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01/23/2006 07:30:36 AM · #1
Browsing around I found an article written by a traditional fine-art photographer, discussing a recent relook into the digital world.

A Second Foray Into Digital Photography

Those with a traditional background may not find this of much interest, possibly having similar experiences -- but, not having a traditional photography background, I found it a very interesting read. His perspective is as novel to me as digital is to him.

Of particular interest is that while (in mid-2005) he proclaimed digital printing up to snuff -- he still seemed to be dismissing digital cameras out of hand.

David
01/23/2006 10:05:18 AM · #2
........The only flaw(s) in the print has nothing to do with the printing process or materials, but with the noticeable fact that the image was caputered digitally, a failing easily rectified by using conventional film for image capture.........

Oooooooohhhhh......
01/23/2006 10:08:17 AM · #3
I was at imaging USA yesterday and spent a bit of time looking at the B&Ws printed with the piezography system (Inkjet ink replacement kits in all greyscale tones)

These are really lovely prints - beautiful tonal range. So much better than anything I've seen from an inkjet or commercial lab B&W prints.

Bit pricy and requires a dedicated printer but the results sing.
01/23/2006 12:16:49 PM · #4
It's an interesting article, but as soon as I finished reading his first paragraph, I discounted his conclusions (before I had even read them) as the product of a biased mind, because this statement is ridiculous and is included simply to show us how witty he is:

"Some 12 or 13 years ago, while on my way to some long forgotten location, I happened upon a show of photographs in an art gallery in San Francisco. The person featured in that show was a musician of considerable fame, reason enough for me to bypass the show without losing a step (in general, musicians make good photographers with about the same regularity that photographers make good brain surgeons)..."

R.
01/23/2006 12:32:57 PM · #5
Comparing the output from an Epson 2400 to the output from traditional b&w printing is not fair or objective.

What would be more interesting would be objective side-by-side comparisons of unaltered photographs 1) taken by a "good" 35mm film camera that have had the negatives scanned and 2) taken by "good" digital slr camera.
01/23/2006 12:34:37 PM · #6
Originally posted by Bear_Music:

It's an interesting article, but as soon as I finished reading his first paragraph, I discounted his conclusions (before I had even read them) as the product of a biased mind, because this statement is ridiculous and is included simply to show us how witty he is:

"Some 12 or 13 years ago, while on my way to some long forgotten location, I happened upon a show of photographs in an art gallery in San Francisco. The person featured in that show was a musician of considerable fame, reason enough for me to bypass the show without losing a step (in general, musicians make good photographers with about the same regularity that photographers make good brain surgeons)..."

R.


You should have continued reading, I came away with the feeling that he is the pre-Internet version of the 'leet d00d' with a rather sizeable ego. Some of the statements he made, were just off the hook, dripping with vitriol. It was kind of funny.
01/23/2006 12:36:34 PM · #7
I agree Robt, he lost all credibility before I even read the article.

The article, though, was interesting enough. Made me wonder who this musician/photographer was (Graham Nash maybe?) and also made me want to see some prints by Mr. Katchel, just so that I would know what I should be aspiring to create with my hopelessly inferior tools.
01/23/2006 12:51:15 PM · #8
Heh heh, Bear, I actually read the bulk of the article, and throughout it, I was struck by just how much "baggage" he was bringing to the table. Surely, though, his perspective on print quality is useful, as he seems to know what he's looking for and is very picky about the quality of the output.
Where I completely lost him is in the last paragraph, where he dismisses completely digital image acquistion. While it's true that a single 35mm digital frame is no substitute for a 4x5 (inch) film negative, I think he completely misses the boat on just how fast digital is eclipsing film performance, and that there's more to image quality than resolution. He also misses completely that for landscape work, a stitched panorama of just a few digital images can exceed the levels of detail possible in anything but the largest film negatives. The only differentiator left would be the movements that the large-format camera is capable of, and a T/S lens combined with the larger DoF of the 35mm format is a good approximation of even that.
01/23/2006 01:20:10 PM · #9
I got the impression that he was just another Neo-Luddite who had already reached the conclusion that digital was inadequate before he began.

Message edited by author 2006-01-23 13:50:09.
01/23/2006 01:44:51 PM · #10
I always think it is worthwhile to look at the author's work before dismissing his writting as biased and bent by faulty assumtions.His portfoil is here, and it seems about as strong as his logic.
01/23/2006 02:08:58 PM · #11
Fascinating article. And while I agree with the majority here that the author has a definite anti-digital (capture) bias, I can also very clealy see the tongue protruding in his left cheek.

I had the pleasure last week of participating in a Q&A session at my local camera club with a Buffalo-based photographic artist, Sherwin Greenberg, who's 84 years of age and has fairly recently been "converted" to digital photography. He had a large number of prints on display for us - all printed with his Epson R2400 printer, many B&W that were truly stunning. His photos were taken with a variety of film cameras, including Hasselblad and Widelux (pano shots), and an equal number made with his Nikon D70. The prints were mostly 11x14 to 13x19.

...We couldn't tell which of Mr. Greenberg's images were captured by film and which digitally. As to why he continues to shoot with film, he replied that his film shooting today is mostly confined to the Widelux, since he feels he can best capture panoramic scenes that way (...there isn't such a digital camera - yet).

Message edited by author 2006-01-23 14:10:02.
01/23/2006 02:15:57 PM · #12
Originally posted by Bear_Music:

It's an interesting article, but as soon as I finished reading his first paragraph, I discounted his conclusions (before I had even read them) as the product of a biased mind, because this statement is ridiculous and is included simply to show us how witty he is:

"Some 12 or 13 years ago, while on my way to some long forgotten location, I happened upon a show of photographs in an art gallery in San Francisco. The person featured in that show was a musician of considerable fame, reason enough for me to bypass the show without losing a step (in general, musicians make good photographers with about the same regularity that photographers make good brain surgeons)..."

R.

Not a brain surgeon but a pretty good emergency room doctor and photographer/journalist ...

I can't rememeber the name, but I (fairly) recently posted a link to a review in the NY Times of a famous jazz musician who'd taken lots of photos ...
01/23/2006 02:25:17 PM · #13
Then there's Leonard Nimoy (Best known as Spock), some of his work is good, some of his work is just... "hrmmmm... eh... I dunno."

EDIT: There was also Yul Brynner, I understand he was quite the avid photographer and was quite well received for his photographic skill.

Message edited by author 2006-01-23 14:28:26.
01/23/2006 03:45:47 PM · #14
Yes, he brings a lot of baggage to the table -- but he is also bringing a lot of experience and a willingness to find out he was wrong and learn new tricks. This is illustrated by how in fully he went to the trouble of investigating the areas of digital he looked into. Granted those areas were limited -- limited by what he could relate to, printing -- but he took the time to have some tests performed, look into what the new tools had to offer and then draw his own conclussions.

There was one observation he made that I found particularly intriquing ...
"... there is no paper contrast. This may seem obvious, but it took a while for it to sink in for me. For us digital hold-outs, manipulation of an image is an aspect of printing. We adjust paper contrast, dodge and burn the paper, change development of the paper, tone the paper, etc. For us, the paper is a living, pliable thing. When we print we are using paper to express the image. Not digitally. With digital printing, the paper is a dead receptacle. It always performs exactly the same and is never manipulated or processed differently in any way. The paper is a non-factor in the digital image making process except with regard to longevity and surface texture."

That is an observation I would never have made, as I have to experience to make it from. But from my perspective of wanting to learn the skills used in traditional photography that are still applicable to the digital world -- it is interesting to say the least. I don't know if it will hold true under close scutiny or not, but if it does it greatly simplifies where to look for translatable knowledge. For instance, Ansel took three books to detail the techniques of the Zone system; one for taking the picture, one for processing it and a final one for making the print. If this gentlemen's observation hold true in a broad sense it is saying the third book on printing is not likely to hold much translatable informtaion. It also points to what difference I should look for when translating the information in the second book -- specifically, that what is said should be applied toward the negative (positive for digital) instead of toward the print.

As I've said, I don't have the experience to make the judgement of relevance just yet, but it's a very interesting observation none the less.

David
01/23/2006 03:57:44 PM · #15
For the record, since a false conclusion seems to have been planted in some minds here by my sloppy language, I said:

t's an interesting article, but as soon as I finished reading his first paragraph, I discounted his conclusions (before I had even read them) as the product of a biased mind...

I definitely read the whole thing, and I defintely DID say it was interesting (which it is, for the reasons given by many other posters), but I was already inclined to take his conclusions with a grain of salt based on how he began his article.

R.

Message edited by author 2006-01-23 15:58:22.
01/23/2006 04:03:17 PM · #16
Well his precious film is going the way of the dinosaur. HA!
01/23/2006 04:05:40 PM · #17
Ben folds is a musician/ photographer. I think one thing people overlook with why others like film is the tangibility of it. With digital you only have a tangible product in a print, but most serious photographers print maybel ike .5% of their work or less....yet with film you still have it all in tangible viewing.

I personally feel comfortable enough with my files on cd/dvd and/or external hard drive....but looking through them all is still more of a pain than on film.

I know you can make contacts in PS but just another step in the workflow.
01/23/2006 04:13:10 PM · #18
Originally posted by David.C:

There was one observation he made that I found particularly intriguing ...
"... there is no paper contrast. This may seem obvious, but it took a while for it to sink in for me. For us digital hold-outs, manipulation of an image is an aspect of printing. We adjust paper contrast, dodge and burn the paper, change development of the paper, tone the paper, etc. For us, the paper is a living, pliable thing. When we print we are using paper to express the image. Not digitally. With digital printing, the paper is a dead receptacle. It always performs exactly the same and is never manipulated or processed differently in any way. The paper is a non-factor in the digital image making process except with regard to longevity and surface texture."

That is an observation I would never have made, as I have to experience to make it from. But from my perspective of wanting to learn the skills used in traditional photography that are still applicable to the digital world -- it is interesting to say the least. I don't know if it will hold true under close scrutiny or not, but if it does it greatly simplifies where to look for translatable knowledge. For instance, Ansel took three books to detail the techniques of the Zone system; one for taking the picture, one for processing it and a final one for making the print. If this gentleman's observation hold true in a broad sense it is saying the third book on printing is not likely to hold much translatable information. It also points to what difference I should look for when translating the information in the second book -- specifically, that what is said should be applied toward the negative (positive for digital) instead of toward the print.

As I've said, I don't have the experience to make the judgment of relevance just yet, but it's a very interesting observation none the less.

David


It IS an interesting observation, but it seems to me flawed at one significant level; just because we work in digital doesn't mean we have eschewed prints. And while we don't "tone" our prints (we tone our digital negatives, if you will) we still have issues of paper with which we must deal. For example, I need to change the contrast of my digital file if I want to print on both glossy and matter papers; and the sharpness as well.

Now, in conventional photographic processing (issues of paper surface aside since we still deal with that in printing from digital) the main difference between papers is how contrasty they are, and the reason they are made in various (or variable) contrast grades is so that they can adapt to different contrast ranges in negatives. We don't have that issue, because we can more or less infinitely vary the contrast of our digital negative.

Referring to Ansel's works, "The Negative" and "The Print", essentially the first discusses how to expose and process the negative to get the optimal quality of negative for printing to "normal" paper (which sacrifices less in detail/tonality throughout the print than "flat" paper or "contrasty" paper), while the second, "The Print", discusses how to to work with the negative for optimum print quality and discusses darkroom tricks & tips such as dodging, burning, toning, and much more.

In the Digital Darkroom analogue, using the camera adjustments and/or RAW processing (especially RAW processing) is equivalent to the creation of the negative, the base image from which we work. Using photoshop to tweak and prod is equivalent to "making a print"; we dodge and burn, we adjust contrast, whatever. If our exposure and RAW processing are exactly right (if we have made a perfect zone system negative) then we need little, if any, adjustment of contrast and exposure and so forth in photoshop, but we may still be making substantial use of the "creative" tools (the equivalent of dodging, burning, toning etc) to effect the desired "print", even if this "print" is only to be viewed digitally.

So I don't completely agree with his premise, although I'd agree that conventional printers have a more intimate relationship with papers than do most digital printers.

R.

Message edited by author 2006-01-23 16:14:13.
01/23/2006 04:59:31 PM · #19
Robert,

Just to make sure I'm understanding you clearly. What your saying about printing is essentially that we have not removed the paper from the digital workflow -- we have instead digitized it. By creating profiles for specific printer/ink/paper combinations the toning done in the digital darkroom is still done 'to the paper' -- even if the profile is not an actual created thing, but exists only as a knowledge that 'this paper doesn't handle shadow contrast well, so it needs more contrast there.' Further, by digitizing the receptical of the final print we have opened up a much broader range of mediums to be 'printed' to.

Also, I freely admit to not having read the three Ansel Adams books -- in fact, although I am interested in the techniques of the zone system I have intentionally not read the source publications for them. The reason for this is a lack of background knowledge needed to be able to relate to darkroom techniques. The few articles I have read concerning techniques used in the traditional darkroom (including some from the gentleman who's article I linked to above) have left me more confused than if I hadn't read them to begin with. I simply don't have the hands on experience with the chemicals and enlargers and such to be able to relate -- nor do I have any real means to get that experience.

So, not being intimately familiar with the division of the books I would also never have drawn the conclusion you have that RAW processing cooresponds to the contents of the second book while post-processing encompasses the contents of the third. That division is a new thought, and one that tells me I've been missing out on a lot of the fun by not having RAW capabilities until recently.

David
01/23/2006 05:08:27 PM · #20
DavidC -- I think of it like we use Photoshop to program a printing "industrial robot" which would follow our instructions if we were exposing paper from a negative.

Where Adams would have to wave a little cardboard wand between the enlarger lens and the paper during the exposure to dodge out some clouds, and make them darker than would result if the paper received an even exposure from the entire negative, we pre-program those adjustments into our print/display file, which is why it looks different than the oroginal capture. The adjusted print file is simply a "placeholder" for the revised exposure, before the paper is exposed.
01/23/2006 05:15:40 PM · #21
Originally posted by David.C:

Robert,

Just to make sure I'm understanding you clearly. What your saying about printing is essentially that we have not removed the paper from the digital workflow -- we have instead digitized it. By creating profiles for specific printer/ink/paper combinations the toning done in the digital darkroom is still done 'to the paper' -- even if the profile is not an actual created thing, but exists only as a knowledge that 'this paper doesn't handle shadow contrast well, so it needs more contrast there.' Further, by digitizing the receptical of the final print we have opened up a much broader range of mediums to be 'printed' to.

Also, I freely admit to not having read the three Ansel Adams books -- in fact, although I am interested in the techniques of the zone system I have intentionally not read the source publications for them. The reason for this is a lack of background knowledge needed to be able to relate to darkroom techniques. The few articles I have read concerning techniques used in the traditional darkroom (including some from the gentleman who's article I linked to above) have left me more confused than if I hadn't read them to begin with. I simply don't have the hands on experience with the chemicals and enlargers and such to be able to relate -- nor do I have any real means to get that experience.

So, not being intimately familiar with the division of the books I would also never have drawn the conclusion you have that RAW processing cooresponds to the contents of the second book while post-processing encompasses the contents of the third. That division is a new thought, and one that tells me I've been missing out on a lot of the fun by not having RAW capabilities until recently.

David


That's basically right, although of course the lines are fuzzier now. basically, look at it this way: "The Negative" is about exposure and processing of the captured image into a permanent file, while "The Print" is about optimizing the display of the resultant image file. One area that's fuzzified is that with RAW we can go back to the source image and readjust its parameters, so we can have more than one "permanent image" from which to work. But even so, if the original image is not properly exposed within certain tolerances, there are things we cannot accomplish even with RAW, exactly as if we do not properly expose the film image no amount of Zone System processing can rescue this image.

Exposure to and processing from RAW is very much analogous to Zone System work with the negative, while manipulating the image in Photoshop is very much analogous to the printing workflow, even if paper is never used.

R.
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