In an effort to simplify my hybrid film workflow I experimented with a variety of films, developers, and scanning and post-processing techniques, but I did so in a haphazard manner and didn’t come up with any clear answers. I’d just about given up when I hit on the idea of simplifying one thing at a time, and finally everything fell into place.
[SPOILER: The answer turned out to be Tri-X, developed in Rodinal, scanned as RAW with a digital camera, and post-processed with nothing more than inverting, setting the black and white levels and adjusting the gamma.]
The first thing I did was to settle on a way of evaluating the results. For me, photography is all about the prints. My largest print size is 8 by 12. I decided to make straight 8 by 12 prints on Red River Premium Matte double-sided 8.5×14 paper using the ABW Neutral setting of my Epson R2880.
Next was post-processing. With everything else essentially on autopilot, exposure and development of the negatives would take on increased importance. And one thing I had learned from my earlier experiments is that variations in exposure and development are more visible in RAW files than in JPG’s. So RAW files it would be. And I had found that the absolute minimum post-processing RAW scans needed was inverting and setting the black and white levels. That seemed like a reasonable goal.
Next was scanning. I have access to an Epson V700 flatbed scanner, a Plustek 8100 film scanner, and a Leitz BEOON copy stand. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, but for simplicity and speed, especially with RAW files, the BEOON with a digital camera is head and shoulders above either of the other two options. This was a no brainer.
Developer was an easy choice too. I have more experience with Rodinal than with all of the other dozen or so developers I have tried combined, and the results have often, but not always, been very good, especially with slower films. I have said before that if a film doesn’t work well with Rodinal I won’t use that film. Now I am saying that if a film doesn’t work well with Rodinal, and with RAW scans with a digital camera, and with minimal post processing I won’t use that film.
[I was going to write next about how I was dragged kicking and screaming into the Tri-X camp, but I ran out of steam. I’ll cover that and some of the fine tuning I’ve been doing with my post-processing in the next post.]