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Everybody has his or her own creative process - what you see, when of how you decide to compose and expose, how te recreate the image to you vision in post, what we present and how we present our work. Those differences are what make us unique as "artists". I'm putting that in quote marks on purpose because I think it is not to ourselves to define us (as) artists, I think it is to decide by others how they appreciate our work. You have to deserve that, and I think it is a bit presumptuous to give yourself that title. Anyhow, I digress...

The creative process is the whole bunch – from brain to frame (quote of Nick Carver). From the moment I get outdoors to find a composition, to the end (preferably a print) it is a wonderful journey where something from your mind get to take shape into something visual and tactile. That process, with everything involved, is something I just love doing. In time I switched from an exclusively digital way of working to a predominantly hybrid workflow. I love working and shooting of film, using old camera’s (take a look at my gear section if you’re interested), and developing my black and whites myself.

Additionally digital or analog is just a preference. I prefer analog because its aesthetics and tactile process, and it gives me a feeling my work catches a "soul". It is basically what I intend to express or capture, and in that consideration megapicxels are highly overrated.

Now that are already a lot of items to cover how I work, but let’s try to lift a bit of the veil here.

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It starts with the composition. I’m always looking or something that grabs my attention. It might be the subject, it might be a scene, but might as well be a concept or something more abstract difficult to describe. And that’s basically the basis – my emotion. Finding and capturing helps me focus deeply on just one of those among many, which calms me down, but also this process regulates itself (and I can truly let my mind go). The basis of many of my photo’s is that I look for calmness, sometimes abstraction, and trying to approach it with a minimalistic approach. Leave out of the frame what distracts and play with my subject and it’s framing (using negative space).

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Using filters and lenses depend on the situation I prefer working on medium format film, so typical lenses I work with are 80mm, 45mm/40mm, 35mm on occasions, and also the occasional 120/150mm, depending on how I like to isolate or compress the image. I generally prefer the 80mm, but it is a toss-up with the 40/45mm wide angle when I’m shooting landscapes. I prefer the 45mm over 35mm on my Mamiya 645 for instance, because is has a more “natural” and less exaggerated viewing angle, making it far calmer to look at.

I also like to extend my exposures a lot, where times of 1 minutes is just a starting point. Practically I tend to keep times below 10 minutes, but I’m prone to randomly change my mind and experiment. I use a 6 and 10 stop filter, as well as graduated filters to control times in combination with fine-tuning with my aperture. Shooting on low-ISO film helps a lot. Typically, sensitivity can be chosen (or pulled!) to ASA 50 or, and I might try to get even lower than that some days.

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When it comes to film and developing, I prefer Ilford filmstock by far, with an affinity for PanF, FP4+ and HP5 at occasions. Delta has a great tone to it to, but it is less flexible and less grainy than the others, but I must say I’m a bit biased by working with PanF/FP4+ and getting amped up by their looks. Whether I want grain depends on the situation and can be further enhanced by development, but my choice for film sensitivity largely on practical considerations. For instance, I’m not always willing to lug a tripod and filters around, so wintertime I alway make sure I've got some HP5 in the fridge.

I prefer to develop in Rodinal (or the modern equivalent), again because of its flexibility. 1+50 dilutions give me the most desirable results, 1+25 for harsher and a bit grainier look, and I like to experiment with agitation to further fine-tune tonalities. Generally, this is easy to do, and I strongly recommend trying for yourself – the developing times published at MassiveDev are perfect for a reference point tot start deviating from. Just do a bit of research on the internet and you’ll be surprised, and don’t be afraid to mess up a roll. This can be somewhat avoided by working in a calculated and systematic way, but that’s my chemistry background helping me out. And yes, I pre-calculate development times when I want to try something out, and this has generally given me very acceptable to good results at first attempts.

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After developing my film comes the digital step. I’m not a purist, so I’m not willing to get into the discussion about digital versus analog post-processing. This is just the way I prefer it because I like the versatility, ease and control. I’m scanning with an Epson V600, which is perfectly fine for working with medium format negatives in a consistent manner. I guess I can get into discussions here too about why to work with more advanced scanners, photographing negatives or letting my negatives scanned by a drum scanner, but the bottom line is that I like to have maximum control over my own work. Eventually I am considering an upgrade to the V850, but the costs/result ratio, simplicity, and effectiveness of my trusted V600 hasn’t completely convinced me enough yet.

Scanning was a bit of a pain at first for me to figure out, but I now get the result I want. Most work is done scanning using SilverFast software. This is fast, efficient whilst giving maximum control over the process. From there on is it cleaning and fine tuning in Lightroom and Photoshop, and those processes are just variable for a simple how-I-do-it. I just like to keep things as simple as they can be, only adjusting local contrasts, sharpening, cleaning up dust and (yes, here I troll you, you puny puristic people!!!) digital dodging and burning. I must say that I dodge and burn in a more intricate way, where I love the added fictionality of Lightroom and Photoshop on detailed tonal control.

Finally, is the part of printing, and this is the part I am still learning. Honestly, I haven’t got a lot of experience with big prints yet, and this pretty much boils down to not taking enough time for a proper print. Somehow, I just like to keep running outdoors, which is fine on itself of course, but I do find it a waste by denying my images a final presenting state. As I try to gain experience, I will keep trying to get this section up to date and on par. So stay tuned…

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The bottom line is, as you might have understood, I really like to maintain as much control over the whole process as possible. There are a number of creative discisions to make, and I just don't like any of these variables ton be in the hands of any third party. The only exception is color film development, but that's pretty much a very hard place to add creaive discisions beside pushing and cross-processing. And that is one extra reason (next to sheer preference and aesthetics) why I don't like to work in color. Next to that I think it is important to keep an open mind. BE willing to experiment and change, to try something new, but also appreciate the opinion and feedback of others, regardless of their photographic background or knowledge. But in the end I try to stick to myself - what I like and see, and why I make the photo's I make.

At the end I’ve got some recommendations which inspire me to keep my mojo flowing. Take a look at Youtube, and consider paying the next guys a visit;

Ted Forbes / The Art of Photography

Nick Carver

Thomas Heaton

Ben Horne

Steven Milner

Jason Kummerfeld / grainydays