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Author Topic: The Lane to Downgate  (Read 4553 times)
John R Smith
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« on: January 13, 2011, 05:00:03 AM »
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There seems to be little hope for my old ambition to rival Adams or Weston in the annals of photographic greatness. Their reputations are most unlikely to be perturbed by Smith’s efforts here in the wintry depths of Cornwall, and one of the reasons for this is my unwavering ability to make a total hash of things when there is, for once, a good subject in front my lens. Looking back through last year’s frames, I find that there is an uncanny correlation between the shots I like best from an artistic viewpoint, and the fact that most of them are also wrongly exposed, poorly focused, suffer from mirror-slap, or contain some other horrible technical fault. Whereas my perfect, sharp, technically wonderful shots are very often the most forgettable. The cruel unfairness of the human condition bears down upon us all, I suppose (background violins here).

This one is a case in point. I downloaded the image onto my trusty PC and found to my horror that I had really pushed my luck with the old 60mm rather too far. It has a very apologetic lens hood and not much in the way of coating, and I had shot far too tight into the sun. Consequently, and inevitably, the top part of the sky was covered in nasty pentagons, and the rest of the shot was flared out with pretty much zero contrast. Instead of instantly binning it, which I probably should have done, I decided to try to rescue something from the wreckage. The pentagoned sky obviously had to go, so a heavy crop resulted in more of a panoramic frame than originally intended. Then there was rather a lot of work in LR restoring some contrast, and locally burning-in bits like the fence-posts. The unedited version had virtually no sky detail at all, but miraculously some highlight recovery and a heavy top grad filter restored the clouds – don’t ask for any more, though, ‘cos it really isn’t there. We still have some problems, but funnily enough this picture somehow sums up the mood of the afternoon for me. See what you think – was it worth a rescue Job?

John
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stamper
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« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2011, 05:18:26 AM »
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John I find my eye wandering around the image instead of settling on something significant. A pleasant image at best. On a sour note the anti - photoshoppers will seize on your description of what you have done to the image and condemn you to everlasting purgatory. Smiley What you did - I haven't obviously seen the original - you have done well and the finished image is well processed. Perhaps it isn't best to describe what you did and present it as an image taken as seen. BTW I definitely don't have an issue with your processing. Grin
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John R Smith
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Still crazy, after all these years


« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2011, 05:23:42 AM »
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On a sour note the anti - photoshoppers will seize on your description of what you have done to the image and condemn you to everlasting purgatory. Smiley What you did - I haven't obviously seen the original - you have done well and the finished image is well processed. Perhaps it isn't best to describe what you did and present it as an image taken as seen. BTW I definitely don't have an issue with your processing. Grin

Gosh - surely no-one could take exception to the sort of basic manipulation we B/W photographers would have done in the darkroom? I've done far more than that to my prints under the red glow of the safelight, that's for sure.

John
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« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2011, 06:12:23 AM »
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There is a definite "clique" out there that would state that you are committing photographic butchery. I have listened in the last week to some of them and I have been "lectured" by one of them who has taken a degree course in photography. Water off a duck's arse to me but they are insistent. I tend to post images and leave it up to the viewers to work out if I have enhanced an image. It is their problem .... not mine. Smiley Wink Grin
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stamper
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« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2011, 06:16:19 AM »
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Quote

Consequently, and inevitably, the top part of the sky was covered in nasty pentagons, and the rest of the shot was flared out with pretty much zero contrast. Instead of instantly binning it, which I probably should have done, I decided to try to rescue something from the wreckage. The pentagoned sky obviously had to go, so a heavy crop resulted in more of a panoramic frame than originally intended. Then there was rather a lot of work in LR restoring some contrast, and locally burning-in bits like the fence-posts. The unedited version had virtually no sky detail at all, but miraculously some highlight recovery and a heavy top grad filter restored the clouds – don’t ask for any more, though, ‘cos it really isn’t there. We still have some problems, but funnily enough this picture somehow sums up the mood of the afternoon for me. See what you think – was it worth a rescue Job?

Unquote

Please substitute the word crop for guillotined....there are some sensitive souls on here.  Smiley Wink
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2011, 08:46:30 AM »
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John,

I am sorry to hear about the suffering you went through (it's all too familiar to me), but I judge an image on what it looks like and the mood it evokes for me, and I like this image. I enjoy wandering down that road, wondering where it will lead me. I, too, have a fondness for wandering roads.

Eric
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John R Smith
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Still crazy, after all these years


« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2011, 09:18:04 AM »
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Eric

Thanks for your post. I am glad you took it in the spirit in which it was intended  Wink

Funnily enough, I find this particular lane very bewitching. It is about 20 mins walk from my cottage to this viewpoint, and I really find it difficult to turn around to go back home. Many's the time I have wandered on, especially in spring, and walked another couple of miles.

John
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« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2011, 03:10:07 PM »
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I'm with Eric on this one.  I enjoy letting my eye wander down the road into the trees.  And I am a firm believer that it doesn't matter what you had to do to get the image where it is; all that matters is the image itself, and I like it.  If I can offer one nitpick, I would say that the fencepost to the far right is too close to the edge for my taste (it draws my eye away from the road).  But it really is a minor point.  It's a pleasant stroll for my eye to take.
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« Reply #8 on: January 13, 2011, 04:43:30 PM »
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I'm with Eric on this one.  I enjoy letting my eye wander down the road into the trees.  And I am a firm believer that it doesn't matter what you had to do to get the image where it is; all that matters is the image itself, and I like it.  If I can offer one nitpick, I would say that the fencepost to the far right is too close to the edge for my taste (it draws my eye away from the road).  But it really is a minor point.  It's a pleasant stroll for my eye to take.

I agree!

Mike.
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2011, 06:40:06 PM »
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... was it worth a rescue Job?

Technically, it appears you did a decent rescue job. Image-wise, however, it is rather empty, devoid of a center of interest or a meaning, especially for us not emotionally attached to the place.
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« Reply #10 on: January 13, 2011, 08:16:26 PM »
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"it is rather empty"   
i rather thought that was the point of it. It reminds me of the hot , desolate, summers when the wheat was ready to combine. The clouds and sun were just that way. i would imagine a cool creek pool in the cluster of woods at the bottom of the hill, perhaps with a nice fish or two to catch.

and then there was Grandma's  fresh out of the oven, picked that morning,  apple pie.... Smiley Smiley Smiley

Frank
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stamper
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« Reply #11 on: January 14, 2011, 02:34:15 AM »
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Technically, it appears you did a decent rescue job. Image-wise, however, it is rather empty, devoid of a center of interest or a meaning, especially for us not emotionally attached to the place.

The last phrase about .... emotionally attached to the place. That is the difference between the person who took the image - and lives there - and the "spectator" who looks at it. The first is more subjective and the latter more objective. The first remembers how it looked like in reality and the latter compares it to other scenes they have seen. Therefore the lukewarm response by some. Smiley
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John R Smith
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Still crazy, after all these years


« Reply #12 on: January 14, 2011, 03:14:48 AM »
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Folks

Thank you all for your contributions. It’s rather fun when something generates quite polarised responses, at least we have something to debate. I posted this picture with a somewhat self-mocking commentary just to cheer us all up a bit, and to let you know that although I do take my photography quite seriously (in the sense that I try to do it as well as I can) I really try not to take myself seriously if at all possible. Great Art this is not.

But it is always nice when someone else gets exactly what you are trying to do -

It reminds me of the hot , desolate, summers when the wheat was ready to combine. The clouds and sun were just that way. i would imagine a cool creek pool in the cluster of woods at the bottom of the hill, perhaps with a nice fish or two to catch.

and then there was Grandma's  fresh out of the oven, picked that morning,  apple pie.... Smiley Smiley Smiley

Frank

Thank you, Frank, for that. You made my day.

John
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« Reply #13 on: January 14, 2011, 06:45:12 AM »
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Gosh - surely no-one could take exception to the sort of basic manipulation we B/W photographers would have done in the darkroom? I've done far more than that to my prints under the red glow of the safelight, that's for sure.

John

John, Surely no one should take exception to the kind of recovery operation you described. But there always are those who will take exception to anything that doesn't fit inside their tight little world. Procrustes comes to mind. The only legitimate complaints are about the kind of postprocessing that takes Trotsky out of the picture. Interesting point about the darkroom. There are people out there who've never shot anything but digital and never worked in a darkroom and believe that film always portrays exactly what the camera saw.
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John R Smith
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« Reply #14 on: January 14, 2011, 07:53:53 AM »
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There are people out there who've never shot anything but digital and never worked in a darkroom and believe that film always portrays exactly what the camera saw.

Yes, I suppose so. The only time that you used something "straight out of the camera", though, was with transparencies. Which is why shooting 'chromes or E6 was such a good discipline. With B/W film, on the other hand, the negative was always just the starting point. I have never made any attempt for some sort of "realism" in my B/W work, and neither did people like Bill Brandt.

It is interesting, because everything I have done to this shot you could have got straight out of Ansel's classic book "The Print", only of course I did it in LR. In the darkroom I would have got exactly the same result with a crop of the sky (using my easel on the enlarger baseboard), raising the contrast by printing on grade 5 paper, making some small local dodges and burns, and finishing with a deep sky burn using a large card. It would have taken a couple of workprints, but I would have got there.

Actually, the amusing part is that people have got all this amazing digital technology now but are incredibly timid about using it, it seems to me. Back in my darkroom days we were doing solarisations, posterisation, liths, paper negatives, combining two negatives and all sorts of stuff, and I can't remember anyone ever saying it was unethical. They might have said the results were crap, though  Wink

John
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« Reply #15 on: January 14, 2011, 09:30:20 AM »
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Actually, the amusing part is that people have got all this amazing digital technology now but are incredibly timid about using it, it seems to me. Back in my darkroom days we were doing solarisations, posterisation, liths, paper negatives, combining two negatives and all sorts of stuff, and I can't remember anyone ever saying it was unethical. They might have said the results were crap, though  Wink
John

John, I have to confess that since I'm a pretty "straight" photographer the thought "crap" often pops into my mind when I see that kind of thing. Not that I didn't play with those effects when I had a darkroom. But leaving the results in the darkroom wastebasket had nothing to do with ethics. It was a quality judgment.

It's interesting to think about the difference in approach between Ansel and HCB. Ansel's famous statement: "The negative is the score. The print is the performance." pretty much sums up the attitude of those for whom the print is an "objet d'art," a large part of whose value lies in its uniqueness. On the other hand, Henri saw value not in the uniqueness of a print but in the content and composition of the photograph. In effect, Ansel said, "This print is an object I created," while Henri said, "This is a photograph I made."

Ansel's attitude comes to photography from painting and printmaking and leads inevitably to such precious absurdities as limited edition prints. But if you share Ansel's attitude you're free to change a photograph as much as you want in post-processing, even to creating something that probably would have been better if created with a brush; even perhaps to converting a picture of a sow's ear into a picture of a silk purse.

I can't knock the Ansel approach. I certainly learned a lot about exposure and printmaking from his books. But the idea that the print is the performance just isn't my cup of tea. What I shoot for in post-processing is a correct rendition of what I saw when I tripped the shutter. Interestingly, it sounds as if that's what you were after with the Lane to Downgate. Since it's a landscape, I guess that instead of going through the steps you went through I'd simply have gone back the next day and made the shot again. Better yet, if I were shooting digital I'd have checked the LCD, which ought to have shown the lens flares, and made a few more shots, probably bracketed.

But each of us has his own way of doing things.
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #16 on: January 14, 2011, 12:40:57 PM »
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"it is rather empty"   
i rather thought that was the point of it. It reminds me of the hot , desolate, summers when the wheat was ready to combine. The clouds and sun were just that way. i would imagine a cool creek pool in the cluster of woods at the bottom of the hill, perhaps with a nice fish or two to catch.

and then there was Grandma's  fresh out of the oven, picked that morning,  apple pie.... Smiley Smiley Smiley

Frank

You obviously have that emotional attachment to the place (i.e., places like that), so it nicely illustrates the point I was making.

As for my "rather empty" comment, an image does not necessarily have to be empty itself to portray emptiness. In this one, there are a couple of compositional and perception issues that distract from the original intention:

1. Usually, eyes are drawn to the highlights first, in this case the beginning of the road and the low clouds… and from there, eyes do not seem to have anywhere else to go but leave the picture

2. In the western world at least, where we read from left to right, a road coming from top left to lower right indicates a direction of coming toward the viewer, and in this case it then leads the eyes out of the picture too soon

3. Panoramas are notoriously challenging to compose well… cropped panoramas even more so.

However, all this does not mean the picture is bad... it is a decent pastoral scene, and again, especially for those with an emotional attachment to its elements. For the rest of us (and of course me especially) it is one of those "close, but no cigar" ones. Wink

P.S. I've been in Cornwall, so it is not that the landscape is totally unfamiliar to me. I spent most of the time on the shores though, with just a taxi ride from the train station to the hotel taking me through such pastoral scenes… obviously not long enough to create that "grandma-apple pie-desolate summer heat" type of lasting memory Smiley
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« Reply #17 on: January 14, 2011, 12:50:17 PM »
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… It's interesting to think about the difference in approach between Ansel and HCB...

Allow me to contribute to this debate by quoting another great photographer:

I am not at all interested in showing how clever I am once I take the picture. My cleverness, if it exists at all, is in seeing something that's there and showing it to you. - Jay Maisel

Not that I am taking sides. I am between a rock and a hard place here: my photography style and approach to post-processing is closer to AA's philosophy, while deep-down longing to be more like Jay Maisel  Wink
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« Reply #18 on: January 15, 2011, 03:01:12 PM »
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"You obviously have that emotional attachment to the place (i.e., places like that), so it nicely illustrates the point I was making."

yes, and i don't miss the itching from all the wheat chaff and cuts from the straw either  Smiley Smiley Smiley
time and distance have allowed me to overlook the misery of harvesting and remember the apple pie  Wink

Despite the road heading L-R the dark close of the woods drew me down into the shelter from the heat. It was a tension - avoidance of the heat versus getting the wheat cut. i think the tension in the image is what worked for me.

Frank
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John R Smith
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« Reply #19 on: January 17, 2011, 02:43:03 AM »
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I can't knock the Ansel approach. I certainly learned a lot about exposure and printmaking from his books. But the idea that the print is the performance just isn't my cup of tea. What I shoot for in post-processing is a correct rendition of what I saw when I tripped the shutter. Interestingly, it sounds as if that's what you were after with the Lane to Downgate. Since it's a landscape, I guess that instead of going through the steps you went through I'd simply have gone back the next day and made the shot again. Better yet, if I were shooting digital I'd have checked the LCD, which ought to have shown the lens flares, and made a few more shots, probably bracketed.

Russ

I think that your and Slobodan's contributions to this thread are well thought through and very important. But just to make my position clear, I am not after a "correct rendition of what I saw when I tripped the shutter", at all. I am trying to achieve a correct rendition of what I felt when I tripped the shutter. Which might be the difference between us, perhaps. So, in order to achieve that, I will frankly do anything in the darkroom (Lightroom) which gets me where I want to go. That was why I was delighted with Frank's response - one phrase was pure gold, although he probably didn't realise it's significance when he wrote it. "The sun and clouds were just that way". That is the pivot around which the image is centred, and it is why I couldn't go back and shoot it again next day. The sun and clouds and light will never be exactly the same, ever again. Which is one point where I am in total agreement with HCB, and his insistence on the decisive moment.

So, its technical imperfections acknowledged and regretted, and also realising that for very many people this picture will have little appeal, and even though for me personally it's a "maybe, maybe not" I'm nonetheless going to stand by it. That means it gets printed to 10x8 and put in my albums. Then I shall see if it stands the test of time  Wink

John
« Last Edit: January 17, 2011, 03:05:47 AM by John R Smith » Logged

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