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Author Topic: Landscapes and color  (Read 25516 times)
Rob
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« on: January 15, 2003, 04:48:43 PM »
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Erik, agreed but why dont we look at everyones photographs unedited? By that I mean all film is developed according to a set time in the bath etc...

Film photographers would have a raving fit because they couldnt manipulate the image. I assert that if you looked at many of the top photographers work unedited and with a standard exposure without ANY filter use or special films they would mostly blow chunks. This applies to everyone whether its National gegraphic, Michael Reichmann or anyone else.

Unedited images blow..thats the bottom line..a good photograph is made in the darkroom when the editing takes place-not in the field. If you doubt me I challenge people here to post some of their works straight out of the camera with absolutely no manipulation or post processing or editing.

Most would not post them because like everyone elses(yours, mine, others etc) they blow badly without heavy post processing. Most National geographic landscape shots I see are highly oversaturated and processed film work that would probably not raise an eyebrow if it were taken straight from the print with a standard exposure. Am I saying I could do better? No..I am simply saying what Ansel Adams stated.. good photographs are made...they are not taken.
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James Pierce
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« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2003, 03:55:54 AM »
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I should have been clear - I use the same colour profile for all my printed work - my screen needs to be calibrated against the printer.  All the time my aim is to get prints that look like my slides.  I agree with you tough, great images are made - I only print exposures etc that are perfect, I work hard to get those exposures etc.
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Dan Sroka
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« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2003, 01:30:31 PM »
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Jonathan, interesting point about black and white: I think that sums it up nicely. I believe macro photography gives us another good comparison. The majority of my work is macro, where I isolate a small detail from a noisy environment. The motivation behind my work is to show the hidden beauty you can find in non-obvious places. To do so, I consciously edit out things from my subject just by where I place my lens. I decrease the depth of field to isolate my foreground. Yet even though these images do not show the subject as the "actually" are, they are still photographs.

Dan
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Ray
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« Reply #3 on: March 10, 2003, 09:17:57 AM »
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Interesting that this topic keeps re-surfacing - should a photograph accurately reflect 'reality' - is it deceptive and dishonest to manipulate a photo, as an artist does with a painting? Indeed, what is reality?

I think perhaps part of the answer, and the problem, is that the camera tends to mimic the processes of the eye. That's our standard for reality. Cameras are mechanical eyes. In some respects they're inferior to the human eye. In some respect they're superior. When the photographic result deviates significantly from the job the eye would do, we sometimes get a bit anxious. That's not reality - that's not how it really looks - if you want to do that sort of thing then take up painting.

As I understand (and I'm no expert) the human eye is roughly a fixed 25mm lens with a range of apertures from F3 to F8 (varies with age and individuality). That's not really very impressive from a camera perspective, especially when you consider that the resolution of that 25mm lens is rather lousy at the edges (peripheral vision - good for movement but hopeless for resolution). The 'eye' lens is also subject to the same laws of diffraction, astigmatism and other aberrations that camera lenses are subject to, and of course focussing limitations that vary with the individual.

But one thing the eye can do that the camera is yet to do, is incorporate multiple 'shots' of different exposure and focussing into the one scene or photo. As I sit in my lounge gazing at the amazingly detailed white clouds against a deep blue background, I know that to capture that detail with a camera it's going to be 1/125 to 1/250 at F22 and ISO 100.(Spot meter reading about 1/750).  I also know that to capture a 'correctly' exposed shot of the loung I'm sitting in will require something like 1/30th at F2.8, yet my eye can toggle between the two scenes without any sense of blown out highlights or black, intractable shadows. I'm looking at a full 9 stop range, but not in one go. Here's where the eye is superior to the camera. It can almost instantly adjust to changes in brightness within a certain range. (Neural adaptation which takes about 1/5th of a sec). I'm not sure what that range is, probably around 10 or 12 stops.  Extreme ranges take several minutes of adjustment, like walking into a dark cinema from the sun light (probably more than a 20 stops difference).

What happens if I take a photo of the scene of lounge and window, with a 25mm camera lens? I can get the scene through the window correctly exposed and focussed and the lounge out of focus and unnaturally dark, or I can get the lounge correctly exposed and in focus but the scene through the window severely overexposed and out of focus. A camera with a real dynamic range of 9 stops would help, but in order to get both scenes in focus, I would probably have to use f32, which means resolution is going to be severely compromised.

Another way of doing it is simply to take two photos with different exposures and focussings, and crop and paste the window from one photo to the other. Blending is perhaps not the right word. The result would be a scene incorporating a 9 stop dynamic range and an apparent breaking of the laws of diffraction. (I like the idea of that!).

Such a result would be completely natural, authentic and 'real'. Whilst it's true that the eye cannot focus on the lounge and the scene through the window simultaneously, it could if the 'real' scene were reduced to the size of an 8x10 or 20x30 print.
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2003, 02:53:33 PM »
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One thing about a camera that is an important consideration...the vantage point, perspective, and field of viw you choose to record can have an overwhelming impact on the perception of reality created in the mind of the viewer of your print. I would say that the choice of what, when, and where you record an image, and the field of view chosen is more important than the choice of equipment used to record the image. You can significantly alter someone's perception of a subject by the images you choose to record, and the images you do not.
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jrisc
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« Reply #5 on: April 12, 2003, 01:31:26 AM »
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Interesting that this topic keeps re-surfacing - should a photograph accurately reflect 'reality' - is it deceptive and dishonest to manipulate a photo, as an artist does with a painting? Indeed, what is reality?

I think perhaps part of the answer, and the problem, is that the camera tends to mimic the processes of the eye. That's our standard for reality. Cameras are mechanical eyes. In some respects they're inferior to the human eye. In some respect they're superior. When the photographic result deviates significantly from the job the eye would do, we sometimes get a bit anxious. That's not reality - that's not how it really looks - if you want to do that sort of thing then take up painting.

As I understand (and I'm no expert) the human eye is roughly a fixed 25mm lens with a range of apertures from F3 to F8 (varies with age and individuality). That's not really very impressive from a camera perspective, especially when you consider that the resolution of that 25mm lens is rather lousy at the edges (peripheral vision - good for movement but hopeless for resolution). The 'eye' lens is also subject to the same laws of diffraction, astigmatism and other aberrations that camera lenses are subject to, and of course focussing limitations that vary with the individual.

But one thing the eye can do that the camera is yet to do, is incorporate multiple 'shots' of different exposure and focussing into the one scene or photo. As I sit in my lounge gazing at the amazingly detailed white clouds against a deep blue background, I know that to capture that detail with a camera it's going to be 1/125 to 1/250 at F22 and ISO 100.(Spot meter reading about 1/750). I also know that to capture a 'correctly' exposed shot of the loung I'm sitting in will require something like 1/30th at F2.8, yet my eye can toggle between the two scenes without any sense of blown out highlights or black, intractable shadows. I'm looking at a full 9 stop range, but not in one go. Here's where the eye is superior to the camera. It can almost instantly adjust to changes in brightness within a certain range. (Neural adaptation which takes about 1/5th of a sec). I'm not sure what that range is, probably around 10 or 12 stops. Extreme ranges take several minutes of adjustment, like walking into a dark cinema from the sun light (probably more than a 20 stops difference).

What happens if I take a photo of the scene of lounge and window, with a 25mm camera lens? I can get the scene through the window correctly exposed and focussed and the lounge out of focus and unnaturally dark, or I can get the lounge correctly exposed and in focus but the scene through the window severely overexposed and out of focus. A camera with a real dynamic range of 9 stops would help, but in order to get both scenes in focus, I would probably have to use f32, which means resolution is going to be severely compromised.

Another way of doing it is simply to take two photos with different exposures and focussings, and crop and paste the window from one photo to the other. Blending is perhaps not the right word. The result would be a scene incorporating a 9 stop dynamic range and an apparent breaking of the laws of diffraction. (I like the idea of that!).

Such a result would be completely natural, authentic and 'real'. Whilst it's true that the eye cannot focus on the lounge and the scene through the window simultaneously, it could if the 'real' scene were reduced to the size of an 8x10 or 20x30 print.
QUOTE: Interesting that this topic keeps re-surfacing - should a photograph accurately reflect 'reality' - is it deceptive and dishonest to manipulate a photo, as an artist does with a painting? Indeed, what is reality?



How many of you out there see reality in the same way as an image shot with a 600mm lens? How many of you see the world with the same perspective as a 14mm lens... or an 8x10 view camera with a 12 inch lens?

I believe all images captured with a camera have very little to do with reality.

I never experience reality within a frame.

Photography is the way we share emotions by exploring reality with a devise called a camera.

There is no film or digital capture devise that reflects reality; not even a mirror reflect reality?

PhotoShop hasn't changed anything other than it being a more powerful tool than we have ever experienced.

http://www.sokolsky.com/
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Rob
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« Reply #6 on: January 15, 2003, 07:02:11 AM »
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A few more thoughts on my last post regarding film and digital.

The film photographer uses high saturation film like Velvia to give a landscape that extra pop. There is nothing natural about these oversaturated images we often see in print. Photographers use such films because without them a landscape often appears boring and dull when captured on normal saturation film.

This is why I never really coud understand the complaints of some about digital imaging being artificial and 'manipulated'. The  same person who will make this statement will brag about his/her portfolio full of grossly oversaturated sunsets and mountain ranges that really bare no resemblance to the reality of the scene. They will then complain about a digital image being 'fake' because one used a saturation or huse adjustment.

Is it just me or does it seem hypocritical?
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Jhaelen
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« Reply #7 on: January 15, 2003, 01:15:42 PM »
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Michael, if your reading this thread...

I have long admired your work. Sometimes I just browse the site and examine your photographs. Most of your work seems quite natural looking although I know by reading the articles and watching the Video Journal you sometimes do quite a bit of work to improve it.

Do you feel you have a limitation with regard to the amount of manipulation you will do? Just curious.

Daniel
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James Pierce
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« Reply #8 on: January 15, 2003, 05:37:05 PM »
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I'll take on your challange - www.thirdglance.com - All my images are shot on E100VS - not the least saturated of films, but certainly nothing like velvia.  My images are scanned and then colour corrected to match the tranny.  If the colours look a bit unbelivable then it is because that is what it was like.  I invariably find that images that have the saturation etc pushed up look rather fake and generally overdone.  I don't use any colour filtration or grads.  Once in a blue moon (and I really mean once every two years or so) I use a cir-polar filter.  Until the price became un tenable in Australia I was a kodachrome 64 guy.
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Bill Lawrence
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« Reply #9 on: January 15, 2003, 08:56:48 PM »
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Daniel,

Egads, I saw your message when I was browsing at lunch, figured I would respond after work (that's why they call it work) - looks like the thread sparked off something.

In response to the question when does digital photography become digital art, I would argue (almost) all of it is.  Same way as almost all film photography is art.  Just don't ask me what art is.  Most of the images I do (and presumably most of those done by those who hang out here) are designed to be aesthetically pleasing or to invoke a reaction from the viewer.  Whether I succeed or not is another question, but this is the goal at least.  So if I'm photographing a part of the environment, I manipulate the image by photographing a selective part of the environment from a likewise selected vantage point to achieve a pleasing (or whatever) effect, select a time of day to give me the right light.  I then use a medium that I think will best capture the image (digital, a specific film), modifying the image with filters.  And finally do global and specific digital manipulations in Picture Window or Photoshop.  I still consider it art (digital or otherwise), whether I have done no post-processing at all or whether I have cloned something in or out.

That being said, for things I display, I have cloned things out (telephone wires, annoying streetlights, etc), but I've never put things in that weren't in the image originally.  In the things that I have cloned out, it is (usually) because I had no choice to have the object in the field of view and still get the shot.  So far at least, my pleasure in photography has been to represent things that were actually in my field of view (otherwise, why not set up a stock of useful image parts and take up digital compositing).  And, of the things where I know that something has been inserted, and can't say that I have particularly liked the image - but if I can see that they've done it, they can't have done a very good job.

Mind you, if the goal of the photography is an accurate record of events - then all this goes out the window.

So, I must admit, I have no clue when a photograph (digital or otherwise) ceases to become a photograph - although there have been a lot of interesting thoughts in these two threads.  But let me ask a only partially hypothetical example - I saw a photographer at a craft show proudly displaying a photo entitled something along the lines of Chincoteague Pony.  Showed a lovely sleek pony on the beach, head up, looking majestic, mane flowing beautifully in the wind.  Only problem, is I've spent enough time in Assateague and Chincoteague to know that it wasn't a Chincoteague pony.  It was well groomed, and didn't have the wide girth associated with grazing in brackish water.  So, if I took a nice beach scene, and cloned in a Chincoteague pony into it (and did it just so, so that you couldn't tell they were photographed separately), would this be any better, worse, or even different?

It would take a better mind than mine to say.

As to being lazy with digital, to tell you the truth, I *believe* my technique has actually improved with it.  Nothing like the instant feedback to say that this photo failed completely to make you try again, and start researching what you can do to stop that from happening in the future.  I do spend more time editing though, since as I've gained skills in doing it, I find that I can do more.  It's kind of like everything else with computers - the great labor saving device lets you do things much faster - only since you can do it twice as fast you now have to do three times more ;^)

Bill
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Bill Lawrence
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« Reply #10 on: January 16, 2003, 06:35:13 PM »
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I LOVE this site.

This exchange sounds like a photo version of "Where's Waldo?"
Call it "Who's an Artist?"

The whole digital versus darkroom, manipulated versus straight print is nothing more than an updated version of "Is photography art?" Which, unfortunately, always seems to reflect our own insecurities about what we do. In the end, we should accept what we do as "image art" and thus be able to throw off that wet blanket of "What is it?" and "Is it real?" A painting is not the object, a map is not the terrain, a score is not the music. An image is not the subject. Whether it is manipulated or not should be irrelevant to its enjoyment - is it visually interesting?

Every photograph will reflect some degree of manipulation - from the selection of color versus B&W, which film for what purpose, use of lenses, use of filters, pushing, pulling, developing, printing, etc., etc., etc.

But for those who would like to put both feet in a single  camp and do a true test of compositional and technical mastery, here's what I propose for future film-based photography:  large format (4x5, preferably 8x10), neutral positive color or B&W slide film, displayed borderless in it's own lightbox. This would present the original, unadulterated image (bracketed or not) to the world for straight viewing. No manipulation. There would be no dispute about it's level of manipulation. Certainly the use of filters would make it a little more difficult - but there are good arguments that filters compensate for some of the inadequacies of film in capturing certain types of light or color.

The displays would be beautiful.  And "real."  I just don't know if they would be "art." But it really wouldn't matter.
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Bill Lawrence
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« Reply #11 on: January 17, 2003, 07:25:46 PM »
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Yes, the Chincoteague ponies are famous wild (though feral from a couple of hundred years ago if I recall) ponies.  And pesonally, I agree that if it is cloned in, and it makes a nice image, then so what.  If you like it, buy it (or do it).

But I actually do have a beef with the photographer in that the sign in front of the photo implied this was one of the feral ponies (though I did not go and ask explicitly), when I can say with >99% probability that it was not.  It seems to me a misrepresentation in that the photographer was at least implying it was what is was not.  Other than that, it was a nice photo.  Interestingly, my wife asked the photographer if she worked with digital, and got growled at with something along the lines of "digital ain't photography".

Then again, I clone out phone wires and such when I can't work around them.  Am I misrepresenting it if I don't explicitly say - "landscape with phone wires removed digitally"?  Or "landscape with saturation added"?

I enjoy the technical discussion of lens resolution and pixel density and such, but this thread makes a nice change of pace!

Cheers!
Bill
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Bill Lawrence
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Dan Sroka
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« Reply #12 on: March 10, 2003, 01:30:38 PM »
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Interesting description, Ray. For me though, if photography just recreated what exists, frankly that would be quite dull. Imagine if poetry wasn't needed, because it was easy to describe (in 20 words or less) love, hate, fear, desire, etc.

My guess as to why people want to believe that photography does recreate reality comes down to a psychological desire to preserve and share their inner experiences. If a photo can show you what I see, then somehow I am preserving that fleeting moment. What's probably happening though is that as a photographer, you are creating a visual metaphor for what you experienced -- it looks accurate to you, but it is more emotionally-accurate then technically accurate. Like a poem, or a story. When you show the photo, and someone responds to it, that is because your work has caused an emotional reaction similar to what you experienced when you took the shot. That, to me, it a mighty fine and noble goal!

On a technical note, a detailed and large photo won't capture a scene that is technically comparible to your eyes because they lack the same sense of depth perception and peripheral vision. But more so, our eyes simply are not still camera. Instead, they flit nervously and continuously over a scene. They take in countless moving fragments, that build on each other like a symphony, combining with memory, smell, and other senses to create what we remember as one complete "visual" picture.

(Fun fun conversation! Love the way it is making me *think*.)

Da
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Dan Sroka
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« Reply #13 on: March 12, 2003, 11:42:43 AM »
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We really need to be having this coversation over a couple pints, you know?

I generally agree with you, but this is a pretty theoretical situation. The camera may not be able to be tricked, but as soon as someone looks at the print, that "purity" is gone. Sort of like Schroedinger's cat: a camera in a vacuum may be accurate, but once a person checks to see the results, that accuracy is compromised by their interpretation of it.

Is this any different to the relationship between between the eye (the mechanical recording device) and the brain? The eye is simply passing data on to the brain.

There's a whole school of thought on this stuff in cognitive science. I remember a theory about "High" vs "Low" cognitive processes. Low processes are reflexive, instant, and "dumb" -- they happen without our ability to turn them off. For example: when your eyes are open, you see -- you cannot will yourself to not see. The High processes are all those squishy things that deal with the information gathered buy the low processes: your brain trying to figure out what you are seeing.

Man, I haven't thought of this stuff in *years*! OK, now I *do* need a drink. But since it is the morning, it'll have to be another cup of joe. Have a good day, everyone!

Dan
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Dan Sroka
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« Reply #14 on: March 15, 2003, 01:16:42 PM »
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Ray, I would believe that study. I studied cognitive science but in my school days, and that was the sort of thing we did. There's another simpler variation called the stroop effect. In this experiement, you show someone a stack of cards. On each is a name of a color ("red"), which is printed in another color ink (like blue). For each, you ask them what the color of the ink is. Sounds easy, but there is a huge error for people saying the word "red" instead of naming the color. It's goes down to the idea that language is a very hard-wired process, a reflect almost, and is hard to overcome.

What does this have to do with photography? Oh, I don't know! It's just fun to talk about.  I guess I just love that slipperiness between the obvious and the subtle, especially in photos. For example, I have a collection of photos I took that are macros of flowers. I was enjoying the project, because of the colors and textures I was finding. But as soon as I show the photos to friends, all they see are "georgia-okeefe-esque" erotic images. They claim I have a dirty mind, but I laugh and tell them that it was THEY who interpreted it that way. Too funny.

(OK, must get back to playing with the puppy.)

Dan
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #15 on: February 10, 2003, 05:38:42 PM »
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Jonathan, interesting point about black and white: I think that sums it up nicely. I believe macro photography gives us another good comparison. The majority of my work is macro, where I isolate a small detail from a noisy environment.
Exactly, every technique used to limit the composition in "normal" photography applies to an even greater extent in macro photography, so you have a much greater degree of control over what is included in the shot and what is excluded. This does not mean macro photography is less "real", though.
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Bob Stevenson
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« Reply #16 on: April 12, 2003, 02:21:06 AM »
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The late Andreas Feininger had a useful slant on this which I seem to always be quoting to users of this site;

  "..The camera is superior to the eye and the photograph can, and ideally should portray the world more graphic than reality itself..."
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BJL
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« Reply #17 on: March 07, 2003, 10:20:25 AM »
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Distortion of contrast by films is another point against the idea that an original transparency is an "honest unmanipulated image" (as National Geographic seemed to think when their contest rules not only banned digital but also restricted entries to transparencies). All positive films seem to significantly increase the contrast relative to the original scene: even the relatively low-key Astia has a gamma of about 1.8(*), while Velvia seems to be the champion in this category too.

This contrast exageration probably has origins in an earlier era when positive films were mostly used to make slides for projection; it expands the contrast range of a typical scene to fill the greater range available with a projected slide. Still, that is a significant distortion of reality for the sake of a nicer "artistic effect."


* Meaning that a 1 stop change in subject brightness leads to a 1.8 stop difference on film.
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Jhaelen
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« Reply #18 on: January 15, 2003, 10:07:37 AM »
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Bill,

I think it would be safe to assume most every photographer has a different idea of what he or she wishes to represent in a photograph. The tools and methods used are irrelevant to me.

I personally use the digital process for most of my image editing.

I would ask you this however: At what point is an image manipulated enough to become digital art? Is the photograph simply an element of a digitally created art piece, or is the photograph the centerpiece? I would like others thoughts on this question also.

In a slightly different direction... A good friend of mine is also an avid photographer, albeit not as serious about it as I. An interesting thing happened when I introduced her to the digital process. Her time in the field shooting reduced while the time spent editing steadily rises.

She had mentioned to me that she is getting a bit lazy in the field with regard to attempting to get the quality of photograph she is used to. She felt at some point her photography was suffering because she knew that if the photograph was sub-standard or even bad she could usually patch it up in Photoshop.

I just mentioned this because I have not seen it brought up before. I had not expected this to happen and it was interesting to discuss this with her at length. While I did not experience this myself I wonder if any if you have. She's going to hurt me for telling everyone this.

Daniel
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Dan Sroka
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« Reply #19 on: January 15, 2003, 02:05:49 PM »
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She felt at some point her photography was suffering because she knew that if the photograph was sub-standard or even bad she could usually patch it up in Photoshop.

I think that any photographer goes through phases, especially when discovering a new tool. The first time you use a zoom lens, and don't need to hoof it around to compose a scene. I believe that she may feel she is spending more time editing that photographing, but I don't think this is a problem. Soon, she'll get her Photoshop feet thoroughly wet, and she'll learn what it can and cannot do, and she'll be back out there with the camera trying to do her best.

I'd recommend that she makes she she prints her work out -- many things which look good on the screen don't translate to the print, and this is instrumental to learning what can be "patched" in Photoshop, and what needs to be done in camera.

Personally, I've been doing digital darkroom work for a long long time. Like many digital tools, it removes some hurdles (namely, needing to set up a darkroom), but I would never call it easy. Just like a Casio keyboard makes it easy for anyone to make basic tunes, it is still a long and challenging path to make real music.

How much digital manipulation is too much? There's no real answer to this, since with digital, you open the doors to so many new forms of photographic art. I think of digital manipulation in films (Yes, I brough this up in another post): how much is too much? For example. after watching Jar Jar Binks, you might think ok, this digital character thing is too hokey to ever be a serious part of film. Then, you see Gollum in The Two Towers, and see something that changes you mind.

I believe that with digital, the definition of "photograph" will soften and blur, and begin to merge with other artforms.
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