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Monday, 15 October 2007


Great story and a wonderful image finally realized.
It was just a few years ago that state of the art was a variable contrast cold light head, same negatives new paradigm, problem solved.

well worth struggling with.

Wow! What a photograph!

The irony is killing me. The emancipator with the "freed slaves" at his feet? Or is it better left unsaid? If so, forgive me.

Nice story. What do you think, could it relate to the "revisiting old 'failures'" topic?

Now that you mentioned DD-B, I _knew_ I saw your nick before, but have never thought to check over in rec.arts.sf.fandom until now...

I hadn't paid attention to the fact that the workers are black. I tend to see "people" before I see "Skin color". Those men in the photo have little in common with slaves though. As government employees they're likely paid very well to keep the Lincoln Memorial clean. Which is the way it should be. The government is about the only place one can get a living wage job anymore....wish they'd make everyone pay living wages.

I agree with Chris. I wouldn't mind paying $12.50 for a Whopper if I knew the the guy who slapped mayonnaise on my bun was making a "living wage".

Great story. And the advantage of a digital print is that he can crank out as many prints as he wants without any extra work. All of the printing skills just need to be done once - the first time....

I must say, the very thought of persevering to the point where a digital wizard comes to my aid is one I previously dared not even contemplate. It's on par with the "fantasy/wish fullfullment" scene in War Photographer where James Nachtwey orders his printer back a half dozen times to darken the sky, just a little bit more...

This is well off topic, but a bit of Googling leads me to believe that DD-B is the son of the late John Dyer-Bennet, legendary professor of mathematics at Carleton College. I was a student there shortly after he moved to emeritus status, and was not lucky enough to take a class from him. He was revered possibly above all other faculty members, which at Carleton was saying a lot.

This really is a terrific image with a "style" (sorry, I know this is a raw word around here right now -- I mean essentially framing and subject selection) that suggests it's from the 1960's. I think Bruce Davidson, for example, would be proud to claim this as his own. (http://www.magnumphotos.com/Archive/c.aspx?VP=XSpecific_MAG.BookDetail_VPage&pid=2K7O3R182NTR)

I'd really like to see the original scan also posted as a comparative point of departure.

Thirty years to get a good print. That's a very compelling tag line for, say, an Epson ad. Gilberti's "Gates of Paradise" took nearly 30 years to create and, more recently, nearly that long to restore. Seems like a reasonable time frame.

Dyer-Bennet is indeed an uncommon name, and you're right about John. Also, there's a musician by that name, another close relative.

I thought about posting the drum scan and decided against it because it's still a great departure from DD-B's early prints. If DD-B wants to scan an early print and make a JPEG available to Mike, I'm sure we can get it up here for comparison.

pax / Ctein

erlik: Yep, I do haunt r.a.sf.f fairly regularly (less so recently, but still some).

Stan Banos: It's amazing how much you can learn if you get to sit at the computer with a master printer and talk about what's being done! And it's an amazing amount of fun.

Nerdie McSweatervest: Your Google-fu was equal to the challenge. Yes, I'm the son of John Dyer-Bennet (and hence also the nephew of Richard, and also Fred and Christopher and Miriam).

Ctein: Currently I'm the only David Dyer-Bennet, and all the Dyer-Bennet lines are from the 5 siblings in my father's generation. So it's a rather small collection.

I'm reasonably certain I don't have any prints older than my LS-2000 scans still in file. As I recall, the darkroom prints were flat and hopeless, not the sort of thing I bother to preserve (though it would be nice to have for this situation, as it turns out).

As you say, a better darkroom printer might have been able to make something then; I don't know either. I certainly knew about paper grades, and dodging and burning, and selective development and such, but there are degrees of skill with the techniques, and there are techniques beyond those that I never did really get into in the darkroom.

They're Government employees -- one worker, one superviser.

Great yarn, and good lesson about perseverance, too.
I think it applies equally well to the taking of pictures, hanging around until the shot you've pre-visualized lines up just right.

Almost everything I shoot on film gets printed digitally these days. I save a lot of time working up difficult images like this with a program called Arkvis Enhancer. It's a very powerful Photoshop plugin that allows you to tweak images that are flat, too contrasty and over- or under-exposed.

Well, I found the box that was most likely to have prints from that vintage, but the closest hit was a dozen rolls away, so I don't think I'm going to be coming up with any old darkroom prints for us all to snigger at. Sorry, everybody; I'm as curious as you are.

Wow, that's impressive. I have a similar story of much less significance in that I recently dug up a Tri-X neg (35mmm) taken in an old beat up apartment I used to live in. It was a quick grab shot of a window with three cats inside and one cat outside. It was underexposed and I could never get a decent print. So I scanned the neg and poked and tweaked it in Paintshop Pro and came up with a decent image, at least for online.

I have not yet started exploring digital printing, as there seems to be so many pitfalls, but this is encouraging. What I really want is archival quality B&W digital printing that allows for slightly warm tones. When I find that, I'll be on my way.

Dear Blork,

Any of the recent Epson printers that use the Ultrachrome K3 inkset will get you what they want. The printer control panel for that inkset has an "Advanced B&W" option that turns out monochrome prints with you in control of the precise tone and color of the "B&W" print. It works like a charm-- absolutely believable. Very easy to use, too. No profiling, no color management or viewing space decisions, etc.etc.

Dunno what you mean by "archival quality" and I don't want to open that can of worms. I'll just say the K3 prints are the equal of darkroom prints. Having seen many darkroom prints of all stripes go belly up for one reason or another, take that for what you will. You're no more assured of 'permanence' in the darkroom than with a current gen inkjet printer.

pax / Ctein

I would just amend that to read, "You're no more assured of 'permanence' in the darkroom than with a current gen PIGMENT inkjet printer." Most dye-based inksets are still a different story (although a few are pretty good).

Mike J.

Wow, that's a great photo and a great story. I recently found a stash of marginal 35mm and 120 negatives my father had shot back in the 70's and 80's. He'd apparently given up on trying to print them using traditional methods. I've started scanning and reworking them in Photoshop, seeing what I can salvage. It's amazing how much latent information is present in even a less-than-perfect B&W negative.

I would amend that to "It's amazing how much latent information is present in even a less-than-perfect negative", BW or color. For my brother's recent 40th birthday I dug out some old color negs taken with my Canon Canonet. He was only in corners or small parts of each one (family line-ups, etc.) With an Epson scanner and PS I was able to crop him out and blow him up for near-life-size prints. OK, its not art. But it was surprisingly good. In addition to saying something about the info in 30-yo color negs, it probably also says something about the quality of the Canonet. Well-spent paper route money.

Dear Mike,

Reviewing all of Henry's data, I found only one current gen inkjet printer that didn't cut the mustard. Yes, it was one of the cheap Epson dye-based printers, but all the other printers, whether dye or pigment based, were entirely satisfactory. And among those, pigment prints were not necessarily longer-lived than dye.

I consider the belief that most dye inkjet printers produce short-lived prints is obsolete information.

In fact, if someone wanted to produce fairly large B&W prints of exhibition quality and had a limited budget, the only printer I'd recommend to them would be the HP Designjet 130. 24" wide output for the price of other companies' 16" printers, and prints made on the semi-gloss paper have exactly the same surface look of a traditional darkroom print-- no bronzing or differential gloss.

pax / Ctein

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