I Went for a Walk – Fuzzy Wuzzy Photos

•November 11, 2020 • Leave a Comment

The weight of my photo equipment is inversely proportional to my age. Victims of Common Core New Math may not grasp that concept without gyrating and liberating a lot of whiteboard acreage and markers, because simple division is involved. Oops. Editorial.

What that means is my trail gear has lightened over the past forty years from thirty pounds of 4×5 inch view camera, film holders, light meter, gray card, focusing cloth (that was dang heavy), including a eight pound Bogen 3020 tripod and head, with no pack mule, to what I carry today when I hike; a three pound, Amazon off-brand, aluminum tripod and a 14 ounce, 1-inch sensor wizard like the Canon G7x Mark II or Lumix ZS100. (Let’s see. Convert pounds to ounces. No wait! It’s metric now… Never mind.) Large format on the trail now means my Nikon D7500 APS-C, or possibly my Nikon FM2N when I shoot film.

Climbing over roots and vines, and slippery moss covered rocks in Georgia is much more difficult with a heavy camera bag or pack than with a tiny camera in a leather case, slung under my arm. It has become a matter of safety. If I want to continue to hike well past the most common expiration date for men like me, then I gotta lighten up and tighten up.

Good hiking boots are also key. I love my highly rated, and reasonably priced Merrill Moab boots. Having a strong body core and balance is even more important, but that is another topic. However, let me recommend a top notch chiropractor, Dr. Linkhorn at Sports Chiropractic. (This was unsolicited.) If you just meditate on how to channel a mountain goat you’ll figure it out.

So the question for this previous Ansel Adams wannabe, who really does understand what image quality and landscape and nature photography is about, is how to use a tiny image sensor to express what I “see” as I walk.

To be candid, my attitude toward nature is not Mother Earth, New Age, covered in crystals and such. The evidence is there in plain sight. Nature was designed and created by G_D in Heaven. It was once perfect. Not now, but there is still so much miraculous beauty we can see. How do I offer it back to Him in gratitude and to you whether you believe in G_D or not. How do I take the clay and mold it, so to speak.

The Psalmist in the Bible (Psalm 19) says:

“The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice[b] goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.

As a practical matter it is difficult to express glory and grandeur on a 1-inch sensor. Black and White is a much different way of seeing than in color. I can tell you that for certain. Details will get lost in small pixels. Broad areas of tone or color seem to be presented much better than details when you are using a small camera. If you understand your tools and materials you can express yourself within their limitations. There’s freedom in their chains.

Ansel Adams said “…one sees differently with color photography than black-and-white… in short, visualization must be modified by the specific nature of the equipment and materials being used.” 

Amen. Now go forth and conquer. But wait. Exactly how do you do that?

When I go on a walk and I photograph, then everything, and I mean everything is going on in my mind and the camera is hardly involved except to cut a record. I have some basic settings on the camera but they are not even close to what my mind imagines.

Here is one example. The image on the left is the original RAW image taken by the tiny Lumix ZS100. The final image is on the right. It is the one that was in my head at the time, and it exists after having applied Lightroom edits; that is, color channels, clarity, texture, vignette, etc. You can figure it out. Use the slider to compare the two.

Move slider left and right to compare images

I said final image. Final for now. I may come back, and replay, or reperform the RAW image into another form. Again, as Ansel Adams said, “The negative is comparable to the composer’s score and the print to its performance. Each performance differs in subtle ways.”

My materials are digital. My tools are a simple and small camera. What do I do? In my mind, I visualize the final photograph. I have become more critical, more concerned with broader issues and bold differences in thought, not in yammering on minutiae. So it plays out in the photographs. I reduce details in my photos. I go for saturated color and fuzzy wuzzy impressionistic renderings of broad tones. They seem to work well in tiny format cameras, and I like them.

This might be greeted with disdain by the f64 West Coast crowd of so called photo purists. I don’t care. This is Georgia, y’all. I still practice some of that early training. The essence of Adams’ philosophy is to know your materials and express yourself.

Way too much talk, and not enough photos. Here ya go. Fuzzy Wuzzy Photos from my walk a couple days ago.

Oh yeah. About the snake. I believe they call it a yellow rat snake, or maybe this one is a king snake. It was lying very still on the trail. I spotted it, talked kindly to it, and after a few snakey flicks of its tongue, it slithered off into the woods. It was about three feet long, or a little more. I slithered on up the trail to the ridge.

No, I did not jump when I came across it. The weather was warm and I had hoped to meet one. I do watch for copperheads though. The are mean, well camouflaged, and they will send you to the hospital. I have an acquaintance who managed to step on one last summer.

I saw a flock of wild turkey also, but I was not quick enough with the camera to capture them. A few days ago, I spotted an otter having a wonderful swim in a side channel of the Chattahoochee River. I see deer all the time. Bear and coyote walk the woods too, but they stay away from me.

Tuesday Muse Day

•November 4, 2020 • Leave a Comment

I won’t bore you with my political monologue.

Instead I’ll bore you with technical stuff. Aren’t you relieved you can read this without being interrupted by a political ad. My wife and I are active, but I’m tired of 2020 politics. All I will say is I intentionally photographed on Election Day. We voted earlier in October.

I went for a walk. I ended up in Marietta, as usual. I grabbed a coffee and took a seat outside. The sun was shining. It was cool but comfortable. It’s still great weather in Georgia. I sipped coffee and observed the native population in the ritual of drinking the hot brew.

I’m testing the Lumix ZS100, an older (2016) 1-inch sensor, 20-something megapixel pocket camera. It has a 3-inch screen as well as a viewfinder. Check out the specifications on dpreview.com.

To be candid, I’m not that impressed with it or Canon’s G7x Mark II. The 1-inch sensors are noisy, there is not enough margin for exposure errors especially shadow exposures. Focusing cannot be even infinitesimally off. Any camera movement is amplified even with stabilization. You can crop, but quality drops exponentially.

If you hit the golden trifecta, you can get very good photos. I have an excellent 16×20 portrait of my granddaughter. However, the exceptions prove the rules, and how often are you perfectly in focus, perfectly still, and your exposure is perfectly spot on?

I believe Ansel Adams said the smaller the detail the larger the negative (think sensor) you need to record it. The smaller the sensor the more pronounced slight motion becomes, and the greater impact the pixels have on small details.

You can get good photos if your exposures are mid to high, but not on the shoulder of the sensitometric curve, and you have fairly broad areas of tone, like a simple portrait. That reduces noticeable noise (“grain”).

As a measure of effectiveness as a tool for my style, of all stock photos I submitted in the past year, 50% of my 1-inch sensor photos were rejected. The reasons are almost always technical issues with the camera. I have a much, much higher acceptance rate of photos taken with larger sensors, APS-C and full frame.

It stands to reason that a small camera is at a disadvantage in image quality, but I like small cameras that I can easily hide. Maybe the Micro 4/3’s is the compromise I need between camera size and photo quality.

The 1-inch pocket cameras are good for street photos, family snapshots, casual videos and vlogs, Instagram, and small prints.

So here ya go; street photography. Enjoy.

I processed the Lumix RAW images in Lightroom. I used a preset to bump up contrast, and then went darker. (It was Election Day, and I was in a dark mood.) I took the clarity slider fully left to get a halo softness effect and glow. I sacrificed detail, which is the antithesis of Street Photography, but I’m more concerned about the feel.

Selah

Red

•October 29, 2020 • 1 Comment

Have you considered lately how important the color red is to us. I was going through photographs and it caught me by surprise just how many of them had the color red in it. I suppose I was drawn to it. In some it was contrived. In others it was natural. 

Think about how we use the word; red eye, Communists are called “Reds”, red sky in the morning, red hot lover, the red white and blue, and the list goes on. Men wear red to project power. Women wear red to project sexiness. It can mean war, danger, blood, excitement, embarrassment, From emotions to politics the color red connotes warmth and excitement. 

Other primary colors have similar emotional content, but not to the degree the color red does.

These photographs are by me and my youngest daughter Meredith. I marked hers. She and I see things similarly. She actually sees things I wish I had. The first four images are hers. The rest are mine.

Selah

I Took a Seat

•October 22, 2020 • Leave a Comment

When the kids were growing up, we spent most of our vacation time going to Wilmington, North Carolina, my wife’s hometown. Wilmington is a great coastal town, up the Intercoastal Waterway from Savanah. It is full of history and it is right on the water. So there was plenty for the kids to do.

Now they are grown, and we’re going through the family cycles of life. We don’t go to Wilmington as much. Now we go to Hilton Head for vacation. It is only four or five hours from Atlanta, if you carefully time your escape from this huge honkin’ town and its unbearable traffic.

In my young years and with a family, we rushed about and when I managed to get a day to photograph, I would drive Carolina Beach Road from Wilmington all the way to Fort Fisher. It was flush with photographic subjects, such as…

The old phrase describing marriage, “… and the two shall become one…” should have appended to it, “But which one?” Well I have become my wife! In one regard, like her, I now just like to relax on the beach, under an umbrella, preferably in late September or early October when it is not so blazing hot.

What happened to photography? Well some of it got more sedate. Now unlike the photo shark I once was, constantly moving, swimming in search of prey, I am now more like an eel, my bottom buried in the sand, at rest but with camera ready, waiting for something to swim by. I have now taken a seat and I watch.

Several of these non-standard vacation photos follow that restful waiting way of thinking. Others are more like street photos. They are all digital, and most taken with a Sony A6000. By the way, I broke my little Canon G7x Mark II, not totally but most irritatingly – one of the strap lugs popped off. I won’t go into embarrassing details. However, I am unhappy with Canon now, and I expect more robustness from them, even their consumer oriented cameras, and especially from the G7x Mark II. In all the years I have used Canon consumer cameras (I use Nikon SLRs professionally), I have never had one of their cameras just physically break a part off. C’mon, man. (Now where did I get that phrase?)

Anyway, here are several of my recent, weird vacation photos.

Selah

Bananas Got Feelings, Too, Ya Know!

•September 24, 2020 • Leave a Comment

That’s how it is with me and bananas. I buy them or my wife does, and most of the time they sit on the plate and turn all brown and spotted. We keep them well beyond the CSI decomposition stage. Fruit flies are buzzing around the kitchen before we finally toss them into the trash.

Sometimes my wife will take the semi-brown ones and make banana nut bread, which I like. More rarely, when one is just right, not too ripe and not too green, I’ll capture it and enjoy. Ever watch a monkey open a banana? They open a banana at the bottom, not from the stem. They are smarter than we are about such things. Try it. Be like a monkey.

When I worked in an office I made my rounds routinely at the end of the week. My old friend John B. had kicked back one Friday, feet on his desk. He was leaning back, relaxing in his chair, and enjoying a banana before heading home for the day. Rituals are funny like that. I should say he appeared to be enjoying a banana. I walked up and observed him for probably just a second or two. Without missing a beat, he looked up at me and smiled said, “I hate how they taste. I just like how they feel.” Well I about fell down laughing, and I think he almost choked on it.

So here I am talking about bananas. What do bananas have to do with photography, or in this case with color film? Well, I just like how it feels!

Why the heck shoot color negative film today? Years ago I struggled with the disappointment of color negative film. Those 1-hour photo labs and even professional photo labs never quite got the colors exactly like I pictured them in my mind. I think Steve Koletich, God rest his soul, was the only photo lab owner in metro Atlanta who actually knew how to use a Shirley Card. He made one himself using his wife as the model. She was lovely. He could get colors right. However, I much preferred shooting in black and white, and I could control the outcome. During 25 years of wedding photography I shot only two weddings in black and white, and only one wedding in which I shot both black and white and color film.

When digital came along, I was doing part time work for an Atlanta studio and I was forced to be an early adopter: Louis gave me a call. “Bill,” he said, “We’re switching to digital.” “Okay,” I answered. That was the entire phone call.

The now long gone Wolf Camera on 14th Street had a professional counter, and they told me that I was the 5th person in the city to buy a Nikon D100. I bought the last one they had on the shelf. They were back-ordered, so I moved fast. Wolf’s were the big dog in town, so I believed what they said. That little camera gem set me back two thousand dollars… that is $2000.00 in 2002 money, and I had to do serious calculations to see if I could cost justify the thing!

If you are trying to make money you don’t just go blow a couple grand on a camera for the heck of it. Well, some high end photogs might smack down five or six grand or more now, but us grunts have to watch our pennies. Based on the number of exposures and cost of film vs. number of exposures and cost of digital, I could pay it off through sleight of hand and creative accounting.

I went full blown digital, cold turkey. I had entered the 21st Century, “a veritable age of reason, like they had in France,” and for almost 18 years I never really looked back. I think technology finally caught up with digital urgency maybe ten years ago, and the tools started producing some really stunning images. But in 2002 the guys at my studio could blow you away with 5 megapixels. Things are easier now.

Once I worked out the exposures on the D100, I realized that digital color was definitely much better than film in color fidelity, easier for me to visualize, and a lot easier for me to control. I could actually get what I wanted and get it consistently. Strive for consistency. You should not have to think through every shot. It should be muscle memory and reaction time. If you are fiddling with controls, you have lost it.

So my film cameras went the way of all flesh, except for a couple of sentimental relics. I wish I’d kept my Leica. Ouch. But wait! Film is back. It never really died, except for Kodachrome. And now with digital scanning and Photoshop, I can control the results like I never could with film twenty-something years ago.

Here ya go. Nikon FM2N and Fuji film. Wanna know about the nuts and bolts? Stay tuned. It’s not that color film has a technical advantage over digital. Certainly not now. I just like how it feels.

Dracula: I’m Not Dead Yet! Part 2

•September 23, 2020 • Leave a Comment
Dracula (a.k.a. Svema) Film

I love the Film Photography Project branding! It’s Russian film – I should say Ukrainian, the old Svema FN64. Svema went under years ago. So the resurrection is underway, with limited batches arriving from time to time. It reminds me of one of those invitation only restaurants. You get on a list, and when the chef feels like cooking, you get a call. I think the concept is just cool, funny, and by my test results it’s darn good film.

I used my trusty Nikon FM2N, built in the 1980’s, and a Nikkor 28-105 zoom. It’s not even my sharpest lens, but stopped down and with the camera on a tripod, it cuts a fine line. I know Nikon is not the hot brand right now in the digital world. It’s number 3 behind Canon and Sony brands. Rumors abound that Sony will buy Nikon. I will hate that when it happens. Nikon is legendary. If you shoot stock, I think Nikon is number 2, but Canon users outrun Nikon users 2:1.

The great thing that Nikon did that Canon and the rest did not, is build quality optics in their “consumer” line of lenses. You might not get a fast lens. You might not get weather sealing. But the images are great. If you spend time hiking then weight is a big concern. You need quality lenses that are light weight and that don’t cost as much as a used car if your bag drops a few feet onto rocks and you break a lens.

Of course there are dogs. Do your research before buying a lens, any lens.

I briefly tried Canon years ago, and I discovered there was a big difference in image quality between Canon’s consumer line and their professional line of lenses, the L lenses. You pay an arm and a leg for Canon’s good glass. When I was trying to make a living, or part of a living, from photography, I could get great images from less expensive Nikon lenses. I still can. Some of their G lenses have ED glass and vibration reduction built in, and they compete very well with other brand lenses costing several times more. They may not have f2.8 optics or weight. Check out dpreview.com lens comparisons.

But I digress. I like chocolate. You like strawberry. No big deal.

I developed the Dracula/Svema 64 in Adox Rodinal. See the Digital Truth Massive Development Chart database for developer and times. I diluted Rodinal 1:50, and developed the film 10 minutes at just under 70 degrees Fahrenheit, my normal tap water temperature without heating or cooling. (Keep things simple and repeatable; adjust your development time and agitation rather than trying to precisely regulate water temperature unless your tap water temp is below 65 degrees or above 75 degrees.) I agitated the film the first minute, then 15 seconds each remaining minute of development time. I used Ilford stop bath for one minute. Then I used Ilford Rapid Fix, diluted 1:4, for 3 minutes. I washed the film about 30 minutes.

Rodinal is not exactly a fine grain developer, but with this film the grain is barely perceptible. If you photograph landscape details, a little grain is good, in my opinion. If you photograph things with broad, smooth areas like sky, or clouds or skin, then use a fine grain film and developer. Dracula and Rodinal are pretty good together.

Next came scanning. Scanning is the weakest link in my workflow, and I am figuring things out on my own because I cannot find detail information how to fix various problems. So this is for you, reader.

I use the digital camera method of “scanning” negatives. There are a lot of posts out there how to do it. Here’s one post link, better than most. There are very good reasons to scan negatives with a digital camera. I won’t go into detail regarding pros and cons.

I have run into issues with ghosting; that is, an image fringe that is visible on fine lines. I found it was more a problem with my Nikon D7500 than my D3400 when I use one or the other for negative scanning. The D3400 is much cheaper than the D7500, the sensor is different, and the D7500 is much smarter, and probably it is too smart and not a good tool for copying negatives on a light table with florescent bulbs. I get the flicker warning in the screen. The D7500 is supposed to automatically take care of it, but like I said, when I use it for copying, I see ghosting in the images around sharp details. Is that a florescent light artifact? I don’t know, and I cannot find anyone else who has posted this problem and solution.

One other possible culprit I thought of is back light image reflection, for lack of a single term for the effect. The Dracula film has a very clear base. Other films have a bit more opacity in the base. The reason you have antihalation base to begin with is to prevent in-camera ghost images on your film.

I use the Lomography.com Digitaliza film mask. It works great to keep the negatives flat. The negative in the mask is slightly elevated from the light table. I was using F8 on my 60mm Micro-Nikkor to scan. Sharpest f-stop, right? If I was in the field, I would use a small f-stop for depth of field. So me thinks, what if for some reason, I am picking up some kind of reflection image from the negative onto the light table, back up to the camera. The small f-stop may be causing the reflection to be within the tiny depth of field, but slightly offset.

So, me also thinks to me-self, “Self, I shall open up the lens to around f2.8 to f4, increase my shutter speed of course, and see what happens.” Well the ghosting disappeared. Nice sharp lines. I am still working this out. Probably with more normal panchromatic film with regular antihalation, I won’t have the problem.

You can see, I have detail from highlight to shadow. (Ansel Adams would be proud of me, I think.) So it looks like I got the film ISO, and developer, and development times right on the first try. Surprise.

The film did great for my landscapes at Sweetwater Creek. I also tried some snapshots of my family. I was not too pleased with the people photos. There was something in the way it rendered the skin tones that I did not like. It may be because the near infrared sensitivity of the film treats skin kind of funky, at least to my visual sensitivities. I am not posting those here.

Two more photos and I am outta here. Dracula is great film for landscapes. Ilford Pan F (50 ISO) is probably easier to find and purchase. But if you want to experiment, and you just want a funky film can to add to your collection, give Dracula a call. They also have a higher speed monster film called… you guessed it… Wolfman! Ah-oooo! (Warren Zevon).

Fall is here. Elections are 6 weeks away. Yuck. I don’t want to think about it. The woods and trails help me a lot. Go have some fun.

Selah

Dracula: I’m Not Dead Yet

•September 22, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Lately I’ve posted about the return of photographic film, or “analog” as the various Gen kids call it.  My old Nikon FM2N had 5 minutes of fame at my favorite coffee shop, Rev Coffee Roasters in Smyrna, before the pandemic.  The baristas went gaga over it when I brought it in to keep it from roasting in my car last summer.

Almost daily I get an alert to the opening of a new film processing lab.

Of course the big boys have continued to manufacture film – Kodak, Fuji, and Ilford. The old European film manufacturers headed east to the former Soviet bloc countries, and old factories that were shut down have reopened.  Even old Soviet film is coming back – see details below.

However, Nikon is the only camera manufacturer still making a pro level film camera, the Nikon F6. They also still make a film camera for consumers, the Nikon FM10. I have an old FM2N built in the 1980’s. It may outlive me.

The demand for old film cameras has exploded.  Why chase megapixels every 2 – 4 years (or even 10 years) at $1500 to near TWENTY GRAND (without the lens) when you can pick up a Nikon FE for $150, have it overhauled for another $150, and still save money photographing with a machine Nikon says will last 150k shutter cycles.  Scan your negatives when processed or do it yourself with your digital camera, and learn how to use Photoshop or Lightroom to turn them into photographs. Sure the whole process is slower and you can’t post your vacation photos on FB to brag about for a week or two, but you have a smart phone for that.

This is a photo of the film can for one of the new/old Eastern European black and white films, Dracula. Yeah. Guess where it is made.  See filmphotographyproject.com. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Svema.   They use recycled film cassettes and cans.

Dracula is ISO 64. Slow, very fine grained. It has a sensitivity into the infrared, so it should render foliage lighter than typical panchromatic film such as Ilford Pan F (ISO 50) and Kodak Tmax 100. It’s not about kids and sports and parties. Put it in your grandpa’s Minolta SRT 101, mount your camera on a tripod and shoot away.

We’ll see how it plays out today. I searched and searched and found out that Dracula is the same film as Svema FN+64, still available at Freestyle Photographic when they have it in stock.

I also had to search high and low to find the development times for the film. In Adox Rodinal diluted 1:50, it’s 11 minutes at 68 degrees Fahrenheit. That is if you shoot it at full ISO 64. Times vary, but that’s a start.

As they used to say when TV news was news, “Film at 11.”

Selah

I Went for a Walk. Starting Points and Pear Trees

•September 10, 2020 • Leave a Comment

I went for a walk.


It was Cheatham Hill again. I travel the same trails. Each time, I hope to notice different things to photograph, to think about, and to write about. Lately, I have had plenty of time to think. If I’d thought differently years ago, I might be wandering a different trail by now.


A Small Marker


This field was a battlefield. Do we even have battlefields anymore? Did they go out of fashion when video gamers became soldiers? Things are so anonymous these days. Yet men and women continue to die in wars and battles. It is personal. Very personal.

War 150 years ago was much more personal. The distance from Confederate trenches to the Union trenches on this hill was less than 100 feet. That is not all that much further than good COVID-19 social distancing in line at the grocery store.

From the top of the hill looking down, viewing it from the vantage point of the memorial, one can easily see why this battle was more a slaughter than a battle, and why a lot of people died.

The memorial to the poor boys from Illinois was raised in 1914. There is a small marker, shown in the photo above. It says, “Here fell Capn. S. M. Neighbour … of Newcomerstown, Ohio.”

“And who is my neighbor?”, the lawyer asked Jesus, and he answered with the parable of the Good Samaritan.

I don’t mean to take advantage of brave Captain Neighbour with a disrespectfully, crude pun. His death raised the question in my mind. His name is a convenient segway for me to ponder. Our parents give us names. There are consequences.

Charles Dickens named Scrooge “Ebenezer”, which is a biblical name. I am certain it was on purpose. “Ebenezer” in the Hebrew Scriptures means “The Lord has brought me thus far.” (The book of 1st Samuel, Chapter 7.) Our names transcend ourselves sometimes. In naming him Ebenezer, I am certain Dickens intended to reveal something deep about the character of Scrooge, a name which has come to mean anything but God’s providential care.

Captain Neighbour fell as he and his men charged the Confederate lines toward soldiers whom I am certain lay down a heavy volley both in anger and in wonder at those Yankee farm boys, who worked the black earth of Ohio and Illinois and not the red clay of Georgia and Tennessee. The relatively slow, but massive bullets and balls probably cut the poor captain in half.

Someone wrote a letter to his family. Perhaps a friend of his delivered it. Maybe his friend came with a personal word instead of a letter. His family mourned. They never got over it. War is personal.

Starting Point


Across the valley, across a stream, which meandered about back then, and up the hill toward Cheatham Hill Road, there is another stone marker which says “The Starting Point”. It’s in the woods. I wonder about those kinds of starting points. Sometimes you don’t know the starting point of battles until after those battles are finished. You have to walk back to find them.

Pears


Along the trail and in another open field there used to be a farm. The foundation corners are still there. Flowers bloom there in spring. There is a pear tree standing, and right now, this very minute, it is full of fruit; big, fat, luscious pears. I doubt the tree was there during the battle. However, I can imagine soldiers picking a pear or two before things heated up across the field.


The first house I remember living in, in Atlanta, had several pear trees, a couple apple trees, a peach tree, and grape vines. All produced enough fruit that my mom would make preserves and can them. We helped.

However, regarding this tree, I did not pick the pears, nor did I pick a peck of pears, nor did I pick a peck of pickled pears from this tree. Nope, not a one. But I do plan to go back tomorrow. I bet they’s good eatin’.

Selah

Sometimes I Sits and Thinks

•September 7, 2020 • Leave a Comment

I probably think too much.

I was playing around in Lightroom. It is fun just to play with toys. I enjoy learning about this excellent photo editing and workflow tool. I had some older images to bring into the current times. In fact, they began as film images. I had them scanned years ago, and I wanted to see what I could do with them in Lightroom.

The wonderful thing and the aggravating problem with tools today are the almost infinite ways you can edit a photo. I can’t turn a lily into a cloud but I can sure manipulate what attracts the eye.

The study of Sensitometry and its related scientific laws were well established in the early 1900’s. Almost 100 years ago, Ansel Adams made the leap from science to soul in his groundbreaking discovery expressed in Monolith, The Face of Half Dome. His epiphany was how he could control the nature of silver halide film through exposure and chemistry to create a work of art. Photography has never been the same.

The responsiveness of silver film to light is directly related to the size of the grains; the larger the grain, up to a point, the higher the speed, and conversely the smaller the grain, the slower the film and the greater the detail you can capture with it, within the limitations of the lens.

The exposure density formula is expressed as an S shaped curve. The sharper the incline or slope the greater the overall contrast and micro-contrast at the boundaries of tones and colors.

Capturing detail in the shadows requires a minimum exposure. That is the left side of the curve, or the “toe”. Capturing detail in the highlights requires control, and there is a maximum exposure beyond which no amount of manipulation will render any detail at all. That is called the “shoulder”.

The film “speed” or ISO is directly related to the grain size of the silver salt. It determines the minimum exposure. The manipulation part occurs during film development in chemicals. Adams and others spent large amounts of time working with film and developer combinations, including development time and temperatures to be able to obtain consistent results. Before Adams and the Zone System, photographers worked intuitively or they were just lucky.

Adams could obtain fine adjustments in the middle of the curve (adjusting the differentials) to control micro contrasts. He did it mostly by varying the chemical factors. However, once the film was developed he could not go back and change things. We have much more flexibility with digitally captured images.

Now a greater degree of control is available in Lightroom and Photoshop (and others) simply by adjusting a slider or setting a point on a curve and pulling it up or down. As long as I have information available in the digital image I can adjust it. We can change it, archive it, reverse the changes, start over and make something new.

The laws of physics and sensitometry still apply. The digital sensor has a base ISO rating, maybe 50 or 100. That value establishes our minimum exposure. I can adjust ISO in the camera by increasing the gain – you add a bit of electricity, increase sensitivity to ISO 400, 800 and so on, and with it signal noise, or static, and image degradation. It’s not the same as film grain at all, but it looks similar.

The range of tones contained in a digital image allow us to fine tune the final image with a greater degree of control than we have in film, at least natively. If I scan film and covert it to digital I can get some control back. If I want to lift the shadow detail of the roots in the black and white image of the water lily (below), as long as I have at least the minimum exposure required, then I can do it.

If I want less detail in the green leaves, I can reduce clarity. I can change the tint to warm it up, and make it more earthy, or cool it down by adding a bit of blue. Indecision is the key to flexibility as a friend of mine says.

I am also no longer bound to a darkroom. I can do it on my desktop PC, in the light of day, or a thousand miles away on my smartphone. Adams would probably be amazed and perplexed at his options if he were alive today.

But I ramble.

It is not so tedious as it sounds. In the case of the photograph of the water lily, I took it in color first, then I had it scanned, and years later I now play around with it in Lightroom. Because it is in TIFF and not RAW, I can only tune contrast, vibrance, and saturation to a limited degree. I can work with specific color channels to enhance certain colors. I can compress the curve. I can also desaturate the image and turn it into monochrome.

If I were to take this photograph today, I would most likely capture it in RAW (Nikon NEF, Sony ARW, or Canon CR2, etc.), and I would go from there to create whatever I want and however I want it to look. I can also photograph it classically on film. I am not limited. Really and truly, only one grabs me.

Guess which one I like better.

I think too much.

I Went for a Walk and Stopped

•September 6, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Sometimes you just gotta rest. Just a second. Stop and smell the coffee.

I went for a walk.

I stopped walking.

I bought a cup of coffee, a dark roast.

And a chocolate croissant.

I sat outside and watched people.

That’s it.

You should try it.

Selah