Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2000/07/27

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Subject: Re: [Leica] Re: The quintessence of Leica photography? - Long response -
From: Richard Comen <>
Date: Thu, 27 Jul 2000 20:07:37 -0700
References: <000001bff6f4$7e5de8c0$e52340c3@pbncomputer>

I just started a LUG CLASSICS folder and all the below is the first entry
in the folder. Beautifully stated by both of you. Thank you.  Richard
Mendocino, CA

At 06:49 PM 7/27/00 -0700, you wrote:
>I agree with you completely. My daughter and I will be standing with you,
>with our film cameras, high above Hong Kong (or anywhere else) while the
>world has forgotten the craft of photography.
>The "craft" of photography cannot be practiced or duplicated with a
>scanner, Photoshop, and an inkjet.
>As I've said before, I have a transparency of a field of calla lilies
>surrounding an old decaying wooden fence. This image can only be printed on
>Cibachrome (Ilfochrome). I've tried to make a LightJet print but to no
>avail. The black under and surrounding the plants is like an abyss. And on
>supergloss, it looks wet and deep. The green leaves have an electric glow
>along the edges. The white lily faces have delicate detail within them.
>This is a dynamic range that is stunning in a 30x40 print, the deep deep
>abyss black and the delicate white lily faces, plus the glow of the leaves,
>but simply "cannot" be reproduced digitally even though the LightJet
>printer prints on photographic paper.
>And my local lab (Calypso Imaging) just quit printing Cibachromes. It's
>either RA-4 or LightJet now. I can print Ciba's up to 20x24 in my own
>darkroom but I currently have a order for some 30x40 Ciba's (the calla lily
>image) and I now have to drive to San Francisco to get them printed.
>Looking at test strips is very inconvenient. This time I'm going to have a
>dozen printed so I don't have to go back as often.
>So even in the pro labs, the work process is shifting toward digital. Part
>of the reason is that the pieces of equipment to produce pro level digital
>work are outlandishly expensive. $250,000 - $500,000 for a LightJet
>printer. $100,000 and up for a good drum scanner. These pieces of equipment
>have to be busy nearly 100% of the time in order for the lab to stay
>afloat. Especially since these "state of the art" pieces of equipment are
>only state of the art for a couple of years. Then it's buy it all over
>again. So the work effort is shifted toward getting digital customers. Lots
>of digital customers.
>My daughter, who is 20, is majoring in photography and music in college.
>They are teaching the "craft" of photography from the ground up. Real
>silver photography. Last semester was the zone system and they had to use
>D76 1:1 and could not use Delta films as they do not respond linearly to
>the zone system expansion and compression techniques. Ilford FP films,
>Plus-X, Tri-X, APX 25, APX 100, etc. Real old fashioned silver film. My
>daughter uses APX 100 and her prints, on Ilford FB WT, are gorgeous.
>Brilliant sparklie highlights and the tones slide from sparklie white into
>a deep black that suck you right in. This is only available on wet
>processed photo paper from negatives that have been exposed properly and
>developed properly based upon the dynamic range of the subject and how you,
>the photographer, visualize the resulting print.
>This process of visualizing a result before the image is captured is a
>silver halide process. Learning the craft of photography teaches you to
>view your surroundings in terms of a final print. Your technique takes into
>account all of the variables within the scene and, using that magnificent
>gray matter computer, exposes correctly, in terms of how the film will be
>developed, and in terms of what kind of paper it will be printed on. This
>is not a simple process and can only be learned with practice and many
>This is not usually the case with a digital camera or even a film image
>that is going to be scanned and inkjet printed. The process of
>visualization of the final print most likely takes place in Photoshop.
>While learning the zone system, my daughter was out in the forest
>photographing some tree scenes for her class portfolio. It was dark under
>the trees, very bright in the open space behind the trees. Dirt, rocks, dry
>grass, a trail running through the scene, etc. Normal forest stuff. She set
>up her Hasselblad for a particular scene, used a spot meter to meter the
>various important subjects, visualized how she wanted to final print to
>look and figured which subject zone to place where on the scale and how to
>process the film. N+x, N, N-x. She chose the back for that particular
>development time and photographed the scene. THEN... she took a back that
>was not a zone specific back, put it on the camera and used the built-in
>camera meter to simply photograph the scene. Just like anyone normally
>would. She did this with all of her portfolio photographs as sort of a
>reality check.
>Back home she processed the film (APX 100 in D76 1:1) from the various
>backs at the appropriate times that she had worked out when she calibrated
>her procedures to the zone system. She also developed the non zone roll at
>the normal APX 100 - D76 1:1 time. All of the negatives looked great. Even
>the non zone roll. They were just good healthy looking negatives. Then she
>started printing.
>She first printed her favorite scene from the non zone roll. The print
>(11x14) looked good. A little dodging and burning here and there, but a
>reasonable print. THEN... she printed the same negative from the zone roll.
>She nearly fainted. She came out of the darkroom yelling "DAD... look at
>this!" A straight print that was so much better than the non zone print, it
>was stunning!!! The tones slid from bright sparklie white into a deep
>seductive black. The difference between the two prints was simply amazing.
>This folks, IS the "craft" of photography. It is not simple. It is not
>"point and shoot." It requires visualization and thought. It requires a
>thorough knowledge of the processes involved. It requires work, which is
>where many people give up.
>The digital process has solved this for those folks. Simply point and
>shoot. Scan if it's not already digital. Fix-up and manipulate in
>Photoshop. Print a pleasing inkjet. No photography craft involved. Just
>move the pixels to where they look good and be done with it.
>All of you real photographers out there, those versed in the "craft" of
>photography, should make it a life long commitment to pass on your
>knowledge, get a young person involved in silver based photography and wet
>darkroom work. My daughter, who is a computer whiz, recognizes with little
>effort that there is no comparison between a silver darkroom print and an
>inkjet print. The darkroom print wins hands down.
>Her "minimum" print size is 11x14. When spotting these prints, with your
>nose an inch from the print, you can see the crisp image edge sharpness and
>fine detail that is non existent on ink jet prints because of dot bleed and
>scanner ICE algorithms. Also, not many folks print ink jet prints larger
>than 11x14. And the rubber meets the road when you get to 20x24, when the
>sharpness, fine detail, and dynamic tonal range, just leaps off of the
>print. The big inkjet printers use a larger ink dot therefore close-up
>inspection of a large inkjet is not advisable.
>The craft of photography, can be done at home, with minimal darkroom
>equipment expenditure. And the equipment can easily be useful and producing
>exemplary work over a lifetime.
>I'm happy that my daughter has chosen to learn the "craft" of photography.
>She just got engaged two months ago. She and her bo are talking about
>buying a house. The criteria, she says, is that it have a good music room -
>a place to teach piano lessons, and a good place to build a darkroom. So at
>least in my family, pixels will not replace silver halide molecules on
>neither the source (film) nor the destination (paper.)
>Another generation carries it forward.
>PS... this is not a denigration of those folks that have no possibility of
>having and using a darkroom, and therefore are forced to go digital. I feel
>for them and would indeed go that route myself, if I were forced to.
>At 01:26 PM 7/26/00 +0200, Erwin Puts wrote:
>>The seemingly relentless march of digital printing does signify two trends.
>>First of all a loss of knowedge of true and important photographic
>><giant snip>
>>I know I am a loner here and that I will end my life on a deserted island
>>with a small pipeline of chemicals and some classical books on the craft of
>>Leica photography. I will even try to  write a new book on this topic. The
>>Economist wrote long ago (1996) the following: "So eventually, as with every
>>battle between digital and analogue, it is likely that digital will win.
>>Film will live on, but probably only in specialist use. Just as a few
>>diehards will still shun CD players and listen to vinyl discs thr÷ugh
>>amplifiers, in years to come there will always one tourist in that group
>>high above Hong Kong who pulls out a battered Nikon F5 and delights in
>>informing everyone that photographs never look right unless they are made
>>from silver halide. For most people though, the chance to alter their
>>holiday's weather conditions after the event will win out every time."
>>Replace Nikon with Leica and the Economist journalist might have thougt of

In reply to: Message from "Erwin Puts" <> ([Leica] The quintessence of Leica photography?)