LF and Color (Cibachrome) Printing

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What is the relation of LF, color transparency and cibachrome (or other) printing? Here's my dilemma:

I have been shooting 35mm for years and it has evolved with my personal subject interests and professional work. As an architect, I am constantly photographing buildings and other aspects of the built environment. In shooting 35mm, I always shoot slide film. This is mainly because I do not have access to or have the resources (time, money, space) to set-up a darkroom for processing/printing. With a slide, there is no extra hand in the process to alter the image. What I shoot is exactly what I receive back from the lab. If I need a high quality print, I will have a good Cibachrome made.

Recently, I have done some 4x5 B&W work with another photographer for some historic building documentation. I find myself drawn to the whole process, control and quality possible with LF photography.

However, my real interest lies with color. I've been searching for viewpoints on shooting LF color transparencies and having contacts or enlarged prints made from these but I have not seen much information. Most "die-hard" LF seems to deal with B&W. I doubt I will do my own processing/printing. My attraction to LF is the control it offers but by not processing/printing, I am giving still giving up control over half the photographic process... and gaining control is the whole reason for LF. With all of that said, what kind of results could I expect from shooting LF transparencies and having Cibachrome (or other) prints made? Is this common practice? Or am I just missing the point of LF?

Any opinions or viewpoints are welcome.

-- Scott Demel (scott@demel.net), May 29, 1999


No Scott no, you are just finding them. As Cibachrome (also Ilfochrome) is an increadible sharp material it favours specially LF. The larger the film, the more naturality, tonality and detailed Ciba. The most beautiful Cibas comes from 8x10 and bigger slides. The problems of control in color photograpy lies most in the mastering of contrast. Develop your E-6 film with a 1 stop pull processing, that is 5 minutes in the E-6 first dev. Every good custom lab. will do this. This will give more than 1stop in exposure latitude. A slight color shift against minus-magenta will occure; if this bother you, filter it away. Find a lab that prints Cibachrome (Ilfochrome) LowContrast material CF1k in process P-3 or P-3X. This will give exellent resultat,even the more popular P-4 is not bad either. Once you get the LF-Ciba combination you will never leave it.

-- Jan Eerala (jan.eerala@itameri.net), May 29, 1999.


I think that it would be a great thing to go to LF for colour transparencies but the main concerns that I have with LF trannies are lack of exposure latitude and "what do I do with it now?".

With 35mm I bracket each slide exposure but bracketing your LF becomes a lot more expensive, especially if you jump to 8X10 rather than 4X5. And if prints are your final goal - rather than magazine reproduction - I'd suggest colour negative film. The new Kodak Portra 160 VC has a extra snap of contrast, lots of exposure latitude, works well in mixed lighting and if you have it printed on glossy paper rivals Cibachrome. There is a very good article about Portra and Fuji coour films in the most recent View Camera Magazine that you might want to read.

-- David Grandy (dgrandy@accesscable.net), May 29, 1999.

I have all my color transparency work printed on Fuji Supergloss type R materials. My impression is that it is a less contrasty material than Cibachrome (AKA Ilfochrome). Since until very recently I used mostly Fuji films, the dye sets are a better match so I have had more accurate reproductions of my original image. Rather than attempting the pull process technique discussed above I try to control the contrast range when making the exposure in the first place, by first keeping in mind that a print is going about a stop (or more) less latitude than the film is capable of recording, and also by a very slight (1/3rd to 1/2 stop) overexposure (rather than underdeveloping.) to this end I habitually rate Velvia @ ISO 40. The only problem with this technique is needing to be careful to keep the highlights from blowing out.

-- Ellis Vener (evphoto@insync.net), May 29, 1999.

There4s no need for bracketing and no outwashed highligts if you don4t develop your trannies full 6 minutes in E-6. I think this 6 minute concept is more a scheme of the filmindustry to obtain higher nominal speed for their films than regards for good qualities. I consider 5-5min 15seconds to be more of a "normal" first developer time for E-6. The film speed will be half of the nominal, but you will have really more exp.latitude, specially on the highlight side. Generally, it4s not a good practice to say negative is better than trannies, or vice versa. They shall be considered more like a different method of expression. Despite this view, I have never seen any in color that outstands a good polyesterbased ciba made from a LF original. ( Ellis, why do you use Velvia? It4s the most contrasty E-6 film I know.)

-- Jan Eerala (Jan.eerala@itameri.net), May 30, 1999.

Jan. I use Velvia because I like the sharpness, the resolution, the color, the relative lack of reciprocity failure problems and because I don't tend to have the contrast problems you mention. maybe i have been shooting RVP long enough to make this films characteristics work for me? Anyway, films are like opinions: everybody's got (a favorite) one.< /P> I also use Astia (generally when I shooting interiors or people) & Provia when I need more speed. I have recently rediscovered (in 35mm) Kodak E100s and E100vs but since they don't come in a reliable Quickload format I haven't used them in 4x5, in 35mm they are very nice films; very clean color.

-- Ellis Vener (evphoto@insync.net), May 30, 1999.

First of all, why do you think you need to go to 8x10 to get good prints from your shots be they color reversal or neg films? I have my slides done to 16x20 Cibachrome due to the fact that they are touted to be the most archival of the printed mediums. I love the color rendition and sharpness with Velvia and I don't bracket unless the light is changing dramatically and I want to capture some real subtle values with luck. I shoot 35mm to 8x10 color reversal material mainly Velvia, e100sw, and Provia for speed increase. I like the portraiture I see from the PPA photographers in the local chapter and they seem to like Portra and NPH and NPG. I shoot mostly landscape and if the scene is too contrasty I pre-expose to beef up the shadows and then shoot to keep the highlights under control and let the shadows fall where they are. If the shadows are important I have the lab printer make a shadow mask and print that. Everyone has there own pet ways so go for what gets you the print you want. There's no one right way (although my way is better. Just ask me. I'm an artist.). No really, you should shoot a couple of different materials and have them printed and see what you like. That's the only way to know what matches your style of photography.

-- james (james_mickelson@hotmail.com), May 30, 1999.

Archival Qualities of Ilfochrome are a question mark for a lot of us now due to Wilhelms testing results showing a life expectancy of *29 years*. Compared to a projected life of *70 years" from Fuji Crystal Archive prints. Does anyone out there have more info on the testing so us laypersons can understand the realities in use. I love Ilfochrome printing for its unique feel with LF as well as 35mm wildlife images. Do the tests actually mean much in real-life use of the prints?

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.net), May 30, 1999.

I think there are three reasons why there are more B&W LF photogs than color LF photogs: (a) until now B&W gives you more control. you cannot manipulate color than much before it looks unatural. (b) the quality gain of LF is more important in B&W. (c) B&W is generally considered more "artistic" (whatever it means). However there are many people producing fine art ilfochrome prints from LF. To see how good that can be, have a look at the work of Christopher Burkett. The LF page has a link to his page, which has a list of galleries.

The future of color printing lies in digital. The digital lab gives you the precision tools that you need to control precisely color in a way which was not possible before. You can print on whatever medium you prefer, including ilfochrome. Right now, it is somewhat expensive, but the prices will drop, and the information contained in your transparencies will never be outdated.

-- Quang-Tuan Luong (luong@ai.sri.com), June 01, 1999.

Scott, I have been shooting 4x5 Provia exclusively for the past four years and having a good lab do "gallery" 16x20 Ilfochrome prints made of the winners. The finished product is spectacular.

After training in B&W darkroom technique, I too decided to go the color route because I did not have access to a darkroom and had space, time and financial constraints in building a 4x5 setup. I have almost never regretted shooting LF transparencies rather than B&W, not only for the sheer beauty of the processed film as well as the clarity and depth of the Ilfochrome print, but also for the reason that many people seem to equate LF with B&W, and seeing the color product is an eye-opener. Just as an aside, I took a LF workshop last summer where I was the only one out of twelve that was shooting color transparencies, but the whole class was quite impressed (and had never seen) the unique look of a 4x5 transparency sitting on a light table.

-- Joshua Divack (jdivack@hahnhessen.com), June 03, 1999.


Get a box of 4 x 5 Scala B&W transparency film and give that a try. I find it as interesting as color transparency.

-- Larry Huppert (Larry.Hupppert@mail.com), June 06, 1999.

Many thanks to all of you for your various responses. I know the topic of the question was large and open-ended but it opened the conversation to the variety of viewpoints I hoped to see. This has been very helpful for me.

Thanks again .scott

-- Scott Demel (scott@demel.net), June 19, 1999.

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