My first college class in photography covered black & white films and the 4 inch x 5 inch view camera. I enjoyed the extensive controls and thoughtful approach to photography which a view camera provides and was impressed with the exceptional image quality that could be achieved with large format film. It wasn’t long before I acquired my own 4 x 5 camera and darkroom and I have pursued large format photography ever since.
Most of my vacations from work as a college professor were intensive photography jaunts which provided exercise, fresh air and plenty of natural beauty. I am retired now and live in Tennessee near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park where I often photograph.
From the beginning, my goal has been to move people emotionally with black & white prints which exhibit exceptional technical quality and artistic strength. I began photography before the advent of digital imaging so I initially recorded images on film and printed on silver paper in the wet darkroom. However, I was an early adopter of digital photography in my university research work and used both conventional and high-speed digital imaging extensively for scientific applications. At home, I continued to make personal “art prints” using traditional darkroom techniques because film was hard to beat for black & white imaging and silver prints were superior to early digital prints.
The evolution of digital printing has been spectacular and my personal photography took a slightly different route a few years ago. I still believe that large format black and white film is hard to beat for acquiring images to be rendered as large black & white prints. However, I also believe that digital image editing and digital inkjet printing now can generally outperform conventional darkroom printing in terms of the number of image adjustments that can be made and the time required to make them.
Consequently, I currently combine traditional large format film-based image acquisition with high quality film scanning (drum scanning), digital editing and digital printing to produce images of exceptional quality. This general approach to photography works well for me. Since I don’t depend on photography to pay the rent, I have the advantage of being able to take my time to obtain quality at each step. For example, I carefully drum scan every film to obtain the best possible digital file even though drum scanning is quite time-consuming and tedious. Different photographic approaches are advocated by others and are more suitable for their needs and I hope that you simply judge the benefits of my photographic approach by the images that are produced.
Randall R Bresee