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Author Topic: Question regarding Yousof Karsh  (Read 25806 times)
blansky
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« Reply #20 on: May 17, 2007, 10:43:19 AM »
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Eitan:

To copy or emulate a respected photographer like Karsh is going to be a difficult task. Start by trying to see how he lit his subjects. That should keep you busy for some time. Then move on to how he related to his subjects. That should take a while as well.

When you get that part down then maybe move on to how he printed, what he used (if still available) and how he manipulated his processes.

The look of pictures in a book (printed by a printing press) will always be different than what his real prints looked like. If you wish to replicate the look of a traditional darkroom by printing digitally you will have your hands full.

Start slowly and get the essence of his style and then perhaps move on to the nuances later on.


Michael
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st326
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« Reply #21 on: May 24, 2007, 01:49:55 AM »
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After looking over more of his pictures I noticed that a lot of them had the silvery look to them.  It reminded me of Sexton's prints that I saw.  How do they get to that quality?  I understand that they print in the traditional darkroom.  Is there any way to mimic this in the digital darkroom?
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The 'silvery' look some portraits get is probably mostly lighting rather than postprocessing (either in a wet darkroom or carried out digitally). If you use a big, diffused light source, skin looks smoother in B&W, pale skin looks quite chalky. I use a couple of bigish Westcott lights with softboxes -- with the front diffuser in place and the lights relatively close to the subject, this tends to be what you get. But if you remove the front diffuser, exposing the silvered interior of the softbox reflector, skin suddenly starts to show a lot more specular reflection. With the right lighting setup, and the right exposure, contrast, etc., you can indeed get 'that' look. I don't use umbrellas personally, but I'd assume that a silvered umbrella reflector would also work. Note that the Westcott has a smaller, inner diffuser that stops direct light from the bulbs hitting the subject -- I suspect that this is probably essential, otherwise you'd just get a very harsh (as opposed to 'silvery') look. Sharpness is another significant factor -- the specular reflection is quite fine grained, so will probably get lost if the camera and film doesn't have quite enough resolution to capture it. You'll probably also need to very carefully tweak a curves layer to get exactly the right result.

I've not seen any Yousof Karsh prints up close, so I can't say whether obvious chemical toning was used, but my suspicion is that it probably wasn't the main factor.

Hope this helps.
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howiesmith
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« Reply #22 on: May 24, 2007, 03:17:01 PM »
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I don't know whether Karsch used this effect or not, but a green filter makes reddish skin more porcelain-like.  I think Maplethorpe used it for many portraits.
« Last Edit: May 24, 2007, 03:55:14 PM by howiesmith » Logged
Rob C
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« Reply #23 on: May 28, 2007, 02:49:07 AM »
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I don't know whether Karsch used this effect or not, but a green filter makes reddish skin more porcelain-like.  I think Maplethorpe used it for many portraits.
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Howie -

Sorry to see you unregistered; that isnīt how you change the world for the better!

Anyway, silver-looking prints are also given that look if you use old developer. In the days of wetness I used D163 for as long as I could find it, but Kodak had set the self-destruct mechanism into motion even way back then, and I was forced into using other brands whose names have long escaped me (Iīm thinking of the very early 80s here). This was not a precise science, but it did have its benefits, even if by virtue of serendipity alone!

So, if you have the storage space and are also willing to work with the revealing properties of glossy paper well glazed, try keeping a bottle or two of used developer. Not when itīs already brown, of course, but whilst it is still pee-coloured. Fresh pee.

Much of the work I did was studio stuff with umbrellas (white) and yes, they do give a soft light, but even that varies with distance, of course. The trouble with much studio-based work is that it is often used for speed, something which leads to standardised lighting setups, which can become boring (to the photographer) even if delightful from the clientīs point of view.

Perhaps a large problem is present today (in copying īlookī) by virtue of the fact that itīs often done via different print routes: digital does not look like photographic (wet) when held in the hand - reproduction is something else and not everyone can tell with certainty whether a print in a magazine or book comes there via desktop or darkroom. I assume that the silvery look concerning the original post is with prints, not reproductions via the press...

As for Maplethorpe - the least (in my humble opinion!) said the better.

Ciao - Rob C
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viewfinder
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« Reply #24 on: June 21, 2007, 03:35:12 AM »
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This is a fascinating thread.......

I once spent half an hour closely examining an original Karsh print of the famous wartime shot of Winston Churchill,....the one where Karsh suddenly took the great mans cigar just before making the exposure.   I think it was at Chartwell that I was able to get right up to this print and really look at how it had been made.

The interesting things about the print which have not been touched on here so far were that it had remarkably little depth of field as really, only the eyes were actually 'pin sharp'.  The general texture of the print other than the rivetting eyes, was smooth and 'glowing'.  

Secondly, the 'look' of the shot suggested that photo floods, ie., tungsten light bulbs were used.   This could account for the small depth of field as the amount of light was probably at a premium.

Also, this was a large print which showed no discernible grain and my feeling is that, allowing for the emulsions of 65 years ago, it was made with a larger camera than 4x5.  Could karsh have used perhaps a whole plate camera?

I know very little of the technique used by Karsh but having seen the print I feel that much of it's 'look' was probably due to the equipement (lighting type, lens, format size) being very different to anything which is commonly used now.
« Last Edit: June 21, 2007, 04:09:25 AM by viewfinder » Logged
SamSteele
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« Reply #25 on: June 22, 2007, 11:23:49 PM »
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Karsh used floods and spots. Full plate cameras (8 x 10) were widely used for portraits in 1941. His uncle Nakash used 8x10 for groups as late as the 1960s.

The large format would account for the shallow depth of field.

From Karsh's book, "In Search of Greatness": "The evening before the speech, I went over to the Speaker's Chamber and set up my lights, floods and spots, . . ." U. of Toronto Press, 1962, p. 65. "I switched on my floodlight and Churchill ejaculated [exclaimed], "What's this, what's this?" (p. 66)
« Last Edit: June 22, 2007, 11:26:42 PM by SamSteele » Logged
viewfinder
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« Reply #26 on: June 23, 2007, 09:44:13 AM »
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Quote from: SamSteele,Jun 23 2007, 04:23 AM
Karsh used floods and spots. Full plate cameras (8 x 10) were widely used for portraits in 1941. His uncle Nakash used 8x10 for groups as late as the 1960s.

Actually, I note that Josef himself used 8X10 probably into the 1960's because he is mentioned on the Gowland site as having been one of the buyers/users of the giant 'Gowlandflex' twin lens reflex 8X10 camera.
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