My dear, long-time friend David Dyer-Bennet (known to his friends as DD-B) was out here visiting a week back. I invited DD-B, who is another lifelong avid photographer, to bring along some photographs that he might want play with printing on my Epson 9800 printer.
One of the photographs DD-B chose to bring along was one that he had made back in college, in 1975, at the Lincoln Memorial. It had been photographed on 35 mm Tri-X under somewhat trying conditions. The exposure was just barely adequate, the two workers almost fading into the D-min of base + fog.
For as long as I've known him DD-B has been trying to make a satisfactory print of this photograph. He's revisited the negative periodically over the three decades since its creation, striving unsuccessfully to pull a print from it that really made him happy.
Finally, last weekend, 32 years after the image was "captured" he got a print he wanted to keep. Better prints may well be possible, but it's passed the threshold from "this is unacceptable to me" to "I enjoy looking at this." It never had before.
DD-B started with a good quality drum scan of the negative, and I worked considerable magic on it in Photoshop, using the Shadow/Highlight tool and local contrast enhancement via Unsharp Masking. There were a number of local corrections made, some curve reshaping, corrections for keystoning, cropping, grain and sharpness fine-tuning, etc.
But, honestly, precisely how we worked the photograph and who contributed which bits of photographic expertise really isn't important. For all I know, a traditional darkroom worker more skilled than DD-B could have made an equally lovely print. The Epson 9800 certainly eliminated a lot of the drudgery. We were able to produce a gorgeous 20 in. by 28 inch photograph; the last time DD-B tried working with paper in the darkroom of any truly substantial size it involved sponging down sheets with developer on a large table, for lack of suitable tray space.
All that's really important is that DD-B never gave up on this photograph. Few of us would regularly revisit a decades-old neg to see if our improved skills had made what we envisioned for the photograph realizable. DD-B did, and his faith in his vision and his perseverance have produced a rich and evocative image.
Ctein (Photo: David Dyer-Bennet)