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Monday, 28 October 2019


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Fascinating. Can't wait to read more. One correction: Petersen's Photographic, versus Peterson's.

That is how life wants to be lived. We perceive something that we know matters to us, and we allow ourselves to follow it through and to get it right, without undue concerns about the costs. Easier for the young, perhaps, but we can all preserve some of that energy and rawness and allow it to continue to shape our path. A great story, you got me hooked.

Not relevant to this post, but I just wanted to thank Ctein for answering my previous comment regarding digital infrared. I’m catching up on my reading and was oh so pleasantly surprised to see his reply. I can’t figure out how I missed those three articles way back when; In addition to faithfully reading TOP for years, I was also very immersed in digital IR at that time (and through the present). Again, thank you!

About the same time as Ctein, I, too, learned of the beauty of dye-transfer prints and the even more difficult process of pigment printing. I was in high school and soon to college in the mid 1970s. Part of my college curriculum color printing. There were three sections, Positive-positive, then using I think the Kodak 500 system, C-printing with the then staring C-41 & RA-4 process (I think) and the one few would venture and try, Dye Transfer.

Though this class was on the curriculum, it came with no hands-on training and I was off on my own.

I was in! Luckily, my mentors of the process were fully into the process or knew who to ask. Phil Hyde and Al Weber answered many questions for me and offered their guidance.

The first couple of prints took weeks to learn the craft and run the numbers of the separation negatives with a densitometer, each round getting me closer. Finally, success!

I spent a summer session doing a couple more and getting a little better than was asked to teach the next couple of students the process since I was considered the "expert" at college, but in a semester, neither got too far.

I still have several of those prints today. However, I realized though this was the ultimate process, Cibachorme then coming into fruition, was more to my liking and the skills and craft I learned doing dye transfer went far into taming many of the issues of printing with this medium.

Shortly after my trials and tribulations, there in Petersen's PhotoGraphci was Ctein! Many of the issues he had written about were similar to what I had spent months overcoming. It was simply a matter of timing and perhaps I, too, would have continued this unique process.

"Ignorance is sometimes bliss. Mostly, though, it's just ignorance."

That sums up my entire early photographic exploits (and plenty of my later ones too).

Great story! Looking forward for more!

I first learned of the dye transfer process about 30 years ago, when the Philadelphia Museum of Art hosted an exhibition of Richard Misrach's prints. Many were dye transfer process. I loved the prints. So, what is dye transfer? I acquired a "how to" book, investigated Kodak's materials costs, and realized that I needed a darkroom, which I then built.

Long story short, my wife gifted me with a block of flying lessons. I couldn't do both at the same time, so dye transfer remained an orphaned project. Now, having just read the real-world how-to in your link, I'm glad I did. I believe I would have wasted LOTS of money. (Not that getting my pilot's license was cheap.)

My current fascination is carbon ink-sets for B&W printing. Any day now ....

I smiled when you mentioned Unicolor processing chemicals. The very first roll of film that I ever processed was in 1980. It was a roll of Ektachrome 64, which I processed using a Unicolor E-6 processing kit. I was dazzled when I saw the results. I still have slides from that processing job in a slide storage box somewhere.

(On a side note, I was an avid reader of columns written by Jason Schneider and Arthur Kramer in the old Modern Photography. I also remember buying and reading Peterson's Photographic back in "the day".)

I heard about the dye transfer printing process at around the same I started processing film myself. I think recall reading a very good article about it in a series called Marshall Cavendish's The Photo. I was fascinated by descriptions of the process, along with illustrations and photos showing how it was used to create prints. The first examples I had seen of selective-colour editing, which Photoshop handles with ease, was via the dye-transfer processing. I doubt I would have tried this process myself - it looked too laborious, and I would have had no idea about where to get the necessary materials and chemicals.

In 1984 I tried printing with pearl-finish Cibachrome, which I used to create very nice prints from my slides. I later used the glossy version to create prints that still hang in my parents' house, and look as good as the day I printed them in the mid-1990s.

I no longer try to print photographs, but I still enjoy reading about printing. I look forward to the next instalment of this series.

Dear Michael,

Ah yes, Ektaflex! The easiest imaginable way to make color prints from slides or negatives. It barely even required a darkroom! It also produced prints of excellent permanence and color quality. Like dye transfer, its dye set was much more accurate than other print materials, so the color fidelity was very good. In fact, I used it to proof negatives to give me some idea of how they'd look as dye transfer prints.

Ektaflex disappeared for two reasons. One was that it was extremely expensive, two to three times the cost of more conventional color prints. The other was that it, like Kodak's instant cameras, infringed on a number of Polaroid's patents! Polaroid sued, won, got a huge amount of money and forced Kodak to discontinue their instant cameras and Ektaflex.

Don't cry too many tears for Kodak, though. They got into the instant camera business to siphon off enough of Polaroid's revenue that Polaroid couldn't compete with them in product development. They never intended to make money off of that business, it was pure corporate warfare. Sleazy but legal. And, it worked — the money Polaroid got from the lawsuit was too little and too late.

- pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. Dragon Dictate in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery. http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations. http://photo-repair.com 

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