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Author Topic: Its all about the small details  (Read 20047 times)
David Watson
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« on: February 18, 2012, 04:35:59 AM »
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Mark Dubovoy states, in his interesting and enjoyable piece, that "it is all about the small details" and then goes on (paraphrased by me) to say that you cannot be a great or even good photographer unless you spend years and years of painstaking work to master "the basics".

This is what he says:

At a recent workshop, Michael Reichmann mentioned "The 10,000 hour rule".  What this rule states is that to master the basics of most worthwhile human endeavors takes 10,000 hours (roughly 4-5 years of pretty much full time attention).  The point he was making is that one cannot grab a camera, take a course or two,  or read a few books and be a good photographer.  To master the basics takes 10,000 hours.

(For those readers that sometimes take things too literally, no, I am not saying it takes exactly 10,000 hours and not a minute less to master something.  I am saying that I thoroughly agree that it takes years of  time and dedication to become reasonably proficient).


Whilst in no way disagreeing that one way to become a truly great photographer is to spend this amount of time Mark does not mention the fact that this alone does not in any way guarantee greatness or even moderate competence.  Without an eye and talent these years of effort are largely a waste of time. Mark states categorically that the only way to become a "reasonably proficient" photographer is to spend years mastering the craft.  I so disagree that this is the only way to produce great photography or art using a camera.

I have two objections really to this way of thinking.

Objection number one is that it reduces the pool of possibly great photographers to those with a good eye, talent and the time and money to spend years perfecting their craft.

Objection number two is that all other photographers who do not do this "apprenticeship" must therefore by definition be poor photographers - not true.

For years and years we part time and amateur photographers laboured under the myth that even the best amateur was not as good as the lowliest "pro".  The "pro's" protected their pre-eminance by virtue of the necessarily high degree of craft skills required to be a proficient "film" photographer (no argument with you there Mark).  What has changed is the technology both in terms of capture and printing.  So many of the craft elements of photography have been automated or made easier to use that the learning curve is now actually quite short in terms of becoming proficient at the craft.  That does not however mean that being able to competently use a digital camera and make a good print results in a great photograph.  It does however mean that it is easier for someone with an eye for a good image to take that through to an excellent finished print.

Finally I would just like to emphasis that I am not in any way disagreeing with Mark's message regarding attention to detail but simply to his assertion that one nowadays necessarily has to go through years of pain in order to be just proficient.
  



« Last Edit: February 18, 2012, 05:28:02 AM by David Watson » Logged

David Watson ARPS
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« Reply #1 on: February 18, 2012, 05:00:31 AM »
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His article seemed more balanced than the previous one. Did he edit it in anyway because of the furore of the previous one? I hope not  despite the criticism it received though I understand it. Possibly this one would have sufficed if the other hadn't been published? Overall a more thought proving one. Possibly the practitioners of hyper focal distance and where to focus will be a bit disturbed but I think he is portraying a more reasonable approach to this thorny issue.
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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #2 on: February 18, 2012, 05:10:55 AM »
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Hi,

I also enjoyed Mark's second article. It is especially fascinating to read about the amount of time and effort known masters of the art invest in post processing the image.

Regarding hyperfocal distance and DoF scales I would believe that most photographers reading these forums are aware of the facts. Now, sharpness and unsharpness are both tools of the trade. Total sharpness from foreground to background may be important at times to times but many times we want to use selective focus instead. But deploy DoF scales or falsely calculated hyperfocal distances uncritically and we end up with pictures lacking focus.

Best regards
Erik


His article seemed more balanced than the previous one. Did he edit it in anyway because of the furore of the previous one? I hope not  despite the criticism it received though I understand it. Possibly this one would have sufficed if the other hadn't been published? Overall a more thought proving one. Possibly the practitioners of hyper focal distance and where to focus will be a bit disturbed but I think he is portraying a more reasonable approach to this thorny issue.
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Christoph C. Feldhaim
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« Reply #3 on: February 18, 2012, 07:52:15 AM »
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To put it simply:

There is no such thing like a free lunch in art.

But to me it is also clear, that intensity has not at all only a technical side,
(I also don't believe Mark intended such a message - his article is far from that).

But I also believe with the new upcoming about 40 MPix DSLRs and the next technology hysteria there will be many who hope to get such a free lunch.

And:
IMO Intensity is definitely possible with inferior equipment and technique,
but it will be harder to impress the naive with that,
since the intensity must come from something different then.

Of course one might impress the super-naive with just sloppy technique, but thats a special case. Tongue

Its a special challenge to create intensity with low end technique and technology.

Thats actually the reason why I bought a Zeiss Ikon Folder camera - no distance measurement, no exposure measurement, crappy viewfinder .... quite an amusing and educative experience ....
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dchew
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« Reply #4 on: February 18, 2012, 10:15:25 AM »
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I have two objections really to this way of thinking.

Objection number one is that it reduces the pool of possibly great photographers to those with a good eye, talent and the time and money to spend years perfecting their craft.

Objection number two is that all other photographers who do not do this "apprenticeship" must therefore by definition be poor photographers - not true.

In Stephen King's book, On Writing, he separates writers into four groups:
  • Bad: People with no interest, effort or talent
  • Competent:  Still a large and welcoming group; local newspapers, open-mike poetry night, etc...
  • Really Good: Much smaller group
  • Genius Writers: Shakespeares, Faulkners, Shaws...; divine accidents gifted in a way we cannot understand

He then goes on to say, "...while it is impossible to make a competent writer out of a bad writer, and while it is equally impossible to make a [genius] writer out of a really good one, it is possible, with lots of hard work, dedication and timely help, to make a good writer out of a merely competent one."

Like so much of the rest of that book, I think it applies to photography too; I highly recommend it.  I also think this is in the context of what Mark is trying to say.

Dave
« Last Edit: February 18, 2012, 10:22:06 AM by dchew » Logged

theguywitha645d
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« Reply #5 on: February 18, 2012, 11:09:57 AM »
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Enthusiasm in photography does not really qualify you to write about it. From the essay:

Quote
When Ansel was dissatisfied and decided to make his own tests, he discovered that he got much better results using a different ISO.  He typically rated Tri-X somewhere between ISO 160 and ISO 240 based on testing each emulsion according to his own methodology for testing film. This gave him far superior shadow detail versus using the film according to the manufacturer's specifications. He also discovered that using dilutions, agitating procedures and processing times that were quite different from the manufacturer's specifications he got better results. Finally, he developed (pun intended!) fixing and rinsing procedures for better archival permanence of the original negatives.

But the methodology needed to be refined further. This is a long story and there is not enough space in a short essay to go through it all. To summarize: As we all know, after many years of hard work, this culminated in the invention of the Zone System.  Working with the Zone System one often ends up with complete departures in ISO settings, exposure (versus the standard exposure indicated by a light meter) and development times that are drastically different from the manufacturer's recommendations.

Ansel Adams himself states that his work is just applied sensitometry. He actually took the work of others to formulate the Zone system. He says the Zone System was just an attempt to help photographers visualize the relationship between exposure and development. He, unlike the author, credits his work along side Fred Archer. All of the factors the author states that Adams used, agitation etc., were known before the Zone System. Adams admits to reading the work.

As far as single development recommendations, Kodak actually does not do that in their data sheet and the large volume of material they released to help photographers. If you understand film processing and tone reproduction, you also understand the what the published speed is. The large-format Tri-X I ever used was rated at 320 ISO by Kodak. If you understand the idea is a personal exposure index as Adams did, simply the shutter/lens/development combination can easily get you to working at lower ISOs. That does not invalidate the published speed. It also ignores all the publications Kodak made that states recommended film speed is based on certain criteria and how the criteria changes that.

While the author is correct that it is important to control the photographic process, he seems to be creating myths around photographers at the same time and giving a very distorted view of Ansel's contribution at the expense of others.

I am glad Mark enjoys photography and I am glad he has found a frame in which to define it for himself. However, this is simply a personal frame. I see no historical basis for his claims--how does he explain how Horst became one of the greatest fashion photographers when his fist job he got he never even used a camera, I believe the employer was Paris Vogue. There are all levels of technical skills in the work of photographers that are historically important.

I also do not see what he sees as "obvious" conclusions. I prefer the snow image with the "dimple." I do not find his canyon image very natural--the colors are over saturated. Nor can he claim that the highlights in his sand shot actually "make" the shot.

This article would have been better if he constrained it to what he personally does and likes. Invoking others to try to support his opinions does disservice to those photographers.
« Last Edit: February 18, 2012, 11:49:35 AM by theguywitha645d » Logged
Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #6 on: February 18, 2012, 11:42:33 AM »
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Two kind requests to those who quote others:

1. Please make sure we know who you are quoting (and not just who, but also from which post)

2. Please SEPARATE the quote from your own comments, so that we know who is saying what.
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Slobodan

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« Reply #7 on: February 18, 2012, 11:49:46 AM »
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Mark nails it, IMO!
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Larry Angier
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« Reply #8 on: February 18, 2012, 02:34:35 PM »
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My experiences as a painter, illustrator and photographer and of painters, illustrators and photographers have led me to believe that those most likely to succeed are those who have ability that cannot be explained by education and or experience.

Call it what you will.
« Last Edit: February 18, 2012, 02:57:26 PM by KLaban » Logged

Alan Goldhammer
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« Reply #9 on: February 18, 2012, 03:15:59 PM »
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Much better essay than the first one because of the absence of silly stuff that was adequately documented on the earlier threads.  Two quick observations.

1.  The "10,000 hour" really applies to the performing arts and sports (and probably other stuff) where great manual dexterity and muscle training are required.  Playing a violin is much different than using a Nikon/Canon/__________ (fill in the blank with the camera name you use).  Mark goes over a number of things that need to be dealt with both big and small in capturing a good image.  It's arguable that 100 or 10,000 hours will make things much better.

2.  Ansell Adams zone system was well founded in science.  He and others who used the zone system understood densitometry and the chemical reactions needed to obtain a certain curve for the film and how that could be reproduced from negative to positive (see the appendicies in "The Negative").  Print deterioration was well known much before the Adams and there is an extensive German technical literature that both Adams, Kodak and others borrowed on to help address this matter.  Ultimately, sodium sulfite soak was settled upon. 
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« Reply #10 on: February 18, 2012, 03:34:09 PM »
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1.  The "10,000 hour" really applies to the performing arts and sports (and probably other stuff) where great manual dexterity and muscle training are required. 

Actually, I think Mike got the 10K rule from aviation....as in having 10K hours in a plane to have a high level of flying proficiency...at least that's what I recall him saying in our Camera To Print & Screen tutorial....

I think the main take away is practice makes perfect...and if you spend 10K hours doing ANYTHING you'll be a lot better at the end than you were in the beginning.
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #11 on: February 18, 2012, 04:02:23 PM »
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The "10,000-hour rule" comes from the great book "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell. It is definitely not just about (manual) dexterity, but skills in general. It certainly does not take that long to learn how to operate your camera (600-page manuals notwithstanding Wink), but to learn everything else there is to learn about photography. He used examples of Bill Gate, the Beatles, the guy who founded Oracle (I think), etc.
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Slobodan

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« Reply #12 on: February 18, 2012, 04:30:16 PM »
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There once was an interesting documentary in this regard about Vanessa Mae, called The Making of Me.
It deals with the question of nature vs nurture in talented people. An excerpt can be found here. She visits amongst others a well known Music Psychology researcher who asks her to estimate the number of hours of practice she had during her entire life:

quote:

she comes with an estimation of 7107 hours:

'that is not too bad, is it,' she says 

John Sloboda tells her that this number fits well in the middle of estimates of how many hours of practice it takes a child prodigy to develop into a professional musician.

Then Vanessa-Mae argues against the views of John Sloboda that musicality and interpretation can't be trained but must be genetically inherited, according to her views. Sloboda answers that he believes we all have these capacities and that somehow only a few mange to unlock these. He estimates nurture and training to be 75 % over nature. Vanessa-Mae rejects, saying that music is about emotion and that we are not robots, she says: 'I think it is belittling that a player is here, only because of the hours spent practicing.'
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« Reply #13 on: February 18, 2012, 05:00:24 PM »
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The "10,000-hour rule" comes from the great book "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell. It is definitely not just about (manual) dexterity, but skills in general. It certainly does not take that long to learn how to operate your camera (600-page manuals notwithstanding Wink), but to learn everything else there is to learn about photography. He used examples of Bill Gate, the Beatles, the guy who founded Oracle (I think), etc.
Yup, I read the book and I disagree with my good friend Malcolm on the expansive definition of "10,000 hours" to gain expertise.  True for some areas but not others.
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« Reply #14 on: February 18, 2012, 05:58:41 PM »
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The "10,000-hour rule" comes from the great book "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell.

While he certainly popularized the 10K Rule, I'm not so sure he originated it...

This article in Wired seems to suggest it was the work of K. Anders Ericsson, a pyschologist at Florida State University. I also remember hearing abut the 10K Rule in the mid 1990's (I think...my mid-term memory sometimes fails me :~)

But in any event, the operative concept is practice makes perfect...and it takes a lot of work to excel.
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eleanorbrown
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« Reply #15 on: February 18, 2012, 06:02:58 PM »
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I'm going to have to agree with you Keith.  We can talk about the quality of our pixels, cropping an image one billionth (well not quite ;-)  of an inch. carrying our camera strap a certain special way and any of the millions of other things that we photographers/artists call "necessary", but what can't be taught is that magical "something" that must be there in one's mind and heart and soul.  I like most artists, have things I always obsess about...some details make my image better, but in many cases it really doesn't make that much difference one way or another.  At least this is the way I personally see the making of "art"....:-) Eleanor

My experiences as a painter, illustrator and photographer and of painters, illustrators and photographers have led me to believe that those most likely to succeed are those who have ability that cannot be explained by education and or experience.

Call it what you will.

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daws
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« Reply #16 on: February 18, 2012, 06:18:51 PM »
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The "10,000-hour rule" comes from the great book "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell. It is definitely not just about (manual) dexterity, but skills in general. It certainly does not take that long to learn how to operate your camera (600-page manuals notwithstanding Wink), but to learn everything else there is to learn about photography. He used examples of Bill Gate, the Beatles, the guy who founded Oracle (I think), etc.

In art school in the '70s I remember the "10,000 drawings" rule, variously interpreted as the number of drawings/paintings it takes to become a competent artist, or the number of "bad drawings" every artist must get past before reaching proficiency.
« Last Edit: February 18, 2012, 06:21:08 PM by daws » Logged
Isaac
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« Reply #17 on: February 19, 2012, 12:57:54 AM »
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This article in Wired seems to suggest it was the work of K. Anders Ericsson, a pyschologist at Florida State University.

For more context see The New York Times Sunday Review "Sorry, Strivers: Talent Matters"

Also, "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell explicitly references Ericsson's work in the end notes: "One of (many) wonderful articles by Ericsson and his colleagues..."

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Isaac
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« Reply #18 on: February 19, 2012, 01:21:04 AM »
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I also do not see what he sees as "obvious" conclusions. I prefer the snow image with the "dimple."
So does he - "If you see what I see, version one is perfectly balanced."
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Isaac
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« Reply #19 on: February 19, 2012, 01:31:24 AM »
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Mark Dubovoy -- "Cartier-Bresson was..."
What's the source? Mark Dubovoy doesn't tell us how he knows those things about Cartier-Bresson.

Mark Dubovoy -- "The above words by Henri Cartier-Bresson..."
What's the source? Mark Dubovoy doesn't tell us how he knows those words were said by Cartier-Bresson.
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