Saturday, December 25, 2010

Mea Culpa - on Profiling

Oops - sure I had all the right settings in print setup - but I forgot to turn off Photoshop does colour in the main printer dialog box. Shit...

I'll reprofile the Hahemeule in the next 24 hours and publish the results.

Hope everyone had a nice Christmas. Had planned to post a Christmas Card, but yet again blogger can't upload images - this has been more down than working over the last several months and they still don't have it working - Mac and Firefox for me. I'd switch but then I'd have to maintain all the archived articles, all > 1000 of them.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Print Darkness/Contrast/Tonality

Don't know about you, but for every time I have worried about print colour, I have worried 100 times more often about the brightness of print tones and even more. This was a problem with canned printer profiles, it remains a problem with home made profiles using my Color Munki - and although I don't have the $2000 to test fancier profiling equipment, I fully believe it will be a problem with the big guns too - after all that's what was used to make those profiles supplied by the printer and or paper manufacturers.

My 'standard' paper is Epson Enhanced Matte (Ultra super duper - or whatever they are calling it this week). it is so because it is easily available, not to stiff for stacking up multiple sheets in the feeder, has a good surface and behaves well. It even lets me pin up several prints in a stack on  my examining room walls and I frequently catch my patients checking out the latest images and what's underneath as well - and that's just fine.

Yes, glossy paper can look nicer, especially if there are a lot of dark tones in the image, but with modern inks even matte papers look darn nice and are a heck of a lot easier to look at without dealing with spurious reflections.

Behind glass, 90% of the difference between matte and glossy paper disappears anyway (and I'm not talking frosted glass here).

Today I had to make some prints for sale. Although enhanced matte looks fine, it is thin and tends to warp over time behind the matte and I prefer to use a proper art quality paper when I'm selling a print. I happened to be out of my usual Moab Entrada Bright White and found a box of Hahnemeule Photo Rag. I ran off a profile test on it (version 2 icc profile to keep my mac and snow leopard happy - Color Munki lets you default to version two type profiles in preferences).

I was careful to set color matching to epson from colorsynch and then turn off epson adjustments in printer settings and had no diff. making the profiles.

But wow, the prints were way off - not in colour - that looked spot on, but in contrast and overall darkness - way too much of both. I'd had no trouble with Entrada, no trouble with enhanced matte, and only a little trouble with Harman FBAL gloss but this was unuseable results.

I eventually approximated the right tones through use of a compicated curves layer, customized to each print - but this shouldn't be necessary.

So, how do problems like this happen?

1) the monitor is too bright - this is far and away the biggest problem for many people.

2) double profiling - somehow both photoshop and the printer are adjusting the colours, instead of the correct strategy of letting photoshop doing it - but I'd been careful about that (see above).

3) too bright a viewing light - you can buy proper viewing lights but they are typically at least twice as bright as room light which is just plain wrong, and besides, the light is usually the wrong colour. It isn't standard, or warm fluorescent bulb temp, nor north window. It often is closer to sunlight, which we go out of our way to keep our prints away from. It rather depends on whether you believe it is better to be consistent and always wrong or random and occasionally wrong. I happen to view my prints by fluoresent because the bulbs match my office where I do most of my print viewing anyway. When I used to sell prints at the farmers market, they were being seen by mercury vapour (which oddly didn't seem to hurt the images, but made cream paper look downright yellow).

5) using the wrong paper setting. When in the printer dialog box you go to printer settings and change from glossy to semi gloss to matte to fine art - what you are changing is the amount of ink that is laid down - some surfaces can use more ink than others. Overall, while this does affect the brightness of the print, there should not be a problem if the setting you used for making the profile matches the setting you use when making your real prints. Of coures, if you are using a canned profile, it is absolutely essential that you match your paper setting to the one used in making the profile - and paper manufacturers are not always very clear about what that should be - though it is better now than a few years ago when it didn't seem to occur to them to bother mentioning such a crucial piece of information - and you wondered why people started making their own profiles).

6) you are printing black and white and using the advanced black and white driver for your Epson printer - as this totally overrides your profiles, you might as well have not bothered. There's a good reason they offer light, medium, dark, darker and bloody damn dark - it's because you have no control over the tonality without using these settings.

and more)of course, if you haven't profiled your monitor, all this is moot and you are a lost cause.

Assuming you have not committed and of the above faux pas - then so far, the only practical solutions I have found are the following.

1) pick papers that behave well for you - the Hahnemeule didn't for me - not that it can't make beautiful prints, it can - but was far more work this morning than it needed to be. Your experience is likely to be entirely different - you MUST do your own testing - this could be the perfect paper for you. These are papers that when you run test images after profiling, require the least possible adjustments in brightness to get a good result.

2) take advantage of printer proofing in Photoshop (under the View menu) to see what you are goijng to get - with most papers it has been very helpful in predicting the final result.

3) no matter how good your profiles, how careful your procedures, how expensive your equipment, if you are fussy about your results, you will have to make multiple prints to get an image of the right brightness. The closer your profiling can get things right, the fewer 'test' (read throwaway) prints that you will have to make. I can generally get it right in two or three prints - ie. the third print is what I want - this of course after making hundreds of changes to an apparently good image on screen before I even get to the printing stage. Rarely I get it in one, occasionally it takes half a dozen prints to really get a print that matches what I have on screen - not because my equipment is bad - it isn't, but because I care about the results (read fussy, ok, very fussy).

It is possible to create a curve to make adjustments, but my experience is that no single curve works for all images on a single paper.

Remember that no one will ever care as much about our print quality as we ourselves do, both as an individual and as a group of photographers.

Typical customers can't even see the difference between warm and neutral papers, never mind the difference between ultrachrome and ultrachrome K3 and Ultrachrome Vivid. We sure know though.

I'll be interested in how others have solved the brightness and contrast issues.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Dis and Dat

Why Photographs Work is now out and orderable from the major online booksellers and instore at real ones too. It's gathering excellent reviews so apparently we're not the only ones who think it's a beautiful book. We're scrambling to arrange a reprint asap.

Mark Dubovoy had written an article for Luminous Landscape promoting the use of medium format. I don't disagree with what Mark says, but I do think there are some points that are important to make.

Pros use medium format because:

1) they often are asked to make huge prints
2) paying customers like to get noseprints on detailed lanscape pictures
3) the equipment is tax deductable
4) the equipment differentiates them from the masses - an important marketing tool (as opposed to an ego boost - pros are too busy for that nonsense)

And there are other reasons. Those of us who do photography for the love of it instead of putting food on the table can afford the time to stitch and blend our way to good photographs, and if the images look better at 13X19 than 40X60, who cares. That said, more than a few serious amateurs are going to be looking at the Pentax 645D.

One of the most useful and powerful tools for doing landscape and industrial photography is live view - totally absent from medium format. Mark talks of the problems of camera misalignment, yet he has to squint into a tiny ground glass if he wants to focus and tilt - while I simply move the magnified view to the corner and check the focus on the sensor, not a substitute - using live view. I think in a few years people will find it hard to believe people ever struggled with substitutes.

We live in interesting times - DPReview has rated the Pentax K5 as the top medium priced dSLR, topping both Nikon and Canon - we live in interesting times.

It's holiday season, Christmas for some of us. May you all thrive and find the images you want.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Amazon Have 'Why Photographs Work'

At last, Amazon list the book as in stock, albeit with a warning about taking an extra day or two - I think they are actually between the distributor and the amazon warehouse as we speak but that means that people should have the book within the week.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Books Are At The Distributor

Have just heard from Rockynook that the books are now at the distributor. They then pass the books onto the various retail outfits, including the biggies like Amazon. Don't konw if this will result in a change in the status on Amazon but they should have the books within the week.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Why Photographs Work - The Book Has Landed

Good news. The books cleared customs in New York earlier this week, a few days late but are already on truck on the way to the distributor. It will take a week at the most to get to Amazon and other retail sellers, so, it should be possible to get a copy of the book just in time for Christmas. Hopefully Amazon will update their release date info within the week.

As of now, no one else has read the book, not even the photographers, who only got to see thier own section (ok, the editors have), so I am both excited and scared, waiting to hear what people think of the book. Those who have flipped through the book agree it's beautiful and I feel good about the images I chose for the book. About my writing I'm less secure. I think it's good, that I have useful insights into the images and what makes them work, but it's a bit like introducing your new bride to friends and family, you so desperately want them to think well of your mate, or in this case, my baby.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Tomasz Gudzowaty

thank you to Marcin for pointing out the work of Tomasz - well worth exploring his site and images.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Paul Caponigro Portfolio

The entire current View Camera magazine is a single portfolio of 59 of Paul's images, reprinted with excellent quality. A must have for any serious photographer. I just hope the magazine printed enough of them.

You need this issue.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Date Of Publication for Why Photographs Work

Below are the two emails I received earlier today from my publisher, first confirming our most up to to date shipping information - sounds like the shipment of books is somewhere mid Atlantic as we speak.

The second attempts to explain the reasonable caution that amazon takes in predicting availability dates  - I think they are entirely right to do so - so, with a little luck they have in fact been overly cautious and within two weeks (as I predicted) they will be emailing everyone to say that a definite shipping date is on and the books will arrive in time for Christmas after all.

I do so wish I could share it with you know, but those two chapters on amazon will just have to whet your appetite.



Hi George,

We just heard from the freight forwarder and the shipment is due to to arrive in the harbor on Nov 25, and at Ingram by Nov 29/30. Our December release date looks secure. I don't know why in the world Amazon would send such a notice. The due date on Amazon is 12/28, but we hope the books will be shipping to customers by the 15th. I am going to contact the O'Reilly sales rep for Amazon to see if he can shed some light on this.



I just got off the phone with John (O'Reilly sales rep for Amazon). He said that is supposing the following:

– The due date had slipped at one point from Oct to Dec. Amazon's algorithm notes a loss of confidence.
– With the holiday season coming up, they want to under-promise and then hope to over-deliver.
– Once the book is in stock, they very well may send another email saying "good news, the book is in stock and is on the way".

Basically, what Amazon does is out of our control. I am just happy that the book will ship in December regardless of what Amazon predicts.

This is a pretty lousy explanation, but that's the best we can get.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

I Have The Book

My advance copy of the book has arrived. The paper is thinner than I'd like, the black and white images a bit too selenium, but damn it's a nice book. You might even find my writing interesting. has a 'look inside' of the first two chapters.

It should be in book shops in about three weeks and is orderable now.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Cave Roof

Another image from Writing On Stone. This one was a focus blend, tripod mounted, me wrapped around the tripod and inside the cave. Later I took some handheld shots because I couldn't get the tripod close enough to the side of the cave. Focus blending in Helicon Focus, local contrast enhancement over a small part of the image only via Akvis Enhancer, colour tinting by Layers, solid fill, colour blend mode.

Writing On Stone Provincial Park

The first products of an overnight trip to Writing On Stone, named for the native drawings in the soft stone. It turned out to be very hard to photograph - so much interesting stuff yet hard to find workable patterns to it or particularly interesting details.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Nighttime Street Scene In Victoria

This would have been crap in colour, crap during daylight, but nice with a bit of editing and judicious use of two black and white conversion layers to get the two doorways left and right to roughly match in tone. Akvis Enhancer lightened the image and increased local contrast so I darkened it after (after all it was supposed to be a night scene). The sidewalk was way too dark compared to the rest of the image so I lightened it. I opened up the dark upper right corner again to blend well.

Below is the original image as recorded.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Stats On Photographs And Photographers For Book

Here's some statistics for both the photographers and photographs for 'Why Photographs Work'


the youngest photographer is 29, the oldest 85, the majority of the photographers are in their 50's and 60's and several are within 4 years of my age (61), which I didn't find out until after selecting the images. Three were born the same year as me (1949).

I have met only 7 of the photographers.

The newest photograph was made in 2009, the oldest in 1958

11 images were made with 4X5

3 images were made with an 8X10

1 image was made with a 5X12

4 images were made with 35 mm. film

1 image was made with a Polaroid SX70

1 image was made with an iPhone

14 images were made with a digital camera, inclluding one that was medium format digital

13 were made with medium format film

1 was made with 6X17

1 image was made with a flat bed scanner and NO camera (at least in the usual sense)

1 was made with a home made camera AND lens

24 images were made in colour, 28 in black and white

about a third of the photographers have significant musical background, but two thirds DO NOT

most of the photographers make most of their income from photography - either print making or teaching

8 of the photographers are women

countries represented include:

USA, Canada, Mexico, U.K., Germany, Sweden, Bulgaria

14 images include people (if you include ghosts, 13 else)

6 of the images are constructed of multiple images - stitched or placed or overlaid

2 of the images are multiple exposures, both onto film, a third is a sandwich of two 4X5 transparencies.

All of the photographers for this book GAVE their images without charge, also their time and their writing and I am profoundly grateful for their generosity.

Only two photographers had to drop out of the project, one because of other very time consuming commitments, another over a misunderstanding brought about by a lost email. Only one photographer refused outright to participate and to be fair it was his assistant who thought the project unworthy - I think he was wrong. One photographer dropped out when he found that there was already an image using similar techniques to be in the book and he didn't want one of his older images to represent him.

The vast majority of the photographers let me make the entire decision about which image to choose, a few had preferences and NONE dictated which image I should use.

Some of the images are iconic, extremely well known. Others I'd be surprised if you have seen.

Six of the photographers frequently work in platinum/paladium.

A good number of the images are not what I would consider well within my comfort zone, yet each and every one has been fascinating and even the effort to select images and then write about them has broadened my own horizons, widened my tastes.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Why Photographs Work - The Printers Are Rolling

Just heard today, the proofs look great and the printers are cranking up. I'll go into more detail about book content when it actually becomes available, but for now, here is the introduction I wrote for the book explaining the why and the wherefore.

Why Photographs Work
by George Barr


Why this book, why now, and perhaps most importantly why me? Who is (and who isn’t) the book  designed for? How did I select the images and is there a strategy to the book?
I wrote this book for me, as if I could go back in time to when I was starting out as a serious photographer. This is the book I wish had been available then, to explain great photographs, to point out what works and how these images are planned and composed, how tones should be printed, how subjects explored. Not coincidentally, these are the same issues that help someone who already enjoys photographs learn to appreciate them more, and to open themselves to more genres of photography.
Looking At Photographs by John Sarkowski was an important book in my self-education. It is still available and still very worthwhile to read. It does, however, have a couple of shortcomings. It has no color photography, and as a curator and historian of photography, Sarkowski brings to the book a bias toward talking about processes as much as images—useful perhaps for a student of photography, and even a collector, but not as important to someone who simply wants to make or enjoy photographs.
With digital imaging vastly expanding the interest in photography, more people than ever are taking photography seriously. While much of the book is in color, there is still a need to show the power, the subtlety, and the beauty of black-and-white photography to a new crowd whose cameras shoot color by default. There are many ‘how-to’ books and even ‘how I did it’ books. But there are not many books available that discuss why photographs work from a practical rather than theoretical or philosophical point of view.
I’m the one writing the book both because I can and because I feel the need. I can because of the success of my previous two books—the publisher is willing to run with this idea. I can because I have experience writing about photography in clear, relaxed, and comfortable terms—terms that the average person can relate to. I won’t claim there is no art-speak in this book, but I do assure you that you won’t need an art degree to understand, appreciate, and take advantage of it.
This book is for any photographer who wants to make beautiful photographs. And it is for anyone—photographer or viewer—who wants to understand why some photographs stand out from all the others. It can certainly be of value to students of photography, but probably not by those specifically studying photography criticism, where art theory and history, philosophy and culture become more important than whether the photograph is beautiful or powerful or meaningful.
In choosing photographs for this book I used as my own source books (I have more than 100 books of photographs in my personal collection), magazines (hundreds of issues of those magazines which celebrate wonderful images), the internet, and my own life experiences meeting other photographers and hearing their suggestions of still more photographers to consider. As such, it is unashamedly biased toward Canadian and North American photographers simply because I am more familiar with them.
I have tried to push past my own comfort zone in photographic subject and style, being inherently a photographer of fairly conservative tastes. After all, I am a middle aged white guy from Canada. We’re known for our niceness, not our pushing the envelop of modern tastes (OK, we wear weird hats called touques, but I don’t think that counts). I want to open readers to new ideas of photographs that are not ‘traditional’ or ‘straight’.
My own tastes are firmly based in the highest image quality; that concept does not trump craftsmanship; that being radical is not an end in itself but rather a tool to express ideas that are difficult to express in more traditional techniques. I’m an experienced photographer, with high standards for both my own images and the photographs of others. I have had some success being published and in selling my photographs and it is with this background I chose the images for the book.
This book is about great photographs rather than great photographers. Some of the images I have chosen are by relatively unknown or even less experienced photographers. Some of the photographers are famous, others are not. Some of the photographers have literally thousands of strong images and many books to their names, while others have only made a handful of great images but are poised to make many more.
I have made an effort to search out international photographers and there are some, but not as many as I would like. Women photographers are not equally represented simply because I know fewer women photographers. Some of the photographers were completely new to me, and discovering their work has been a delight, while others are long time friends of mine.
The book is about photography as art. Many common genres of photography are either sparsely represented or entirely absent. You will find no sports photography, no wildlife, and almost nothing of reportage. Each of those subjects has certainly been responsible for many great photographs, but in those images, the subject and the story predominate over the image as art, and quite frankly I don’t feel qualified to comment on them.
Enjoy this book as a collection of 51 wonderful photographs. Some you may well know already, but I trust there are enough new images to surprise and delight you. Feel free to flip through the book to simply enjoy the images, but sooner or later, do read about each image, about what I think makes each work, about what the photographer was thinking in making the image, about who the photographer is and how they came to see the way they see.

George Barr, Calgary, July, 2010

Monday, October 11, 2010

And Yes, I Also Did Some Colour

Again, straight from the raw processor. This was a propellor, lying near a path and next to the inlet, large, rusted, covered in graffiti and making for a wonderful hour of working out compositions.

From Trip To Victoria, B.C.

A steel fabricating shop in Victoria, the cutoffs. He was working on the pieces for the bulbous bow of a ferry as I was photographing using a computer driven acetylene cutter, the planned cuts looking like a complicated model. I am informed some of the pieces cut out from these pieces went to make Honda Goldwing Tricycles.

This image has not been edited yet - straight from the raw processor.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

Empty Grate

Sitting reading a book, occasionally glancing up, and the empty grate looks interesting, almost as if there were a phantom fire. Oddly, without the fireguard in front, contrast increases and the image loses the effect.

Canon 5D2, 70-200 f4 IS lens.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Environmental Portraits

This is the start of a new project. I'm photographing friend and people I know, as well as the people who work at the local mall.

Camera is Shen Hao 5X7, HP5 film, 305 G Claron Lens, developed in HC-110 via tray processing. Image is slightly cropped, left and right - on the left to remove a bright spot through the branches, on the right to eliminate a bright area behind the tree trunks.

Scanning was done on my 4870, via a cardboard film holder. I'll be interested to see how wet scanning does on a V750, but here's a crop.

Click on the crop to see it larger to get at least some sense of the quality. Individual hairs are easily seen, the word PASS is quite readable on the handlebar and texture in the cloth and leather jacket shows very nicely.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Rock Pool

From Jura Canyon floor, shot with the Shen Hao 5X7, T-MAX 100, 210 lens.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Rusty Drum Again

Another with the 4X5 camera, this a beautiful Shen Hao 4X5 - teak with black fittings. Only double extension but quite solid, very reasonably priced and if anyone were going to venture into 4X5, this would be a good way to start.

This needed both tilt and swing to get the focal plane just right, and though it certainly doesn't have infinite depth of field, it does very nicely thank you.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Back Hoe

Linhof Technika IV, 135 mm. lens, Delta 100, HC110, 2 minutes at f45, me blocking the light from a street lamp that came on and shone into the bucket.

I used the backtilt of the camera to stretch the width of the top of the bucket so I wouldn't have to crop the three 'teeth' at the bottom, using lens tilt to compensate for the back tilt.

Metering was with my S90 camera - so far it's working very well to meter in all manner of situations. The only thing it can't do as well is measure contrast so there's still a role for a spot meter.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Rusty Drum

From a 4X5 negative, Delta 100, HC110, scanned on my 4870 at 2400 dpi. A work in progress.

Making Prints For The Book

I thought I might share some of my experiences in making test prints for the upcoming book 'Why Photographs Work'.

It's a tremendous responsibility doing my best to get these images exactly right. Some of these well known photographers don't do digital and I have had to work from raw scans or jpegs or scanning prints myself. Some of the black and white images are strongly toned and that image colour is going to have to come across.

Sometimes it takes literally hundreds of changes to get a file just right. My reference varies from prints to books to web images.

I have just printed Angel Descending by John Wimberley - wonderful image - and I noted that in the file he sent me there was nothing approaching white - so I lightened the image by moving the white point. The change was subtle, but now the image looks bright and perky, not 'moving' like the original - not all images should contain pure white, even when white things are represented in the image. The original file is the way to go.

Briggite Carnochan sent me the file for 'Pillow of Sickness' and I was having a terrible time. I reprofiled my monitor and printer and still couldn't get the image right. On the phone this morning I learned that she prints on an art paper, not inkjet paper, and the resulting image is muted and soft and lovely, but it takes a 'brisk' file to make that final image. Huge relief - thought I'd been doing something wrong. She's going to fed ex me a proof print - from which I will edit her digital file so that it will come out right in the book.

A Roman Loranc image took dozens of prints, despite having a profiled monitor and printer, before both he and I were satisfied with the result.

Brian Kossof sent a file in which he had  diffused the highlights - yet it didn't have the subtlety or the degree of diffusion of his image as it appeared in Lenswork. He'd been working with film. I had to come up with a variety of diffusion techniques in Photoshop in dozens of layers to match Brian's intent and make both of us happy with the result.

I wrote the above neither to impress you with my skill nor my hard work, but simply to give you an insight into the making of fine prints and of book making. Welcome to my world.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Seeing Doesn't Rest

I was sitting, reading and drinking tea when I noticed both the position and lighting on my wife's feet. I asked her not to move, retrieved my dSLR, located the battery (in the charger) put in a fresh memory card, erased it, and shot a few pictures before thinking to check ISO - 3000, so adjusted that and took a few more, closer or further, more or less tightly cropped.

I lightened the red channel, used fill light to open shadows, reduced contrast and applied blur selectively to a copy of the image, then toned it.

The point of course is that I wasn't thinking about making images. This wasn't a deliberate effort on my part to be observant. Mind you, I suspect that it comes from practicing deliberate seeing.

I have no idea yet whether this is a good image - I can only say that at the moment it pleases me. I like the almost marble sculpture effect.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Beginnings Of A New Project

I didn't think that photographing concrete could be a worthwhile project, especially new, unweathered stuff, but perhaps it's worth exploring further.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

On Not Being Famous

The vast majority of us are not going to be famous - probably for anything, and certainly not for our photography. Arguably, since you are reading this, I at least have some notoriety and have had images published and published two books and a third on the way, so am perhaps not the right person to write about fame, or more accurately the lack of it. That said, truth is, through the by far biggest part of my photographic years I was entirely unknown, so do speak from experience, and not that long ago either.

Truth is, most people who achieve a goal very rapidly take it for granted and set a new, even tougher goal to achieve, so basking in one's fame, at whatever level, is fleeting at best.

Add to this the problem that john q public isn't able to appreciate all that our work offers. I know I certainly didn't when younger have the eye to appreciate much of the work I now admire, partly through education, largely through experience. For many of us, it is sharing our work with other photographers (and with non photographers who can appreciate all that our work means) that gives us the biggest kick.

For a lot of us, we never shared our work before the days of the internet - we didn't belong to a club, we didn't submit to magazines (or didn't get accepted), and our best work sat for years hidden away in old printing paper boxes. Satisfaction came from solving problems and getting things right, and also simply enjoying a beautiful print of our own, and feeling that it held up against the work of others we had seen, in books and at exhibitions.

Given the choice of making a photograph that is meaningful for myself or someone else, I'd pick me, every time. I have images which have demonstrably failed to impress in the public domain and despite not only lack of enthusiasm but downright and legitimate criticism; continue to 'work' for me.

This 'working for me' can happen at any level of skill and if someone has no knowledge of how wonderful a photograph can be, they may in fact be happy with what many would consider quite mediocre images. But does that actually matter? As long as they aren't trying to foist their poor images on the rest of us and feel satisfied in isolation, who are we to criticize. If later, they find out what really good images look like, and change their minds about their 'early' work, well, moving on and learning and getting better is all worthwhile. If a few of their early images continue to be important to them, that's lovely.

If a photographer thinks one of their images is terrific and the rest of us could or would disagree it doesn't matter. Most golfers tell me that they compete against themselves far more than the compete against the other players - it's about improving their game. I think there are a lot of reasons why photography should NOT be a competitive sport.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Book Progress

Why Photographs Work is coming along nicely, though delivery before Christmas seems a bit iffy. The book is at the layout editor as I chase up the last few photographer portraits and get photographer approval of all the edits of the text.

There are 52 photographers (seems I can't count), but better more than less. I can't comment on whether people will enjoy what I have to say about the images (though as I have done some previous image assessments on the blog, you can look back for some examples), but I think that between looking at the pictures and reading about the photographer making the images, it will be a fantastic book.

I can't thank the photographers enough for all their efforts on my behalf, for nothing - incredibly generous of both images and time, as text has gone back and forth and through multiple edits and I've asked for more from the photographers.

More On Large Format

I was photographing the other evening, and suddenly realized that all my lenses were mounted so the name of the shutter would read right side up when the lens is mounted (technika), but that it would be infinitely easier if the f stop and shutter speeds were on the side (right preferably) so I could see them when the camera is mounted at eye level.

Spent the evening filing notches in lens boards and remounting the lenses sideways - not as aesthetically correct perhaps, but a damn site handier.

I've been using my Canon S90 for viewing and exposure metering, but it doesn't help me assess contrast so I have purchased a used spot meter.

There is an interesting series of videos on tray processing of large format film on youtube that suggests that scratch free negatives can be had with just a bit of care. Oddly, part of that is placing the negatives in a tray (in waterbath) that isn't too big so the negs. don't go all over the place. Also clip one corner of one neg. so you always know when you are back at the beginning of the pile. Hmm. would be nice to process more than two negs at a time (BTZS tubes). I'll think about it - and practice a lot, before risking good negatives.

I've been thinking that the 5X7 would make a suitably impressive camera for shooting environmental portraits and I might just get up the nerve to give this a try. Digital would be a hell of a lot easier, but I think the result would be different - will report on progress.

I now have a 5X7 Technika V (as well as the Shen Hao). Even more weight (12 lb.) but built like a tank, and with wide angle focusing knob on the outside (like the Technika 2000 and 3000, for a whole lot less. The Shen Hao is far better looking, but the Technika does have its advantages - absolutely rigid, perfectly aligned, can handle wide lenses like the 72XL or even a 55 for 4X5, and has bellows long enough to use my 450 mm. lens without an extension board. The back has a bail for opening it, and of course a rotating back. The extension rail has only a single button to press down on and it's on the left side, making extending it a lot simpler. But 12 lb. - don't think I'll be getting far from the camera with this monster.

Have been doing some scanning of the 4X5's and 5X7's. So far no 5X7 that wows me.

The BTZS darkcloth is definitely the best, if a bit hot and humid in there - have to be careful not to breathe on the ground glass or the damn thing fogs up - or even worse, the moisture gets between the ground glass and the fresnel. May have to get some snorkel gear - and I thought I looked silly already.

Had forgotten just how frustrating cable releases are - designed to fall off, or break off, yet fiddly enough you hate having to screw one on for every change in lens - so I leave them on, and they break, and they fall. Am about to find out if they rust, having dropped one in the stream I was standing in.

It was only after photographing that I even gave thought to the image being upside down in the ground glass - didn't even notice as I was shooting - mind you I'd shot with a view camera for a number of years - just not in the last few.

I had kept purchasing View Camera magazine, which seemed pointless at the time, yet hard to let go - guess it was prescient.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

First Film

This is the first 4X5 film of the new era, a concrete box for the new storm sewer installation next to the tennis courts (I'd been playing and noted the light, so returned the next day at the right time).

Shot with a Technika IV, Delta 100 film, dry scanned on my 4870, lens was the 210, f 11, focus on the front surface of the box.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Voja Mitrovic, Printer To The Greats

Check out the two part essays on Voja, who has printed for the likes of Cartier Bresson - for his best prints anyway, and read the followup blogs on The online Photographer.

With Power Comes Responsibility

Photoshop is a very powerful tool. You can do almost anything to an image. BUT SHOULD YOU? Knowing when enough is enough is a vital skill, whether in framing the subject or adjusting the tones in an image. Knowing the difference between magnificent and cartoonish, subtle and boring takes skill, experience and a good eye.

Some claim the good eye is inherent, I think it is developed, through looking at fine images.

Some aspects of the fine image can be garnered from magazine and book quality reproductions while others require seeing original prints, and without glass between you if possible. Workshop teachers typically bring bare prints to show and this is a fantastic opportunity. If you don't spend 4X as much time going over the instructors prints as anyone else in the workshop, you aren't getting the most out of the workshop. Ask to view the prints at lunch time - so what if you starve. Find out if you can have a private look through at the end of the day. Far more than skill or talent, instructors admire enthusiasm and a willingness to learn.

Life Changing Moments

Charles sent me the following:

Message: Ok, so dont keep us in suspense, what is the name of the workshop you said you went to that so radically changed your photogaphy?
As with many questions, there isn't a simple answer, but here's a list of the things that made a difference for me. You won't necessarily be able to do the same thing, but perhaps can find something similar.

1) In the 1970's I took a weekend photographic appreciation course at the Edmonton Art Gallery, given by Hubert Hohn. I thought it a complete waste of time and besides it was boring, but something took and within six months how I looked at photographs was changed fundamentally. I could appreciate a greater range of images and get more out of each image. The problem had been me, not the course.

2) Reading Fred Picker's "The Zone VI Workshop", a very modest book did more to improve the quality of my printing than dozens of previous books including all of Ansel Adams. Now, with digital and Photoshop, it doesn't have the impact it did, but perhaps there are modern books with equivalent impact.

3) Attending a Craig Richards and Keith Logan workshop in Canmore, Alberta - it was helpful and fun and we had some great photographing. It was the first time that I thought my work good enough to show, and was really the starting point for my writing and showing and selling. Some photographers have an inflated opinion of their work and none of us is a very good judge of our skills without getting some outside feedback. Over several workshops I came to realize that I was at least going in the right direction and might have something to offer.

In the 80's Bruce Barnbaum compared some of my prints to those of Jay Dusard - I was floating, then proceeded to point out a series of totally crap images (he was right). By the time I took a second workshop with Bruce and Tillman Crane in Nova Scotia a few years ago, I had a better sense of good images and the ratio of good images to bad was much healthier.

Feedback is essential and it can be hard to get objective feedback. Few workshop leaders are going to tell you your work is crap, but after a few workshops, you learn to read between the lines, and in looking at the work of all the other participants, develop a sense of where you are at. It's rather like reading modern report cards in which teachers are not allowed to say anything bad about a kid, but if you know the language, you can interpret. Making progress means you were lousy before and still have a long way to go. If the instructor starts talking about the quality of your mattes instead of your prints, you are really in trouble (or he is).

4) Getting published - it's a huge affirmation of one's work. Remember though that not all magazines or editors will like your kind of photography, or they may have published something similar recently so aren't likely to want more of same.I don't think contests are a good way to seek affirmation - unless you win of course.

5) Selling a print for real money. It's one thing to admire an image, another entirely to want it so badly you are willing to fork over cold hard cash. Selling to Aunt Mildred does not count however.

6) Compliments depend on who's giving them - kudos from people you respect, who have an artistic eye, or education or experience means so much more. The nature of the complement is important too. Good things said by someone who actually gets what you were trying to do, instead of simply saying they are lovely can be a big step.

In terms of how this information might help you. I can wholeheartedly recommend workshops by Bruce Barnbaum, (and Craig Richards if he is running any), or Tillman Crane or Michael Reichmann. Check around the net for other suggestions for workshops. I hear that Craig Tanner does fabulous workshops. He seems to have particular skill at improving your seeing and pushing your comfort zones in your photography.Your important milestones will be different from mine and trying to reproduce them may be pointless, but you will have them, especially if you make a point to get out there, ask questions, attend workshops, get help, beg favours. Serious photographers hate being asked to pat someone on the head, they generally love to talk about good photographs and most love looking at photographs if the person making them has put heart and soul into making them. Looking at image someone has made to please me is at best boring.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

It's Just A Hammer

With me playing with film and large format again, it got me thinking about the emotional worth we invest in our tools. This can cut both ways - believing that without a certain set of tools, we are unable to make great photographs, or blaming our tools for the quality of work we do. Am I retrying large format film to achieve a quality not possible with digital? I don't think so, other than possibly being able to make bigger prints. Am I more efficient? Hardly! Is a ground glass really all that much better than a 3 inch LCD? You must be joking? Could it be that I simply like messing with view cameras, that the process is as important as the result? Absolutely?

But here's the rub. Does the equipment have an impact on our creativity? Might well be. If I spend 4 hours taking a dozen pictures, which I could have done in 20 minutes with a digital camera are the individual images made better? Probably not. But what about all that extra time absorbing the scene - noticing the light, checking the composition especially carefully before wasting film? Don't know.

Who has not at some time seen an amazing photograph in a newspaper. Given the tonalities of newsprint (ain't got none), and resolution of the 5 pixels per inch line screen (just exaggerating here), just about any damn camera could have taken the image and it would still be recognizable as a great photograph.

Is someone who likes messing with  cameras just a hobbyist by definition? Does caring about your tools prevent you from being or being considered as a serious photographer?

We do need to be comfortable with our tools - it's hard to be creative when you are cursing your camera. The right tool doesn't have to be the best tool, or the fanciest, or the most expensive. It doesn't need to be the fastest (and might even benefit from being slower). Wonderful images have been made with rickety old cameras mounting horrible lenses and exposing low quality film (or cheap point and shoot digitals. It helps if the person using said camera isn't letting dreams of better tools get in the way of making the best use of the tool that's in front of them.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Film At Four

AM that is, the time when I finished processing the first 8 sheets of 5X7 film from a hike on Friday. The backpack was about 35 lb. and at age 60 felt more like 50 lb. but I managed, using the waist belt to carry most of the weight it went fine, even taking it on and off repeatedly as I moved through the canyon. Finding a dry rock to lay the backpack and it's turned back flap was a little challenging but it had been raining all morning and conditions in the canyon were perfect.

The Shan Hao worked well, except for the 90 mm. lens which required the front and back standards to touch and which meant no movement in either. Given the depth of field with the 90 on 5X7, not a huge issue but something to consider. If I want to shoot architecture on 5X7, I'll get a 120 Nikkor SW - huge coverage.

There were a few times when I wished I had the simplicity of shooting digital, with a nice bright lcd to show me the image - but decent gr. glass should help - I have ordered a Maxwell screen and will report on it when it comes in a month or so.

I did wish for colour for one image in particular, but actually found it relieving that I didn't have any choice - I had to find subjects that would work in black and white and much to my surprise it was a good thing. I'm not sure that the extra size of 5X7 is worth the weight and bulk - but won't really know till I get some decent prints made.

I did like not having to stitch, not even having the option to do a focus blend, and having to decide which part of the image to let go out of focus, if any, was not a problem.

I made a mount board holder for the 5X7 negs. for scanning - only to have my scanner crap out on me - so no images to show you yet.

I went out last night after tennis to shoot some sewer construction materials lying nearby, this time with my ancient Technika IV. The view camera was ideal for the subject. I could align the focus where I wanted and blur the other areas.

Bottom line is I'm having fun. I fully expect that I won't be as productive (after all, I can't shoot colour), but it will be interesting to see if the quality of the images hold up, and if I'm able to get one good image per shoot, which is all anyone really needs.

Hopefully I'll get the scanning up and running soon and have some images to show.

Friday, August 13, 2010

First Shoot With 5X7

Went to Jura Canyon today. Have been there a few times shooting digital but was back with my 5X7. Pack weighed about 35 lb. and was ok with the waist belt carrying the weight instead of the shoulders. Working is slow, but where I'd take five shots of the same scene, with minor variations in position, each shot stitched or focus blended, not sure that in the end it was any slower.

Did find one shot that I wished I had colour film for, but I quite liked being forced to make black and white images and the real test will be in the quality of the prints made from the shoot. Made 12 images, most of them unique. Only once did I shoot the same setup, same lens, but different exposure.

Composing on the ground glass was frankly much harder than using the lcd - but to be fair this was because of a poor quality fresnel. A decent one is on order and we'll see how much difference that makes.

In the canyon, I used my 90 and 135 the most, and a few shots with the 210 and didn't touch the 450 but that's the nature of the place, narrow and confining and needing LOTS of depth of field.

Tried f32 and a couple at f45 and one at f64 - will be interesting to see if that is practical.

After the first couple of shots, I was thinking I liked that I had earned any images that work out. By the end I was fed up with putting the camera back in the backpack after every shot - carrying a wooden camera weighing sig. more than the tripod in a narrow canyon, water everywhere and some pools fairly deep, and having to traverse wet debarked trees to get past the deepest water - no I don't think I'd want the camera on the tripod for moving positions.

Still, it will come down to the percent of keepers. It will need to be dramatically higher than my digital ratio which is about 1 in 100 (I'm fussy). If it is one in 10, then that means I got one photograph I'll be proud of. In a way, it seems a waste to blow the other eleven negs, but one great image in four hours of photographing isn't that unreasonable.

Well, off to process the film in BTZS 8X10 film tubes - incredibly simple, just a bit slow is all. I wonder if there is a way to process two sheets at a time in each tube (since they are made for twice as large film. The film does move around so two loose sheets isn't on. Wonder what would happen if I used masking tape for the 7 minutes processing time, removing it in the fix. It's a thought. Might just try it on a couple of test pictures.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Quick And Dirty Comparison

For the full effect, click on the images and see them larger, but bottom line is the upper image was made with my 5D2, 50 mm. macro at f11, tripod mounted, live view (ie. no mirror bounce (in fact no shutter at the start of the exposure). The second is the result of literally tossing the 5X7 neg. onto my flatbed 4870 scanner, no holder, no glass to flatten it. It was made with my 210 Symmar S, f 32, 1/2 second exposure on TMAX-100.

At a guess, I'd say I'd need to use at least a double row stitch to get enough pixels to equal the resolution, possibly more. Note that one was taken in the morning, the other the night before, but that's a lot more information, I'd hazard a guess at significantly more than 100 megapixels worth.

Whether the ability to make 35X50 prints that can be viewed from 9 inches is worth the trouble of the 5X7 remains to be seen. I'm waiting on a backpack before I start seriously using the camera.

My plan so far is to use the lenses I have, 90 Nikkor, 135 Sinaron SE (which does in fact cover 5X7, barely), 210 Symmar S, 305 G-Claron and am getting a 450 mm. Fujinon-C.  If this actually becomes practical as well as fun, then I'll get a 120 Nikkor SW for architecture (for movements on the 5X7).

I'll continue to report in.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Light Meter

I'm using my S90 digital point and shoot as both viewing filter and light meter. In fact it took the picture above, which is more than you can say for most light meters. I set the mode to black and white, ISO to 100 and then take the shutter speed on manual exposure and f 8 and adjust it for the film and f stop I'm really using. Let you know how it works after I process the film.

Pictures Of New Camera

In the first photos, the camera looks pretty normal. When you look at the last image, the 4X5 looks like a toy in comparison.


the camera is pretty sturdy and sets up easily. At full extension there is a little sag in the rails (you can see it in the second last picture), still very useable, but you'd need to be careful loading film. I'd probably try and avoid this much extension. As this is about 600 mm., and the longest lens I plan on using will be a 19 inch, it shouldn't be a problem.

I have ordered a backpack for it - going with the people at and I'll tell you how that turns out.

My new used camera comes with a 4X5 reducing back (as well as the 5X7) and also bag bellows. I'm investigating getting a Maxwell screen for the back.

Today, a three tube, six cap set of 8X10 BTZS processing tubes arrived. I had thought to tray process the 5X7 film but I'm not good at it and have screwed up tray processing of 4X5 any time I tried it. The BTZS will be slow - I can only process one sheet of 5X7 per tube, two tubes at a time. On the other hand, I can adjust development as I go and to suit. As development times are around 7 minutes, to processs 6 sheets will take an extra 14 minutes - not a lot to get custom developing for every single sheet.

I've been talking with other large format photographers and almost everyone is shooting digitally as well, but they continue to enjoy large format, so we'll see. It was the printing that was always a pain, trying for good prints that were reproduceable.

I'm happy with inkjet printing for the most part, but at some point I'll try contact prints, just to see - going back to how I started at age 12 making contact prints from 2 1/4 film.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Shen Hao HZX57 ATII Has Arrived

Big, Beautiful, Heavy - my thoughts on first revealing the camera. It is 8 lb. 15 oz. which is pretty decent for a 5X7 (the Ebony weighs 10 lb). I can remember years ago seeing a 5X7 and thinking it must be an 8X10 so I
m not too surprised. Made of teak and titanium alloy, it is very attractive, the ground glass huge after working in 4X5. The other Shen Hao 5X7 or a Chamonix would be a lot lighter but I'm not prepared to compromise on the swings (on the lighter cameras the swing moves the ground glass off to the side thus reframing the image) - been out twice now with the 4X5 and used a swing both times.

This camera comes with a Technika board adaptor so I can swap lenses back and forth. I'll have to give some thought to transporting the camera - will need space for camera, 3 lenses, and 6 holders.

I already have a Nikkor 90, Symmar S 210 and a 14 inch R. Dot Artar in Copal - might swap that for 19 inch but we'll see. First to see if I make use of it - or do I start thinking of the 4X5 as plenty big enough.

It will be fun.

I'll post pictures soon.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Monarch Coal Mine

On the hillside near the Atlas Coal Tipple, S. of Drumheller, Alberta.

Film Vs. Digital

I was shooting both this evening - hiked up a steep hill, so took the digital (which had a backpack), saving the view camera for some work nearer to the car. I'll need to set up a backpack for the view camera.

The digital seems almost too easy - I like the process of shooting with the view camera - of knowing what I'm doing and going to the trouble - as if somehow I'm earning the image. Whether the images will be any better remains to be seen - still haven't processed any of the film - perhaps tomorrow.

In looking at 5X7 cameras, I had seriously considered the Chamonix 5X8, but it won't take my 90 mm. Nikkor which does cover 5X7. Also, although I have never used a Phillips type camera with the two arms reaching rearwards to the back, it is quite apparent from photographs showing back tilt that in order to use back tilt, one has to swing the camera sideways a considerable amount and the camera is no longer pointing at what it had been - I think I'd find that frustrating - swing - rotate camera - swing more - rotate more - swing a little less - re-aim camera yet again... If anyone has experience with this type, I'd be interested in hearing about their experiences.

In the mean time I have purchased a used Shen Hao 5X7, the more traditional one - heavy at 8 lb. but reputed to be solid, and has the proper type of swing - which by the way, I had to use again with my 4X5 Shen Hao. I was photographing a small rusted cylinder of about two feet height, diameter a bit more than a foot and ran out of near focus with my 210 - the 5X7 extends to 610 mm. so that won't be a problem.

Again, using the 4X5 was fun. Don't know that I'll be using it to take exciting pictures, but hopefully good ones, and who knows, I might try some contact printing.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

I Shot Film!, And Enjoyed It

Well, having had fun yesterday with the stump and not feeling I had got the best of it, I emptied out the darkroom (no mean feat itself), wiped down some surfaces and took some clean holders. I threw out all the old film (does film that was thawed in 1992 (God knows when I bought it) still work?). Anyway, I loaded six holders (12 sheets) and headed out for the stump.

I have found that for 4X5, the best tripod is my Berlebach 9043, with no head on it at all, just using the leveling centre post to aim up and down. The wood legs and metal spike feet work better than my carbon fibre Gitzo for the bigger camera. It does weigh a couple of pounds more, and by the time you place 4 inches of ball head on it, isn't as stable, but with camera right on the centre post - pretty good and quite versatile, grabbing the bottom of the centre post to position the camera.

I used both back tilt and back swing to get the plane of focus just right - actually quite fun and much easier than on a tilt shift lens on my dSLR.

I found the dark cloth a bit of a pain, either slipping down over the lens or more commonly off the camera entirely, or falling down between me and the camera - and it was hot under there (on a not especially warm day). My bifocals were a pain, only being able to do much with the bottom 1/8 inch of my progressives for  viewing. I have astigmatism so simple cheaters are not an option.

I once had a BTZS dark cloth which was small and closed at the back and elasticized round the camera - it worked perfectly with my Kardan Color - a couple of plastic clips on the metal body of the camera holding the cloth nicely in place. I might just have to do something similar to my Shen Hao 4X5.

The camera performed flawlessly with both the 135 and 210 lenses and interstingly the 210 stood in nicely for the 70-200 zoom on this occasion (ie. working from roughly the same distance).

Arrguably the fun part is now over - I have to clean the darkroom and the developing equipment thoroughly, process the film and then scan it. I made six shots, using two sheets for each shot. Perhaps I didn't need to do that since I can deal with spots and scratches in Photoshop, but you never know and it's what I always did.

I'll scan one neg from each holder at 300 dpi and consider that my 'proof sheet' from which I can then pick the negs I want to do hi res scans from.

I'll let you know how all that works out.

Of course, the obvious solution is to purchase a $40,000+ medium format digital system but like most of you, I'm doing this as an artist/hobbyist and no way can I recoup the cost of such a system. Factoring in the cost of the divorce,...

Hobbyists and artists just have to lump it and do it the hard way. Whether it will hold up to my 5D2 and have any artistic merits to the workflow remains to be seen.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Never Know What You'll Find

Was on my way to photograph some industrial equipment and though it was there this morning as I returned from the farmers market - it was gone when I went out to photograph four hours later - sigh. So I headed for a city park that is entirely wild - first growth firs - but the path was closed - washouts. On my way back, I noticed a giant tree stump in the garden of a rather modern and ordinary looking church - and spent a delightful hour photographing it in the rain, looking for the best compositions.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Can You Restore?

Last Sunday, I lost the hard drive that contained the upcomging book - everything - images, portraits, texts, even the list of photographers. Fortunately I use a combination of Time Machine and a redundant array Drobo 4X 1 terabyte backup system. Although it took 24 hours to restore all 500 gig. from the lost drive, it came through perfectly. This morning, my fourth drive on the Drobo gave up the ghost, but since the backup is redundant, I simply pulled out the drive and plugged in a spare one, which happened to be twice the size of the other three, no fuss, no muss, nothing lost. It will be a day or two before the new drive is loaded and the redundancy back in force but it doesn't get much more painless than this.

Three cheers for Time Machine and Drobo.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Thnking About Film - Continued

Well, I may be kidding myself, but I did pick up 100 Sheets of Ilford Delta 100 4X5 today. I won't consider any larger format till I have shot all 100 sheets, then we'll see. I might just pick up some colour negative 4X5 too for just in case.

Here's a few images from today - all could have been done with the 4X5 - just more trouble - and iffy whether it would have done any better. On the other hand, if you assume that 4X5 has about 60 megapixels of resolution, that would make 5X8 120 megapixels and it's going to be some time before I can afford a 120 megapixel camera.

Now I have to clean out the darkroom so I can load film. By the way, the middle picture is a two exposure blend, the first and last are focus blends. Wonder if I could have stopped down enough to get adequate depth of field with a 4X5.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Scott Peters Recommended, and Do I Try Large Format Again?

Have been wondering about shooting large format again, just for a change. Was checking out Chamonix cameras from China and their gallery had an image I reecognized - by Scott Peters, who shoots with 8X10 and more interestingly, with a 7X17. I highly recommend viewing Scott's website. He has some lovely 7X17 images in particular.

Of course, enlargine 7X17 is difficult. Hell, scanning it would be difficult - it really encourages you to make contact prints in the wet darkroom. I still have my darkroom - ok, it's a mess and I'd have to remove the crap now being stored in it, but it would be intriguing. Lens coverage for 17 inches wide is problematic - but oddly, old lenses like the Red Dot Artars and even new lenses like the Nikon 450 M or Fujinon C are possibilities.

Another far less expensive and much more mobile option would be a 5X7 or even 5X8, scannable for inkjet printing, even a decent contact print. The ratio isn't as extreme, nor as intriguing. Film is half a sheet of 8X10 - which is still available in colour. I'm guessing you could even get it processed using 8X10 hangers.

I'd lose focus blending, though exposure blending wouldn't be the same problem.  Perhaps the biggest issue would be losing my 70-200 with which I make a lot of my photographs - could I learn to love modest focal lengths? I'd def. have issues with the limited number of shots I could make - would it even be possible for me to change from my one good shot in one hundred formula I have found about right for the last 10 years, even before digital - simply not practical in this format? It might be too frustrating. I suspect that 5X8 could probably work with my current 4X5 lenses, 90 nikor, 210 Symmar S, doubt the Fuji 400 telephoto would work but I could pick up a 450 non telephoto and it would be a fraction of the size.

As to weight, 7X17 would definitely be more, but I'm horribly overweight and have lost 20 lb. of 100 I need to lose - surely I can lug one third of that in camera gear after the weight comes off?

5X8 with a limited selection of lenses wouldn't weigh a lot more than my 1Ds2 and camera kit when it includes my 300 - even with a modest number of film holders.

No question it would be different - I'm 60, could be I'm going senile - hope not. Last time I took out my 4X5 it reminded me of all the reasons I quit large format. I'd have to make sure I have my kit simple and reliable. I wonder....

It's all just dreams at the moment,

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Why Photographs Work - the Book

 I was asked about the upcoming book. As excellent progress has been made and we have a definite list of photographers, I thought I'd bring everyone up to date on this exciting project.

The book is a discussion by me about what makes each of the 51 photographs work, followed by a description by the photographer of making the image (why more than how), a short bio, picture of the photographer, reference to their website and publications and who were their influences.

Photographers include:

Bruce Barnbaum
Charlie Cramer
David Maisel
Beth Moon
George Jerkovich
Sandra C Davis
Hans Strand
Michael Kenna
Carol Hicks
Francois Gillet
Joe Cornish
David Ward
Pete Turner
Larry Louie
Cole Thompson
Susan Burnstine
Kim Kauffman
Louie Palu
Michael Levin
Freeman Patterson
Craig Richards
Elizabeth Opalenik
Bengt Ekelberg
Sven Fennema
Harald Mante
George E. Todd
John Sexton
Roman Loranc
Wayne Levin
Tillman Crane
Christopher Burkett
Shaun O'Boyle
Gordon Lewis
Brigitte Carnochan
Lawrence Chrismas
Dennis Mecham
Charlie Waite
Brian Kosoff
Milan Hristev
Paul Mahder
Blair Polischuk
Billie Mercer
Huntington Witherill
Joe Lipka
John Wimberley
Mitch Dobrowner
Nick Brandt
Phil Borges
Dan Burkholder
Thomas Holtkoetter

Each photographer has one image in the book. Many of the images are famous but perhaps people don't know why they like the image and therefore can't create similarly great images and the book will help. Some are quite unknown images and will suprise and hopefully delight.

The book will be 10X10 inches. Printing will be good but not coffee table quality (check my previous books for similar quality - very good) but it will also be reasonably priced, some 200+ pages.

The status of the book is it has been written and edited by the publisher (Rockynook) and I am in the process of re-editing. it is hoped to be out before Christmas but it's going to be a close thing.

I should say that each photographer has donated his or her photograph and writing to the project with no compensation other than some free copies of the book and I'm extremely grateful to them for this (the project could not have been done otherwise).

There is a significant variety of photography in the book. 46% is in colour, there are 8 women, photographers from Canada, USA, Britain, Sweden, Germany and Bulgaria. There are nudes, traditional landscapes, manipulations, abstracts, allegories and more. I pushed my middle aged white guy background to select images but love every one of them, in some cases for years.

Not all the photographers are famous, not all have great depth of wonderful work behind them, but each has risen to the occasion to produce a beautiful and or meaninful image.

Even in the time that I have collected photographers and done the writing, some of the least known photographers have been or ar about to be published or have won international awards - I think I have chosen very well, even if I do say so. My writing in the book isn't terribly different from the style used in my blog.

The book is for photographers who want to learn from the greats, and for viewers of photography who want to better appreciate great images, and for everyone to push their taste boundaries a little beyond comfort, while still paying strict attention to traditional print values. None of the images stands on concept over skill, idea over craftsmanship.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Right Light

The right light is critical to good photographs. Both brillant sun with its black shadows and really flat light result in dull boring pictures, especially in black and white. HDR has helped the sunlit images but really flat lighting just plain sucks.

Predicting what light you will have for your photographs can be really difficult. Some photographers will only go out at sunrise but of course sunset lasts just as long and can be every bit as nice. I have found it practical in summer to head out in the afternoon, photograph at sunset, either camp or motel and then go out very early to photograph before and during sunrise, heading home again.

Weather conditions often change though and by not heading out you may be missing on the wonderful light that followed the crap light. A thunderstorm develops and the light is magic. Perhaps you end up photographing something in the shade, with somewhat directional lighting provided by other objects reflecting into the subject area. When photographing the small, local conditions trump overall lighting and even holding up an umbrella, shirt or you can be enough to change the lighting from poor to great.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Box And Pipe Version 2

In keeping with getting the shot quickly into the camera before things change, I made the picture posted on the weekend, but I also then stopped to think about what I was doing. I decided to include more of the curve in the upper left, while at the same time exposing only the lid of the box. Moving back a few inches and adjusting the zoom allowed for what I think is a better composition. Again, Helicon Focus is used for near infinite depth of field, and this time I was careful to consider the framing with the closest focus as the image is slightly magnified (ie. cropped) which means that if you do your framing with the distant part of the image in focus, you may get the framing wrong.

I took advantage of the colour sliders in the black and white conversion layer in photoshop to give the grass just the right tint through adjusting the yellow and green sliders while slightly darkening the beige box by darkening the red slider, none of which affected the relatively neutral concrete. Considerable work was done with curves adjustment layers to get the tonalities right (some 10 layers of adjustment), as well as subtle highlight dodging near the end of the workflow - just as I wrote about in my second book.

I have just realized that the bottom corner of the grass looks a little weak - so before I make my first print, I'll darken that (but have left the problem here for you to see the kind of thing that I adjust to make a good print).

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Gardening Leads To...

I was just thinking I should do more with my rust images, but after working on the book for months, the garden was sadly neglected. I repaired the wheelbarrow, flipped it over after replacing the wheel which was always going flat, and lo, rust, lots of rust, in interesting patterns.

After taking the picture, I hauled a couple of barrow loads of compost for  a new flower bed. Not a great photograph, but a nice one.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Merg Ross

As part of the new book project, I'm asking photographers to name the people they admire. More than one name was unknown to me. I had a look for Merg Ross and was delighted to find all manner of interesting images. In checking out the site, I see that he was a student of and friends with Brett Weston and one can certainly see Brett's influence in Merg's photography, but his images are definitely his own, very strongly designed and an interesting variety of subjects, well worth checking out.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Toning In A Digital World

My persistent absence from posting is of course because I'm hard at work on the next book, but it's months away (and longer if I don't keep my nose to the grindstone). For the book, which is about photographs by other people, I have had all manner of methods of delivering images to me, from digital files ready for the book, sized and everything, to prints, to unedited scans from transparencies and colour negatives as well as monochrome. Some of the photographers print on silver, others platinum. So, reproducing their work as closely as possible has not been a simple task.

Dennis Mecham sent a beautiful silver print, monochrome and not toned (or so I first thought). I scanned the print for him and to check on quality, made a print from the scan. Wow, his print had a lot of colour compared to the totally neutral inkjet print from my 3800.

I noted that the blacks were black, but the midtones warm, almost pinkish rather than sepia, yet so subtle I hadn't even noticed it till I made the comparison print.

Someone had the suggestion on the net that a good way to tone images is to forget quadtones, stay in RGB and do the following. I regret not being able to credit the photographer but I dare say the idea has multiple sources anyway. Here it is:

Add a new fill layer from the layers menu in Photoshop. In the layers palette, set this layer to colour - thus applying colour information to the previous image layer but not luminance, thus tinting the image.

In doing this you are asked for the colour of the fill layer and you specify the hue you want. For my first effort, I chose R 208, G 201 and B 185. I later reddened it a bit, making the toning look more pink than orange by moving the colour slider on the right downwards when setting colour. (you can change the colour by double clicking on the layer icon for that layer in the layers palette, just like bringing back up the controls for any adjustment layer).

Now, here's the bit that I found helpful in the above project.

1) roughly set the opacity of the fill layer so that the middle and lighter tones in the image look right.

2) double click on the layer (to the right of the layer name) and you get up the blending window. Here you can change all manner of blending. What I wanted was neutral blacks and a gradual switch from toned in the lighter colours to neutral. I did this by using the underlying image slider at the bottom of the window. You will find a split black mark on the underneath of the slider. Holding down the option key, I dragged the right half of the dark slider nearly all the way to the right. This had the effect of determining which parts of the underying image would have the toning effect applied by the fill layer.

Essentially in pure black I had no toning, and a gradual switch to full toning where the split marker had moved to on the left.

Now, with the saturation of the fill layer and the controls of the blending window, I could get the toning close to perfect on screen. A few prints later, I not only had the colours of the two prints, one digital, one silver, matching extremely closely, I had the prints matching for luminance as well.

I did notice one phenomenon. Though I don't worry about metamerism these days (digital prints changing colour in different light sources), I did note that the strength of the toning to the two prints changed in relation to each other as I moved from flourescent to north light. It isn't a problem, just something to note. Anyway, the two prints are on their way back to Dennis.

Try this method of toning your black and white images, I think you will like it.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

April Blizzard

Wednesday was a lovely 17 degrees C., Thursday morning I walked the dog in warm sunshine. That afternoon the wind whipped up to 30+ mph and the temperature dropped below freezing and the snow started falling horizontally.

Friday I headed to Edmonton to see my Dad and found snow drifts along the highway and in one spot, they were black, dust blowing off the newly tilled fields.

Today the snow was almost gone and the temperature back up and my friend Lawrence Chrismas and I headed for the badlands of Drumheller. Lawrence is one of the photographers in my next book and we needed a portrait of him, so we stopped off at his small miner's house property adjacent to the Red Deer River and made this portrait.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

The Process

I walk into the living room, and see my wife's harp sitting in a sewing basket, with the sun shining on the harp and casting interesting shadows on the end of the sofa. I am not thinking photography in the least, but this is too good to not do something.

I know that the sun will hide behind our spruce tree within a few minutes, so I grab my Canon S90 for a "
grab" shot. I try about five images but think this is worth recording with my "good" camera, so dash downstsairs, switch lenses on the 5D2 to my 24-105 IS, pop in a memory card and run up stairs.

I quickly realize that the best shots are going to be with me lying on the floor, camera looking up so the curve of the harp complements the curve of the end piece of the sofa. I zoom to fit where I flopped down and start shooting. By luck, I happen to be at roughly the right exposure, even though the camera was left on manual, but I start using my head. I convert to program mode, and up the ISO to 400 as the first exposures were 1/8 second.

I realize that I may not be at the best spot, so I move back and forth, making minor lateral adjustments so that the gap between harp and sofa end are ideal, using the zoom to fill the frame. Closer in looks nice, but I also zoom back so I can fine tune the crop after the fact - recognizing that the light is already fading from the top of the harp.

In all, I shoot about 20 images, moving back and forth, fine tuning one edge only to realize that another one needed adjusted. Eventually the light had changed enough it was time to quit.

I would have preferred to use my tripod but with its centre post it wasn't going to get low enough and I didn't think I had the time to go get it anyway. In hind sight, I should have gone back to manual control and used a wider f stop so the background sofa was more blurred. Certainly the images from the S90 had way too much depth of field - and the highlights were blown on auto exposure with it.

With the 5D2 shooting raw, I did need to recover the highlights a bit. Several of the images suffered fatally from hand shake (I was in an awkward position on the floor). The light was better in the earlier images. I did though have several exposures to choose from, showing various crops.

Above is the first shot I tried to work with - sharp, decently exposed, encompassing most of what I wanted - though it didn't include the top of the harp or the very top of the sofa. I worked with the full size image and made a print and decided that although the shape at the bottom right was nice, the seat if the sofa sticking into the image didn't help. I thought I'd concentrate on the lower part of the image and so cropped the top so that the left edge of the harp would meet the top left corner of the image.

But I wasn't entirely happy - too much space int he middle and I missed the opening up of the gap between harp and sofa at the top (here it got smaller and smaller till the top edge).

I decided to look for another image. Better.

Then I thought, what if I converted it to black and white, and what if I used the filtering capabilities in the conversion (CS4 b&W adjustment layer) to enhance the wood.

Now, this is the end of the story, so far. I might pick a diff. image which includes more to the left so that I could have the edge of the harp meet the top left corner (though so far I actually don't like it as much - I tried). The wall needs more work, a bit uneven, and the walls showing between harp and sofa end should perhaps be a bit darker too, but I find that this is a good spot to stop, put up the image where I can see it several times a day, and in a few days I can see if further work, or even a different image will be the best.