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Roger Hicks -- Author of The Rangefinder Book

Roger Hicks is a well known photographic writer, author of The Rangefinder Book, over three dozen other photographic books, and a frequent contributor to Shutterbug and Amateur Photographer. Unusually in today's photographic world, most of his camera reviews are film cameras, especially rangefinders. See www.rogerandfrances.com for further background (Frances is his wife Frances Schultz, acknowledged darkroom addict and fellow Shutterbug contributor) .


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The Ultimate Alternative Process
Old 05-14-2016   #1
Roger Hicks
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The Ultimate Alternative Process

That's what film is nowadays. There's no doubt that digital is the mainstream. But there's still a lot to be said for film: http://rogerandfrances.eu/photography/film-1-alt-proc

Cheers,

R.
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Old 05-14-2016   #2
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Roger - Interesting and engaging article. Relevant for me, as you can see from thread that I started, with the title Go back to film? Sell the M9-P/MM? Wanna talk me down?. As I've written in that thread, the decision to go back to film is not obvious or easy — and gels with what you say about doing it for the love of it. A major problem is if one is if one is going to scan rather than making darkroom prints.

Scanning is a major issue because of the limited scanning solutions available now, i.e., if one is not willing to use scanners with ancient software and hardware near the end of its useful life, like the Nikon and Minolta scanners. My solution is digitalizing with a Leitz BEOON copy stand and a Leica M9 or M-Monochrom. In B&W this gives me results that, in dynamic range and resolution, look equal to my old Imacon Precision III — though pixel peeping shows a slightly lower resolution than the 6300 ppi of the Imacon.

But Maggie O. reasonably points out, in post #46 in the above looked thread, that, with the BEOON solution, I'm in effect shooting with the M9 — and that simply using an Tri-X filter in Silver Efex Pro 2 on an M9 file would be a lot easier and give better results. She also thinks that my best photographs have been digital.

I've stated in the linked thread that what attracts me to film is the rendering of highlights in bright and harsh tropical light, especially when these highlights merge into blown-out areas. An example of this can be seen in my essay that has just been published on David Alan Harvey's BURN Magazine website with the title, Alone in Bangkok. (Mild self-promotion here). Of the 19 images in this essay, two were shot on film (Tri-X) — and perhaps one of the two is readily identifiable as being a film shot because it has that transition from highlight to blow-out that films handles so elegantly. But if I were to decide to shoot with film and digital, I would never have the camera at hand that I needed because I don't like to carry more than one camera. This is another example of how difficult it is to decide to go back to film.

For me, the decision is further complicated by the fact that I'm a nomad and move annually between Thailand, France and the U.S.— so the fewer cameras the better. That is also a reason why the BEOON scanning solution is attractive: the BEOON is so small and light that I can include in my carry-on luggage.

So, you wanna talk me down from going back to film?
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Old 05-14-2016   #3
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"...with the BEOON solution, I'm in effect shooting with the M9" I have wondered about this too. I use a Nikon D3300 and a condensor enlarger to scan my film. However, on reflection, I do not feel that I am shooting film with the D3300 when I use my Leica M2 to take the photo, and I do not think the scanned result looks like it was shot on a D3300. I'm just using the digital medium to "print" and share the film result.
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Old 05-15-2016   #4
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Interesting read Roger. I love the sa called Hybrid workflow, at least so long my scanner will survive! I love to shoot film because of the cameras. And because is what my father taught me when I was a boy. I love to shoot film because i do not need to have thousand of shots form a week end...if I know I have to rolls I know it means 72 exposures and among them I must have the few worthwhile to scan and print, maybe only a dozen.

But of course I recognize all the benefits of digital...

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Old 05-15-2016   #5
John Bragg
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Thanks Roger. Good read, espescially as I have never owned a digital camera, but I enjoy the Hybrid workflow of developing my own and scanning, with the odd inkjet print made on A4 from any images that are worthy. I was looking at some darkroom prints I made 10 years ago and they are remarkably similar to my current output with the inkjet. That proves to me that "my style" is still my style despite the change in workflow and materials.In fact in some ways the hybrid workflow is superior, espescially with the ability to retouch with GIMP and then output many identical prints.

Regards, John.
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Old 05-15-2016   #6
Roger Hicks
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nowhereman View Post
. . . So, you wanna talk me down from going back to film?
Naahhh...

Glad you enjoyed it. As you say, it's not an easy choice. But it can be a rational one.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 05-15-2016   #7
Roger Hicks
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Bragg View Post
. . . "my style" is still my style despite the change in workflow and materials. . . .
Dear John,

YES!

But then, you care more about pictures than about having the latest gear (as do most film users and everyone so far on this thread).

Cheers,

R.
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Old 05-15-2016   #8
Roger Hicks
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robert blu View Post
Interesting read Roger. I love the sa called Hybrid workflow, at least so long my scanner will survive! I love to shoot film because of the cameras. And because is what my father taught me when I was a boy. I love to shoot film because i do not need to have thousand of shots form a week end...if I know I have to rolls I know it means 72 exposures and among them I must have the few worthwhile to scan and print, maybe only a dozen.

But of course I recognize all the benefits of digital...

robert
Dear Robert,

Thanks for the kind words, and I very much like your point about 2 rolls = 72 exposures.

See you in a few weeks!

Cheers,

R.
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Old 05-15-2016   #9
Charlie Lemay
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Hear! Hear! Roger! Excellent article. I'm currently working on a new extension of my ZoneSimple version of the Zone System. My Deep Shadow Ultra technique allows the photographer to shoot in direct sun or shade on the same roll of film, developed for the same amount of time, providing they can "see" how the lightest values will handle 2 stops of overdevelopment. So, specular highlights, glints on water or metal, can create the illusion of extended scale in an image that has much more shadow detail in B&W without the artificial look of HDR. You can see examples and get free downloads of the process by clicking on the Deep Shadow Ultra banner on the front page of my web site, www.charlielemay.net. Everyone in photography seems to be chasing speed, but there is much to be said for SloFILM.
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Old 05-16-2016   #10
Charlie Lemay
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I broke a barrier this latest roll. I exposed this film for 1024x the amount of light the manufacturer recommends for their film in daylight. Ilford HP5 was exposed for 9 stops more than the recommended exposure in sunlight ( f2 @ 1/60 ) for the first image and an additional two stoops ( f2 @ 1/8 ) for the second image which was predominantly in the shade. Both were processed for the same amount of time, 3-1/2 minutes at 60 degrees in Sprint Standard developer 1 to 9 dilution. I used a monopod for the shade image. If I push this any further, I will need a tripod most likely.

The benefit of this technique is the rendering of extraordinary scale and extended detail in the deep shadows. The fact that there are still black shadows is an indication that there may still be further to go. At some point, though, the pictorial effect may become artificial looking, or the film itself may break down in rendering the information. Since I don't usually use a tripod, I may not go beyond 2048x except under very special conditions, but I am going to try this with medium format film next.
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Old 05-16-2016   #11
Emile de Leon
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Interesting exposure method Charlie..
Luv those shadows and overall look...almost like a contact print..
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Old 05-16-2016   #12
Charlie Lemay
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Thanks Emil. I hope you and others will give it a try.
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Old 05-21-2016   #13
John Bragg
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Dear Roger,

I had a strange experience this week whilst on holiday in Lanzarote. A young Chinese waiter in a Spanish restaurant passed comment on my Nikon film camera. His first reaction was that I had a lovely camera (perhaps because it was a Nikon ? ). He was oblivious to the fact it was a film camera, as at first sight a Nikon F100 looks like a digital slr. I explained that it was bought really cheaply from a Japanese seller on ebay and his curiosity peaked. This was the point at which I realised that although we were both fluent, it was sadly in different languages ! I tried to explain that it used film, to be met by a blank expression. I then showed him a roll of HP5+ by way of explanation, to be met by a blank 1000 yard stare. He thought I was talking about a movie camera and had no experience in his 25 or so years of a proper 35mm still film camera and had never seen a roll of film in a box. I learnt two lessons from this, namely, enthusiasm alone does not conquer a language barrier. Secondly, There is a whole generation of folks worldwide who have no appreciation of what a real traditional slr camera actually is. To them all cameras are digital. So, I guess you are entirely right and now I really am in a minority of people who use an alternative process. Go figure.

Regards, John.
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Old 05-21-2016   #14
Roger Hicks
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Dear John,

That is indeed strange!

And depressing.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 05-22-2016   #15
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The incommensurability between analogue and digital photography is getting more obvious by the day. I frequent a facebook group of people sharing the love of analogue photography and I find myself somewhat estranged by all the conversations about DSLR scanning and what programs to use. It seems that fewer and fewer people have an inkling of the whole process; they just eat the strawberries on top of the delicious cake.
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Old 05-22-2016   #16
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Thanks Roger, that was almost a sweet article on film. Maybe a tear came to my eyes a couple of times. I, of course, agree with you, almost completely. One niggle is I still like color film even C-41 over digital. Now my digital shots about 1500 of them are easier to process using software. But I still like the feel I get with film over digital. There is a subtle softness plus colors I like better.

The 8x10 Hollywood style photo is nothing short of spectacular, so any of you that have not read the article be sure take a look at that shot (and read the right up about it; interesting). Also, I think it was the St. Julian Falls photo, again a beautiful image, but way did you choose an Orange filter?
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Old 05-22-2016   #17
Roger Hicks
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Originally Posted by creenus View Post
Dear Mr. Bragg,

Last year I spent a few weeks in Europe and did not see any film cameras. At the touristy sites there was plenty of digital gear, and forests of selfie sticks holding Iphone-types, but no obvious sightings of film cameras.

A German gentleman expressed curiousity about my M5, and we chatted awhile auf Deutsch.

With the impressive results people are getting with Iphone digital photography, film shooters are in the minority worldwide, I suspect.

Best,
Steve in New Mexico
Dear Steve,

Big place, Europe. More film cameras in some parts (not necessarily the tourist traps) than others.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 05-22-2016   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by creenus View Post
Dear Mr. Bragg,

Last year I spent a few weeks in Europe and did not see any film cameras. At the touristy sites there was plenty of digital gear, and forests of selfie sticks holding Iphone-types, but no obvious sightings of film cameras.

A German gentleman expressed curiousity about my M5, and we chatted awhile auf Deutsch.

With the impressive results people are getting with Iphone digital photography, film shooters are in the minority worldwide, I suspect.

Best,
Steve in New Mexico
Dear Steve,

Fair play to the Iphone crowd for their skilled application of the selfie stick. Each to their own, but it is not for me. I hope you got some decent shots with your M5 and enjoyed your European trip.

Regards,
John
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Old 05-28-2016   #19
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Shot on Monday, this is the roll that exposes the film in sunlight for 2048x more light than the manufacturer recommends for HP5 film. First image is in full sun. The second was taken in the shade opening up an additional two stops on the same roll and developing for the same time as the sunny day exposures, 3-1/2 minutes at 58 degrees in Sprint Standard developer 1 to 9 dilution. The grain seems to be bigger than it was for 1024x. This may be due to the lower temp. I see no reason to go beyond this as there is little shadow detail to be gained and 1/4 and 1/2 second shutter speeds are the reason the leaves are out of focus in the first image. Wind becomes a real issue. M6, CV 50mm 1.1, Ilford HP5,
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Old 05-28-2016   #20
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Wonderful article Roger, and not presented as a argument against digital, but rather for film. For me it is very simple. The cameras I like to touch, the ones I like the feel of or tactile qualities of, all take film. Even before digital, I lost interest in cameras as soon as 35mm SLR's assumed the plasto-blob form. Although from all accounts it was a fine tool, the outward form of the Canon T90 and what followed just left me cold. Now of course, with 89 billion functions wrapped up in a DSLR body digital is just too confusing. There is something so comforting about picking up a camera from the 60's that you have never handled and within seconds you can identify and use the exposure and focus controls. Sometimes you get dragged into a format through the back door. A few years ago I was looking at the boxes full of stuff at a garage sale. I spied a single 4x5 film holder peaking out. Digging through the box I found 5 more and several unopened boxes of 8x10 B&W paper. When I asked how much for the film holders the lady said "Five dollars for the box". I couldn't pull the money out of my jeans fast enough, even though I had, up to that time never considered going to a larger format.
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Old 05-29-2016   #21
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I am down to only film cameras and loving it. (Ok I Lied, I have a Pany LX100 sitting up on the shelf for those family things). Great article. Printed it out so I can read tonight with a cigar and bourbon.
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