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Thread: Exp., Dev. and Visualization in a scanning world.

  1. #1
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Exp., Dev. and Visualization in a scanning world.

    The "Tradigital" transition.

    Having gone back and scanned many old negs to print an upcoming show, I have not dev. any new negs specifically for scanning. But I have developed a sense for what I need in a neg. to scan well, which is a relatively flat and well exposed negative. My preference in the past has always been Tri-X in HC110 because of the midtone contrast, which I could never seem to get as well in any other combination. Mid-tone contrast is easy to achieve by manipulating the curve in Photoshop so that is no longer an issue. My sense is that a negative (exposed with proper ASA)with detailed shadows placed on Zone III and Zone VII highlights with normal dev. will give me a neg. with all the information I need to achieve almost anything I want in a scan. I no longer see the need for expanded developement as expansion is easily handled in Photoshop. Contraction though is still a necessity as blown out highlights are as unfixable as underexposure. Contraction though is actually well handled by blending two exposures, one for the highlights and one for the shadows.

    How are people determining what is an ideal LF negative specifically for scanning?

    There is an interesting plug-in in Optipix (Reindeergraphics) called "auto contrast" which gives you a histogram overlayed with a Zone Scale. It allows you to play with post exposure zone placements and development contrast and preview the results before it is applied. Assuming you start out with a negative with enough information, it allows you to explore almost any simulated exposure dev. combinations. For old Zone System farts like me, it is a useful tool for a kind of "post developement pre-visualization".

    None of this is any easier or lowers the bar. I am spending far more time in front of a computer than I ever did in the darkroom. Actually my expectations of a good print have gotten higher. At the age of 55 I have gone back to 80 hour weeks like I did in my 30's. Part of that is the transitional learning curve, but a bigger part is the greater possiblities and my own growing expectations. I have been at this for almost 35 years now and I have to say I think we are living in the best of times. There have never been better options both traditionally and digitally. Digital has matured to a point of making some real artistic sense. Not as a replacement for traditional but as a new branch.

    Just some thoughts from a "Tradigital" world.
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    at age 70:
    "The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep"

  2. #2
    Moderator Ralph Barker's Avatar
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    Exp., Dev. and Visualization in a scanning world.

    Perhaps we need to bring Charles Dickens back, so he could write a "Tale of Two Technologies" sequal and re-use his "best of times, worst of times" line. ;-)

    Although I do both types of work, most of my LF photography is still aimed at traditional printing. Thus, for the most part, LF film selection, exposure, and development (for me) are still predecated on how I want to print the negative by traditional means. I have, however, added some thought for digital processing requirements, and will now sometimes make a second exposure for use in digitally merging scans. I seem to get fairly reasonable scans from my favorite B&W films (FP4+ and HP5+ with a little Fuji Acros tossed in from time to time), whether 35mm, 120, 4x5 or 8x10, so I haven't had to adjust much for the digital side. But, I'll admit - these scans are mostly for Web display or small-scale magazine reproduction. I'm not doing any large digital prints from the scans, and I've just recently added 8x10 to the mix.

    Thus, my philosophy about all of this is perhaps two-faced or conflicted. For personal images, I stick pretty tightly to traditional in-the-camera/in-the-darkroom methods. For "commercial" work, however, almost anything that gets the job done is OK, as long as it's not misrepresented.

  3. #3
    Resident Heretic Bruce Watson's Avatar
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    Exp., Dev. and Visualization in a scanning world.

    I agree for the most part. I for one haven't found any blown out highlights, however. If your scanner can read though a chrome, it can read through just about anything that Tri-X can throw at it. Blown out highlights are a photographic paper phenomenon, IMHO. Highlights blow out because the paper can't handle the dynamic range that the negative can. This is why the Zone System advocates N- development -- to get the dynamic range of the image on the negative to better match the dynamic range of the paper. IMHO, blown out highlights aren't a film problem, and are only peripherally associated with scanning (via the Callier effect).

    Now, it could just be my warped perspective. That, and the fact that I own a drum scanner and drum scan for all my prints. But what I've learned over the years is, expose for the shadows and let the highlights fall where they may. Every sheet gets my N development. I'm using 4x5 Tri-X, XTOL 1:3, 7.5 minutes @ 20C, in a Jobo CPP-2 and a Jobo 3010 drum.

    In worst case scenarios - like a white flower in full sun, I'll capture about 11 stops of SBR (according to Zone VI modified Pentax digital spot meter). This gives me a Dmax up around 2.0, which is completely unprintable in the darkroom.

    The scanner just laughs at density this low, and successfully reads it all. Photoshop doesn't have a problem with it either. I'll typically compress the highlights a bit in getting the mid-range contrast up where I want it (I like things to be fairly contrasty). The resulting prints on Photo Rag with selenium PiezoTones are just gorgeous, with plenty of detail in both highlights and shadows.

    Even though I eliminate the Zone System development treatments, I don't think a hybrid workflow like this is any easier than the traditional darkroom. In many cases, far from it, and it's certainly more expensive. Sigh...

    I do agree that it's raised the bar. I can and do get better prints than I ever could in the darkroom despite years of training and experience.

    Finally, I do agree that inkjet prints are not a replacement for silver gelatin. Inkjet is clearly an alternative process, as different from silver gelatin as all the rest.

    Bruce Watson

  4. #4
    Octogenarian
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    Exp., Dev. and Visualization in a scanning world.

    Hi Hogarth,

    Judging from the changes that are taking place with Kodak, Ilford, Agfa, Forte, etc., it appears that silver gelatin is becoming an alternative process, and inkjet is rapidly becoming the norm.

  5. #5

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    Exp., Dev. and Visualization in a scanning world.

    I agree that the use of a photoeditor makes moot the usual reasons for manipulating negative development. But there are still some reasons for doing so in appropriate circumstances. One is that while you can easily expand scale digitally, in so doing, you may open up too many gaps in the histogram. In practice, this is not often a problem, even if you operate in 8 bits per channel, but it is something to keep in mind.

  6. #6
    Moderator Ralph Barker's Avatar
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    Exp., Dev. and Visualization in a scanning world.

    If you have the CS version of Photoshop, Leonard, try switching to 16-bit mode for Levels and Curves adjustments. Doing so eliminates the comb-tooth histogram problem.

  7. #7

    Exp., Dev. and Visualization in a scanning world.

    I agree that scanning can make good work out of negatives that would never print in the darkroom and opens up possibilities that did not exist in the "old days" - or they were so hard to do you'd never even try. But for optimum results the best practice is still to make a negative as close to what you want to print as possible - it ultimately saves you time. Instead of Photoshop heroics you spot and do some global, perhaps some local adjustments and its almost time to print.

    To get the best scan you should fit your negative to your scanner's range just like you used to fit your negative to your paper. Hogarth has a killer scanner so he can handle real dense negatives but your $300 flatbed might not. So test your negs along with your scanner and come up with the exposure that fits your tools. For the B&W materials I use I find that what would be called N to N-1 is about right for scanning. The main thing is to get all the scene information into the negative in densities your scanner can retrieve.

    For commercial color work I find that I can often "light" a scene better in Photoshop than spending lots of time and Polaroids on location to get it perfect. I can get close and later get it just the way "I saw it" in the computer. The move here is knowing which is easier/better/faster - in camera or in the computer. I can correct for odd light sources better and quicker than I could ever gel or replace lamps. I also like it that I get a second chance to pick that candy wrapper out of the scene. : >) Need to bring the sky down a bit? Want whiter, fluffy clouds? No problem.

    It is really easy to spend waaay too much time perfecting one photo or group of photos. Having spent waaay to much time doing this too many times I find that sometimes I really -loath- computers and printers and anything that goes with them. But they are incredibly valuable tools and greatly extend our ability to reproduce what we saw.

  8. #8

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    Exp., Dev. and Visualization in a scanning world.

    Leonard can make levels or curves adjustment in 16 bit whether or not he has Photoshop CS. Those two adjustments could be made in 16 bit since at least Photoshop 6, probably earlier than that.
    Brian Ellis
    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do criticize them you'll be
    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

  9. #9
    Saulius's Avatar
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    Exp., Dev. and Visualization in a scanning world.

    "To get the best scan you should fit your negative to your scanner's range just like you used to fit your negative to your paper. So test your negs along with your scanner and come up with the exposure that fits your tools. For the B&W materials I use I find that what would be called N to N-1 is about right for scanning. The main thing is to get all the scene information into the negative in densities your scanner can retrieve. "

    I myself have been thinking about this recently. Does anyone have any suggestions as to a simple way to test my b&w negs. to fit my flatbed scanners' capabilies? My equipment: epson 4870, Silver Fast Ai 6, Photoshop CS.

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