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Sunday, 13 November 2022


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A little second hand joy for a snowy Sunday morning is always nice. So happy for you Mike.

Golly, my copy of "The Negative," from 1968, 4th edition, doesn't mention the electronic future at all. Where does he say that in your later edition? I'll be there is an interesting study of photo evolution available to anyone with a library that includes all 7 or 8 editions of these classics.

[I don't remember exactly where it is--my darkroom books are in the barn someplace, hopefully all together--but my memory is that it's at the beginning (or maybe a chapter beginning?) of the last edition of the book published in Ansel's lifetime, the one published by NYGS in 1981, which John Sexton, who was Ansel's last assistant, helped with. --Mike]

Well I’m glad that you’re glad, but how can you accept having somebody else’s fingerprints on your prints? It’s not as if you don’t know how to do it… To my way of thinking, either you are author of your finished work or you are not; I don’t believe in semi-virgins. Were I a potential buyer of prints (from any photographer), which I am not, that he doesn’t do it all himself would the kiss of death.

[Great comment, and the topic deserves its own post. There is a lot to say about the issue, using many examples from among great and famous photographers. The bottom line is, some do their own printing and some don't. Ansel did, but TOP readers had their chance to acquire their very own prints made by Voja Mitrovic, the master printmaker for many years for Henri Cartier-Bresson, Josef Koudelka, and Sebastiao Salgado, none of whom made/make their prints themselves. The art world has various concerns around this, which would, as I say, be worthy of discussion. I'll put it on the list. --Mike]

Seeing a good print of one’s work is always a huge joy. And yet these days, so few do it anymore. Good for you.

Just think about all the joy you could have experienced over the last 5 years if you had somehow come up with the $3k it would have cost to buy a clean, used Leica Monochrom that I recommended at the time. (And all the money you could have subsequently saved chasing gear.)

Now I’ll remind you about the second part of my recommendation: buy yourself a nice 17 inch printer (not 13inch) to make those wonderful prints on your own. Either Epson or Canon, but one that is compatible with ImagePrint software, which is my last recommendation for optimizing your prints, and for saving time and effort. Full time soft proofing, superb custom profiles for virtually. all papers (including greyscale and different lighting conditions), automatically optimized printer settings, no worries about Adobe/Apple/Epson compatibility issues, etc. Another minor splurge, but you’ll thank me later. I’m 72, and I’m not wasting any time.

I won’t even get into the benefits of the M10 Monochrom.

It’s extremely enjoyable to watch someone have a magic moment of blissful discovery and new purpose. May your new path continue to give you joy, Mike! (And good for Ctein, too!)

Enjoy the future!



Not having to develop my prints and film strikes a chord with me. Being 78 yrs old and living a photographer's life since I was 21 I've stuck my hands in a lot of chemistry. Eventually, in 1982 after leaving the University of Oregon I was told in no uncertain terms To be done with the chemistry. A decision I don't regret...

What printer and paper/ink did Ctein use for your print?

[We'll provide final technical details in due course. We're still mid-process. --Mike]

The quote from "The Negative" is the second to the last paragraph of the introduction (pg. xiii) in the 1981 edition.

I know that living in the future feel! Back in the day I experimented with small 35mm cameras- none of them were as sharp as my Nikon, or as dreamily blurry as my Holga- it was always some unhappy medium.

I had already given up by the time the analog GR's came out, but I finally gave the digital version a try in 2016, and haven't looked back. In fact, it feels like I didn't become a photographer until I was 60 and finally gelled with that camera- all the time previous was time well spent studying, preparing, experimenting...

Very pleased to hear you so happy Mike.

Rob Campbell- Back in the analog days, custom darkroom printers would listen to your advice (perhaps even look at your previous work) and then give you an interpretation through their eyes and hands. Unless you had the name and money, it would always be a stylistic collaboration.

With digital, you submit the finished image as you see and want it. The printer's job is to finalize that image as faithfully and accurately as possible. They no longer actively determine where and how much to: dodge, burn, selectively alter contrast, etc. The resulting print is not an aesthetic interpretation of the image you submitted, it should be a faithful reproduction from one viewing medium to another. Granted, that's not a completely seamless transaction and some adjustment may be necessary, but once the technical parameters have been set to achieve the result you submitted, the resulting digital print is very much your own vision.

Awesome to read how happy you are Mike. Glad to see you’ve found your groove with digital B&W.

Might I suggest that you not look to life expectancy tables - they’re only useful for telling gov’t & actuaries about large groups of people, not individuals.

If you want an idea of your own life expectancy, I understand you need to look to:
- look at the lifespan of your parents, grand parents etc, I.e. your genetic potential
- physical health, diet, exercise etc
- mental health, social interaction, continuing to use your grey matter & learning new things, as has been discussed previously on TOP

That’s from a general understanding. I’m sure others with more qualified and experienced backgrounds than me can clarity.


What paper stock are you printing on for these?


Stan B.-
I'd have to politely disagree. No matter how well you profile your monitor, no matter how skilled you are with Photoshop, the image on the monitor and the print in your hand are still two fundamentally different mediums.

Today I made some large prints for my son, using images I shot with an X-T4 back in June when we visited him in Oregon. I made them look as good as I could in Photoshop, and then made some test prints. This invariably becomes an iterative process of adjustment and refinement, because the two image forms are not interchangeable. The curves layers that produce a glowing on-screen image aren't the same ones that make a print sing.
Of course, maybe it's just me.

I'm delighted to hear how delighted you feel about your camera and the results.

Life expectancy tables are not destiny, just as your genes aren't. I'm 80. My father died at 50, my mother at 53. My mother's sister at 98. The IRS RMD tables concur with my aunt. A lot depends on how you live your life. And luck. So, I figure between zero and 18, but it could go higher. I just need to stay in good enough shape to make use of the years I get. But, there's no time to waste!

Reply of sorts to Rob Campbell. Rob, you can't avoid someone else's fingerprints on your work. It starts with the sensor designer (or film chemistry), goes on to the limitations of processing software, and finally to the printer, paper, ink or emulsion, etc. that you use. All of them are produced by someone else. Working with a custom printer means that you specify the esthetic qualities that you want in the final image, and the expert in using the technology carries out your vision. I know that may not satisfy the particular visceral feel of connection that you as a photographer have towards your work, and that's valid. But for myself, I recognize that every bit of the process is a collaboration between me and engineers, chemists, optical designers, etc., most or all of whom I will never meet, and whose names I will never know.

[Amen to this. This topic would also make a good post. --Mike]

I’m happy for you Mike. That must be very satisfying.

I look forward to reading the technical details, particularly about the printer, paper and ink.

In the comment by Scott Kirkpatrick and your response...I don't remember exactly where it is....I have the NYGS 1981 copy of the Negative and the quote you refer to is at the beginning of the book in the Introduction P. xiii, second to the last paragraph.

Um, not to jinx anything, but it's sure nice that the full post, including photos and featured comments, is now again readable in the RSS feed.

Hey Mike--I'm glad that this setup is making you so happy!!

I remember the quote you cited from Ansel. "The Negative" was one of my favourite books then. He also had already chromogenic Black and White films covered, which was one of the latest developments then. Not the tabular-grain black and White films though, these came a little later. Adams was always up to date technically. Not only a great photographer, but also a gifted writer - and this is an understatement. I do hope you and me will live longer than he did … Maybe the darkroom fumes are not so healthy after all.

I plowed thru my computer files and found this:

Ctein on digital printing

Optimising for the screen and optimising for the print are two very different processes. The colour spaces of a slide and of a print are quite different. What you see on the screen is not what you will see on your print, even using soft proofing. You need to process your files in a way that doesn’t always look good on screen but will be optimal in the print.

In a printer mindset, the screen is an intermediate tool. Never get invested in what you see on the screen.

I recommend you simply pull up an image you like on your screen, straight out of camera, and make basic edits and corrections. Just get the tone and colour roughly correct, don’t try make it look perfect on screen.

Print that photograph in A4/letter and let it lie a little. When you come back to it, note what you don’t like about it. Is the contrast wrong ? Too dark ? Too light ? Does it need dodging or burning it? Write notes on the print, use it as a learning tool.

Go back to the computer and correct what doesn’t feel right on the print. Then print again, let it lie and re-evaluate it.

After you’ve printed 3 or 4 of these, the picture won’t look good on screen but the print should be much better than the first version. As I said, with time and experience, you will be able to make perfect adjustments in just one or two iterations.

Digital photography is digital photography. Why not model many of the olden processes, such as: Daguerreotype, Calotype, Albumen, Ambrotype, Tintype, or Collodian.

Regarding "ownership" when the shooter and the printer are two different people, I remember reading in some photography magazine several decades ago where they interviewed one of the darkroom masters from Life Magazine. He had some amazing stories of the world famous photographers, people most of us know, being saved by the darkroom magic accomplished by people that almost nobody could name.

One time he relayed in the article, a very famous shooter whose work many of us may have on our book shelves (I have three books by this person) sent the lab multiple rolls of film with a note attached that simply exclaimed, "Help!"

So who's the hero here? I don't know.

As happens so often, one of your posts made my morning. Lovely stuff, Mike!

I know you don’t encourage folks having direct chats here, so I won’t take that route. What I will do is say that yes, I agree that the topic of image control, where it begins and where it ends, is deserving of its own thread. I do hope you follow that through.

A couple of people engaged with my post, so yeah, there are differing views on the matter; I’ll just say that in my working experience there were two ways to do it: you were a big operation with in-house darkrooms (where I learned my job); you were a single operator who farmed out the film for both processing and printing. In my own case, I was one of those guys who did not want to grow - as in employing staff - but discovered that the way that worked for me was to do absolutely everything myself, and that making more money was a matter of seeking better clients, not increasing the number of small shoots.

An important lesson that I learned, but many did not: you can’t start with a client working cheaply and then raise prices for the same type of job on future gigs. Clients type-cast you from the very start.

A major difference between the 60s, when I hung out my shingle, and today: folks pretty much all had to have their own studios. I rented my first one until the studio work fell away and the travel gigs became my lot; Sod’s Law guaranteed that within a few months of closing the place, I’d need to hang 9ft rolls of paper again. That last time, we built our own studio alongside the house.

The deep delight you express here is contagious. So glad this experiment worked out so well—it's inspiring.

Some time ago I wrote a rant about "hand made" prints as in analog, "darkroom," chemically developed prints. Some local folks argued that that's the only REAL way to do photography because it's "hand made." I reminded them that "they" merely operated the different parts of the "machine." They didn't make the camera or the lens; they certainly did not make the film, the paper and on and on.

So, my point is that if you are happy with Ctein's printing, and I suspect most of us would be, no need to defend the decision. Personally I am one of those who prefers to do it all myself but that is because I can. I'm blessed with the funds to afford an excellent printer and ink, and paper and most importantly have both the time and the inclination to do it all myself. For me, it's a sense of pride in the finished product.

By the way, painters do not make their own paint, canvas, and on and on.

That sounds awesome, Mike! I'm very happy to hear it. And as far as the "must print your own work, or not" discussion. I was always lousy in the darkroom, and then w digital never had a good printer off my own so gallery prints were always sent out to the pros.... but now I have a printer I got from a friend (Canon Pro-10) which is good enough for me for now and, boy oh boy, I have got a lot to learn.

I’m glad to see the digital 4X5 is performing as expected, and that it brings such a high level of satisfaction. Bodes well for the future.

As for the past, I’d have to question the idea that Ansel Adams did his own printing. Supervised, yes, and to infinite detail. A look at the markups showing how he wanted to see the raw image manipulated would make some of today’s Photoshop wizards run for the exit.

Very happy for your excitement - both for you and for us. This creative spark will certainly benefit the readers of TOP as well!

Your postcard from Ansel Adams is a real treasure. It records that in 1982 you were living on a nice street in Bethesda, in a tidy colonial house with Palladian symmetry.


[My father bought that house for cash. He hated debt. He would have liked Dave Ramsey. --Mike]

Hi Mike, I am very happy to read about your special experience and your happiness about it. Long may it continue!

In terms of gear, though, it is only because of your, shall I say eccentric, inability to work with a colour mirrorless camera set to monochrome mode, that the fp-m is at all necessary.

I think it is important for readers to note that they can get the ‘full experience’ from any unmodified mirrorless camera.


Love seeing you have such fun again with your photography. And from the image of the prints I can already tell the difference between a proper print and the same image on screen. I have the same with my own images where for me they always look much better and more like real photos when printed.

Life is Good!

All this excitement motivated me. I recently bought a used Z7, and my Z6 was sitting unused. On a whim, I contacted Monochrome Imaging Services to see if they could do a Nikon. He's going to give it a shot. To the post office it goes tomorrow.

I don't do envy. DAMN IT. Yes, I am envious.

My wife is a joy and an angel. With but a single flaw. She HAAAAATES black and white photography. Loves colour photography. But B&W. Nooooo.

Ages ago, when I bought Here Far Away, by Pentti Sammallahti (on your recommendation), I couldn't share it with her. Nor can I print/hang any B&W photographs in our new home. It's a language she doesn't understand.

But you! You not only have carte blanche on B&W hanging, you also get to share your joy with people like us, and even get paid for it.

I'm super happy for you Mike. You're set. Your setup is such a great foundation for future photographic endeavours. And Ctein as your Master Printer? Wow.

[Thanks, but just one point of order...Ctein is no more "my" master printer than he can be your master printer:



About the Leica Monochrome, I guess you painted yourself into a corner, but IMO it is usually not a good idea to do A vs B testing when one is satisfied with your current product (i.e., A). Minor differences become seemingly important and it is potentially a bad scenario.
(Of course if you are not satisfied with A, then it is the right thing to do. But this is not the case.)

In response to Scott Kirkpatrick:
"Golly, my copy of "The Negative," from 1968, 4th edition, doesn't mention the electronic future at all."

There are actually two very different versions of The Negative (and the other books). The first series was called the Basic Photo Series, and began in 1948. I don't know when the last editions of those books appeared, but probably before digital photography was on many people's radar.

The second series is the Ansel Adams Photo Series, and The Negative in that series first appeared in 1981. The two series are very different, and the writing in the later one is much better, which I suspect owes a great deal to the collaborators and editors!

Way to go, Mike!

You found it.

Best wishes,


This story goes back to 2003. My first digital camera was the six-megapixel Canon 10D. My first gig after acquiring the 10D was a bridal portrait, for which I packed my usual equipment – a Pentax 6x7 loaded with Fuji NPH color negative film. Just for fun, I decided to take along the new 10D and do a few shots with it as well. I wound up shooting every pose with both cameras, and because I didn’t yet know about the advantages of RAW, I shot jpegs in the 10D.

After looking at the files, I said to myself “Hummmh!” I selected a file and a 6x7 negative from similar poses and took them to my local, very good, professional lab and had a 16x20 print made from each. When the lab owner gave me the prints, he said “Hummmh!” Another commercial photographer friend, a Mamiya RZ67 shooter, walked in just then and when he saw the prints and was told what they were, he also said “Hummmh!”

Then he said “I was saving some money for a trip to Europe this summer, but maybe I need to look into this digital thing!”

To shorten the story, I showed the prints to a number of my experienced commercial photographer friends and some of the art directors I worked with and asked them to tell me which was which. Only one could tell them apart, and that was because, as I later learned, the digital file had more depth of field.

The fact is that a group of experienced professional photographers and art directors couldn’t tell the difference between a 16x20 printed from a jpeg from a six-megapixel digital camera and one printed from a 6x7 film negative!

By the way, I'm 85 and still fully active --just finished the 2nd edition of my book "Backroads and Byways of Georgia" and am working on my next book, "Lost Barns of Rock City."
My parents were 90 and 91, respectively.
Think young. Thinking old will kill you.

I doubt the 10-year-old CCD Monochrom will be much of a threat to the Sigma fp(m). First, it's likely just plain technically outclassed by the Sigma. Secondly, you've already done your time with an M camera and have moved on.

I was a little surprised you agreed to try it out (the Monochrom), given that it's the "day before yesterday's" model and of likely lesser interest to readers than the new ones (which I guess is the M10 mono). However I'm very interested in your thoughts on it in general, not necessarily how it compares to X or Y other camera.

Glad to see you're glad, and this whole thing has opened quite a few new avenues of conversation, which many of us have enjoyed reading. All the best!

I am sure Ctein or any master printer would do a better job than I, but I enjoy the printing part of the photography process - there's something about having made an image right through to the paper print. I've recently been exhibiting larger prints (about A0 size) and don't own a printer large enough (and never will). I felt I was losing something until I realised that the inks were close to identical to my P900 - so if I worked the prints to what I wanted (or as close as I could get given my technical skill level), the came out exactly the same from the print shop (who are master printers), just bigger. Problem solved. Oh yes, when it comes to selling exhibition prints, it is wonderful to be able to make exact replicas at the touch of a button; I could never ever get two prints exactly the same in a darkroom- but again, I'm no master printer!


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