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B/W film developing

Discussion in 'Through-the-Lens Club' started by MrsKitty, Aug 8, 2006.

  1. MrsKitty

    MrsKitty

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    Any of you guys ever done your own processing?

    I have access to a complete darkroom (well, I am sure the chemicals need to be replaced) but all the equipment is there for developing and doing my own prints. I am not sure I trust the paper other than for practice at this point, but everything is basically there for me.

    Any advice on chemicals as far as brands? What about paper? I have noticed several types?

    Any sites you recommend? I have been reading some but thought somebody might be able to point me in a direction or offer tips.
     
  2. Fred

    Fred Lifetime Member Millennium Member

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    I used to do my own film processing, but it was so long ago that I really can't recommend any more. Given the popularity of digital recently, there have been a number of discontinued products for film developing, so I don't know what's left. At the time, I worked primarily with Tri-X and HP5 developed in D-76, but I think both their formulations have changed, so who knows.

    Guess I'm rambling here, so I'll just say that it was very rewarding for me to work in the darkroom, and hope you find the same thing holds true. Hopefully someone with way more current experience than me can add some good info here for you.
     

  3. Mild Bill

    Mild Bill Millennium Member

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    No way--- respectfully...
    My God, you might as well start washing your clothes down by the river...

    Learn and attempt to master Photoshop if you haven't already...
    If you have, that's another story...

    Otherwise, in 2006, I'd save the darkroom for a nostalgic retirement hobby...
    We used to do it, but only cause we had to...

    :beer:
     
  4. MrsKitty

    MrsKitty

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    Oh, come on Bill! Nothing like a good challange!

    Over 90% of what I shoot in digital is process into b/w and since I have all the equipment, I have nothing to loose here. Just some chemicals and paper.

    Now I try to get what I want out of the camera instead of from Photoshop. Sometimes it works and others, well :upeyes:
     
  5. 40SX

    40SX

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    I have been doind B&W darkroom work for more years than I really want to remember, probably close to 40 years. Most of the film I use is Plus-X, and I usually develope in Microdol-X, UFG, or plan O'le D-76. For grainy effects I use Rodinal. The prints I make range from wallet size to 20x24s. I usually use Kodak or Ilford paper and develope the prints in Dektol paper developer. I'm looking at one right now and regarding tonal values, digital does not come close. Even using a magnifing glass I cannot find a single pixel.;)

    I shoot mainly medium format, some 4x5, and very little 35mm. I own some digital equipment, but for serious work, it's still film for me.
    I'm still saving for a digital back for my Hasselblads, but it is going to be a while, buying too many weapons as of late.

    I have Photoshop 6 & 7, but have not really used them, maybe I'll learn to sometime.:upeyes:

    I was always intrigued by watching an image fade up from the paper when placed into the tray of developer, the now generation will probably never experience this chemical reaction.

    I've rambled enough,
    Dennis
     
  6. hwyhobo

    hwyhobo

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    Well over a quarter of a century ago I had my own darkroom. Together with a few other photographers we processed all our work in there. We even mixed chemicals from scratch according to formulas (I still have the book with formulas somewhere :)). Yes, there was an element of romance in it, but while the smells and the adventure were interesting, the amount of control that the digital process offers over the chemical one cannot be compared by any measure, and I will always take the digital over the chemical now.
     
  7. MrsKitty

    MrsKitty

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    So what you guys are saying is that it is old school, out dated technology.

    Might even go so far as to call it a novelty. :)

    Maybe somebody wrote a ... For Dummies book or an Idiots Guide :supergrin:
     
  8. hwyhobo

    hwyhobo

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    I might call it a "legacy photo-processing technology". :) Some say it's not much more than an affectation today, but I would not go that far. I think it is still a viable technology for those who have practiced it for a long time and have invested both time and money in it. However, for one who is beginning a serious involvement with photography, I would think it would be a dead-end road.
     
  9. T. Harless

    T. Harless

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    I'm of the same old school. Processing film in D76 on deadline and printing from wet negatives was a daily gig.

    The luxury of fiber based paper and the joy of watching a great print come up in the Dektol or your poison (and I do mean that) of choice is gone.

    I don't miss it. I work at a 30" Apple Cinema Display, PhotoShop CS2 and a whip *** Mac. My hands get wet washing them after lunch.

    I can't say when I've shot a roll of film last.
     
  10. MrsKitty

    MrsKitty

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    I recognize the limits but I also see some advantages. Guess it is a toss up.

    I have everything but fresh chemicals so I have very little cost to get started...
     
  11. hwyhobo

    hwyhobo

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    Okay, name three. :)
     
  12. MrsKitty

    MrsKitty

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    Advantages:
    1. Total control over the finished product (once I figure out what I am doing).

    2. Ability to achieve more detail in the dark portions of a shot (This is my main motivation---I love high contrast b/w and I just cannot get detail out of the blacks. From what I have read, it is one of the biggest limits with digital).

    3. Artistic property in that I can dodge and burn and alter the image with my hands, rather than a mouse (I am a very hand-oriented person and I would much rather do something hands on than with PS).

    :supergrin:
     
  13. hwyhobo

    hwyhobo

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    You mean as opposed to the incredible control that Photoshop and digital give you? Come on, not even close. misskitty5077 & analog 0:1 digital.

    Granted, with one shot analog b&w gives better dynamic range. However, shooting with digital on a tripod you can expose twice for high dynamic range and layer the picture, effectively achieving grater depth than with analog. But, I will grant you a partial win on a single photo. misskitty5077 & analog 1:1.5 digital.

    Get a wacom tablet and a pen. No comparison in the amount of control over areas - plus it is pressure sensitive. Besides, the mouse by itself does not alter the image, you do it with your hands while you're holding the mouse. Argument deemed bogus :supergrin:. Partial score granted just so you don't feel too badly. ;) Final score: misskitty5077 & analog 1.1:2.5 digital.

    Okay, let's hear more arguments. This match is not going well for you. :)
     
  14. MrsKitty

    MrsKitty

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    How about I am stubborn and since I have almost everything, it isn't going to be a major investment for me to try? :clown:


    I have never been a fan of Photoshop. I don't have the patience to learn it properly and it just leaves me "unfufilled" for lack of a better word.

    The biggest advantage for me with digital is the almost instant results of viewing the shots. I used to shoot film then would NEVER bother processing. The fun was the shooting. I lost interest afterwards. To drop the film off/mail it and wait for pics to come back just wasn't my thing. It is not laziness, it is just *my* part was over and the rest didn't matter. Getting this darkroom going, I will be able to see the image without sending out/waiting for developing.

    Also, the process of seeing the image come to life just fascinates me. Call it being easily entertained but it is just pretty cool to watch occur! :)
     
  15. hwyhobo

    hwyhobo

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    That's a good argument.

    Okay, but learning B&W processing technique in the darkroom is not any easier, and it is certainly more tedious if done properly.

    I completely agree with this point. I never, ever, had my b&w film photos processed by an outside lab. It was enough that I had to give my color photos to a lab (I was not equipped to handle the processing). The results of outside processing were completely unpredictable unless I paid major money for professional service. Perhaps that was the primary reason I started to shoot color slides instead of negatives.

    I find the same joy now watching the image come to life on my screen. However, I do agree it was fun to watch the paper being developed.
     
  16. nipperwolf

    nipperwolf

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    yes, it was. until the dust spots showed up. ;)
     
  17. hwyhobo

    hwyhobo

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    Oh, my, right on. Now it's just a cloning tool touch up. ;)
     
  18. MrsKitty

    MrsKitty

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    Ah! Careful! You will bust my bubble before I get it blown up :supergrin:
     
  19. MrsKitty

    MrsKitty

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    I don't mind it being tedious and I don't mind *working* to learn in the darkroom. To me, it just doesn't have the same personal meaning if processed in Photoshop instead of by hand. I can't explain it but it just "feels" like something is lost and I can't quite put my finger on what it is...

    That said, I absolutely LOVE digital but I just cannot get the definition in the superdark portions of an image. It is like it is ghosted and no detail. I have not been able to find a fix for this but it seems to be a digital problem only. I am hoping with film, I can gain what it is I am missing there.

    I love high contrast, grainy, underexposed abstract shots. I can't quite nail what I am after with digital so I am going to try with film.

    I may not can nail it there either but it will have satisfied my curiosity and should be a fun process to boot! :)
     
  20. hwyhobo

    hwyhobo

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    Here is an interesting article on High Dynamic Range Imaging (HDRI). This is the holy grail of digital photography today. The most popular early workaround seems to be a layered acquisition and postprocessing. It is possible to do it in older versions of Photoshop (it's a bit ugly and clumsy, but technically possible), but CS2 (which I don't have yet) includes "merge to HDR" feature. This is quite exciting, and it might be the primary reason for me to upgrade.

    In the future either HDRI filters will become common in cameras, or the sensors themselves will become capable of capturing 32-48 bits of information (that will make processing time and file sizes very large, so it might take a while).

    So, as you can see, it is possible even now to achieve high depth in digital, although it is not easy, but then you said you didn't mind working for it. ;)

    BTW, this is a layered "HDR" image, although I only used 2 layers. The author of the above article used 7 layers in CS2. Wow. That opens some serious possibilities.