If you’d believe it, I’ve been shooting more digital this year. At this point, I can’t describe it succinctly. I suppose with my studies I’m eager for more rapid learning in composition and exposure, which digital allows. Not to mention the fact of frugality: notwithstanding the previous investment, each digital exposure is essentially free. And yes, I’ve learned. And yes, I’m often editing to emulate film. I suppose as with most passionate hobbies, I’m not really sure why I’m shooting digital. I’m not really sure why I’m shooting photographs. It just seems to have to be done. Unfortunately, photography’s presence in my life has nearly reached a status quo. It doesn’t have tangible, recognizable benefits that are clear to me. Yet without it, something’s missing. I’ll just leave this here.
I’ve previously written of experiencing a photographic renaissance, whereas my yearly exposure count doubled. Yes, the exposure was “a process I love[d]” (see previous link). It is apparent that in 2012 my number of exposures rose significantly.
Yet that ignored the processing, scanning, and deliberation. Which, as of recent, has been tumultuous. Furthermore, the exposure has become preemptively overwhelmed. “Is this the proper exposure?” “Will the processing ruin my exposure?” “Will dust ruin the digitization?”
Subsequently; I announce a second renaissance. My process has changed significantly: capture equipment, development, and digitization. After many frustrations, I’ve found some pleasing results. Perhaps my process will reintroduce the ultimate analog: printing.
Following the renaissance I gave some thought to development. I frequently expose in available light, and am drawn to dark scenes. I’d been pushing a lot of 400 ISO films (e.g. Ilford HP5+ and Kentmere 400) to 800, sometimes 1600. My previous attempts in both Ilfosol 3 and Rodinal yielding grainy, contrasty negatives that were poorly rescued by my previous digitization and then processing. The Online Darkroom turned me on to Barry Thornton’s Two Bath developer, a two bath compensating developer nearly immune to exposure speed. It’s an inexpensive developer that can be mixed at home, and although I’d read it lacked contrast I was intrigued by the results others were getting.
The first attempt was wrought with agitation issues, but still the results were encouraging.
The second attempt was very satisfying. One roll was tormented by a loose “felt” from the reloadable film cassette; present in almost every exposure. I’ve tried Kalt metal reloadable cassettes, which have fallen apart and ruined rolls. And now the “felt” on these Kalt plastic cassettes is causing problems. Re-using prepackaged film cassettes is a pain, so I’m trying to avoid that option. What to do..
As I’ve previously written, I haven’t shot much since 2012. I wasn’t receiving the satisfaction from carrying around a camera and making exposures. The exposures I had made I wasn’t exactly thrilled with either. A lot had to do with processing technique; particularly scans. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in the position to afford drum scans or wet-mounting. The process wasn’t rewarding and the product wasn’t rewarding, so it just wasn’t happening.
Then I came across some articles which made convincing arguments for negative digitization through a digital SLR and macro lens: Yes, Your DSLR Really Is The Best Film Scanner and Scanning 35mm Black and White Negatives with the D800E. Convincing. Afterall, I have a DSLR and macro lens for my profession which is seeing little to no use. After much deliberation, Googling, and Youtubing, I’d ordered a lightpad and copy stand. Preliminary results (i.e. my first DSLR digitized frame), I’m very pleased.
I didn’t even bother to try to match the exposure, tone curves, anything. I just don’t care about the flatbed scan anymore. Forget about it.
I think these images speak for themselves. I don’t have a darkroom for printing available to me, and most of my images I view digitally. The quality and character afforded by the DSLR technique makes me feel like I’m using film again.
Is this the best investment I’ve made into photography in the past year or so? We shall see. I’m unlikely to go back to rescan all images, but am likely to digitize all future exposures with this technique. Many argue that this is faster; that remains to be seen. Definitely more post-processing involved with DSLR technique. Anyway; call this Renaissance #2. A renaissance two-fer. I’m motivated again.