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Thread: Digital Negatives.... Sheesh

  1. #11

    Digital Negatives.... Sheesh

    So, another little bit of a vent here! Apologies in advance.

    I thought I'd weigh, for what it's worth. I purchased and spent a lot of time with the PDN system because I had read very good things about it, and am not afraid of putting in the time necessary to establish my own curves. I have done it successfully for VDB and cyanotype using the Reeder and Hinkel book. I'm pretty good at "reading and following directions". I wanted to use the PDN system for gum bichromate.

    I don't want to sound "negative" (groan) but I really had trouble with the PDN e-book. I found it somehow over-engineered (too long, for one thing), not that well organized, and unnecessarily complex - or something. Mark is obviously a smart guy, but he needs an editor. There are also some annoying and confusing errors, such as captions not matching the illustrations. Part of my problem was that as soon as I bought it, Mark came out with curve calculator II, which is an additional cost. Maybe that makes it a lot easier, but I was bummed and sorta dug in my heels on putting more money into it. I have no doubt that it works well for Pt/Pd, cyanotype, silver, even photogravure, but gum is trickier because you can control the print with combinations of development, exposure, pigment, etc. Furthermore, each pigment is different so you need a curve for each one you use. That adds up to a lot of work. I knew the process would be tedious and painstaking but I almost went blind and crazy. As it turns out, printer settings are *crucial* and many people have trouble even getting started because printers and their drivers are so diverse. this from observing the traffic on the PDN Yahoo forum.

    Honestly, I finally decided that for my way of working, I was better off using a tip we learned from Christina Anderson at the workshop at Photographer's Formulary last summer. For her shorter workshops (not her University courses, where she teaches PDN), to make things simple, she suggests a generic "10/80" curve. It's actually a straight line with values of 10,0 and 80,100 (output, input). It works amazingly well. I think the reason is that most alt processes tend to enhance contrast. This curve (not a curve, really, just a line) flattens the image. I routinely use it for tricolor gum with cyanotype as the blue layer. (My own cyanotype curve was for a different paper than I use for gum). I also print my negatives in color mode but it's a grayscale image in RGB mode. I don't use a special UV-blocking color. It's good enough for me. Check out my flickr stream and website for examples of my gum prints. My VDBs from a few years ago are curved with my own curve for that process.

    Disclaimer: for yellow gum I do use both the 10/80 curve and a curve that Chris and some of us derived during the workshop. Yeah, it took about 5 of us working as a team to do the exposures, data entry, yada yada to get some curves made in short order. And to her credit she honored Mark's copyright by working only with those of us who had purchased his book.

    Curves are great, and if you like doing that sort of thing (making a lot of test prints and getting it perfect), then by all means don't let me discourage you. I really liked the Reeder and Hinkel book.
    As Earl said, each person has to decide for him-or-her-self.
    I have more fun making prints.

    OK, end of rant. It's a long one, too!

    PS. another online resource that I found helpful.

  2. #12

    Digital Negatives.... Sheesh

    Mary, thanks for the rant. It seems like we have similar frustrations, and I'm glad I'm not the only one. Thanks a ton for the quickie curve tip. I'll be making some negatives shortly, and I'll be using it. I want to make some prints, and get a feel for the process before I get to hung up on perfecting my negatives. I'll eventually try to work through some of the PDN stuff, but for now I just want to make prints.

    Also, thank you, and everyone else for the resources!

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