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Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Comments

@Ctein -I'm enjoying this series a lot.

Your efforts at fixing fringing reminded me of my own struggle making dye prints from 5x7" glass plates shot on a one-shot color camera. If you've never seen one, Google it and you'll see something that looks like a cubist's interpretation of a camera.

This oddity from the very early days of color, used mirrors and prisms to direct the image from a single lens to three different pan B+W glass photo plates. The three plates had a red, green or blue separation filter in the path from the lens in order to create color separations.

The red and green were developed more or less the same and the blue was developed longer. Post-masking was usually done to adjust contrast and compensate for the red reflection of the Kodak cyan, which made skin colors look unnatural.

The hard part came when you realized that the image rendered on the three plates was not the same size. The solution was the same as yours - bump the enlarger up or down. I was printing 30x40" dye transfers, so I may have been covering a range of half an inch or more in moving the enlarger head.

I made these prints in the 80's for a client who did corporate portraits. At first it seemed like an interesting approach, but soon I wondered why anyone would use this Rube Goldberg camera when they could buy modern color film.

I had a go at this back in the 70's, and since my then (and still!) heroes Jay Maisel, Ernst Haas, and Pete Turner all shot Kodachrome, I learned to make separation negatives from transparencies. I found that the "big boys" were all making ENLARGED (not contact) separations, and since I had access to a friend's 4 X 5 enlarger, unlike the pro labs use of 8 X 10, I ordered a registration punch and corresponding glass plate with pins from now out-of-business Condit Mfg. of Sandy Hook, Ct. I got a negative carrier for the Omega enlarger that took slides, a Kodak step wedge, and a Kodak "visual" densitometer, which I always thought of as the "eye strain special"(!), and a piece of glass to put on TOP of the film being exposed, supplied by my best friend's Uncle who was in the auto glass business. I then set to work making trial exposures on 4 X 5 separation film, adjusting, trying again, adjusting, etc. until I could make matching H & D curves plotted on graph paper. Masks were another story - when I visited local dye labs I found, before I got the "Go away, kid - I got work to do" spiel, that NONE of them were doing the way the Kodak manual said - they were ALL making THREE (R, G & B) highlight masks, rather than ONE "white light." I visited the now defunct Brooks Institute School of Photography in Santa Barbara to ask the teacher who did the dye transfer instruction part of their color course why, and he said "They make three highlight masks? Really? I wonder why they would DO that?" I realized I was wasting my time there! If I remember correctly, when I did it this way, with density "aim points" supplied by L.A. area pro practitioners like the late Bob Pace, there was not just highlight information recorded on them but curve SHOULDER info, as well.
I worked in a camera store for a year and talked up dye transfer to anyone who would listen, which resulted in a guy coming in who worked at Mattel Toy Co. who was dabbling, too. This guy had experience making and rolling matrices, so we took a couple of sets of my masked separations and made small prints that looked very good, so I knew I was on the right track - I figured that when I retired someday I would rent a garage somewhere and "go all out," which of course never happened what with the phase-out of material availability and the rise of inkjet printing.
I did visit New York City in the 70s and had two very nice dyes made from Kodachromes at K&L Color Lab and took slides of their facility which I still have - the big room with the "mat rolling tables," the point-light-source(!) enlargers used to make separations on 8 X 10 film, even the bottles of "immersion oil" use to mount the transparencies in their pin register carriers (and the ultrasonic cleaners used to subsequently GET THAT OIL OFF the transparencies!)
So far I've seen Ctein refer only to prints made from color NEGATIVES using panchromatic matrix film, so ... what happened when clients like Jim Marshall brought in their TRANSPARENCIES for printing - did Ctein make or have made INTERNEGATIVES, or what?

Most processes in photography and this is true of processes in general are someplace on a line of continuity between extremely controllable and flexible at one end and extremely reliable and repeatable at the other. Extremely controllable and flexible is the nice way of saying “kind of unstable yet predictable ”. My extremely limited experience with dye transfers is mostly from working in a studio that would occasionally have dye transfer prints made in order to do rather radical color changes. Changing a band’s purple leather outfits to yellow for example. The lab we used charged at least $5000 a print back in 1979 and flat out refused to make a pair of identical prints, end the borders were a mess. Printing dye transfers in editions the way you describe just blows my mind. It reminds me of some “obviously it’s possible, how hard can it be?” projects of my own where the only reason I was successful was I was to ignorant to know how hard it was.

Ctein,

I love these stories. I grew up at Kodak; my father was a photographic chemist in research (late 50's through early 00's). I don't know the players, but there were a lot of great people I met at Kodak through my dad, as well as when I was working there in the 80's (in college, and then again in pharma research).

At a previous TOP print sale I bought dad your Hawaiian dye transfer print (ferns on black lava). It was a really nice gift for him for a couple reasons: he loved the dye transfer print process (and thought you had done a beautiful job with this print), and he had visited Hawaii in the late 80's to accept the Photographer's Society of America Progress Award (with Bob Booms) for the invention of the T-grain.

Looking forward to next Friday! When will lines be open?

Ctein,

When I'm reading all this, I can now fully understand your need to go all-in on digital. Everything you are describing is something for which digital is way better in every way. Maybe up to the point of the print, but then your the expert there.

I'm sure going to order at least one print through your generous layaway payment scheme.

Dear Paul,

Oh yeah, one-shot cameras! Although the name always struck me as funny, since it makes three photographs at the same time. (Yeah, I get why... it still hits my funnybone.)

Lou Charno had (has?) one of those. She ran a major portrait studio and dye transfer printing lab in Kansas City up until the mid-1980s. I did some printing for her when she was overcommitted. A Kodak manufacturing screw-up kinda drove her out of business (details in an upcoming column) and one of the ways Kodak mollified her was by giving her a case or three of glass plates cut for her camera.


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

Highlight masking was always a weird thing and a controversial subject. Ditto color-correction masking, although more or less necessary when printing from slides. Emphasis on the more or less. Frank McLaughlin was the opinion that if you had a really clean, flare-free setup, you didn't need a highlight bump mask. I don't know if he was right in general about that, but I found that when I was printing transparencies most of the time I didn't.

Color-correction masking should have been always necessary, for technical reasons I won't get into here. But for some reasonI don't understand, I could get excellent and accurate color from slides without them. I have no idea why, except maybe it was because I was using unusually narrow-cutting separation filters. Maybe that was all it took. I never looked the gift horse in the mouth and investigated deeply.

I've been talking only about making prints from color negatives because, for myself, that was the only printing I ever did. 99% of my color work was with negatives. The very few transparency photographs worth adding to my portfolio, I never got around to printing as dye transfers. Happily digital printing made that irrelevant.

The vast majority of my clients were providing me negatives, because I was one of the very few printers who knew how to make good prints from them. Almost everybody in the dye transfer business specialized in transparencies, because most of the printing was for the advertising market and that's what product and advertising photographs were made on.

But, yes, when I printed for Jim Marshall (and a few others) I worked from his original transparencies.


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

Dear Hugh,

Well, yes, that was one of my misconceptions — that dye transfer was 100% perfectly reproducible, because chromogenic printing was and dye transfer was, of course, better.

Such charming naïveté.

Not to put a fine point on it, I simply developed the chops so that my printing WAS reproducible. You wanted 10 or 20 dye transfer prints that matched to within 1 CC of color? I was the person to do it for you. Of course, most printing didn't require that level of reproducibility, not even for my own portfolio. But when it did, I could.

The kind of color-swapping work you're talking about, though, that's really hard and requires a lot of hand fussiness. Indeed, exactly duplicating it from print to print is pretty much impossible.

If I may ask, which lab did you work for? $5,000 a print back in 1979 was at the absolute top of the scale. I'm sure the results were worth every penny.

~~~~

Dear Jim,

I never met your father but I sure knew who he was — I kept up on all that kind of technical stuff. And I'm sure we had friends in common at Kodak, like Dick Dickerson and Sylvia Zawadski (the inventors of the fabulous Xtol developer).


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

Hi Ctein,

I certainly knew Dick, but never met Sylvia... God, I really miss the 'good ole' days' of Kodak. It's a shame that mismanagement messed that company up so much, because they had a tremendous amount of smart, clever scientists at that company!

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