilding turn of the century view cameras and then using them to make exposures. Could do it much easier, faster, and possibly "better" with modern equipment, but that's not my objective. But I also do not necessarily consider this moving backwards. It's all about what floats your boat and right now using these old cameras floats my boat.

Dan Fromm
24-Nov-2003, 15:32
This here stone axe was me many-times great grandfather's stone axe. It was good enough for him, and by gor it is good enough for me.

Me old axe has been in the family forever and has given good service all that time, if not longer. It was a fine stone axe in its day, and it is still a fine stone axe. It is a stone axe, and that is what it is, nothing more, nothing less. As I said, it was good enough for me many-times great grandfather. Who, I ask you, would know better than he?

Mind you, me old stone axe is no longer the best tool for all of the uses to which stone axes have been put over the years, but it is still a fine stone axe, and as useable as ever. As I said, it was a fine stone axe in its day, a fine stone axe, and it still is.

I ought not have to say that this here stone axe isn't a general purpose tool. It never was. It never will be. It is only a stone axe. Stone axes have to be accepted and used for what they are, not rejected and ridiculed for what they aren't. Me old stone axe never was a good skinning knife, it still isn't, and it never will be. Nor was it ever much help at knitting or embroidery, no help at all. As I said, it is a stone axe, and that is what it is, a stone axe. An honest stone axe what was good enough for me many-times great grandfather and is plenty good enough for me. This other thing here is a little motor chain saw. It is a heavy, bulky, awkward, noisy, smelly thing that needs fuel and constant attention. Just what you want for taking down little trees. That's its job, taking down little trees. When there's little trees to be cut, one thinks first of a chain saw.

Taking down little trees, poor things, isn't me many times great grandfather's stone axe's job anymore. But yer chain saw is not at all the tool for bashing heads, and there me old stone axe still shines. When heads need to be bashed, no one reaches instinctively for a chain saw, no one.

"Horses for courses," me many times great grandfather used to say, "horses for courses." His stone axe is only a metaphorical horse, metaphorical. There are still metaphorical courses for it and plenty of them, plenty. As I said, it is a fine stone axe and plenty good enough for me, plenty good enough.

Don't scorn me old stone axe or me for using it still. It has its virtues and I has me reasons. Yes, as I've been saying it was good enough for me many-times great grandfather, and it is plenty good enough for me too.

Ron Bose
24-Nov-2003, 15:47
Walter mentioned a point about choice and that digital is another choice. Unfortunately, commercial photography drives the direction of the photo supplies market. So our list of choices are shifting not expanding.

Last Saturday, I was doing my occasional 'visit the downtown photo stores' here in Toronto. None had 8x10 (althought Eight Elm was closed when I was shopping) and those who carried 4x5 film assured me that as soon as the big photo schools stopped teaching with LF then they'd stop carrying LF all together. Students are currently their biggest market.

So as the pro's go digital, the schools who teach tomorrows pro's also go digital, that leaves too few of us to provide enough demand to keep Kodak and Fuji producing big negs for us. Maybe we should all buy Ilford, Bergger, Forte and Efke to make sure their businesses stay healthy enough to provide us with enough film to last us our photographic lifetimes ....

24-Nov-2003, 17:38
Been there. Done that. In the Darkroom till 3 AM then up at 6 AM for hospital rounds. NO MORE! VIVA DIGITAL!

Scott Killian
24-Nov-2003, 17:43
Goldfarb - so YOU'RE the one who must of won Dagor77's auction for the ancient book on negative retouching!

If that's the case, I'll send you my bottle of Crocein Scarlet so you can take care of those pesky skies for me.

John Cook
24-Nov-2003, 18:02
After art school, I assisted for a few years. But for my first actual photographer job, I was given an 11x14 Deardorff (8x10 reducing back) with a big moosey brass lens with a worn leather cap and no shutter. Just cranked up the photofloods, removed the cap and counted one-thousand-one, etc.

We shot on Ansco film and printed on Azo paper. Ferrotyped on a huge gas-fired drum dryer with a bath of Pakosol. Most negatives were silhouetted by hand with red opaque and filed away in glassine in oak filing cabinets.

Clients were Lestoil detergent, Absorbine Junior, Columbia Bicycles, Breck Shampoo and Savage shotguns. Most jobs called for a hundred or more 8x10 glossies.

Those were wonderful days. But now I cheat a little, with Copal shutters, miniature (4x5) film made overseas, a metal (yuck!) camera and variable-contrast paper. I even let the prints dry by themselves overnight.

What is the world coming to?

John Kasaian
24-Nov-2003, 18:13
Mark, what you have is an illness of which there is an epidemic. There is no insurance coverage. Any funding for research that might have helped those of us inflicted with this malady has been diverted by greedy industrialists to promote something called a pixel and the mantra of planned obsolesence. With no treatment and no cure you need to reconcile yourself to the somber fact that all is lost. Perhaps charitable minded civic leaders in your community will open a Phenidone Clinic in your nieghborhood, but the brutal truth is that it would only be a temporary reprieve from the ultima thule. The best you can hope for is to have fun with your toys until you at last succumb to base fog. ;-)

Michael Kadillak
24-Nov-2003, 18:13
Every year I purchase new computers for my business to continue to stay "on the curve" of progress. With this annual commitment comes the necessary new relatively expensive operating systems software and peripherals. After being in this cycle for several years now, I have come to realize that it is a money pit that has no possible end in sight. A continuous financial commitment for which folks tell me that things have become cheaper, but I just do not see the reduction in prices because it really bites to need to cough up some big bucks each year to stay current. For me while I see some nice stuff generated via digital technologies, I simply refuse to get on the digital large format band wagon to any significant degree because I do not feel that it is truly less expensive or offer me any significant improvement over conventional materials in any respect visually. As another person mentioned previously, the last thing I want is to spend more time in front of a computer. I relish the opportunity to get away from the illuminated self imposed jailhouse.

Technology is a wonderful thing and it has provided us with many very positive things in our lives. But but when it comes to photography even if/when silver may be an alternative process, I will be turning out the lights and looking forward to the smell of hypo. My current large format equipment can realistically service my photographic needs to make high quality images for the rest of my and my sons natural life with current dollars already invested and that is a really great thing. Am I technologically backwards? In photography, the answer is probably a resounding yes. But because of the fact that the image is the litmus test of our medium, the prospective audience inherently does not really care how it got to the form that they view between the borders of the matt board.

Five years ago, some folks on this forum predicted that digital would eliminate conventional materials as we know them and that has simply not been the case. We have more diverse and marvelous conventional films and papers in every conceivable size than I can remember. Go figure.

Backwards in Colorado.

David A. Goldfarb
24-Nov-2003, 19:22
Scott Killian--I saw that auction--two copies sold each time for over $30, but I found the same book from a book dealer for about $10, and I was the only bidder! It's not a bad book, and I've seen other retouching manuals going for cheap lately. Check completed auctions for Adams machines--usually under $50, though they go for around $700 new.

Ryan M
24-Nov-2003, 19:54
I just bought an Omega D2 from a studio that "went digital." I have had a darkroom for a few years but this is my first 4x5 enlarger. I went to pick the enlarger up saturday and was surprised that he tossed 2 rodenstock enlarging lenses, 1500 sheets of RC paper and 500 sheets of fiber for black and white, a ton of film developing equipment, timers, papersafes, drymount press, safelights, and trays in with the enlarging equipment. He said he couldn't use it anymore since they went digital and he figured that I could use it since I bought the enlarger. Pretty cool. It is definately a great time to be doing photography, so many choices and some are very affordable.

I love shooting black and white and working in the darkroom. Its relaxation time to me, kind of like cutting the lawn on a riding mower with a beer in one hand and some tunes on the walkman, it looks like tedious work to some others, but definately quality me time when I am doing it. I don't have fun working at a computer like I do when I am working in the darkroom. Maybe I am oldfashioned. I still cook with the cast iron pots and pans my grandmother used, I love driving cars that I can work on if it breaks down, and my tv and sterio are from the 70's, (still working like a charm).

Tim Curry
24-Nov-2003, 19:59
Three years ago I dug out my old Fujica STX-1 35mm, bad light meter and all, for vacation pictures. It had died in Mexico on a vacation trip and I thought I needed to have a light meter to make it work. Velvia was a "new" film to me as I had always used Kodachrome 64, but my friend who teaches architectural photography at the University of Arizona, convinced me that it was "better than Kodachrome." Next year's vacation found me with an old Mamiya C330F but wishing I could do more with scenic vistas of Bryce and the Grand Canyon. Obviously, I needed a 4x5 to take better pictures so I took the plunge into large format.

Once I got rolling with the 4x5 and Velvia, I took a look at Quicken's year of lab costs and prints, ouch! For what I was spending, I could set up a darkroom and... this year in January I began setting it up.

Yesterday I mixed chemicals, prepared a long line of trays, 4x5 black & white negatives and spent a frustratingly enjoyable 8 hours doing some prints with azo and amidol. This is all in preparation for the 8x10 camera I now have, which I want to enjoy with contact prints. I figure it is still cheaper than a lab, better than paying for prints which may or may not be as I wish, and infinitely more enjoyable. There is no way I could afford to pay someone to do what I have learned in the last year of black & white film development and printing. I will always enjoy seeing a finished print that was a lot of "work" to make and make well. Pyro developer, selenium toner, asa 12, azo paper, these are all words very familiar to me now, but three years ago I would have just given the blank stare of taxidermy and walked away.

Going backwards in time, not me! I'm using this P.O.S. computer to write about what I truly love to do. Eight hours a day at work in front of a computer screen is usually enough, but I do enjoy hearing about others who refuse to like "progress" in photography as well.

24-Nov-2003, 20:42
Jim--I got the escofot 150 but it has not got here yet. I know it is not the best and probably near the bottom but you have to start somewhere right. In my hands is a 300mm dagor with no shutter that I will be using in the near future. As soon as the film arrives. Now I am trying to figure out the difference between the pyro formulas. Any more photo purchases will have to wait though. Just after I paid for the lens the car killed another alternator then the washing machine died. I am learning patience though.

24-Nov-2003, 20:49
Unlike most of you folks, I am not a "photographer" and make no claims even close. But in your travels back, you may well pass me. I had never ventured any farther than my 30 year old Minolta XK's and Mamiya C330 (bought new). Then a few years ago I finally started backwards myself in 4x5 with various Graphics. Knock them if you like, but I have a passion for the Graphiv View II. But not being satisfied, I ventured a few steps more with a B&J 8x10 Comm.View. Apparently I hit a steep slope, rolled a little and have just run into an 8x10 Century Universal of a good 70 years old. I am now resting on the side of the path... Wondering if it will ever have to be replaced by newer technology ;-)

As you pass me by (backwards I would hope!), wave and/or smile at an old fool with his CU being very content and not wanting more...

Roger Rouch
24-Nov-2003, 20:53
I'm not presently going in reverse, but have to say that I have the same money crunch by going forward. I stocked my "digital" darkroom less than a year ago. My consumer grade flatbed scanner has been upgraded/improved twice and is currently dirt cheap on XBay. Inexpensive printer also upgraded. Photoshop software appears to be upgraded. Computer seems ok for the time being, but heck, it's only 10 months old. I have to slightly pity those who have purchased expensive digital cameras, as they too are replaced once or twice a year. I love the color prints I can make digitally, but wonder as a hobbiest if I can keep up with the Jones'. As a guess, I'd say that I've suffered a $500 or more depreciation in digital gear in less than a year, and my set up is very modest. I don't think I can do this year-after-year.

John D Gerndt
24-Nov-2003, 22:18
I have been in pursuit of fine images. If the digital field had their way they would develop molecular sized photo receptors. They already exist of course. They are there by the many millions on our sheet film. I am willing to do what is necessary to make them behave but scolding them one at a time on the computer seems dreary to me.

I also have issues with the reliability of digital images. I'd prefer a only slightly and understandably altered piece of reality please. I need to trust what I see and understand how the image is rendered. A digital file is up for wholesale falsehood. I willingly look backward, away from money to a time of understandable and at least somewhat trustworthy technique. Show me what light did to your film. I am interested.


Frank Petronio
25-Nov-2003, 05:18
I went from being a Zone System - fine print photographer to working with Photoshop, well, since before Photoshop was a product (1989). I owned a Canon Xap shot, made early Iris prints, operated a business making Iris prints and Leaf scans, etc. But I never could figure out how to use a Nikon N90, on which the early Kodak digital Pro Back was based. From there it only got worse, as I never could get used to any camera more compterized than a Nikon F3. So yes, I've gone backwards, searching out the best of the older technology - Leicas, Rolleis, Linhofs - and occassionally renting a pro digital camera when needed for a job - and using film, scanners, and inkjets to best advantage. An important part of photography is the tactial experience of using the camera - and a super automated, dial-less Canon 10D just doesn't cut it.

Mike Lyons
25-Nov-2003, 05:30
Hi,-yep, I took the LF plunge about a year ago after deciding that the process and the end result interested me more than the latest number of megapixels and downloads. I came to this after a sales rep tried to sell me "the latest and greatest" with all the whiz bangs, and it occured to me that I'd still turn everything off and reach for my spot meter.....if you need 6fps and 1000th/sec when photographing rocks you shouldn't be standing in the way of an avalanche. It's whatever flicks your switch and for me, and my style of photography LF and the retro films are the way to go. And the gear all stays useable without redundancy for soooo long. Funny thing that so many digi- tech heads are "wowed" by a B/W hand coloured- "gee! how did you do THAT!? What program are you running?" "black and white film,paper and paint brushes.." stuns them every time. I can see a time in the future when I'll scan my colour stuff, but not just yet. Mike

MIke Sherck
25-Nov-2003, 07:50
I've been a compute programmer for more than 25 years now. The last thing I want to do when I'm taking pictures is to have anything to do with a computer. Frankly, buttons are a bit further than I want to go. A survey of the photographic equipment I've owned shows a steady progression from complexity to simplicity and I have every intention of keeping it that way. *grin* I figure, whatever it takes to stay sane!


Jim Galli
25-Nov-2003, 08:14
Hi Mark. You'll be astounded at what you'll get from that little Eskofot. A true sleeper. To bad there's no easy way to put them in a shutter. Read the EXCELLENT piece in View Camera Mag about 3 or 4 issues ago about using "Packard" shutters. The 2D is made for that and it's another big retro step backwards which should please you no end! The Dagor is no slouch either.

25-Nov-2003, 09:39
I have been thinking about a packard shutter, but in truth how it attaches to the camera is a bit confusing. I suppose I would need to buy one for each lens mounted to a lens board.

Chris Ellinger
25-Nov-2003, 10:46
After 40 years of photography using cameras with high tech glass lenses, I've recently regressed to a zone plate on a Century Graphic, and am having a great time with it.


25-Nov-2003, 11:13

Those are very striking photographs. Very simple, very sparsely populated, very zen(not a term I use very often). Are your shots with modern lenses like this? I have never heard of a zone plate and off to do a little surfing.

Christopher Condit
25-Nov-2003, 11:49
I've gone so far back I hit bottom and came up again, a little. I was focussed on pinholes for a while, but now I'm back up to traditional LF, and a Mamiya TLR. Count me as one for whom it is an escape from the computerized world. The only battery I have is in my spotmeter, which I hope to learn to do without.

I forget the name for it, but I did try a couple times *the* most backward techniqure there is. Cover a piece of watercolor paper with blackberry juice, let it dry. Put it in a contact printer with a positive transparency. Leave it in the sun for a month, so juice stain fades. Hang on the wall out of the sun. Biggest problem with this technique is that original stain is not dark enough...

Jim Galli
25-Nov-2003, 12:41
Mark, Usually you mount the Packard inside and just behind the lens board area so that it remains in the camera for use with any of the lenses that are on board. Chris Ellinger.........Love the work! What is a "zone plate"?

Jorge Gasteazoro
25-Nov-2003, 14:35
Yeah, what is a zone plate?....nice work BTW...

David A. Goldfarb
25-Nov-2003, 15:00
Nice work, indeed.

Here's a good explanation of the zone plate:


Chris Ellinger
25-Nov-2003, 15:04
A zone plate is much like a pinhole, in that it images by diffraction. Instead of a single opening, the zone plate is a (very small) array of concentric alternating transparent and opaque rings. (It is printed on high contrast film and looks like the graphic on my website.) The result is an image that is a bit softer than a pinhole image, with a "glow" in the highlights.

You can buy a zone plate:


Or, make your own:


I bought one from Pinhole Resource, and mounted it in a shutter (where the glass bits used to be.) Thanks for the encouraging remarks on my photos. It's nice to know they are appreciated by fellow photographers.

Kaatharine Thayer
26-Nov-2003, 12:29
To Michael Kadillak's observation that keeping up with computers is "a money pit that has no possible end in sight" I'll add my own experience for confirmation:

The problem with being an "early adopter" as they used to call people who kept on the cutting edge with computers, is that unless you are independently wealthy or have at your command an unlimited corporate or nonprofit budget, you just can't keep it up forever. I spent $35,000 of my own funds keeping up with digital imaging from 1990 to 1998, and that's when I stopped. I'm still using 1998 equipment and knowledge, slipping farther and farther into obsolescence, and when this system breaks, I don't see myself replacing it again. Been there done that, is my feeling about digital.

Luckily an angel gifted me with an 8x10 a couple of years ago, and since I've printed exclusively in gum bichromate for more than a decade, (my sole use of digital at this point is to generate contact negatives for gum printing) I've already had one foot in the 19th century for quite a while, so it won't feel strange to have both of them there when I give up digital for good. My 2cents.

Erec Grim
26-Nov-2003, 21:08
Dan Fromm, thank you for posting that wonderful little composition.

27-Nov-2003, 07:31
I - and my unshuttered Wollensak Apochromatic Raptar (f/10-45) - am very proud of moving backwards technologically. While I admit that at some time I will be forced into renting digital to keep costs down, for my personal work, I shoot lots of 8x10 and look forward to trying cyanotype and pt/pd.

Bev McInis
22-Feb-2004, 09:29
Found this thread while trying to find someone to sell my retouching machine to. I must say I do miss the smell and the feel of the darkroom but in this day and age I no longer have the time so have had to go digital. Would any of you who do still have the luxery of time be interested in an Adams in great shape? Bev

Edward (Halifax,NS)
27-Feb-2004, 11:11
I am neither moving forward or backward. I am expanding outward - and not only my waist. In colour I am shooting the latest Velvia and printing digitally. Actually I am having my transparencies scanned and printed because I can not yet afford a scanner and decent printer. In black and white I am on the verge of starting to contact print with Azo in Amidol. The basement is not yet ready for me. Hopefully it will be by April. I don't mind old glass but I want a modern shutter and my meter is a middle of the road Sekonic. In other formats I have an autofocus SLR but I only have manual focus lenses and I have a Yashicamat that is slightly older than I am.