Exhibition - December 31, 2011 - February 7, 2012 • Midland Arts and Antiques Market, Indianapolis

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ron - Work Flow

I get many questions about how I make my photographs so I thought that I'd briefly outline my workflow for the Truth From Perceptions project and my past processes.

In the past, in another photographic life, I developed my film and worked in the wet darkroom.  I did do all of the necessary testing for the Zone System for both T-Max and Tri-X films.  Also, I used Polaroid Type 55 positive/negative film for most of my 4"x5" work.  For printing I used a Selectol Soft and Dektol developer combination and occasionally used Weston's Amidol developer, depending upon the type of work I was doing.  I used two different enlargers, one for medium format and one for large format.  My paper of choice was Oriental Seagull, variable contrast.  I also worked with the "historic process" of Van Dyke Brown printing.

Today I have eschewed the wet darkroom in favor of the digital darkroom, but I still photograph using film.  The reasons for this are very straight forward.  Maintaining a wet darkroom and printing on silver photographic paper is very expensive.  As I do not consistently make prints of any great quantity the cost of having to replenish chemicals became prohibitive.  And the cost of silver paper is not cheap.  Working into a final print involved many sheets of paper that would drive up the cost.

Seeing a fine print made in the wet darkroom still makes my heart race and I do miss making those prints.  But, if this was the only way to make photographs I would no longer be making pictures.

iMac and Scanner
The digital darkroom has enabled me to continue my work and the quality of prints make from a high quality inkjet printer on photographic-like paper rivals, I said rivals, silver prints.

All of that being said, I still photograph using film.  I have the control that I want for making images when using film.  I still use the Zone System when making exposures and I find that film has a latitude, scale and feel that I don't see when I look at digital photographs.

The video below shows the camera and light meter that I am using for Truth From Perceptions.  After making exposures I have a lab, typically Roberts Camera, develop the film.  For the Truth From Perceptions project I am using Kodak BW400CN.  I have found that this film has a nice long scale and a fine grain structure.  At normal development it accurately reflects the metering that was done at the time of exposure.  The film is developed using the C-41 process so film development is quite affordable.

After film processing I scan the film using a flatbed scanner with 24 bit color settings at a resolution that will provide the size of prints that I desire.  I use Adobe Photoshop Elements on an iMac as the digital darkroom.  I adjust brightness and contrast and dodge and burn as required to make the expressive print that reflects what I visualized when I tripped the shutter.  I do slightly adjust the sharpness of the photograph only to ensure that the digital file will accurately print.  And, I fix all of the dust marks.  The one thing from the wet darkroom I do not miss one bit is print spotting.

My final prints are made using an Epson inkjet printer and are printed out of a RIP.  In an exhibition in January of this year at the Harrison Center for the Arts! in Indianapolis I exhibited 16"x20" prints of my Indiana Small Towns project and many people took for granted that the photographs were silver prints.  They did look great and I was quite pleased with the results.

So, there you have it in a big nutshell, my past processes and an overview of my current workflow.