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Getting good B & W prints inspired me
Old 03-12-2012   #1
HLing
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Getting good B & W prints inspired me

From a relatively newbie perspective here (hopefully there are some here in the same boat):

After practicing a lot using C41 film (both color and B & W) for the quick feed back from a good and reasonably priced local lab, I have pushed the real B & W process quite a ways away, almost forgetting the initial excitement of developing and printing in a wet lab. In fact, having rolls of home developed film and no place/skill to print was starting to dampen the spirit quite a bit. (Scanning the negative only makes it worse for me). So, no more B & W rolls until there's a way to print.

Except the other day, I only had a roll of B & W on me at the time, and I HAD to use it. It took longer than usual to finish the roll for obvious reason. But when I finished it, I had remembered the recommendation of a fellow customer in Adorama, that he always gets his prints done at L & I in Manhattan, 22nd street.
So, I went. It was $16 dollors for a roll of 36 exposures, twice as much as my C41 place.

But, oh my, when i had the prints in my hands, looking at the light and dark and all the shades in between, and feeling the fine , solid paper (Kodak Professional Endura), I appreciated the film and my cameras so much more! At the same time I felt the need to improve my skill to be worthy of the look.

It was money well spent, even if it's a splurge at this point in time.

Anyway..not sure if anyone here can still relate, but just had to share in case some of you, like me, also didn't know you're in a rut...
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Old 03-12-2012   #2
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When in a rut, make prints!
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Old 03-12-2012   #3
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I like uploading shots but nothing beats holding a nice 11X14 print. It really gets me wanting to get out and shoot more. - Jim
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Old 03-17-2012   #4
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You are partially spoiled now. But you have to try fiber base prints next. Even an 8x10 will blow you away. There are not that many places that do hand processing anymore. I'm lucky to be in Cleveland, and use LabWork. They do work for a lot of out of town customers, but half the fun is talking to Jim and Jeff!
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Old 03-19-2012   #5
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I think it will be a while before i need to 1) print it bigger, and 2) print it on fiber paper , but good to have more to look forward to. Thanks!
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Old 03-19-2012   #6
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Enlargers are dirt cheap these days on Craigslist/Kijiji. Go for it, buddy!
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Old 03-20-2012   #7
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Not so fast! There's no room for an enlarger and all that comes with it, yet. I'm going to take it slow.
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Old 03-20-2012   #8
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Hling,

I think that I annoy many people because I only develop negatives at this point, but I shoot lots of film. I use to be a really good printer, but for me the key is making good negatives.

For a darkroom in NYC there are three possibilities: Take a class at ICP so you can use their darkroom; join the N.Y. Camera Club (expensive) and use their darkrooms; or set up your own. Right now I have a Bessler 23C enlarger and all the great lenses for 35 and MF. All I need is the space...

BTW I want to print big.

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Old 03-20-2012   #9
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Cal, If you find a way, let me know.. All the options you gave seem to be fairly expensive... They have a bunch of rentals for about 10 bucks an hour... Not too bad...
I can always look for a property in Newark to rent, anyone is willing to take the trip to share....
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Old 03-20-2012   #10
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Fidel,

I've already talked with John Chee who pays crazy money to wet print. Public darkrooms are to me like public restrooms... not the best but when you got to go you got to go...

As a gear whore who shoots slow speed film for the finer grain, I want to indicate my skill by making big prints. Already have a redundant amount of Schnieder, Rodenstock and Nikkor glass to match negative contrast in 35 and MF, as well as the alignment tool for my enlarger.

Like I said I wanna print big. I know all I need is a few people that are serious about printing B&W and we could set up a co-op. I wouldn't want this to get too big because I intend to use this a lot because I have mucho good negatives that basically just need to be straight printed.

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Old 03-20-2012   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Calzone View Post
Fidel,

I've already talked with John Chee who pays crazy money to wet print. Public darkrooms are to me like public restrooms... not the best but when you got to go you got to go...
Cal, that's hilariously true!

I know a well-equipped place that's not in regular use any more (haven't seen it in almost a year now), I just don't know how much it will take to make it worth while for the owner to let something like this happen. Any ideas? If you guys have a number I can ask.
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Old 03-20-2012   #12
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Quote:
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Anyway..not sure if anyone here can still relate, but just had to share in case some of you, like me, also didn't know you're in a rut...
Doing stuff in a darkroom is for me a good 65% of the fun. And when in a rut (not always related to photography) making a few prints brings the sun back into my life. You should have a darkroom, you should have something between pressing the shutter of the camera and looking at ready prints. You are missing quite a bit from an essence of photographic hobby.
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Old 03-20-2012   #13
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Cal, that's hilariously true!

I know a well-equipped place that's not in regular use any more (haven't seen it in almost a year now), I just don't know how much it will take to make it worth while for the owner to let something like this happen. Any ideas? If you guys have a number I can ask.
I was thinking that a few friends could lease a commercial space and share the darkroom. It would have to be small and trusted group where everyone knew each other and everyone was friends.

Already checked out some possibilities in LIC and even Greenpoint, but I see some possibilities up in the Bronx.

I already have a Besseler 23C enlarger that I believe is an XL version for larger prints, but I want to upgrade it with the heat resistant glass, paint the inside of the lamphouse white, and get a Variac back from one of my friends so I can dim down the light source...

Still need trays and a print washer.

Call me a chronic hand washer, but I want air purifiers and humidifiers to control dust. Like I said I want to print big because I have good negatives. I'm at a point where I'm willing to pay to have a real darkroom.

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Old 03-20-2012   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Calzone View Post
Hling,

I think that I annoy many people because I only develop negatives at this point, but I shoot lots of film. I use to be a really good printer, but for me the key is making good negatives.

Cal
Cal, I'm not sure how you can "annoy" people by only developing negatives but I'm pretty sure you don't annoy anyone
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Old 03-20-2012   #15
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Cal, I'm not sure how you can "annoy" people by only developing negatives but I'm pretty sure you don't annoy anyone
My personal experience has been that I bring out both the best and worst in people because of my strong individuality and my strong personality. Sometimes my creativity is misconstrued as being arguing because I challenge people to really think, and for this I'm looked upon as being a wise-azz who knows he's clever.

BTW my girlfriend yells at me, "I want to see prints." LOL. She can not visualize negatives the way I can. She even threatened to buy me a scanner. When the M9 was new she offered to buy me one, but it seems I'm a stubborn die-hard B&W film guy.

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Old 03-20-2012   #16
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hm.

I've used a darkroom in the past, went fully digital for almost a decade, and now that I started to use film again, I couldn't be happier with scanning + Appler Aperture + Epson Printer...I cannot imagine going back to a darkroom anymore.

I never liked the smell of all that stuff, the darkness in there and I prefer the results that come out of my Epson to most of what I produced back then
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Old 03-20-2012   #17
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hm.

I've used a darkroom in the past, went fully digital for almost a decade, and now that I started to use film again, I couldn't be happier with scanning + Appler Aperture + Epson Printer...I cannot imagine going back to a darkroom anymore.

I never liked the smell of all that stuff, the darkness in there and I prefer the results that come out of my Epson to most of what I produced back then

Different strokes for different folks, and that's okay.
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Old 03-20-2012   #18
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I'm just old school and I feel passionate about it. Glad I can share this passion with others.

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Old 03-20-2012   #19
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For those having a garage to spare a 4' x 5' space at a corner, should not be much problem to turn into a darkroom. Ventilation can be accomplished with a small fan. Once the prints are accumulated in a tray of water, they can be washed later in a bathroom too.
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Old 03-20-2012   #20
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I print digitally, using pigment based inks and archival grade fine art papers, regardless of whether my original capture was film or digital. The prints I produce now are as good or better than anything I was ever able to get from either my own or a high end lab's wet lab printing process.

The keys are

- good exposures to begin with
- a high quality printer with good inks and papers
- a properly calibrated and profiled display for editing
- top notch rendering work
- a well thought out color managed printing workflow
- experience and skill in using all of the above

It doesn't really take a huge amount of money, but it does take commitment and time to do it right.

I love fine prints!
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Old 03-20-2012   #21
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I'm generally with Godfrey on this. I use a Nikon V scanner (though am dealing with a lot less film these days) and an Epson 3800 with OEM pigments and its native ABW B&W driver. PC/Lightroom. I also agree with part of what Kanzir said....but I remain a little nostalgic for wet darkroom and I never minded the chems.

If you can visualize your B&W image when you make the photo, or from the file, you can get what you want from inkjet by developing the same sorts of basic skills you'd need in a darkroom. I differ with Godfrey's concern with calibration etc for that reason. B&W photographers that I've known are used to visualizing with minimal tech.

Crane Museo and Ilford Gold Fiber Silk papers are favorites, typically toned warm (tending toward selenium), but Office Depot (big box store, like Staples) sells ultra-cheap, brilliant white "professional photo paper" matte surface that serves wonderfully...I don't deliver important prints on it: it's a little thin and I'd be embarassed because it's so cheap :-)

Nobody here will be able to tell the difference between a fine inkjet print on similar paper (fiber/baryta) and a fine silver print from the same neg without a loupe, and with the loupe they'll find the inkjet print higher resolution if it was well scanned (eg with a Nikon scanner).

Look here...and take part if you'd like: http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/D...rintExchanges/ Virtually everybody in this group uses Epson printers, and my 3800 is among the oldest. If I was buying today I'd get a 3880 directly from Epson (not from a dealer) as a refurb.

Last edited by janosh : 03-20-2012 at 15:20. Reason: small additions
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Old 03-21-2012   #22
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I appreciate the encouragement. To me printing digital requires a big commitment to get to your levels.

There's a tipping point occuring for me right now with the possibility of a B&W M10, Also I got aquainted with my friend's M9, but I also might just do even more MF B&W.

I use to be a great B&W printer, but right now I have mucho good negatives. I agree that for a quality print the real key is a good detailed negative that was exposed properly.

Thanks for your posts.

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Old 03-21-2012   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by janosh View Post
...
If you can visualize your B&W image when you make the photo, or from the file, you can get what you want from inkjet by developing the same sorts of basic skills you'd need in a darkroom. I differ with Godfrey's concern with calibration etc for that reason. B&W photographers that I've known are used to visualizing with minimal tech.
...
The reason I am concerned with calibration is that I also print color work ... I want one printing workflow, not two, and prefer to do all my image rendering (including toning) prior to engaging the print process. It is more consistent that way, I make fewer mistakes and waste less paper.

But I agree that if I were ONLY printing B&W and using the ABW driver controls instead of the image rendering process, the need for the color managed workflow would be greatly reduced. You still need to calibrate and profile a display if you want consistency in the editing process.

Quote:
Originally Posted by calzone
I appreciate the encouragement. To me printing digital requires a big commitment to get to your levels. ...
I don't know what you mean by a big commitment. I have been using the even cheaper Epson printer - the R2400 - since 2005. It does a fine job. (I'd have bought an R3800 in a heart beat, but I needed a printer in October of 2005 and the 3800 came out in January of 2006 or around there...)

So there's a bit of money into a computer system (which you already have), a bit of money into a printer (which lasts a very long time), and if you're shooting film, some money into a scanner (or have the film processed and scanned for you). The time investment is the same time investment it will take to learn how to make fine prints in a darkroom.

Which commitment is "big?"
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Old 03-21-2012   #24
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I don't know what you mean by a big commitment. I have been using the even cheaper Epson printer - the R2400 - since 2005. It does a fine job. (I'd have bought an R3800 in a heart beat, but I needed a printer in October of 2005 and the 3800 came out in January of 2006 or around there...)

So there's a bit of money into a computer system (which you already have), a bit of money into a printer (which lasts a very long time), and if you're shooting film, some money into a scanner (or have the film processed and scanned for you). The time investment is the same time investment it will take to learn how to make fine prints in a darkroom.

Which commitment is "big?"
My 2004 Mac book needs to be updated, no printer, and no scanner. The biggest commitment would be the time to learn digital printing. Also I remain reluctant to abandone wet printing because I really liked it. That's how I became a good printer. Not sure if that will happen printing digital.

Like I said, "I'm at a tipping point," because of the M9 and the M10.

BTW I have a friend who has his setup calibrated like you suggest, and I really admire what he does.

Cal

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Old 03-21-2012   #25
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For those having a garage to spare a 4' x 5' space at a corner, should not be much problem to turn into a darkroom. Ventilation can be accomplished with a small fan. Once the prints are accumulated in a tray of water, they can be washed later in a bathroom too.
If I didn't have a girlfriend, I'd print in my Madhattan apartment. When I lived in Queens in a row house I had a second bathroom, but the elevated 7 Train rattled the house every 4-5 minutes.

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Old 03-21-2012   #26
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Originally Posted by kanzlr View Post
hm.

I've used a darkroom in the past, went fully digital for almost a decade, and now that I started to use film again, I couldn't be happier with scanning + Appler Aperture + Epson Printer...I cannot imagine going back to a darkroom anymore.

I never liked the smell of all that stuff, the darkness in there and I prefer the results that come out of my Epson to most of what I produced back then
Good for you!
I enjoy digital printing also especially with the Canon printer I just got.
But there's no way I'd stop printing in the darkroom.

Result's wise, I find different strengths in both methods.
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Old 03-21-2012   #27
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Quote:
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My 2004 Mac book needs to be updated, no printer, and no scanner. The biggest commitment would be the time to learn digital printing. Also I remain reluctant to abandone wet printing because I really liked it. That's how I became a good printer. Not sure if that will happen printing digital.
Yup, it's long past time to update to a newer computer. And you would need to buy a printer, maybe a scanner, and spend time learning.

Personally, I don't see this as much of a big deal ... mostly because I never really liked printing in the darkroom. It always seemed a very tedious and variable process. Printing digitally, with a properly set up system and some skills developed at rendering, is perfunctory and simple: all of my effort goes into making photos, rendering them, and thinking about how to use them to communicate a message.
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Old 03-21-2012   #28
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Yup, it's long past time to update to a newer computer. And you would need to buy a printer, maybe a scanner, and spend time learning.

Personally, I don't see this as much of a big deal ... mostly because I never really liked printing in the darkroom. It always seemed a very tedious and variable process. Printing digitally, with a properly set up system and some skills developed at rendering, is perfunctory and simple: all of my effort goes into making photos, rendering them, and thinking about how to use them to communicate a message.
I'm a bit of a lazy slacker. Like you said one of the keys is a good properly exposed negative. I produce negatives that I basically can straight print without very much or any darkroom manipulation. I also could squint my eyes, adjust the lens aperture, and get a perfectly exposed print without making any test strips. One key to this is making consistent negatives. Also I was able to print on number 2 graded paper without any need for filters and get perfect contrast.

For me wet printing became easy because I was in art school and being the photo editor and darkroom manager for the schools newspaper allowed me to spend entire weekends immersed in the darkroom.

Today I'm making even better negatives. Also not sure if digital is cost effective because I want to print really big to show off my technical skills.

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Old 03-21-2012   #29
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It's much easier to print really big with a digital printer. For a lazy slacker, that's where I'd go. My printer can't handle larger than a 13" wide sheet of paper, but I made a 15x35 inch canvas wrap for the living room by rendering a favorite image and sending it off to Artistic Photo Canvas for printing. Came out beautiful.

My negatives (and digital exposures) are right on the money too. I guess exposure about 60% of the time. Same experience with being able to print on #2 paper and get good results. Much easier to do the same thing with Lightroom and press the print button, takes less time and i don't have to slop chemistry around. Or clean up.

Digital capture is much more flexible in editing as you don't have to manage or contend with grain and other defects of chemical film emulsions.

whatever turns you on. seems to me you are enjoying putting barriers in the way of making prints.

i like to make prints, and want to do it the best, easiest way possible.
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2nd roll of Ilford HP5...
Old 03-21-2012   #30
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2nd roll of Ilford HP5...

Wow, lots of thoughts here while I was out getting another roll of film developed and printed! I love reading all your thoughts!

For me, holding in my hands, and seeing the prints from the 2nd roll of HP (a bit more conscientious after seeing the 1st roll prints) all I can say is, I'm beginning to understand the expression, "slippery slope".


(Contessamatic E/Ilford HP5+400)



(Contessamatic E/Ilford HP5+400)


(Color shot taken on the same day with Polaroid Automatic 250/Fujifilm FP100C)

I respect that everyone has gone through what I'm going through at the moment, but at the same time, I'm thrilled to be at this point in time. Moments after the first shot, I was in that very water swimming. The water was 46 degrees, the air was in the 50's ...The fog had lifted quickly, and I wouldn't have been able to capture the scenery even just half and hour later.

Let's get printing guys, however you do it (I'm still pining for wet printing though)
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Old 03-21-2012   #31
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It's much easier to print really big with a digital printer. For a lazy slacker, that's where I'd go. My printer can't handle larger than a 13" wide sheet of paper, but I made a 15x35 inch canvas wrap for the living room by rendering a favorite image and sending it off to Artistic Photo Canvas for printing. Came out beautiful.

My negatives (and digital exposures) are right on the money too. I guess exposure about 60% of the time. Same experience with being able to print on #2 paper and get good results. Much easier to do the same thing with Lightroom and press the print button, takes less time and i don't have to slop chemistry around. Or clean up.

Digital capture is much more flexible in editing as you don't have to manage or contend with grain and other defects of chemical film emulsions.

whatever turns you on. seems to me you are enjoying putting barriers in the way of making prints.

i like to make prints, and want to do it the best, easiest way possible.
I think you are correct in that digital capture is more highly flexible and after the initial steep learning curve its a slacker's dream.

I guess I know myself as stuborn, and I truely enjoy the wet darkroom, especially when it reminds me of those college days so long ago. I think LHing has it right for me: nothing like wet printing, bad smells, chemicals and all.

What would be really crazy for me is to eventually get a M9 or M10 and do both digital and analog printing. Perhaps I'm not the slacker I once thought I was. To me digital is a different medium.

Cal
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Old 03-22-2012   #32
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whatever turns you on. seems to me you are enjoying putting barriers in the way of making prints.
That's a strange statement.
If I don't get why people do certain things a certain way, I'd be very careful to say that they enjoy putting barriers in their way.

Just because I don't get it, it does not mean there's no merit.
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Old 03-22-2012   #33
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... Let's get printing guys, however you do it ...
Yup. Of the three you posted, the two B&Ws are just delightful. The color takes a bit more work to appreciate, but it's there too.

nice, nice. back to the printer. ;-)
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Old 03-22-2012   #34
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Yup. Of the three you posted, the two B&Ws are just delightful. The color takes a bit more work to appreciate, but it's there too.

nice, nice. back to the printer. ;-)
Thanks Godfrey!
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