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Bill Pierce - Leica M photog and author

 

“Our autobiography is written in our contact sheets,  and our opinion of the world in our selects”  

"Never ever confuse sharp with good, or you will end up shaving with an ice cream cone and licking a razor blade."  

 

Bill Pierce is one of the most successful Leica photographers and authors ever. I initially "met" Bill in the wonderful 1973 15th edition Leica Manual (the one with the M5 on the cover). I kept reading and re-reading his four chapters, continually amazed at his knoweldge and ability, thinking "if I only knew a small part of what this guy knows... wow."  I looked foward to his monthly columns in Camera 35 and devoured them like a starving man.  Bill has worked as a photojournalist  for 25 years, keyword: WORK.  Many photogs dream of the professional photographer's  life that Bill has earned and enjoyed.  Probably Bill's most famous pic is Nixon departing the White House for the last time, victory signs still waving. 

 

Bill  has been published in many major magazines, including  Time, Life, Newsweek, U.S. News, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, New York Magazine, Stern, L'Express and Paris Match.  :His published books include  The Leica Manual,  War Torn, Survivors and Victims in the Late 20th Century, Homeless in America,  Human Rights in China,  Children of War.  Add to that numerous exhibitions at major galleries and museums.  Magazine contributions include  Popular Photography,  Camera 35, Leica Manual,  Photo District News, the Encyclopedia of Brittanica, the Digital Journalist, and now RFF.  Major awards include Leica Medal of Excellence, Overseas Press Club's Oliver Rebbot Award for Best Photojournalism from Abroad,  and the World Press Photo's Budapest Award. Perhaps an ever bigger award is Tom Abrahamsson's comment: "If you want to know Rodinal, ask Bill."

 

I met Bill in person through our mutual friend Tom Abrahamsson.  In person his insight and comments are every bit as interesting and engaging as his writing.  He is a great guy who really KNOWS photography.  I am happy to say he has generously agreed to host this forum at RFF  From time to time Bill will bring up topics, but you are also invited to ask questions.  Sit down and enjoy the ride!

 


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Film - HELP!!
Old 10-15-2018   #1
Bill Pierce
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Film - HELP!!

My only film cameras until recently have been large format. News photography turned digital a long time ago and much of professional photography has followed. But an old friend just passed his Leica film bodies on to me along with even more Leica lenses than I already own. I wanted to know what the film users on the forum do in terms of processing and printing. There are a lot of options from film development and printing in your own darkroom, darkroom wet printing vs scanning and inkjet or sending it all out. All of those operations are available to me because while I’m fully digital I could never give up my wet darkroom even though I was only using it for an occasional run of sheet film. And since I have to pass on digital files of past work, I have a decent scanner. And the local post office is more than happy to pass film onto a commercial lab (which, of course, even opens up the possibility of b&w CN film which scans beautifully).

So, in this world of nearly unlimited possibilities, a plea to our veteran film users - what should I do upon reentering the world of film (and why)?
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Old 10-15-2018   #2
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I process my B&W and C-41 stuff at home. This is everything from 4x5 to 35mm. I send my E6 out. I mostly use a “hybrid darkroom," where I scan and print my work. I still use a wet darkroom on occasion.

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Old 10-15-2018   #3
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I develop my own b&w, and then scan the negatives to create digital files. I don't have a set up for wet printing. All the c-41 I have developed at a local camera store.
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Old 10-15-2018   #4
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Old 10-15-2018   #5
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I have a refrigerator, a Beseler 45 MX w/ a Zone VI VC head and a Durst 138 & process B/W film from 35mm to 5x7". No scanner. Prints on fiber paper.
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Old 10-15-2018   #6
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I'm the opposite of you, mostly film and very little digital: just junk for the theater promos. But I do my own B&W developing at home then scan; I'm married so the darkroom is a level of enjoyment that has been taken away from me. If I want a B&W print I email the digital file to whatever quality I choose. Sometimes this is Costco, MPIX, or quality to Bluemoon a lab in Portland Oregon (I live in the Republic of California and they don't restrict emailing, yet).

For Color (E-6 or C-41) it is Bluemoon (in Portland), but I have them develop only as I like to do my own scanning and color adjustment.
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Old 10-15-2018   #7
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Hi, Bill; not sure if you ever received my message some weeks ago. Anyway, I started in B&W photography in 1968 and eventually became a professional, starting in photojournalism and later trying to make a living with commercial and portraiture. Financial issues required me to put my cameras away for more than 12 years; I recently started back up (not professionally) with a 4x5 field camera replacing my monorail for portability, my 645 system, and my trusty M4 from 1972 (sold the Nikons during the hiatus).
For me, it's B&W wet darkroom all the way. Like you, I never took down my darkroom. I use digital in video, and I know my way around PS for scans to a fair extent (no digital camera), but, well, like John Sexton, I still remember the magic of watching those first prints appear in the developer, and as one who has pored over the work of Gene Smith, Strand, Adams, and many other film greats for decades (and who studied your magazine articles in Camera 35 for years), I am happiest striving to meet the challenges of the photographic medium as I know it. I love the silver print, I love the printing process, and, frankly, I'd rather not have the voice in my head telling my compositional eye, "You can fix it in post, down to the pixel." Had I wanted to be an artist of that variety, I would have taken up painting (maybe). I recently ad an interesting email dialogue about photography with a friend, which he posted on his website.

I have spent available time over the past year restoring my darkroom skills with a simplified materials set and a different developer (D23). My only problem now (financial wherewithal aside) is not having the extended time to concentrate on my work.
I say, get your hands wet again!
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Old 10-15-2018   #8
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Take it easy, Bill.
Nothing actually changed much. Here is no Rodinal MK IV and darkroom paper is the same for many years now. It is not ISO 12800. C-41 is still C-41 and E6 is available as DYS kit.
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Old 10-15-2018   #9
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If you've got Leica M bodies and Leica M lenses, I'd get a ton of the new Ektachrome and become best friends with the folks at Dwayne's Photo, 415 South 32nd Street, Parsons, KS 67357 (http://www.dwaynesphoto.com)

Also pick up some Tri-X, just for fun. And some HC-110 & Rodinal(ADOX Adinal), Kodafix, Indicator Stop Bath, & PhotoFlo.

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Old 10-15-2018   #10
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Do as you did before digital.

Except now there is digital.

A choice to make.

I only use black and white film. Still use my darkroom but it’s getting less and less. To my way of thinking, film needs to be printed in an analog darkroom. The print is what distinguishes film from digital. I don’t scan any film, rather capture with digital if I want that.
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Old 10-15-2018   #11
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I was watching HCB as an old man interview last night. I loved how he kept pantomiming making snaps....geometry. Jedi mastery or something...no...anarchist

He didn't talk much about film

Didn't have a camera on him

Did have a couple nice pencils in his back pocket though
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Old 10-15-2018   #12
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I would keep it simple, use one BW film that you like and combine it with a developer that gives you nice negatives to wet-print. If the number of film rolls is limited and you are not under pressure to reach a deadline then developing film is actually fun and relaxing.
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Old 10-15-2018   #13
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Maybe different from most... everything gets developed at the lab. I use a 'mom & pop' and they keep an eye on the quality for that end of the process. The negs come back in decent shape and I can focus on down stream processes. The weak point is that the development labs that end up with the film don't push or pull... If that mattered, I would connect and stick with a single pro-lab (/ technician) but for the most part a balanced negative is workable in post processing.

I scan with dedicated equipment... most of the stuff I do goes online, but if I want an enlargement I go back to the 'mom & pop' store where their son does in-house digital printing and understands what I like... we talk ; )

I have spent a lot of time in the darkroom but priorities have shifted.
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Old 10-15-2018   #14
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Actually, I didn't think about it in my above post, but we have a few high schools that are (re) teaching film photography. I'm sure that they would be happy to help you. There must be some in your area too.
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Old 10-15-2018   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by maddoc View Post
I would keep it simple, use one BW film that you like and combine it with a developer that gives you nice negatives to wet-print. If the number of film rolls is limited and you are not under pressure to reach a deadline then developing film is actually fun and relaxing.
Best post of the day. Get in the zone.
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Old 10-16-2018   #16
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I am down to 1 1/2 films (TMax 100 & 400 -- they can be developed in the same tank), 1 developer (TMax RS) - so all B&W for film - which I develop myself, and then print in a wet darkroom on 1 type of paper (Ilford Warmtone Glossy FB).

I leave color stuff (what little I do) to digital (but after 30 years of slide-only photography, none of my "serious" photography is in color anymore).

Simple is good
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Old 10-16-2018   #17
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I shoot black and white film, and process and wet print it myself. All my color and alternate process work is digital. I don't see the point of scanning film.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
So, in this world of nearly unlimited possibilities, a plea to our veteran film users - what should I do upon reentering the world of film (and why)?
I guess I would make a wet print, then scan the negative and make an inkjet print. Which one do you like better? Which process do you enjoy more? It's a purely personal decision.
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Old 10-16-2018   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bingley View Post
I develop my own b&w, and then scan the negatives to create digital files. I don't have a set up for wet printing. All the c-41 I have developed at a local camera store.


I do exactly the same.
I believe that this is also a common practice among film users nowadays.


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Old 10-17-2018   #19
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When I shoot film, not so much today, I have a pro lab which develops it and makes contacts (analogically). I select a few keepers (if any!) which I scan at best resolution on my Nikon 5000 ED so long it works, than I make post processing imitating what I was used to do in a darkroom, a little bit of dodging and burning, checking contrast etc and print inkjet mostly on matt cotton paper, depending on the photo/project smooth or textured.
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Old 10-17-2018   #20
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Bill, sounds like you have all the bases covered. You'll need to consider the time factor involved. If you have enough time, the wet darkroom is probably the best option. If time is limited, going the commercial route seems logical.

I shoot all digital. I'm old. Time is always a factor for me.
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Old 10-17-2018   #21
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You probably had your reasons for shooting digital in the first place? Getting your friend's cameras should not have changed them. But if you just want to have some fun with them, do what you like, honestly I don't see the point in asking. Only you can know what you want and I'm sure you do know how to get it. If it were me, I see a point in shooting film mostly for an all-analog workflow, especially if you have a digital body that can use the same lenses anyway.
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Old 10-17-2018   #22
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I don't know about you. But as I near my 2nd retirement, I hope to get back to taking photos with film and rejuvenating my ad hoc darkroom (can we move that clothes dryer a little to the left)

Film, papers, and developers have changed some over the last few years. So I am also looking forward to a lot of experimenting, just like I did when I was mostly involved in doing things myself some 40 years ago. It was fun learning and keeping up on new films and processing up until about 25 years ago. I want that fun back.

Maybe you might think along those lines too?
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Old 10-17-2018   #23
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I do black and white film in my darkroom. All ISO 400 films and D-23 developer. 35mm printing with a Focomat V-35 I bought used decades ago; Ilford RC paper, mostly warm tone and toned with selenium. Nova slot processor. I can be up and printing in less than 15 minutes and it takes less time than that to clean up at the end of the night. Print developer stays good for about a week; fixer and stop bath for a month. I don't do color film or printing. I enjoy darkroom work, especially since it's now not on deadline.
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Old 10-17-2018   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
what should I do upon reentering the world of film (and why)?
I'd let your needs drive the tools, whatever your needs are.
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Old 10-17-2018   #25
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I've gotten into MF film in a very small way and find that sending the negs of to a developer and having them scan them to a disc is the easiest method. I'm not gonna develop nor am I going to wet print. No room, no desire, but inkjet prints of the scans are very satisfactory if you get the top of the line scans. It's pricey I know but at my level it is the best way for me.
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Old 10-17-2018   #26
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If you wish to screw around with inkjet and scanning, be my guest. You are better off scanning, correcting, and sending it to a pro lab for printing.

Best is plug in the old Focomat, mix some chems, and have fun in the dark. I am teaching my son the fine art of printing now. I gave him my M6 and he uses the M8 for digital.
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