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Bill Pierce - Leica M photog and author

 

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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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Old 08-30-2019   #1
Bill Pierce
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Among the first photographers to go digital were news photographers. Whether it was the wire services at presidential political party conventions with specialized equipment or, a little later, individual photographers working with early consumer digital cameras, it meant beating deadlines. The was particularly true in the world of color, The wire services had black-and-white transmission down pat and darkroom time minimized, but news publications were beginning to print in color (Their advertisers wanted color ads.). That meant shipping the film to a lab, often the publicationís in house lab. That was a real deadline killer, especially if you were working out of the country where sometimes shipping the film took more talent than taking the picture.

News publications donít print murals, so the small megapixel counts of the early digital cameras was not a problem. While I still have my darkroom and negatives that go back 65 years, I havenít shot film in almost two decades. Iím out of touch and want to know how film shooters work in a world dominated by digital, but blessed by low prices on some really good used cameras. Do you have your own darkroom or do you send your film out for processing. Do you print in a darkroom or scan and print on your computer or send out for prints? Perhaps most important, what is there about film that makes you choose it over digital? Professional demands moved me from film to digital and, I suppose, budget and expediency moved my personal work to digital. But when I look at the film world, I see some beautiful work. I would appreciate hearing from film users the how and why of their choice.
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Old 08-30-2019   #2
CharlesDAMorgan
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I returned to film solely to slow down (no deadlines here) and learned home developing from an Ilford Artisan Partner (Keith Moss, a great friend now and talented street and landscape photographer). I have no darkroom, although one is planned when (if) I manage to move house. I started having my films sent out to a good film processing firm remote from me - I'd get the pictures back as scans at chosen resolution, and negatives would follow.

Once I took the plunge with my own black and white developing (changing bag, Paterson tanks in the kitchen), I started scanning the negatives using now an Epson V800 - it can handle 35mm to 8x10 at a decent price to quality ratio. I love developing black and white, trying different film types, pushing, pulling and developers for different looks and contrast. I'm very happy with the developing results I get, I need to improve my photography skills, but so so want to print. Black and white film speaks to me in a language I love.

For 35mm I use mainly Tmax400 (pulled to 200 in Perceptol - thanks again Erik von Straten for that one), 400-800 or 1600 in Tmax. I also use TriX, HP5 or Delta 400, Bergger Pancro 400 for MF and I'm experimenting with slower films such as Adox CHS11 for Pinhole. Rodinal, FX39 and HC110 complete my developer list.

I do colour too, but really find developing that quite joyless, and perceive little benefit over a good digital camera, burn me!
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Old 08-30-2019   #3
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I shoot monochrome, which I process myself and scan. I do this so I can use film cameras from my small collection.
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Old 08-30-2019   #4
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Bill, It's a pleasure to see you here. I've never gone to the darkside. I have a darkroom w a Beseler 45 w/ a Zone VI VC cold light & a Durst 138. Just this week I bought a used 20"x24" easel. With 5x7 TMax at $265 USD for 50 sheets (+ 1.33 exchange rate to the Canadian dollar + shipping) I'm down sizing from 5x7 to 4x5. I also use a Rolleiflex and a Leica M4. My go-to are Ilford FP4 & Tri-x or TMY-2 in Pyrocat HD (glycol). Ilford FB Warmtone & Classic are my standard papers in Ansco 130.... although I have a little Fortezo & Zone VI Brilliant stashed. Foma Variant iii for my larger prints.

If i couldn't print....i'd give up photography...for me it would be like having great vintage acoustic guitars...with no strings on them.
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Old 08-30-2019   #5
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I've still got a few old SLR's from back in the day, but they're mostly gathering dust. What I can't seem to put down though is Tri-X in my old Leica M4. After a week or two it's calling me. I love my digital M9/M camera, but I don't get the same gut reaction as I get from using the M4. The M4 is simplicity itself, just a mechanical box that you can attach very nice glass to and it feels like an extension of me. Also I think it has something to do with not being able to see what I just shot, until I process the film later. Not being able to chimp keeps me in the shooting moment, connected with my subject, present for whatever is coming next. And it feels familiar, like an old shoe.

I still use the DSLR's for work, because everybody needs everything "yesterday" but for personal pleasure, the film M scratches the itch.

Also dipping a toe, or a whole foot, into Large Format right now, something I never had the opportunity to do in the past. It's a lot of fun seeing what beautiful tones and gradations you can get with those huge negatives. Again, shooting B&W and processing at home. Don't have a way to scan those negs yet, and am thinking about building a new darkroom for doing contact printing, something I haven't had since 2003.

So I'll keep spending my money with Kodak, at least in the foreseeable future.

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Old 08-30-2019   #6
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And it feels familiar, like an old shoe.
I have a camera which smells like that!
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Old 08-30-2019   #7
pixelated
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I have multiple reasons for staying with film. For one, once the ball started rolling, I didn't like the prospect of selling my film gear for pennies, then spending 1000's for a camera, new computer, printer etc. I don't make my living in photography, so I didn't have any external reasons to make a switch. However I did take advantage of some fabulous pro-level film gear getting sold for bargain basement prices.
Overlaying all that has been the fact that I work in computing for my day-job, much of it from home, so pursuing analog photography instead of digital gives me a break from spending too much time in front of a computer.
I do my own B&W processing and printing in my darkroom, I currently send out my color work, but do some of my own scanning for color, and I send out all my color printing, though I'm probably going to start doing my own color processing, costs for that are increasing and quality has been dropping.
I may start embracing digital for doing color a bit more, just recently I bought my first DSLR (used), and used it quite a lot for a project that needed a lot of experimentation with lighting, my P&S digital wasn't giving me quite the control I wanted/needed. It worked well for that, and I've had fun working with it to learn all its quirks and details. Prices on film gear have largely rebounded with the exception of most 35mm gear, especially film bodies. Happily, some of what I have is worth quite a bit more than I paid.

But, I get a lot of enjoyment out of working with film, and love the occasional "How did you do that?" questions from digital photographers when I show them a great analog print.
I plan to keep working with analog until either all my cameras die, or the materials aren't available form any source at any price. Neither seems terribly likely to occur anytime soon.
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Old 08-30-2019   #8
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As someone squarely in the 'millennial' demographic, I grew up just on the cusp of 'modern' digital technology. Just barely pre-broadband, smartphones, social media, etc. Same with digital photography; consumer DSLRs were just barely a thing, and it was a strange time to get started in photography. As I'm sure older and more established members here can attest, even in the mid-2000s being 'serious' about photography still meant shooting film, and I started learning darkroom work around 2000/2001 or so. Unlike for some of the undergraduate students I worked with in a photography course last year, it wasn't a throwback novelty, but the only way someone could take control of their work within a reasonable budget (not that I'm knocking younger generations learning film!). Subsequently, film was always far more comfortable to me than digital.

I also have a background in journalism, and by the time I finished my degree, obviously digital was no question. For personal work, its nice and convenient to have color on-demand and instant feedback, but I've never really felt truly at home with it. Maybe I was just never impressed with the color output, or noise, or BW conversions, but I also have made many beautiful prints regardless. On the other hand, I've had many, many film shots, or whole rolls, come out unusable. I tend to alternate a lot. Digital especially for traveling, where I don't have to worry about missed shots or running out of film.

As my 'holy-cow-I-survived-five-years-of-grad-school' gift to myself, I bought an M262 earlier this year, and it's truly the first digital camera I'm completely in love with, both from image performance and ease of use. And yet I've barely touched it so far, sticking with film. You mentioned one of my big reasons: cheap old cameras. Medium format costs next to nothing now, at least compared to a new Fuji GFX. I have a handful of 'rescued' equipment that's a joy to use. I don't feel like chasing upgrade paths and learning new gear. I know final image is what matters, but I love the craft of film processing, and buyers seem to, too. And film hasn't gotten any better in 20 years, but it wasn't too bad to begin with.

So that's my pontificating. As for workflow:
I used to rely heavily on labs for a long while; I once worked at a dealer and could get rolls developed and scanned for $1.50, and I wasted a lot of Velvia back then; in college, our communal darkroom was perpetually busy and a mess, so I cut back on film but still sent it out.

These days, as I'm sure many, many others do, I'm half-digital. all BW gets processed at home, and what little E6 I shoot gets sent out. 35 get scanned with a Coolscan, 120 by way of DSLR and a hacked-together rig. Printing via two local labs or Duggal in NYC for big Lightjet prints. It works for me, and I like how it turns out.

I see online and hear from other film shooters in person a certain kind of purism that disdains a hybrid workflow. "Negatives are meant to be wet-printed." "A scan on a screen can't tell you anything about a negative." Eh. It's not 1993 anymore, scanners, monitors and software have come a long way, and inkjet printers give marvelous FB prints.

Another photographer friend of mine thinks it's criminal I send out work to be printed. Well, 1-I was never great at printer calibration, 2-I don't print often enough to make it worthwhile, and 3- I have absolutely nowhere to put a large printer. Ditto with wet printing: way back when, I did the whole bathroom/closet darkroom setup because it was the only way, not because I enjoyed it.

In a nutshell: I develop at home because I enjoy the process and control, and let others do the printing for me, but disregarding space and time constraints, I'd love to go back to a fully stocked darkroom.
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Old 08-30-2019   #9
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First, i'm not a pro so only shoot for myself for fun. I don't have a darkroom, but I develop my own b&w and c41, and scan it.

There are a few things I like about film. My free time is spread out into too many hobbies, so not having to do much editing to get it to look the way I want it to is one thing. Which leads to the amount of shots. Scanning and adjusting a couple rolls at a time is less worrisome and time consuming than going through 100s of digital shots and editing them. (my self control is bad with digital) The physical feel of film cameras is another thing I like, loading film, winding the advance lever, etc. that's all part of the enjoyment for me.

The main thing is, I like shooting with a rangefinder and I can't justify the cost of a digital Leica. I have film Nikons, but have noticed I don't really seem to use them much these days, just my M6 and M2, and when I do shoot with SLR, it's my D3s.

I suppose if I could budget an M10, maybe i'd go full digital, but for now, i'll stick to film.
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Old 08-30-2019   #10
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Bill I sold my commercial studio right at the cusp of the digital onslaught. It might have been a blessing for news photographers, I bet not so much for product illustrators like I was. 99.9% of what we did was E6 and went to a lab. We didn't have a darkroom. Labs ran e6 from 3x a day to every two hours. You could shoot a job in the morning, have lunch with a client, see film after lunch.

I had a brief fling early on with a digicam and really didn't like the colors and dynamic range and sold it.

I'm a color shooter and shoot 120 Portra. I love the palette. I love the dynamic range. I can live in the highlights! I wasn't a printer and don't miss printing. Film goes to one of these new labs that specialize in film and scanning. I like the quality of the scans and make really really nice 20x20 prints.

I don't shoot lots of film. I pre-edit before I push the button. Probably average $350/yr on film and processing. A lot cheaper than chasing the digital upgrade curve.
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Old 08-30-2019   #11
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Be it the full blown process or hybrid work flow, the technical details of how I or others work with film is but an interesting footnote... Since you havenít shot film in almost two decades, I suggest you dig out an old film camera, grab a favorite FL, load up some film, and walk around... most likely you will end up with a big smile on your face... screw the details.
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Old 08-30-2019   #12
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I started in the late 70's with a Minolta SLR and years later when I developed my first roll of film and printed it, I was forever hooked. I have worked on computers for about 4 years for EDS, and the last 19 years a document imaging company. The result is I can't stand being on them other than to check out a couple photo forums and to order things I need. I have digital cameras and if I need something right away in color, I will use them but prefer film and darkroom to get me away from computers. I find film photography relaxing and still feel the anticipation developing film and the magic of the prints appearing in the developer tray. For color film I usually only shoot transparencies but with the high price tag I have been playing more with B&W transparencies. Color print film I use rarely and send it out for processing if I do. Some of us like being “connected”, I don’t. Outside of work I have little use for cellular phones either, I like being able to disappear to do my own thing but of course I do have one in case of emergencies. If I didn’t have 2 sons I wouldn’t even have a cellular phone. Hope this helps.......
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Old 08-30-2019   #13
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I never really left film although there was a period back in like 2003-5 where I didn't really shoot much of it. But I got real sick of processing digital files during the day and found I actually enjoyed shooting film. It was like one for work and one for play. What really made me enjoy film was rediscovering rangefinders. I was tired of carrying around the Canon stuff with the big L lenses and I was never much for large format, though I do shoot it sometimes. A friend of mine gave me an M3 and booyah. I enjoyed it again. I dug out my old Contax and bought a bunch of other rangefinders too. I enjoy the process of making photographs.


I look at film/digital like painters looked at painting/photography. The new technology opened up the possiblities of the old. When photography came along, painters were able to move forward and an explosion of creativity happened. I think the same is kind of true for film. Film still has untapped potential if you ask me.

I still print in the darkroom too.
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Old 08-30-2019   #14
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I am strictly a hobbyist photographer and started with film 50 years ago. I've stayed with it for black and white photography until this day. although I use digital for color work now. I've had a couple of fallow periods where career intervened, but I have always come back to photography. I now shoot mostly film (FP4+) in medium format, although I have shot a LOT of 35mm black and white in the past. I usually develop 35mm at home and scan it myself. Since I started shooting medium format for most of my work, I've stopped processing the 120 film myself, because it is more convenient to have Ilford soup and scan the film at the same time. I don't have a scanner that handles medium format film.



I haven't done wet printing for decades now after the last rental darkroom in my area closed, and have a pretty good handle on photoshopping my scanned negs. I have one online lab for noncritical printing and a local lab that does a great job at optical printing. For some reason, since retirement last year I have gravitated back to doing mostly black and white photography and get the same charge out of it that I did as a much younger man.
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Old 08-30-2019   #15
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The reason I still use single use silver halide sensors on a triacetate base is really basic.
It’s the only thing the cameras I like take.

Now, if Olympus wants to make a digital back for my OM-1, compact, not more than $500, just remove film back, clip on digital back, ( I’m not a greedy pig, I’ll settle for a 18X24 sensor with a matching focusing screen.) Then I might possibly be induced to go digital.
Because you see, there is.......


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Old 08-30-2019   #16
Michael Markey
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Use both film and digital.
Send the film for development to Ilford who do a really good job and far better than I can.
The negs I scan with an Epson 850.

I send any printing to Ilford who use a hybrid wet printing process which I like .

If I shoot colour film ,which I very rarely do , I can still get it processed three miles down the road or send to one of a number of labs thought out the UK.
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Old 08-30-2019   #17
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for me digital is only smartphone pics.
Everything else is done with film cameras.
I shooted digital until 10 years ago but I needed to slow down and reduce redundant shots.
Analog photography let me do this and the quality of my "work" raised (together with my satisfaction)
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Old 08-30-2019   #18
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A funny thing happened a couple of weeks ago, Bill. I was contemplating going mostly digital, and lined up a Fuji X100F at a local camera shop (local meaning within 100 miles). When I got the camera home, I discovered it had been their demo unit, so I complained about getting charged for what was presented to me as being brand new, when in actuality it was used (even had a large scratch in the metal on the back).

So when I got home after returning the camera, I contemplated what the next move would be. I looked over all my research I'd done on the X100F, and decided I could wait a bit longer to see what comes out next from the various players in the field.

Then I ordered three lenses for my M4-P. Though I like my Nikon DSLRs, I still get more enjoyment out of shooting film. It also gives me an excuse to take the long way home after driving sixty miles to the camera store to drop off film or pick up scans and some fresh rolls, when I'll likely burn another roll or two of film.

I'm eyeing a Hasselblad at an antique store. It's calling to me.

PF
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Old 08-31-2019   #19
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I have no desire to get back into film developing, keeping and getting my hands into the chemicals, etc. A hybrid/merger of film and digital has been my path to enjoying shooting film again.

I found and have been very pleased with a lab in California called Simple Photography Lab. For $15 a roll he develops the film, b&w or color, scans the images into 24MB dng format files just like the ones I capture using my digital Leica M262 and mails the negatives back to me. The quality and service is excellent. I’m having so much fun shooting my M6 and M4 (just purchased a second M4) that I haven’t touched my Olympus OMD outfit for a while now and don’t know when I will again.

From the time I mail the film out it takes around a week or so before I receive an email from him with a zip file containing the dng scans.
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Old 08-31-2019   #20
Erik van Straten
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I only use film that I develope myself, just as in 1967 when I started with photography. I'm happy that I still can get film, developer and printing paper. I use film because the "end product" of my photographic activities are the gelatine silver prints made by myself. I love printing. For me it is important to get a physical result that I can keep in a box and can hold in my hands to look at it.


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Old 08-31-2019   #21
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i use digital, I use film. Depending on the project and on the mood.

With film when I have time I do development myself. Other times I use a prolab for development and (wet) contact prints.

Than I scan the frames are worthwhile, with LR or PS i make the corrections in the same way I was doing in the wet darkroom and print on cotton paper.

Great recent news after many years probably (fingers crossed) with a few friends will manage to set up a proper darkroom...

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Old 08-31-2019   #22
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Film - I wrote a nice little entry but the programme dropped my reply.

So I will just say :

Computers are useful tool that I use all the time and I am happy to get away from them by using an analog technology.

Film gives me more satisfaction and a greater sense of accomplishment.

I am not spending $15 to have a roll developed (here it would be more like $40). Besides the cost, I returned to film because I wanted more involvement in the whole process. I learned to develop. I like chemicals - even though I had never done it before. Once I started having negatives around the house, one of them stood up on its edge and said "wet print me"!
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Old 08-31-2019   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Erik van Straten View Post
I only use film that I develope myself, just as in 1967 when I started with photography. I'm happy that I still can get film, developer and printing paper. I use film because the "end product" of my photographic activities are the gelatine silver prints made by myself. I love printing. For me it is important to get a physical result that I can keep in a box and hold in my hands to look at it.


Erik.
I so wish I had returned to film earlier, but by an eerie coincidence I bought a Rolleicord as my return camera which was sold to me by a specialist film photographer who ran developing and printing courses as an Ilford partner, so I took one with him. When I saw the print in the flesh of my image I knew instantly that the beauty of gelatine silver prints has to be seen in the flesh, for which there is no substitute at all. I scan to digital for convenience until I can set up a decent darkroom, but annoyingly that's on hold until I move. I can see myself not emerging for years!
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Old 08-31-2019   #24
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I'm not sure if my film experience is any different from OP. I started in 2012. But even darkroom paper I use is dated decades ago. So are enlarges and else. Chemicals are the same.
Has yarn knitting changed?

I like film because it is different than digital. If not better in final image. But I'm not into pixels count or changing brands every other year on digital.
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Old 08-31-2019   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robert blu View Post
Great recent news after many years probably (fingers crossed) with a few friends will manage to set uo a proper darkroom...

robert
Great news Robert - I just want to say that up until about 10 years ago, I could easily purchase darkroom chemistry from two stores that were within bicycling distance to my house. One of which was a five minute walk from my workplace. - Today, my darkroom lifeline depends on the United Parcel Service, UPS or FedEx.

With regards to film, 35mm Delta 400 and HP 5 are still available from local shop that is about a 15 minute drive from my house. 120 film is a different story.
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Vintage MF Folders a Voigtlšnder Perkeo II and Bessa II, 2 of them - a ZI Mess Ikonta 524/2 - plus an Agfa Super Isolette & a Record III
Digital a D300 and a D700 with some primes - still going over a decade later

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Old 08-31-2019   #26
Out to Lunch
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Today, it depends on where you live. In North America and Western Europe, film is still doable without too much aggravation. Where I live today, this is not so. It's a pain throughout the entire process. All this said, I don't care and I do whatever feels right.
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Old 08-31-2019   #27
charjohncarter
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I have four cameras with film in them now. If it is Black and White I develop at home. I don't have a dark room so I scan and send the files out for printing. Color; I send out my negatives or transparencies to Blue Moon in Portland Oregon. Then on return I scan and send the files to print. I do some Polaroid too, but that is as I've always done it.

I just like the look of film; maybe because it is what I've always used.
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Old 08-31-2019   #28
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Majority of my shots are digital but I also shoot some film. The film is in a variety of cameras, mostly Barnacks or a Rollei TLR.

I process B&W and C41 at home and then scan the negatives on a Pakon. The Pakon makes the process far more enjoyable then when I was scanning whole roles on a Coolscan 8000. Now I just use it when I want a higher resolution. For 120 I use either a flatbed or the Coolscan.

I still have all the equipment to setup a darkroom but haven't had one in over 20 years.

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Old 08-31-2019   #29
narsuitus
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
I would appreciate hearing from film users the how and why of their choice.
I have been shooting film since I was 5-years old. My first photos were shot using my father's Kodak Bullet camera.

Over the decades, I have used a variety of camera brands to shoot film images. Film cameras I have used include Nikon, Pentax, Canon, Mamiya, Fuji, Miranda, Olympus, Calumet, Graflex, Holga, Diana, Argus, Ansco, Leica, Contax, Kodak, Minolta, Vivitar, and Polaroid.

The film formats I have used include 35mm small format, 6x6, 6x7, and 6x9cm medium format, and 4x5 and 8x10 large format.

I usually developed my black & white film in Kodak D-76 or a custom buffered 2-bath developer.

I have used a variety of enlargers and darkrooms to print my black & white negatives. The largest negative size I was able to print using my personal enlarger was 6x7cm.

I have used Canon and Epson scanners to digitize my film images.

I have used Canon digital printers or a custom lab.

I usually developed my color slide film using Kodak E4 or E6 chemistry. I stopped shooting and developing color slide film when it became too difficult to find 1-liter size chemistry.

I had my color print film developed and printed by a custom lab.

I no longer shoot film commercially but I still shoot film personally because I still enjoy it.


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Old 08-31-2019   #30
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Have you noticed that everyone has the same two or three cameras and the same 24-70 and 70-200 lenses? Have you noticed that all the work has started to look homogenized?

These days, it is about obtaining a unique look, and film makes that part easy. 35mm B&W, MF and LF color and B&W have different looks, and stand out. 35mm color is the one that digital has really killed.

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Old 08-31-2019   #31
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I switched to film in 2008 largely because I wanted an affordable rangefinder, somewhat reversing the typical notion of digital being cheaper.

I also liked film grain (Daido Moriyama), but film emulating software at the time was still a bit sketchy.

Anyway, I ordered a Voigtlander Bessa R2M from Cameraquest and picked up a Zeiss 50mm from Map Camera and a Nikon Coolscan V ED at the nearby Yodobashi.

I still assumed that I would primarily use digital, but after my first time out with a roll, I never used my 350D again.

Iíve since settled on a Leica M2, and I do not have any desire for any other cameras, no matter what technology my bring.

For the next several years I developed my negative or sent them out for development, subsequently using the Nikon to scan the negatives.

However, I just had what I would say were personal issues with inkjet prints, and last year, I started making wet prints for the first time. Iím still very much in the learning stage, but a great silver halide is, to me, the ultimate end to the overall process.

And it is the whole process and tactility of film that I love, so much so that I wonder if I would even carry on with photography if film completely vanished.
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Old 09-03-2019   #32
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What I am writing concerns black and white photography, from my perspective.

The digital route can produce beautiful prints- but not many people are able to accomplish this, as far as Iím concerned. General tonal range (the mid grays), the high values, the low values- usually one or all of these are very often not quite right. The multitude of variables at camera- , computer software- and printer level are to blame as far as I am concerned.

The digital approach results in one being a hostage of hard- and software developers. Changes (ďimprovementsĒ) are hard to avoid even when not asked for. New developments may result in incompatibility of systems. Back-up approaches, methods, may change. No peace and quiet in digital life.

All in all digital photography offers fascinating possibilities but it brings along too many distractions from actual photography. I find that too many hurdles must be overcome on the road to an excellent final print.

I take pictures at home or on the street with a pre-WW2 Summar 50/2.0 on my digital Leica M-E. Itís fun. A few clicks of the mouse in LR4 and thatís it. Sometimes for family or friends a print on Epson 3880, no need for wall paper.

When in need for contemplation and/or in need for visual excitement I go out with my Deardorff 4x5 Special. Spend some time under the dark cloth. Use mainly a 210mm lens. Mix developer, fixer etc (for film as wells as paper processing) from scratch, donít depend on manufacturers that may discontinue products on a whim. Return home with 0 or 1 or who knows how many/few exposed sheets.
Plan a day in the darkroom, set up the night before. Great music while printing. No rush.

I would never be able to make a digital print of the same quality as my darkroom prints. Too many steps to learn, too many distracting elements, ongoing changes etc.

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Old 09-03-2019   #33
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I got my start in newspaper photojournalism with B&W film, then colour film that we scanned with a neg scanner to get digital files, then to digital cameras around 2002. My career ran the gamut, through the whole transition.

I re-discovered film about 12 years ago and really loved it -- once I didn't have to do it for a deadline or a definite work process, I was free to enjoy it and see it for all the good qualities it has...things like a slower, methodical and mindful approach to making pictures.

Part of it was nostalgia, of course, but a lot of it turned out to be the happiness of something substantive and concrete that I could tangibly hold in my hands. Nothing could be destroyed forever by having a magnet in the vicinity, or a hard drive that corrupted, or any number of ethereal bolts from the blue that were out of my control....a negative is a tangible object, a print is a tangible object. It's real, it exists.

I'm still very glad I don't HAVE to use film for work. Having it on my time, at my speed and for my demands removes all pressure. Once that pressure is gone, then all that remains is the process. And it's a process I really like, it turns out.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
Among the first photographers to go digital were news photographers. Whether it was the wire services at presidential political party conventions with specialized equipment or, a little later, individual photographers working with early consumer digital cameras, it meant beating deadlines. The was particularly true in the world of color, The wire services had black-and-white transmission down pat and darkroom time minimized, but news publications were beginning to print in color (Their advertisers wanted color ads.). That meant shipping the film to a lab, often the publication’s in house lab. That was a real deadline killer, especially if you were working out of the country where sometimes shipping the film took more talent than taking the picture.

News publications don’t print murals, so the small megapixel counts of the early digital cameras was not a problem. While I still have my darkroom and negatives that go back 65 years, I haven’t shot film in almost two decades. I’m out of touch and want to know how film shooters work in a world dominated by digital, but blessed by low prices on some really good used cameras. Do you have your own darkroom or do you send your film out for processing. Do you print in a darkroom or scan and print on your computer or send out for prints? Perhaps most important, what is there about film that makes you choose it over digital? Professional demands moved me from film to digital and, I suppose, budget and expediency moved my personal work to digital. But when I look at the film world, I see some beautiful work. I would appreciate hearing from film users the how and why of their choice.
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Old 09-03-2019   #34
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To paraphrase a great movie ďI love the smell of fixer in the morning, it smells like victoryĒ. I enjoy the hands on control of the entire process. I spend my work hours sitting in front of a computer, so for fun I want to do something completely different. I dabbled in digital and have returned to film.
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Old 09-03-2019   #35
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KenR, "To paraphrase a great movie:" 'Either you surf, or you print!!
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Old 09-03-2019   #36
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I have about 800 pages of b/w negs in storage and when I retire I intend to spend my days printing them traditionally. I tried getting into digital more then once. I had the Epson R2400 but the prints lacked “quality”. When I compare my darkroom prints on fiber paper with the inkjet output they were not even close. Looking at prints from friends with years of printing skills and better equipment I still found they lack tonality. I fully admit the problem is me and if had the technical part of it down perhaps it would have made a difference. In the end I just don’t like the look of physical output from a digital file.
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Enjoying the nature of the process
Old 09-12-2019   #37
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Enjoying the nature of the process

I, too, picked up my first SLR in 1968. Around 2005, financial issues obliged me to put my life as a 30-year professional photographer aside; I'm no businessman. The digital tidal wave was just moving in seriously; I had no capital to switch over from film and no way to pay back any loans for new equipment. Nor did I wish to sell my film equipment -- I love the process! Whenever I mentioned taking down the darkroom, my children protested, insisting that I would return eventually. About 2.5 years ago, I finally began to do so, though no longer professionally and now confined to available weekend time for the most part.

My focus now is almost exclusively a portrait project -- mostly natural light, on location, all B&W with HP5, a warm tone paper, and selenium toner. Mostly 4x5, 645.

Recently, with continuing challenges trying to retrain my compositional eye, I decided to use my trusty M4 as a vehicle to improve my 4x5 and 645 work. Huh? Well, in part the tripod was restricting me from the kind of active working-through of a situation, the fine tuning of composition "on-the fly" I had learned in 35. Of course, the rectangle is very different, and for my portraiture the 4x5 space is my favorite. But right now I need the handheld, long-roll freedom to retrain my eye. $200 to add an Elmar-C 90 in mint condition to my 50 and 35 was manageable; going digital was not.

Besides, I have done my share of Photoshopping of portraits and other images. The portraits I am making now are not commercial; I don't want to sit at a computer playing with pixels. I want the challenge of the straight image, the challenges of darkroom printing (no scanning) to create the best silver gelatin image I can, using the traditional tools of the B&W darkroom. I look at the magnificent work of great pre-digital film photographic artists and am happy striving to create, occasionally, an image that begins to partake in the beauty they have bequeathed. I am not worried about the limits of the medium. I am studying Thomas Eakins, the great American painter, among others, and a number of "environmental portrait" photographers, clarifying how it is I wish to portray my honored subjects.

It's gratifying to see film having outflanked the doomsayers. It has a place in the media of fine art, and that's where I hang my hat -- happily so.
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