traditional darkroom,a dying art? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Does anyone have any insight on the fact of the matter that digital is steadily becoming the choice of creating prints. I will be investing in an enlarger and lens for personal use. I would like to stay with the traditional darkroom, and besides, the digital equipment is very expensive. John Sexton says he does traditional because its the best quality, but as he also says, and I agree, its only a matter of time till that changes. My question really is, will there be a supply and demand for the chemistry/paper? Enough to keep this art going? I work in the commercial photography field, and I see the change. Many business's are ditching the wet darkroom for digital. Also using digital backs in the studio instead of film, hence Polariod going bankrupt. The business I work for is having a tough time getting paper and chemistry. This is either because supply and demand is down or because of Sept. 11. I don't know. Opinions appreciated. Thank You.

-- Raven (, November 10, 2001


As John Sexton is also reported to have said, we'll vote with our dollars. If enough folks keep buying paper and chemistry, it'll continue to be available, albeit in a narrower range of product choices. If they don't, those diehards who want to stay "in the dark" will be buying raw materials to coat their own. Get out and vote!

-- Sal Santamaura (, November 10, 2001.

After spending five years in college studying photography, and after a career as a successful advertising photographer and editorial photographer, with an room full of awards, I'll be damned if some chick in a mini-skirt and high-heels, who happens to be a whiz at photoshop is going to lessen the value of my wet-darkroom work. Oh, yes, she can take a electronic stock photo off the internet, and whiz it up, but she neither has the discipline or the talent to create art. She (or he) only has the technology to play with images. Coming out of a very nice early retirement to re-enter the world of photography, some things have become quite clear to me. 1. Digital imagery may be the technique of the future, but right now it is only affordable by large studios and corporations who deal in great volume. It is not close to being the common technique of the week end photographic warrior, or even the small shop professional. 2. As digital imagery becomes more commonplace, there will be a time not too far off, where gallery images, on display will display a seal that affirms, "This image is original silver process imagery produced by the artist, and has not been digitally any form by the author/artist." If you are a serious artist/photographer....your slaving in the wet darkroom must be valued for what it is....the labor of love, with considerable skill, dedication and substantial artistic merit. These qualities given and exercised in the production of your imagery have considerable value, and that value will only increase over time.

True, digital imagery may become more the rule than the exception over time, as the wold changes. But like the quality craftsmanship of wood working in antique furniture of the 18th, 19th, and early 20th century....original process photography will only increase in value over time, and an image produced by some damned computer will never eclipse the quality of an original silver print, lovingly produced by the original artist, a wet darkroom, an artist whos hands smell of hypo and acetic acid....and who has made something of value with his/her hands and talents, for society to enjoy and treasure. Photography is at a division point in the road. There is a fork in the road ahead. Some commercial operations will take the digital road for commercial expediancy, and rightly so as we live in a commercial, cost conscious economy. Others, like me, will take the other fork, to reclaim and forever establish the art and value of an original silver image that is very collectable, beautiful and valuable. Just because it's new, dose'nt mean it is of more value. For me,....I'll take the artistry and craftsmanship and the smell of hypo on my hands...not the worn out finger tips, on some damned computer keyboard. When I started out in photography, it was a prestige profession involving knowledge of chemistry, optical physics and the many disciplines of the world of art and visual communications. I'm be damned if some chick in high-heels and a mini skirt, who knows going to rain on my parade. I think our photographic audience and clients will come to realize this...if they don't know already! Richard Boulware - Denver

-- Richard Boulware (, November 10, 2001.

I believe there will always be demand for products used in the wet darkroom. The problem is the choice of chemistry and paper will decline dramatically over time. The good news is that as more people move into digital, enlargers, light sources, lenses, and all the other gear required is going to become available at less and less cost. Also, most formulas for developers, toners, fixes etc can be made from bulk chemicals. The problem will be with the availability of papers and film. I forsee a day when Kodak will get out of B&W entirely except for a couple of films. Ilford seems more commited but I think one can expect their product line to be trimmed as demand for products declines in the US. From other posts on the net I get the impression that they are phasing out graded papers.

-- James Chinn (, November 10, 2001.

There will certainly be a supply of, and demand for, paper and chemistry for the forseeable future. Even if the big names went under, there are various small manufacturers that will keep going. Look at places like Photographers Formulary- you can get any developer you want to mix up. For paying jobs, film is in the decline. Certainly not gone, but that day is coming. The company I used to work for spent thousands of dollars for studio shots of their products until a couple years ago. Time-to-market pressures, and lower cost, convinced them to skip the studio work, and even the product itself! They went right from CAD renderings to advertising, and I have to admit that the results were quite good. Most non- photographers wouldn't have noticed that the shots weren't real, and the customers didn't seem to care at all. They used Photoshop, but with a highly skilled and trained graphic artist- no amateur. Today I was in the local surplus store and they had a giant Durst enlarger. Looked almost brand new- 8x10, I think, and taller than I am. On its back on a wooden pallet. Motorized and with a vacuum easel for up to 20 x 24 or larger paper. Turret with several large El-Nikkors. The thing will probably go for a few hundred bucks to $1K, because not many labs or individuals need that kind of capacity. (if anyone wants the phone number, email me- they also have a couple D series Omegas) It got me to thinking about time in general. Back in the '70s, you would have been laughed to the door for bringing '40s equipment to a job (Speed Graphic?), and 30 year old equipment was considered old. It's now 2001, yet 20-30 year old equipment isn't uncommon. We're overdue for a big change, and digital is it. IMHO, photography will head down two paths. Commercial and consumer imaging will be digital. Fine art will be traditional materials, as I don't think inkjet or even dye sub prints will be considered valuable or collectable in the near future. But I could be completely wrong. Or a complete idiot. Or both!

-- Conrad Hoffman (, November 10, 2001.


To complete my previous post...

The bottom line is eventually their may be only a few papers available and only a limited selection of off the shelf chemistry. Maybe the selection will be greater but the cost for a 100 sheet box of a particular paper will become cost prohibitive for many of us. But you make due with what you have got. People who want to make beautiful images with silver based materials will will learn how to use the available materials to their fullest potential.

-- James Chinn (, November 10, 2001.

Sour grapes,you old farts! It's coming, it's here already for rich folks. You can fight it, or join it. There are still some fools who use glass plates, and some who fume Mercury onto Degarreotype plates, and in 10 years anybody still printing on silver gelatin in a stinking darkroom at 3AM will just as backwards. The seven stop gray scale, and burned out highlights and styglian shadows of silver prints will look like charcoal drawings compared to the subtleties of digital printing. Lord, it's gonna be great!

-- Wilhelm (, November 10, 2001.

Being a woodworker as well as a photographer, I can see many parallels between woodworking and photography and the changes that have affected both disciplines over the years. Mortise and tenon, two inch hand dovetails, rabbeting, classic joinery which must be mastered before one can call himself a furniture maker, in many instances is replaced with staples and screws in the even supposedly 'high end' furniture that is made and sold nowadays for speed, volume, and increased profit margins.

I've seen kitchen cabinets for a small sized kitchen for sale at different venues for $10,000 that were made primarily w/staples, screws, and particle board. I've watched with sadness, people filling out loan apps. to purchase these cabinets even though the total value of the materials used in the cabinets came to about $200.00. Particle board slowly falls apart after a certain amount of time, use, heat, humidity, and cannot be repaired once damaged. These cabinets will begin to fall apart with regular use in three or four years, and are in fact temporary, since parts of them cannot be repaired as you can repair furniture made w/classic joinery and good materials.

Furniture crafted together by a supremely gifted artisan nowadays can cost a fortune. The cheapest way to get well made furniture is to learn how to do it yourself.

My cameras, tripods, lenses, and even my filters, if treated with respect, can be kept and used for a lifetime. Whenever I call Mamiya, or some other manufacturer of photographic equipment I get a human voice in about five minutes maximum, which is almost always polite and ready to help. I get the same attitude from most labs. I've even called some of these folks about problems I've had w/equipment that had gone off warranty, and these folks many times to their credit said, 'to hell with it, send it in, there'll be no charge'.

This attitude to a large degree doesn't carry over to digital. Waiting on hold for a half hour to 45 minutes to talk to someone about my computer, software, scanner, cd burner, and printer is the norm.

I recently sold a printer which the manufacturer(who also makes film), flatout told me they don't bother to service anymore. Digital is expensive although some of the equipment is essentially THROWAWAY after a certain period of time. Digital equipment and software purchased three or four years years ago sometimes won't even communicate with equipment you buy today. Repairs for digital off warranty can be a 'black hole'. The people behind digital with a few exceptions tend to be arrogant, obnoxious, or what's even worse, unconcerned when it comes to standing behind their equipment.

There are some incredibly gifted digital artists, but there seems to be just a few who have taken the time to pay their dues. Even though it takes time to master Photoshop, these same folks who've mastered Photoshop, don't seem to have bothered studying composition, color, spacial relationships, and so forth. Learning Photoshop is not and can never be a subsitute for imagination, creativity, and discipline. I see imagination and creativity in both 'straight Photograhy and digital, but there's a lot less discipline in the digital work I've seen, excepting the work of very skilled photographers who also happen to do digital.

I've seen digital work by folks who it seems to me figured that if no one could figure out what is was, then it would have to be considered 'good', or considered 'Art'. You can dial up Photoshop on your computer, and get a monkey to sit down and play with the keys, and he might come up with something interesting, IN SPITE of not having studied Art and/or photography, and it can never be anything else but an accident. You could show the monkeys work to someone else who might consider the work 'Art', anything can be rationalized.

When I decided to go into LF, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that LF doesn't cost more than 35/MF. My Toyo 810MII cost $3300, my 360 Docter Optics cost $737.00, the Wollensak $280.00, the Ries head $327, and a bigger Gitzo to hold the 810, $400.00. I might add that the workmanship that went into this LF equipment astounds me.

Add up what've I just mentioned, and it is only a small fraction of what I've spent on digital equipment and software, and I don't have a lot. Digital is expensive when it comes to first tooling up, time consuming, hard to do, hard to maintain, stressful when dealing with the high strung egos on the other end of the phone, and much of the equipment worthless after too short a time. I might add that it's going to take most of at least a year to become skilled at photoshop.

I laugh to myself when I see these articles which praise the merits of a printer and all it does, and then I get to the end of the article and read....'all these features for $25,000, and for $400.00 per month, on site service(the printer's a little tempermental you see).

If you want to be 'up and running', and fairly quick, and for a lot less money, then digital is not the answer, and it is only a 'pipedream' to think it so. Get into digital, but do it with your eyes wide open.

Having said all this, I enjoy doing digital work, but getting to this point was only after an incredibly long learning curve, after spending a lot more money than I should have, and only after a lot of heartaches that I wish I had not had to go through.

A high degree of skill is easily spotted in a well executed photograph, same goes for digital work. If the skill isn't there, going digital isn't going to disguise that fact. At least not for long.

-- Jonathan Brewer (, November 10, 2001.

Conrad, I could have sworn that the photographer taking my elementary class picture back in the 70's was using an olden days Speed Graphic! Bless his heart! :>)

-- Andre Noble (, November 10, 2001.

I only hope they keep producing velvia and ilfochrome classic, that'll do me.....

-- Phil Brammer (, November 11, 2001.


When photography was developed in the mid 19th century, many bemoaned the End OF Painting. Yet to come were Picasso, Dali, Monet, Matisse, Miro, and (even) Pollock and Rothko.

I too look foward with relish to the ability to make B&W prints ( my particular preferred output medium) on a Printer via computer as wellas in messy trays of chemicals in teh dark. I have the computer under my fingers as I type this. Beside me I have a Canon BJC 6000, printer which can make OK colour prints, some of which I have displayed and people have payed for. Within a month I will likely get an Epson 2000 with the aftermarket inks for monochrome prints.

I have also just acquired an old Agfa Ansco 8x10 and am awestruck by the quality of the contact prints on silver paper. I also have made a light source and labouriously squeezed out a few Pt/Pd prints and will continue with both of these.

Where is the rule that says I can't do all three? Yes, the materials may become scarce, but there will always be supplies of film & paper, just as there are suppliers of brushes, oils, pastel crayons and canvas. There are still companies that make glass tubes( valves) for Hi Fi amplifiers, as well as those black plastic discs with needles scratching in grooves, which still reproduce beautiful music..

Wake up. The future was here yesterday.


-- RICHARD ILOMAKI (, November 11, 2001.

It isn't an either/or, binary choice. What you will see more and more in the present and the near future is a hybrid. Especially with large format. You'll shoot on film, and then have your best image scanned and you print via photoshop. Some people, like Dan Burkholder are taking it a step further, and instead of printing to paper , are using their digital files to output enlarged negatives and using those to make large platinum/palladium prints. The hard won skills of printing will carry over, just with a new set of tools. True Photography is about vision, not Dektol.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, November 11, 2001.

Hi Raven,

Just couldn't resist answering this one. Have you ever added something to your computer such as a "Palm Pilot" or perhaps a new driver ? Has it ever screwed up your system and required 6 to 10 hours to just get things back to the way they were ? Ever have a virus attack your PC and erase your hard drive or just play havock with the computer ? Do you run a personal firewall to protect yourself from others who want to steal your secrets ? (or perhaps your digital photos)

Ever have a presentation document or large spreadsheet just about perfect and then with a simple additional keystroke completely destroy the result and find yourself unable to get back to where you want to be ?

Like others before me, I also am a woodworker and know that particleboard is a temporary solution and very fustrating to work with when you want to acheive a high quality and lasting result. Give me "REAL" wood and I'm as happy as a "pig in #$@%$". I also happen to be employed in the computer industry (18 years) and can hardily wait till I can retire and never have to fix, update, re-install, adjust, or just plain kick another computer again.

So to everybody out there I say ...welcome to the digital photographic age ! I hope you enjoy your many rebuilds to come ! As for me I'm delighted with real film, real paper, and a real darkroom. Have yet to have to reload, re-install or re-configure any of these since I first began using them.

My analog best to all,


-- GreyWolf (, November 11, 2001.

There is only one truth here. DIGITAL OR NOTHING!

-- Bill Smithe (, November 11, 2001.

For the foreseeable future photography as it is now will be around. Paper will still be around. Witness Berger Papers. Many films will be available too. Witness all the eastern european materials. Not every country has access to the digital revolution that the US and western europe does. When everyone in the west has gone to digital the Chinese will start producing paper and film because many there who practice photography will be in the wetroom because computers aren't readily available or prohibitively expensive. But to those who dismiss the digital revolution, as not real photography or are afraid of the coming revolution, I say too bad for you. It will be a marvelous art form akin to the birth of photography. It is in it's infancy now. It will get even better and easier to use. And it is much more environmentally safe. For the environmental cost of a computer system you get millions of images. No pulp bleaching and bartya materials. No more silver solvents. No more toning byproducts. No more wastefull washing of prints. You will be able to do so much more with your creative vision. Velvia? Passe now. A moderately skilled high school student using photoshop can color rings around my favorite film. Quit the arguing. You like the wetroom like me so be it. That's cool. If you are into digital, well good for you. Neither of you campers have anything on the other. Just do what you do best and enjoy it. Make images not war. There's no need to champion your chosen methodologies. Just make images. Quit trying to be better than the other guy. Just make images. James

-- bigmac (, November 11, 2001.

I don't know how much I can add to this thread,but here goes. Yesterday I took a 1 day course given by West Coast Imaging on scanning and manipulating the image in Photoshop. I was astounded by the quality of the many finished prints on display. Mostly color but one large Pieziography (sp?)B&Wprint.Thetonal values on the BW print were spectacular. I have spent many hours on this type of negative, breaking waves against almost black rocks on the pacific coast. There was an Ilfochrome print and a matched print from the scanned chrome. There was no comparison! The scanned light jet print was sharper,the highlights detailed, the shadows textured,and midtones subtle. It does cost though. I think in a few years,as we have seen, the quality of equipment will increase markedly and the price will drop. Digital is here to stay. The person sitting next to me is a professional who is using his digital Canon exclusively for his architectural work. He described an interior office shot he had just done theat sounded, to me, like a nightmare-outdoor light through windows, bounced Fluorescent ceiling lights and halogens elsewhere. The Canon handled it all and photoshop balanced out all the lighting extremes. George

-- George Nedleman (, November 11, 2001.

I tend to look at this situation as not necessarily a fork in the road that needs to be taken, but a very general trend in society driven by a perceived need to increase business efficiencies for which photography is simply attached to the wagon. I personally believe that given the infrastructural cost and the results produced, the numbers have shown that digital has quickly grown to its current size and additional market growth is nominal at best projected forward. It is a large niche market not an upward growth trend. Why it has drawn so much attention (and concern) is because conventional photography has been a nominal growth industry at best for decades. As result, the only way for companies to grow in this environment is to take market share away from a competitor. That is what is happening in the battle of Fuji versus Kodak in the color print markets. Conversely, digital has been a July 4th fireworks display from purely a business perspective. Once this market peaks out, which it will, the technological growth component that everyone expects will continue will also reach its pinnacle because of the fact that the financial supporters of this product are the first to injest the realities of nominal market growth projections. Without an expectation that additional growth will take place, costs will stay high and business players will go elsewhere with their intelligence and capital. Those are the realities of todays high expectation financial and business world. The botton line is that a product cycle of 8-10 years is reasonable for digital photography. As a result, it is highly probable these two products can cohabitate perfectly well for years to come in photography. The largest risk in photography I feel is for a large player to drop out through market share consolidation. Is it possible for Fuji to acquire Kodak? Before you say NO WAY, who would have thought it possible that small Dynegy would be able to acquire the huge Enron given the fact that Dynegy is 1/5 the size of Enron. It gives me goose bumps to think that Tri-X could come in anything other than a black and yellow box, but as long as it comes, who cares?

Lastly, I just wanted to personally thank everyone for the great deals to be had as they make the move to digital. I hope that whatever medium you chose you find considerable satisfaction in the expressive arts.

-- Michael Kadillak (, November 11, 2001.

The truth here is that pride in workmanship and quality are always going to mean something. 10 years ago they were predicting the end of Photography. Photography isn't going to disappear, it's just going to be practiced now by the people who love it.

The new toys for the well to do 'yuppies' and rich folks will be in the digital arena until they get tired of them and then they will be for sale.

I will never accept paying good money for things that aren't made to last. The same people who 'sweetalked' you into paying $5000.00 for their scanner five years ago, will sell you one today with the same features for $500.00.

Digitals gonna be great, and it's going to be cheap. Save your money and wait, unless it's burning a hole in your pocket.

-- Jonathan Brewer (, November 11, 2001.

I think that, at very least, as long as there are people who value the art and process of traditional photographic processes, there will be film, paper, and chemistry. Look at whatís keeping products like Azo alive now- the people who love the stuff and use it because they feel it is the best. This is why there are still people doing Daguerreotypes and salted paper negatives. True, given 50 years, there might be fewer people out there doing large format photography using traditional materials, but they will still be there. I donít know about the rest of you, but I donít necessarily drag 50 pounds of wood, metal, and glass around the hillside because I think itís fun. I do it because itís a method and process I love and believe in. To quote Robert Adams, and please forgive me for any typos:
One does not for long wrestle a view camera in the wind and heat and cold just to illustrate a philosophy. The thing that keeps you scrambling over rocks, risking snakes, and swatting at the flies is the view. It is only your enjoyment of and commitment to what you see, not what you rationally understand, that balances the otherwise absurd investment of labor.

To me, the same sort of idea applies to the materials we use. We use what we use because itís what we feel is the best for what we do. If some new, ultra-affordable digital process came along that was superior in every way to any traditional photographic process ever devised, Iím betting every one of you would give it some serious thought. But would we all jump on the bandwagon and leave our film to collect dust? I think not. Modern color processes pretty much put an end to the practical application of processes like the autochrome, and yet there are still a few people out there keeping it alive and having one hell of a good time doing it.

I find myself in a bit of a unique generational situation. I was born in 1982, and that places me in the gray area between gen. Xíers and whatever theyíre calling whatís after that. My generation has a lot in common with the Xíers in that unlike those a few years younger than me, we remember when Challenger exploded, we remember when the first Nintendo came out, and computers have not always been a part of our lives. Iím comfortable using computers, even for photographic applications, but itís not my favorite way of doing things. Last week I spent 3 hours in PhotoShop editing wires, antennas, and a stop light out of a photo of a building of Athens City Hall. On the other hand, yesterday I spent 3 hours making contact prints of 8x10 pyro negatives using Azo and ansco 130. For me, digital and traditional photography do not necessarily have to be antitheses to each other. The photographers of my generation are in a situation where we need to be proficient at both digital and traditional mediums right off the bat. I work on my independent study project in architectural photography during the week in which I use a 4x5 monorail, wooden film holders, and Provia. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I go to my desktop publishing class where I work on stuff in Photoshop, GoLive, Quark, and sometimes Freehand. I am already working hard to know and be able to use both kinds of tools to the best of my ability. For the next generation of photographers, though, I wonder how much traditional technology will be in the mix. My nine year old cousin was born in 1992, exactly ten years after me to the day. His house has had a computer in it since the day he was born- they arenít a new concept that he had to adapt to and learn like the rest of us did. Even I am at a bit of an advantage in that regard in that a good 2/3rds of my life had computers in it. But for those photographers who come along in another 10 years, what percentage of them will have more of a background in film than in digital?

In terms of the digital divide, I think we also have to consider the world situation in terms of industry and the like before we can start doing last rights for film. The core nations of the world-that is, those with the most lucrative economies and post-industrial social structures-are getting to the point where, yes, film is becoming more threatened by digital. Look at those countries of the world in the periphery and semi-periphery, though. My sister was until very recently in the Peace Corps in a town outside Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. This town had one telephone and only very sporadically had electricity available. Do you really think that people there or in any developing part of the world are so worried about digital technology overtaking film? Not only do I think that film will be kept alive and available by those who prefer traditional processes, I think that film and such will be kept alive worldwide by simple demand. Until the rest of the world ďcatches upĒ to where we are as a nation, and then everybody takes one giant step into the future, film is safe in my book.

I think I had better quit now. The continued availability of film, paper, and chemicals is a very complex and relatively volatile issue. Itíll be interesting to see where things go in the next few years.

-- David Munson (, November 11, 2001.

As painting has coexisted, largely peacefully, next to photography, so do I hope will be the fate of digital imaging with silver photography.

Granted, it was commercial considerations (cheaper, faster, the quest for new market niches, etc) that gave birth to digital imaging and availability of cheaper hardware ment that more and more people could afford it. The truth is that most people with a camera in their hands just want to take snaps and to hell with technique. I'll go by it.

The real problem I see is the trend to compare just the end product of the two disciplines, i.e. the print. But how can they ever be the same? The silver photographer has to master technique first before he can use it to express his vision. He spends hours in the field waiting for the correct light before tripping the shutter. In the darkroom he can spend many hours even days for an evocative print.

In contrast the digital imager may not even have to have a camera. And technique? Well Photoshop can be used to correct the contrast, balance the tones and add extraneous elements. Granted, the last has been used by silver photographers but it requires extraordinary skill.

Silver photography produces unique images just like any craftsman cannot produce identical products from the same draft. The love of the artist for his image grows with the time he spends seeing it come into being.

Digital imaging is an automated way of cloning the same image in increasingly good quality and speed. Love? No _time_ for that.

Therefore it is only fair towards the artist who created an image to clearly state if it is unmanipulated silver or digital. Unmanipulated silver is a contradiction of terms!

In one way the digital imaging can be seen as a blessing. It has separated the silver photographers from the rest. We are a much smaller group now but we do what we do out of choice. As long as we keep buying films and papers they will continue to exist. As simple as that :-)

-- Mako (, November 11, 2001.

Well said for an individual of your youth, and shows an open mindedness and maturity way beyond your years. You know now what some people never learn.

You do not suffer from myopia. We, right now, are someones distant future, and at the same time we are also the dim past to some future generation.

-- Jonathan Brewer (, November 11, 2001.

Sooner or later, someone should bring Ansel Adams in to this discussion. Adams was evidently very impressed and openly excited about the very high quality of the high end laser scans madefrom his negatives for reproduction in the last book he produced before his health failed -- and that was at least twenty years ago! he felt that this technology was ableto get more information out of his negatives than he was ever able to get through his considerable darkroom skills.

My point is that digital technology is coming and that no amount of emotional attachment to one set of tools will offset thepotential of this newer and more precise set of tools. You may think it sterile and devoid of creativity -- but that is more a judgement of the user of those tools than of the tools themselves.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, November 11, 2001.

A talented individual can create magic with a pencil, crayons, anything, that is not in dispute Ellis, at least not by me. I think several threads have crossed back and forth between two different issues here.

Digital's not coming, it's here, and it can be very precise, when it works right, but there isn't going to be any precision because there isn't going to be anything when your systems crashed, frozen, not communicating with your printer and so forth.

That's the issue, at least for me, not that I don't like using digital as tool, but the workmanship and dependability of that tool. Digital is useless when it doesn't work. I have eight cameras, including three that are electronic, and I have a breakdown in any one of my cameras about once in 10 years!

The crashes and freezes with my digital tools have been countless, and sometime they occur from just turning my computer on. I've suffered a lot of downtime, so in terms of digital as tool it's going to have to be better made and cheaper, and I have no doubt that it will be.

I use digital in spite of the problems, but digital at this stage of its evolution is costlier, and a lot less dependable than my other equipment. Emotion has got nothing to do with pointing out this fact.

I would never dismiss digital which is why in the hell I have digital in the first place, but there is simply no excuse for bad workmanship and indifference. Make this stuff right with the best materials, make it dependable and don't release until it is right and digital begins to realize its full potential.

-- Jonathan Brewer (, November 11, 2001.

adams did indeed say he was excited by the coming technology, but he did not say that the scanned reproductions were better than his original prints, he said they were close, but not quite as good.

-- mark lindsey (, November 12, 2001.

The only thing anyone knows for sure about the future of anything is that no one knows for sure. One of the troubles with these kinds of discussions is that people tend to speak of "film" as though it was all the same. In fact there are different markets for different films (and papers), some more susceptible to digital competition than others. By far the biggest single seller among films is 35 mm color negative film. It accounts for something like 90% of all film sales and something like 50% of that is in disposable cameras. This is the stuff used by vacation/holiday snap shooters who aren't interested in the greatest quality. I don't see digital being able to compete on a cost basis with disposable and low end point and shoot cameras/drug store processing and printing any time soon so I think the future of 35 mm color film and papers is pretty secure. OTOH, commercial photography is already pretty much digital. The pro labs in my area have all gone completely digital - no more wet processing at all. I only know a handful of pro photographers but they are all into digital almost exclusively. So the materials used mostly by pros - i.e. medium and large format color film - is probably in some trouble. Doesn't mean it will disappear but it probably will go up in price and way down in choices. One of the big differences between pros and fine art/serious amateurs is that the pros all can pass the cost on to a client, so digital cost isn't the factor for them that it is for a non-pro. Black and white stuff should be pretty secure since it isn't used commercially to any great extent anyhow.

-- Brian Ellis (, November 12, 2001.

I find it funny that all those who welcome the demise of silver photography and embrace the technology of digital with a closed mind chanting comments relating the silver process to the stone age, when digital is trying to mimic its very outcome. So when you have copied it, I say welcome to the same era. Grab a tree stump, pull it up next to the fire and sharpen your spear because you really havent acheived anything that hasn't been done already.

-- James Christian (, November 12, 2001.

This is a really tough one for me, as I have been reading this thread go across my email over the past few days.

I am a large format newbie, and I am at the crossroads of either making an investment in an enlarger or in a scanner and a Piezography-enabled printer. Wow, what a tough one. I have the option of picking up a D5, 3 Nikkor lenses, model 400 cold light head, and a Jobo CPP2 for under $1400. Or, I can invest in digital equipment and save the 'wife factor' headaches of hogging the bathroom on weekday evenings.

I do love the qualities of a silver print. Nothing like the pure blacks you can get with a print from an enlarger, and the continuous tones.

I haven't seen any Piezography prints yet, but I am going to try to get in front of a few in the coming weeks. I am very proficient in Photoshop, due to my 35mm color work to date. I am skeptical as of what the final results a 'digital' print will look like, if I were to compare it to a silver print.

This is precisely the case. No matter which tools you use, ultimately, your vision and craftsmanship will show. Even though many more people will be taking up the mouse and doing their prints through a digital process, this good vision, or lack thereof, will show in the final image(s).

For me right now, it is not so much a financial or space issue. Yes, an enlarger will take up quite a bit of room, when you consider all of the chemicals required. Digital won't take as much room, but it will hit the pocketbook significantly.

It all winds down to one question: what do you want your final image to look like? This will make my decision easier. Who cares? If I decide I like the look of a Piezography print versus a silver print, my decision will be easy. However, I doubt it will be that easy. It is like somebody saying that a platinum print is better than silver prints. They are just different.

So, anybody want to make bets on what decision I will go with?

-- Andy Biggs (, November 12, 2001.

If you decide to go digital great, but there are several things you and anyone jumping into digital needs to do before you start buying.

When you've settled on a system and/or an individual piece of digital gear, go to every digital forum, sourcesite, any place you can find w/info regarding the problems, issues, conflicts, info on any additional items you have to purchase to make the gear work that aren't mentioned in the original promos.

Find out all the problems first, find out how good the software is, get a line on the manufacturers willingness to back up the gear if problems arise after your purchase. This will take time, but is time well spent.

-- Jonathan Brewer (, November 12, 2001.

Can Pixelography yet make an 8x10 as sharp as a fine contact print? Do the inks & pigments when put on current papers have the depth in the blacks & the brilliance in the highlights? Is there the feeling in listening to a printer head whap back & forth comparable to what we get watching a print come up in the developer? Part of our photographic endeavors is the tactile pleasure of working with the image at every step. Even with no electricity, I can process film and print it. I can hand coat papers, even making paper to hand coat if necessary. Best of all, my LF cameras don't crash, leaving me in the lurch when I have something that has to be done & my darkroom doesn't suddenly go on the fritz when I have to get a print out quickly. Pixelography is nice but so is photography. Pixelographers are targeting photography as the ideal they want to match rather than seeing it as a new alt process to master & push into different & new areas. A few are pushing the bounds with their images, using the medium for creative expression. They will make the new art its own form. Too many are simply re-hashing mediocrity and calling it "NEW & IMPROVED". Papers, chemistry & photo processes are still available and in many ways we have better products than ever before. Forte & Bergger and others supply papers that are capable of results to match anything ever done and are better than most of what has been made in the past. The real question is whether our talent can match modern materials... now & in the future.

-- Dan Smith (, November 13, 2001.

Andy if I were you I would still go for the traditional darkroom. Apparently you are already working with photoshop, so you would not loose any practice. The "wife factor" will be much worse when she sees how much you spent on the Epson and piezo equipment. The price you mention for all those darkroom articles is excellent and should last you for many many years, you will still be making silver prints with this gear long after your Epson and piezo combo are obsolete.

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (, November 13, 2001.

Richard mentioned woodwork and craftmanship; Raven wanted to know about availabity: the intersection of these can be seen by walking into a Home Depot.

I went into the "tool coral" and asked for a coping saw. I got the same dumb, rodent staring at a dinosaur, look I get when I go into the middle end photo chain-store and ask for a roll of 120 FP4. I go to the big two stores in my area and ask for a box of 4x5 film and I might just as well ask for a cabinet scraper at Home Depot -- even if they find it, will I get an ounce of usefull advise? No. I think we will still be able to get quality products at reasonable prices, but it will be mailorder or we have to drive a long long way, and then it will be a pleasuer to talk to someone who knows something. We just won't be able to run to the mall if we run out.

-- Dean Lastoria (, November 13, 2001.

Thirty years in the photo industry...from photographer to photo shop/lab owner to Photo Marketing Association certified photo consultant...I've met and have been schooled by many of the greats...I've build and operated many darkrooms...I've spent the last four years as photo Industry specialist to the Photo Waste Recycling Industry...It's time to get your head out of the vapors, your fingers out of the chemicals...visit and future is here...Adams would be all over this, if he was alive...on a visit to his home in Carmel, I noticed he had three different prints of Half Dome...same image in three different rooms...they were all different renditions...I asked him why...he said he felt different each time and used different materials, each time...Adams was a trained musician, he said, " The negative is like the score and the print the performance!" More dynamic range, longer life, environmental savvy process...Piezography...anyone want to buy an enlarger?

-- Tom Borello (, November 14, 2001.

No thanks, I have an enlarger that I'm enjoying just fine. I also use my computer for printing color. I don't have to turn my back on one to enjoy the other. They are not the same thing at all. I can print three versions of any negative I have but that doesn't mean that I should "get my head out of the vapors" like that is something bad. The future has ALWAYS been here, so I don't have to make a daily habit of turning my back on the past just to feel OK. Please understand that I'm not speaking from an anti-digital point of view. I use it a LOT. Piezography is great, but as many people have pointed out in this thread, the comparisons are always between what digital is becoming or can be, and what conventional photographs have been for decades. I'm not looking to replace what I already derive pleasure from as if it were outmoded. It's not.

-- Don Welch (, November 14, 2001.

Grey Wolf's rhetorical question about having a presentation document or a spreadsheet crash at a crucial moment reminds me of a time when I was a statistician for a large school district. I was running late for a board meeting, and there were documents ahead of mine in the print queue for the printer I ordinarily used, so I stopped at the board secretary's computer and printer to print out my overheads on my way in to give my presentation. Imagine my surprise when my charts and tables flashed on the screen: the printer had used some novelty font and all the numbers and text had been transformed into cute little pictures of forks and knives, palm trees, wineglasses....

But what I really came here to say was that for the last several weeks I've had two photo magazines lying open on my desk, to two similar, but very different, color "photographs" of white-trunked trees in autumn color: one a photographic print by Christopher Burkett, the other a photoshopped digital print by a photographer who will remain nameless. I used quotes because one I would call a photograph and the other I would call digital art, and I have been studying them very seriously to try to understand what the difference is: why the one looks so full of life and light, so real and inviting, so naturally and reverently beautiful, and why the other looks so artificial, so inert, so flat (I mean two-dimensional, not lacking in contrast, unfortunately!) and so... digital. What I've decided is it has a lot to do with not being able to leave well enough alone. Just a little too much unsharp masking, probably... definitely too much color saturation, too much contrast-- the whites too white and the darks too black, making the tree trunks look pasted onto the picture instead of growing within it.

I keep hearing that the new digital printing methods make photographs realer than real; I've even heard that they will revolutionize vision! I have yet to see a digital print that makes me gasp, at least not in an admiring way. If this is what "realer than real" means, Christopher Burkett has nothing to fear.

-- Katharine Thayer (, November 14, 2001.

You cannot master Photoshop until you learn one thing.....'quit while you're ahead'.

-- Jonathan Brewer (, November 14, 2001.

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