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Thread: Bypassing conventional, going directly to digital.

  1. #1

    Bypassing conventional, going directly to digital.

    I wonder if I should bother at all with setting up a conventional darkroom and i nstead go directly to digital scanning and printing.

    Am I missing anything in my education as a photographer? I am not in love with process; I am in love with results. I haven't spent years in the darkroom as ma ny on this board have cutting my eye-teeth on the conventional process. And I a m wondering if I should make the attempt now.

    Space and time constraints, the terrible smells, and the wonderful expediency of the digital process have put me on the horns of a dilemma.

    Yet I feel as if I should pay my dues to the wet process or my journey as a phot ographer printer won't be complete. Can I recognise what good Dmax is digitally without having experienced good Dmax conventionally? Can I get the range of to nes that the wet process engenders? Is split toning even possible digitally?

    Certainly, those are the masters of their printing craft like Bill Nordstrom, h ave spent a good part of their life in the conventional darkroom before going di gital completely. They bring the knowledge and eye honed in the wet process ove r with them into the digital realm.

    Will someonewho has bypassed the conventional process be disadvantaged in any wa y? Or perhaps digital is a new way of seeing and one should not try to replicat e the look of the wet process?

    May I tap the collective wisdom of this board.

    Does the conventioanl process still have a place in the education of a new photo grapher today?

    Too many rambling questions. Please bear with me.


    P.S. I am still shooting film. And will always shoot film as long as it remain s available.

  2. #2

    Bypassing conventional, going directly to digital.


    I have always printed in the darkroom (b&w and color) and remain devoted to it completely, but I had to learn Photoshop in order to teach it. I don't see why you can't skip the darkroom and get fine results technically. However, I agree with my friend David Freese's theory that there is something about physically handling a material (paper, chemistry, easel, retouching brush) that engages a different part of the brain than merely viewing a 2-D, all-illusory image on a screen. He thinks that better, or at least different, work will emerge when your hands do what they are meant to do: handle. (Handling the mouse or keyboard is too indirect.) I'm sure several people will write in and say this is BS, but I kinda think there's something to it.

    But if process is unimportant to you, then its psychic/physical relationship to the result might be unimportant to you as well, so go ahead and skip the darkroom.

  3. #3
    Whatever David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Honolulu, Hawai'i

    Bypassing conventional, going directly to digital.

    If you are interested in "results" more than "process" then look at the results, and see if they look like what you want to produce. Go to galleries and museums and inspect real prints by great printers to see what the potential of each medium is. Fine prints can be made by many techniques. I just see digital as another set of output options. Iris, Piezography, Lightjet, silver, platinum, albumen, Azo, cyanotype, Vandyke, and gum bichromate all can produce interesting results. I don't see any kind of process as inherently superior, really. The aesthetic choice is yours.

    Personally, I've seen some nice looking B&W giclee prints, but it's not a look I am after. I like the particular quality of silver printing and contact prints on Azo. On the other hand, Lightjet in color is close enough to wet printing in general appearance with the possibility of much more control than one has in the darkroom, so I'm leaning that way for color enlargements (but I may stick with Ilfochromes for LF contact prints, at least for now).

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Oct 2001

    Bypassing conventional, going directly to digital.

    "terrible smells"?? - i love the way the darkroom smells! it almost makes me salivate :-) anyway, i think i have to call this one both ways - if you want to focus on color work, absolutely shoot CTs and then have them scanned and printed digitally. for my professional architectural work, this is what i do - i havent had any conventional color prints made in well over a year - the digital prints are far superior than conventional color prints made directly from the CTs. of course, i dont pay for the scans and prints - the clients do :-) - but the quality of the digital prints is really worth it - they are outstanding even up to 24x36" (biggest i've tried, and i can hardly see the pixellation even with a 10x loupe on a 320MB file print). OTOH, if you are mainly doing B/W, i would stick with conventional darkroom and fiber-base prints, as it is almost ESSENTIAL for fine art work (for commercial BW work where you dont need a fine art-type result, digital prints might be just the ticket) - but, i have not seen any BW digital prints that can compare to the rich tonality of a good fiber-base print, but that is largely because of the quality of the papers available for the two type of printing. i havent really seen any papers made for digital BW printing that have the feel and substance and character of an air-dried glossy surface fiber paper = perhaps there are some out there now, and i just dont know it. my daughter is majoring in photography at USC, and i am encouraging her to shoot film but go straight to digital for printing (she wants to do commercial magazine work).

  5. #5

    Bypassing conventional, going directly to digital.

    The biggest obstacle to a large format film to digital workflow is the scanner. There are now 35mm and medium format scanners that can give respectable results but flatbed scanners that can due justice to 4x5 or larger transparencies begin at about $12,000 USD (Scitex Eversmart Jazz).

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Apr 2001

    Bypassing conventional, going directly to digital.

    Have you considered a blending of both? Look into Dan Burkholder's 'Making Enlarged Negatives' book. Very popular workflow these days. Basically, scanning a negative, do your modifications to the image in Photoshop, print the image back to a negative on a clear transparency on an Epson inket printer, and contact print the final print.

    This way, your 'wet' darkroom is minimal work. You will only be doing 'straight' prints.

    Just a thought.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Sep 1999

    Bypassing conventional, going directly to digital.

    Forget the darkroom, you're not missing anything worth knowing, and it takes serious time away from shooting.

  8. #8

    Bypassing conventional, going directly to digital.

    Current Shutterbug has a good interview with Ralph Gibson that will be pertinent.

  9. #9

    Bypassing conventional, going directly to digital.

    This whole digital v. film dilemma reminds me of the same handwringing that surrounded the other digital v. analog debate - music. I still have over 1,000 record albums - and for some of them I even have the CD of the same album. Hands down, I'll take the LP any time. Same for photography.

    Put it another way --- if digital (imaging or sound) existed first, and then analog came afterward - what would have been the reaction????? I think that the analog would have absolutely blown everyone away with its purity, its depth, its clarity, and its beauty. Just my opinion.


  10. #10

    Join Date
    May 2001

    Bypassing conventional, going directly to digital.


    If you are doing photography commercially with this as your main source of income then go digital all the way - forget traditional work, you will be left behind your contemparies.

    If you are doing photography for yourself and have not much interest in earning your living with it, then a combination of both would be a good choice.

    After over thirty years of traditional photography (professionally, as my only income) I am changing more and more to digital capture and output and the traditional methods have been relegated more for my own personal work.

    Kind regards

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