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Author Topic: Cell Block 12  (Read 2108 times)
Ed Vatza
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« on: March 09, 2011, 07:40:07 PM »
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Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, PA.

While the vast majority of my work is outdoor/nature, I thought I'd post something a little out of my comfort zone.

Processing was with Nik HDR Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro and Silver Efex Pro 2.

Let me know what you think.

Ed Vatza
Ed Vatza Photography
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Josh-H
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« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2011, 10:04:11 PM »
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I think the composition and idea are sound. But.. I find the HDR look detracts from the photograph and gives it an unrealistic (albeit somewhat surrealistic) look. I for one would love to see a non HDR version. As a B&W image you can potentially get away with a lot of blown highlights and to my eyes the blown highlights are less offensive than the final HDR 'look'. (To be fair - in almost all cases I personally dislike HDR results)

I get the impression there is a lot of texture and subtlety in all that cracked and peeling paint - but I feel its getting lost and overwhelmed in the HDR translation.

Again - would love to see a version that coaxes out the subtle detail and tonalities of all that cracked and aged paint.
« Last Edit: March 09, 2011, 10:07:56 PM by Josh-H » Logged

wolfnowl
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« Reply #2 on: March 10, 2011, 12:26:54 AM »
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I'm with Josh here - I think there's a lot of potential in this image... I'm not a fan of the 'HDR- grunge' look, although some people are.  I'd like to see a more accurate rendering as I think the history and the current state can give you something better.

YMMV!

Mike.
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RSL
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« Reply #3 on: March 10, 2011, 05:00:15 AM »
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I agree with Josh and Mike. The problem's with the tone mapping. This kind of thing looks bad enough in color but it looks atrocious in B&W. Too bad. the Scene's interesting. The composition's good. The post-processing has ruined something that started out to be good.
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Ed Vatza
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« Reply #4 on: March 10, 2011, 05:28:28 AM »
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Good morning Josh, Good morning Mike, Good Morning Russ,

Thank you all for taking the time to respond to my photo. I always feel that ALL feedback is welcomed and appreciated. I am a newbie here - barely 48 hours old. So I really don't know much about the tone of these boards and what folks like and dislike. I purposely chose this image because it is, as I said in my original post, outside my comfort zone; an image that has received very positive feedback on other online venues from people I have come to know over time and who's opinion I have come to respect; and because I know opinions can differ and I am curious how this image plays in Peoria, so to speak. So I hope I continue to get comment from other folks here on TLL.

That said, I do have some comments regarding your comments. You both expressed a dislike for HDR images in general. I would suggest to you that it is not HDR that you don't like rather it is the way HDR images are processed after the composite is created in Photomatix or, in this case, Nik HDR Efex Pro. What comes out of the composite building process is pretty mundane -  a look Nik calls "Neutral". And I might add that one thing I hear often about HDR images I post or present in presentations I do for clubs is that my HDR images "don't look like HDR". Translation -  they don't have that over-processed, grunge look that folks have come to associate with HDR images. I seldom over-process an image to create a grunge look. BUT I do do it on occasions when creatively the look feels right to me. And, after all, isn't that what it is all about -  the artist making creative decisions based on his or own feelings.

Take this image as an example. I took that "neutral" composite image that HDR Efex Pro created from my series of exposures and, while still in HDR Efex Pro, applied a Bleach Bypass filter making some adjustments from the preset levels until the image started to match up with my vision of Cell Block 12. I took the Bleach Bypass version from HDR Efex Pro and into Color Efex Pro where I added some Tonal Contrast (which kicks up some of the grungy details), used a filter called Glamour Glow which soften the image somewhat giving it what I would call a "nice", almost glowing feel and finally using Darken/Lighten Center to create a small center point where everything seems to meet, brightening it and slightly darkening the surrounding areas to help draw the eye the way I wanted it. After that bit of processing in Color Efex Pro, I took the image into Silver Efex Pro 2 where I did the black and white conversion and made some final adjustments that resulted in the image you see here. So again, I don't think it's the HDR that you are responding to. Rather it is the way I have chosen to creatively process this image which does not synch up with the way you would do it. And that is perfectly fine. I'm cool with that. You may feel that I did way too much processing but that, to me, is part of the creative process.

One final point. It is interesting that you used words like "surreal" and "grungy" to describe the image that I created. Why interesting? Because when I visit ESP (or any other place like it), the feeling I have while standing there is surreal and is grungy. Wall are crumbling. The ceilings leak horribly. There are years of dirt and debris in the cells and along the edges of the floors. And that's in the areas we are allowed in! And then there is the vast emptiness. So the fact that the image appears "surreal" and "grungy" means I have been successful in capturing the essence of the place.

Again, I know this has been a long response. I'm glad that it is in the area "The Art of Photography" because I enjoy discussions like this about my art, your art, art in general. I thank you for your comments and keep them coming, please!

Regards,

Ed Vatza
Ed Vatza Photography
www.edvatza.com
« Last Edit: March 10, 2011, 05:53:07 AM by Ed Vatza » Logged
stamper
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« Reply #5 on: March 10, 2011, 06:29:45 AM »
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This all goes to show that photography and the processing of images is subjective. You state it isn't HDR to blame but how you used it. Some would say if you hadn't started up your program then how you used it would be a moot point? Personally after dabbling in the HDR process I decided to not use it for the foreseeable. HDR can be used but done "properly" then effect will not be labelled HDR but just processed. As to the merits of the image I like the composition. Possibly in future when posting an obviously HDR processed image then a "normal" processed one should be posted as a condition of posting? Undecided
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Ed Vatza
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« Reply #6 on: March 10, 2011, 06:40:16 AM »
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You state it isn't HDR to blame but how you used it. Some would say if you hadn't started up your program then how you used it would be a moot point?

And I would say that whether in a wet darkroom or a digital darkroom, we all have tools available for our use. And tools, by their very nature, are meant to be used. So I say use them to their fullest to express one's creative vision recognizing that my vision and yours may not be the same.  Smiley
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Christoph C. Feldhaim
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« Reply #7 on: March 10, 2011, 07:02:44 AM »
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Basically I think its a good image.
The problem I see here is, that the very strong lines are somehow countered by the very uncalm processing of the structure.
I did a test for myself and applied some selective gaussian blur using Gimp which gave it a much better look in my eyes.
So - the structure thing is overdone in the processing and a bit less strong stressing of the structure could save it.
I'd also rather try local adjustments using layers to selectively work on the image rather than giving it that look over the whole image.
All a matter of taste, of course ...
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stamper
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« Reply #8 on: March 10, 2011, 07:04:43 AM »
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Surely you should consider whether to use them in the first place is important? Because you have something it doesn't mean you have to use it. Personally I believe you can process an image to a level that looks as if HDR has been used but more subtly. Most photographers who use HDR when posting announce the fact they have used HDR. Why? Just say it has been processed and leave it to others to ask what has been done. Smiley
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« Reply #9 on: March 10, 2011, 08:02:25 AM »
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...an image that has received very positive feedback on other online venues from people I have come to know over time and who's opinion I have come to respect.

Ed, That's nice. Which venues?

Quote
You both expressed a dislike for HDR images in general.

Not at all. I'm attaching an HDR image I like. It's the interior of Thomas Edison's lab in Fort Myers, Florida. It's a composite of 9 handheld frames, but it looks like a photograph, which is what it is.

Quote
And, after all, isn't that what it is all about -  the artist making creative decisions based on his or own feelings.

Absolutely. That's why Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain" got such a rolling-on-the-floor-and-wagging response from critics and curators who should have known better. He made "creative decisions based on his own feelings." Unfortunately, his "feelings" were gross and his scam put Barnum to shame.

Again, I'll say: The subject is interesting. The composition is good. How about showing us a version not infused with your feelings.
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Ed Vatza
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« Reply #10 on: March 10, 2011, 09:30:22 AM »
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Russ,

My initial reply was based on Josh and Mike's response. You slipped in while I was writing so I went back and acknowledged you in the salutation. Sorry, the both referred to Josh and Mike.

What venues and what people are unimportant. I was not trying to pit their opinion against yours or, heaven forbid, suggest that I don't respect you opinions. I do. I was pointing out positive response from a group of like-thinking individuals similar to the negative response from a group of similar-thinking folks here. The big difference is that I have come to know them over time. That has not happened in the past two hours here on TLL. Maybe with more time.

I will reserve judgement on you image since I am on an iPhone. First impression, it looks ordinary to me. Different strokes for different folks I get.

Finally, presenting an image devoid of my feelings would make no sense to me. It represents an entirely different philosophy.

Regards,

Ed Vatza
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RSL
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« Reply #11 on: March 10, 2011, 09:41:10 AM »
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What venues and what people are unimportant.

...presenting an image devoid of my feelings would make no sense to me.

Ed, No sweat. As far as I know there are no restrictions on what you can post on LuLa as long as it's not politically tendentious or obscene in some other way. But saying "other venues" to support a point is like a certain newspaper, which, to avoid political tendentiousness I won't name, that often tries to bolster a point by saying "studies show," or words to that effect without giving a reference to the "studies." That kind of thing invalidates everything that follows.
« Last Edit: March 11, 2011, 07:47:02 AM by RSL » Logged

Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #12 on: March 10, 2011, 11:58:42 AM »
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... saying "other venues" to support a point is like a certain newspaper, which, to avoid political tendentiousness I won't name, often tries to bolster a point by saying "studies show," or words to that effect without giving a reference to the "studies." That kind of thing invalidates everything that follows.

I do not think Ed really needs to specify "other venues" in order to validate his position. As I said in another thread, HDR is "in", and you know it is "in" when CNN reports it (as they did yesterday). There are plenty of sites, forums, Flickr groups, etc. where HDR groupies congregate to gush about it. General public, non-photographers and younger generations especially, seems to like it too, if for no other reason then for being a novelty and "cool". As a matter of fact, anything in this world will find its followers, no matter how gross or absurd. There are also forums, sites, Facebook pages, etc., where people hate HDR. It is just that this forum appears to be more inclined not to like it, if not outright hate it. But, as Ed said, it is all cool. Different strokes for different folks.

HDR defenders would often say "let's not confuse bad HDR (aka saccharin, nuclear, etc. HDR) photography with good HDR photography". My view, admittedly extreme, on this is:

There is no good HDR photography! If it is that good, it is not perceived as HDR. If it is good AND perceived as HDR, it has, more likely, already crossed from photography into digital art. And again, that's cool... there are people who love digital art.

If i want to be generous to HDR and mellow the above statements, I would qualify them as pertaining to HDR resulting from the use of automated methods, rather than manual blending.

What's my beef with (automated) HDR? In a word: EVERY thing.

Good thing about HDR: tones down highlights and opens up shadows. Enhances details and colors.

Bad thing about HDR: tones down EVERY highlight and opens up EVERY shadow. Enhances EVERY detail and EVERY color.

It is like the difference between pornographic and erotic: some things are simply more exciting when covered, hidden or hinted.

Emphasizing  everything defies the very nature and purpose of photography. It is often said that painters add and photographers subtract. Namely, a painter starts with a blank canvas and adds elements, but only those he chooses. A photographer, on the other hand, is faced with a world in front of him with too many already existing elements, hence he needs to simplify, subtract and hide those unimportant ones, by lens and standpoint selection, composition, and, often, post-processing. HDR, by revealing everything, reverses that effort and defies the purpose.

By the way, Ed, welcome to the forum! We do not hate you! Smiley








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Slobodan

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« Reply #13 on: March 10, 2011, 01:08:28 PM »
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Interesting post, Slobodan. You make some thoughtful and thought-provoking points. Something to chew on. I like that... almost as much as I like my "Cell Block 12" image. I guess I'm just one of those HDR lovers.

NOTE TO SELF: Don't even think about running an iPhone image processed with a handful of apps by these guys!  Shocked
« Last Edit: March 10, 2011, 01:10:29 PM by Ed Vatza » Logged
Christoph C. Feldhaim
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« Reply #14 on: March 10, 2011, 01:53:39 PM »
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Yup, Slobodan - you pretty much nailed it.
The automated postprocessing does the evil.
I feel much supported in my opinion on localized adjustments,
which bring photography a little bit nearer to painting.
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #15 on: March 10, 2011, 02:34:23 PM »
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... NOTE TO SELF: Don't even think about running an iPhone image processed with a handful of apps by these guys!  Shocked

NOTE to Ed: no worries, I actually like your self-portrait (done in the above described fashion) on your web site. I have nothing against digital art, within the boundaries of its genre, of course. I am also a member of a Flickr group "FHDR" (i.e., faux HDR), mostly to categorize my photographs that underwent extensive post-processing in the direction I call "gritty".

I also noticed you have a lot of Acadia images on your site. As an example of my own HDR attempts (manual blending though), you might want to check my Bass Harbor photo on my Flickr site (link in my signature here, see either my Landscape set or Published & Awards).

As I said, you are most welcome here, as people with different perspectives can only contribute to and deepen our own understanding.
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Slobodan

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« Reply #16 on: March 10, 2011, 04:52:27 PM »
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Ed: I've said it before and I'll say it again - if you're shooting for a client then the client gets to decide what the image looks like.  If you're shooting for yourself, then you get to decide what the image looks like.  However, everyone has an opinion that may or may not agree with yours.  FWIW, these are all HDR images, which you may freely like or dislike!  http://www.flickr.com/photos/wolfnowl/sets/72157625705609995/

Mike.

P.S.  This isn't directed at you personally, but I do find it intriguing when people post work and ask for critiques, get the critiques they ask for, and proceed to defend their original entrenched position.  Smiley
« Last Edit: March 10, 2011, 04:57:11 PM by wolfnowl » Logged

If your mind is attuned to beauty, you find beauty in everything.
~ Jean Cooke ~


My Flickr site / Random Thoughts and Other Meanderings at M&M's Musings
Ed Vatza
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« Reply #17 on: March 10, 2011, 05:50:05 PM »
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Mike,

First off, I totally agree that everyone is entitled to their opinion and I respect that fact. That is why I at no time suggested to any of you that your opinions were not valid.

And as far as the link to your HDR photos, I will certainly check them out.

But I really want to focus on your P.S. because I think there is an important issue to be discussed there. You said:

This isn't directed at you personally, but I do find it intriguing when people post work and ask for critiques, get the critiques they ask for, and proceed to defend their original entrenched position.  Smiley

There was a time when I would post an image and wait for the responses to flow in. If "others" said it was a good image, I kept it. If they said it was bad, I'd dump it. If they said I need clone out a tree, I tried. If they said I should make the sky green and the grass blue, I would try. In other words, I lacked confidence in myself and my work. Over time that has changed. Am I now supposed to change my mind about a piece of my art because you or someone else does not like it? I think not.

I am now much more comfortable with and confident in my photographic art. Each piece fulfills some small part of my overall creative vision whether that piece results in a brilliant sunrise (HDR or not), a flower macro, or a "grunged up" HDR prison image. I put part of me into every image I make which is why I have to say no when someone asks me to show the image with my feelings removed. That may be more of photojournalistic approach and one I personally am not comfortable with.

Anyway, now when an image of mine is critiqued, I listen but then I process that critique in light of my vision - what I was trying to create. I view each critique as a personal challenge to be addressed based on my creative vision and my ability to convert that vision into a photographic work of art. So I find the ability to discuss the image of paramount importance. Honestly, more often than not, I end up sticking to my guns with maybe even a deeper conviction than I had before. But sometimes I make significant changes based on the critique. As a matter of fact, that just happened in the past few days on another similar image from the same ESP series processed the same way. A point was made. The person making the comment was correct. I was not. I made changes.

So please understand that, at least in my case, I do value your critique because it challenges my position, makes think about what I have done even more deeply, and either strengthens my conviction in what I have done (as is the case here) or causes me to undertake changes (which happened on the other image from the series).

Hope that explains my point of view a little bit better.

Regards,

Ed

Ed Vatza Photography
www.edvatza.com
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michswiss
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« Reply #18 on: March 10, 2011, 10:02:06 PM »
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Looking at this image is akin to trying to listen to a marginally good song late at night on a static-ridden AM radio.  It seems to me the whole point of the image is the extreme processing.  The subject matter is completely secondary.
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #19 on: March 10, 2011, 10:50:05 PM »
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All the folks who have responded so far are ones whose opinions I value highly.

That being said, my own initial reaction to this image was essentially positive. I would probably be tempted to tone down the effect somewhat, but I doubt whether a "straight" photo would express so well to me what it felt like to be in that awful place. And am somewhat prejudiced in favor of photos that express feelings more than ones that simply show me what a thing or place looks like.

In general, I don't like images that look conspicuously HDR-processed, but in this case I think it works. Off hand, I can only think of one other HDR photo that has caught my fancy. It was a portrait of a cow posted on LuLa not too long ago by one of the ladies.

So the LuLa jury isn't unanimous.

Eric
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-Eric Myrvaagnes

http://myrvaagnes.com  Visit my website. New images each season.
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