After years of creating 8X10″ black and white contact prints, I am generally able to look at a negative and, after a quick inspection, decide if it’s going to be a struggle or not to create a quality print. Using the Zone System, I would typically expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights. As long as I was able to capture information on film, I was going to give it my best shot to transfer that image on to paper. I sought out developers such as Amidol, and papers like Azo, which would give the longest tonal range, thereby increasing my chances of a successful print.
Still, there were those negatives where the dynamic range was so long, that no matter how I manipulated the process, the resulting print was less than satisfactory.
What I have discovered is, my Epson V700 scanner is able to capture, (thanks to its 4.0 Dmax) just about all of the information found in my negatives, no matter how extreme the dynamic range! Once converted to a digital file, the power of Adobe Lightroom takes over.
Below is an image that caused me many hours of frustration in the analog darkroom. I could just never get it the way I wanted it. But now, this previously impossible to print negative is indeed printable.
In order to create the best scan for this process, I have found that by making a scan where the shadows have enough detail, and the highlights are not blown out, I am able to work that file to create the longest tonal and contrast range possible in Lightroom. What use to take countless hours in the darkroom, (which left me perhaps frustrated at times) can be completed in a fraction of the time.
I still have fond memories of the darkroom. The solitude, the concentration and lack of distractions. The music. The smells.
I use to curse the fact that my career landed right smack in the middle of the digital revolution. Now I realize just how lucky I am. Because of the digital process, I am now able to print the UN-printable.