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Author Topic: Art 'n Science 'n Photography  (Read 47275 times)
Mark D Segal
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« Reply #100 on: December 22, 2005, 02:42:05 PM »
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Pom/Beni, just visited the rest of your website - the work is excellent. But are you truly still making chemical-darkroom prints, or have you now converted to inkjet? (What is said on your site about inkjet prints being short-lived is of course quite out-of-date as a generalization.)
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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« Reply #101 on: December 22, 2005, 05:14:41 PM »
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IMO that's a deeply flawed analogy. When someone is reading a poem, the listener has no way to tell whether the reader is reading from a carved stone tablet, a parchment inscribed with a quill pen, or the monitor of a laptop computer. But if the performance is recorded, the listener's experience changes significantly depending on whether the performance was recorded from the other side of the room with a $30 pocket-sized microcasette recorder, or in a studio with reasonably state-of-the-art recording, mixing, and mastering equipment.
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Speaking of flawed - your example deals with the parameters of the reproduction of a performance, not with the work itself - so your intended point is left floating in the air as it were.  

One shouldn't confuse the relative merits of a tool set with the essential artistic impulse of the individual.  The Art of Art either rises to a level of intense evocation of the human spirit or it doesn't.  And, more colorful doesn't guarantee more intensity just as louder, sharper, or hyper doesn't.  The quality of the greatest Art rises to the same level it always has and always will.  Art has played out its essential variations over the arc of Modernism - so we have run out of "-ism's" - which only masked variations of the same impulse.  We will see Art performed in different ways, using different tools and from here forward it will echo the past, as it always has, but more obviously than ever.
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #102 on: December 22, 2005, 05:43:30 PM »
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Speaking of flawed - your example deals with the parameters of the reproduction of a performance, not with the work itself - so your intended point is left floating in the air as it were.
You're completely confused. The relationship between an audio recording and the original performance is quite similar to the relationship between a photograph and its subject. The analogy regarding the medium of the poem (handwritten vs typed) is more like the difference between storing data on a compact flash card vs a computer hard drive vs a USB thumb drive. In each case, while the physical size of the media and speed of data retrieval may vary considerably, the information can be stored and retrieved equally well on all of the different media. No one here would argue that switching from Compact Flash memory to SD/MMC will make anyone a better photographer or improve the quality of their images, but you're going to have a hard time convincing anyone that a pinhole camera is just as suitable for sports photography as a 1D-MkII and some L glass. Just because one aspect of technology (storage media format) has little or no impact on the final result does not prove that all other forms of technology (lens, sensor, color calibration, printer design, ink and paper formulation, etc.) are equally irrelevant.
« Last Edit: December 22, 2005, 05:44:37 PM by Jonathan Wienke » Logged

Ben Rubinstein
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« Reply #103 on: December 22, 2005, 06:40:15 PM »
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Firstly thanks all, I just wish I had the time and money to shoot more, I'm still recovering from an operation on my foot and won't be fully mobile for a while yet.

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(What is said on your site about inkjet prints being short-lived is of course quite out-of-date as a generalization.)

It's called creative marketing    . In honesty inkjet prints with true longevity of 80+ years are pretty new on the market and although you folks are concerned with that issue in your printing, is the majority of the market? I didn't say that inkjets arn't good, just that you can't automatically assume that a modern inkjet print will have true archival properties.

I print on Ilford Hi Gloss paper, the digital equivelent to Cibachrome with far better contrast but the same feel and look. They are printed by a tech who I happy to print of my samples and do it again and again until they get it right. I pay the same amount for an 18X12" print that you inkjet boys pay per sheet of the just released new cibachrome look alike that MR mentioned recently and I don't have any hassle with ink, metamarism, profiling, updating printers, longevity, etc, etc. Give me a LED print any day....

I print my wedding/event/studio work using a frontier, it's so much cheaper and more convenient for the quality and longevity that inkjet doesn't even start to come into the picture. To bother with the hassle of a printer to get the same quality of print for the small volume I shoot, especially as I can choose a 30X20" print as easily as an 8X10", there is no question as far as I'm concerned.

Everyone to their own...
« Last Edit: December 22, 2005, 06:41:00 PM by pom » Logged

collum
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« Reply #104 on: December 23, 2005, 04:56:30 PM »
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well.. i'm an engineer. .have been for as long as i've been a photographer (> 25 years). day job as been software development, and software testing.. mostly as close to the hardware as i can get (driver work,network,  etc).

almost all of the people i work with are also engineers.. and of those people, i'd say about 10% have serious artistic hobbies.. musicians mostly.. but painters, sculptures, and photographers. i'd say if you were to poll a large construction site, you'd find a similar number.

the range of personalities in the engineers that i have known are as broad as within any group of people. some are very linear right brain thinkers.. others have completely non-linear ways of thinking.. with most scattered between the two. some engineers approach problems (and photography/art) in that linear fashion.. while others hit it in completely different/unexpected ways.

          jim
« Last Edit: December 23, 2005, 04:59:43 PM by collum » Logged
drew
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« Reply #105 on: December 29, 2005, 06:58:31 AM »
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I have been following this thread with interest and realise that I am coming late to the discussion. However, I think the thread has meandered a bit and it contains some of my pet hates, namely confusion between art and craft, art and technology, art and reputation (historical or otherwise) of the person making it, art and monetary value etc, etc....
The first posters to this thread were absolutely spot on in criticising Alain Briot's essay. I prefer a reductionist approach when considering art which is completely concerned with the classical definition of art 'the expressive arrangement of elements within a medium'. The medium itself may be based on science, technology, craft etc, etc, but that is not important in relation to what is being visualised or heard. Have the elements within that medium been arranged in an expressive way? If the answer is yes, then to that observer, it is art. If enough observers of power, influence and wealth agree that the elements have been arranged expressively, then probably that piece will end up in a gallery/museum/concert hall. It still does not stop another individual coming to their own conclusions about the same piece. For example, I generally find nothing particularly artistic in Renoir's paintings, but I find works by Degas very artistic, because they produce a strong emotional response (no, not tears, you know what I mean).
To those who say this is simply semantics, I totally disagree. Making the distinctions between the words is essential to understanding why a cave painting can be art just as much as a Picasso or whatever. It has nothing to do with science or technology or value etc, but everything to do with the definition above.
Also, I totally agree with those who say that the practice of photography is not science any more than riding a bike is.
BTW if Alain is reading this, can I point you to an excellent essay on photography and art by the British photographer Joe Cornish in this month's Outdoor Photography magazine. Much better written and far easier to understand than David Ward's tortological and turgid prose. 'Art is in the eye of the beholder' and 'one man's art is another man's poison' are as true as they ever were and they apply as much to photography as any other medium, technology and science and craft notwithstanding. As someone else has said, explanation of 'inner vision' and examples that illustrate this together with some historical perspectives and analogies would be of more interest.
« Last Edit: January 05, 2006, 03:59:03 AM by drew » Logged

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Ray
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« Reply #106 on: December 30, 2005, 07:48:46 AM »
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Pom, firstly, that photograph is excellent. I can see why it sells well. Congrats. That is art - you had an image in your mind of what you wanted to express, and you have the smarts and materials to implement it.

So, secondly, the point you are making is valid, and the same thing Jonathan and I have been saying in other words - art, science, technique are symbiotic - partners in the production of artistic photography.

Hence, thirdly, it is not you who are confused.
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Interesting thread this. I have to jump in somewhere, so why not with a criticism of Pom's Wall. I don't think you got this right Pom. My first imression was you used a strong flash, too strong, and have blown some highlights. The effect is garish and not at all suggestive of the quiet meditative state of a 3am vigil, yet you used a tripod and a long exposure. What went wrong?  

I'll now read Alain's essay to see what all the fuss is about.
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Ray
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« Reply #107 on: December 30, 2005, 09:17:08 AM »
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Having now read the arguments, I have to come down on the side of those who think that using a camera is not science but a craft or a skill. It's certainly true that science lays down the principles that make the production of modern DSLRs possible, but the use of a camera is in the same category as the operation of any equipment. The photographer may well be an artist, but on the technical side he's an operator of equipment. If the controls are a bit more complex than driving a car, it doesn't necessarily place the operation in a different category.

It's been often said that a goal of photographers is to become so familiar with camera adjustments that they become second nature, almost like riding a bike or driving a car. Decisions often have to be made in a split second. If you're a bit tardy in turning that steering wheel at the precise moment, you're likely to at least scrape against another car if not have a serious accident. If you're a bit tardy in setting the right aperture for DoF and right ISO for an appropriate shutter speed, you've messed up the shot. I do it frequently and I'm hampered by the fact that I'm long sighted and need glasses to see the f stop in the camera's LCD screen.

I consider myself a juggler of mainly 3 parameters; f stop, ISO and shutter speed. They all need to be spot on to get the basis of a good result.

To some extent there is a trial and error process, feed back from results and a corresponding adjustment to technique. I think this is Jonathan's concept of science. I see a line of mules carrying heavy loads down a steep slope against a Himalayan landscape. They're slow moving but at f11 and ISO 100 a shutter speed of 1/60th is not adequate. I learn by trial and error that I should have used ISO 400 for that shot. It's too late for that particualr scene, but next time I'll use ISO 400. I've learned something on a very practical level, but is that science?
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #108 on: December 30, 2005, 09:43:36 AM »
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I've learned something on a very practical level, but is that science?
If you apply that experience in an organized fashion, absolutely. Your hypothesis that 1/60 is a sufficiently fast shutter speed for that situation turned out to be erroneous based on practical experience (AKA an experiment), so you've formulated a new hyhpothesis. If studying the mating habits of flatworms is "science", I don't see why studying the optimal configuration and settings of a camera when photographing a particular subject under specific conditions wouldn't be.
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John Camp
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« Reply #109 on: December 30, 2005, 10:05:20 AM »
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If you apply that experience in an organized fashion, absolutely. Your hypothesis that 1/60 is a sufficiently fast shutter speed for that situation turned out to be erroneous based on practical experience (AKA an experiment), so you've formulated a new hyhpothesis. If studying the mating habits of flatworms is "science", I don't see why studying the optimal configuration and settings of a camera when photographing a particular subject under specific conditions wouldn't be.
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No, no, no. You might consider a photographer to be using the forms of science if, say, Ray were to codify his mule-shooting experience in a letter to Nature, and then experimenters all over the world could replicate Ray's experience without fault. But they can't, because the subject of Ray's experience will never be the same, not even for Ray. That's one reason why sports photographers are concerned about frames-per-second -- they know that one shot, taken a 1/20th of a second before the last, isn't as good. One shows, say, a basketball player six feet from the net with his arms starting up, the ball hidden and his face turned away, the next shows him smashing the ball through the net with a smile on his face. In a science experiment, what counts is the duplication of condition and technique; essentially, the elimination of variables. If you can do that, results ought to be pretty close between experimenters. In the photography world, you can never duplicate condition, and probably not technique, and you certainly don't want to eliminate variables -- photographers grow older and slower, but more experienced and savvy; and abilities certainly change betweeen photographers; and the world changes. It's not science, Jonathan. Give it up. Write something on light wells; comment on the vertical RRS plates; I will read your comments with great interest.

JC
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Ray
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« Reply #110 on: December 30, 2005, 10:31:12 AM »
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If you apply that experience in an organized fashion, absolutely. Your hypothesis that 1/60 is a sufficiently fast shutter speed for that situation turned out to be erroneous based on practical experience (AKA an experiment), so you've formulated a new hyhpothesis. [a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=54750\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Okay! This is the scientific approach to a practical problem. However, the science relating to the appropriate shutter speed for a certain degree of movement at a required angular resolution has already been done. In a sense, I'm reinventing the wheel from a purely scientific perspective. I'm adding nothing new to the total body of scientific knowledge. I'm just finding out for myself in a practical manner something that could be calculated and probably has been calculated before.

But this does raise an interesting dilemma. If I apply a scientific procedure to solve a problem that has already been solved many, many times before, but I haven't heard about it (because I'm dumb, not well-read, whatever), am I doing science? Perhaps the answer is logically, yes.
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #111 on: December 30, 2005, 12:41:29 PM »
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No, no, no. You might consider a photographer to be using the forms of science if, say, Ray were to codify his mule-shooting experience in a letter to Nature, and then experimenters all over the world could replicate Ray's experience without fault. But they can't, because the subject of Ray's experience will never be the same, not even for Ray.
Yes, yes, yes. If Ray records the ambient light level, camera-to-subject distance, focal length, aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, there's no reason he (or anyone else with a sufficiently similar camera) couldn't go back some other day, compare current light levels to Ray's records, make appropriate adjustments for any differences, and get a technically well-executed exposure of the same subject from the same vantage point from the get-go.

Let me give you another example. I have a fairly standardized 4-light portrait setup I use for yearbook photos and the like, and I know the details well enough that I can position the lights and set their power levels and configure the camera so that my first exposure is pretty close to right-on without even using a light meter. Anyone else who placed the lights in the same position, set their power levels the same, and dialed in the same camera settings would get the same result. There's nothing magical about who sets up the lights and configures the camera; as long as the setup is consistent, the results will be as well, at least technically. They are observable, repeatable, and consistent to the degree that the setup plan is followed. They have to be, or I'd drive myself crazy shooting 40-80 sorority girls on different days while trying to get all of the photos to match. Technically proficient photography is not voodoo; if you approach it with a bit of discipline and keep detailed notes of what worked and what didn't, there's no reason why one photographer can't successfully utilize the experiences of another, as long as any differences in equipment and shooting conditions are properly accounted for. This is especially true when shooting digital; the random vagaries of varying batches of film stock, processing chemicals, and print papers afford far more opportunities for random fluctuation than a properly-configured digital workflow. Getting two identical optical prints from an enlarger is much more difficult than getting two identical prints from an inkjet.

Of course the artistic side is different; the model may be in a different mood, what works to get a genuine-looking smile with one person may annoy someone else, an animal may get bored and simply refuse to cooperate, etc. So that aspect is not formulaic, consistent and repeatable, and thus is not within the realm of science.
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #112 on: December 30, 2005, 12:54:43 PM »
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But this does raise an interesting dilemma. If I apply a scientific procedure to solve a problem that has already been solved many, many times before, but I haven't heard about it (because I'm dumb, not well-read, whatever), am I doing science? Perhaps the answer is logically, yes.
Absolutely yes. And if you take advantage of the experiences of others (by reading photo magazines, browsing the LL forums, taking classes or whatever) to "get it right the first time" technically, you are engaging in scientific activity just the same as the geneticist who, after reading the details of a new cloning procedure in a scientific journal, duplicates the procedure and its results in his laboratory. If he's a "scientist", then so are you when you use a DOF calculator to figure out what aperture to use to get the desired DOF in a photo.

I'm not arguing that every shutter-button-pusher is a "scientist", but that photographers who engage in a disciplined and logical approach and methodology to consistently achieve the desired technical result (keeping notes of shooting conditions, camera settings, etc. and using that knowledge to address technical shortcomings encountered) are using scientific methods and principles to do so, even if they aren't consciously thinking of the process in those terms.
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jani
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« Reply #113 on: January 01, 2006, 09:17:56 AM »
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I'm not arguing that every shutter-button-pusher is a "scientist", but that photographers who engage in a disciplined and logical approach and methodology to consistently achieve the desired technical result (keeping notes of shooting conditions, camera settings, etc. and using that knowledge to address technical shortcomings encountered) are using scientific methods and principles to do so, even if they aren't consciously thinking of the process in those terms.
In that case, I only have a quarrel with the phrasing you've used earlier, because there's a difference between "using science", "doing science" and "applying/using scientific methods and principles".
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Ben Rubinstein
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« Reply #114 on: January 01, 2006, 09:31:23 AM »
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Interesting thread this. I have to jump in somewhere, so why not with a criticism of Pom's Wall. I don't think you got this right Pom. My first imression was you used a strong flash, too strong, and have blown some highlights. The effect is garish and not at all suggestive of the quiet meditative state of a 3am vigil, yet you used a tripod and a long exposure. What went wrong?

Ray, it is ambient light only of course. I don't know what you are seeing but if your monitor is correctly profiled then you should be seeing the same as everyone else.
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« Reply #115 on: January 01, 2006, 09:51:18 AM »
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Ray, it is ambient light only of course. I don't know what you are seeing but if your monitor is correctly profiled then you should be seeing the same as everyone else.
There are parts of the wall that appear too bright to me, too, and although I haven't performed my own calibration and profiling yet, the color picker tool shows me that there are indeed many areas of the wall with RGB values around 255,255,25x or 25x,255,255.

While these may actually be fair representations, it isn't very comfortable to look at.

Maybe that's what Ray was thinking about.
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #116 on: January 01, 2006, 10:39:36 AM »
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Well, what one thinks about should be grounded in facts. And how one perceives the facts depends on the quality of the evidence. So to check the quality of the evidence and the facts on my monitor, which is properly calibrated and profiled with ColorEyes Display and an X-Rite DPT94, I downloaded the image and took some measurements. Firstly, I created a Levels adjustment layer and looked at threshold values (right slider with Alt depressed). No highlights are totally clipped in all three channels. The worst it gets is clipping of two channels (red and green) in the specular highlights, which are very small and scattered. Secondly, I ran the eyedropper over the brightest areas (using 5x5 average, to represent what we may actually see) and L values never got higher than 0.96, many of them being in the range of 0.88 to 0.93. A high proportion of the image's total luminosity is above the mid-point of the histogram, but that most likely reflects a fact that the scene is bright. I've never been there, but it makes sense that the scene would be brightly lit because people are reading prayer books, and from the quality of the light it is most likely illuminated with strong floodlights that do tend to project harsh light. So then the question becomes whether the photographer wishes to portray the scene more or less faithfully in a print, or tone it down to something that would be more comforting to some people's monitors and visual taste. That is purely a matter of judgment and we cannot make those judgments from an sRGB monitor JPG. The reason is that when the image is soft-proofed, printed and viewed by reflected light, it may sit on a bit (or more than a bit) lower overall tonal key than what appears over the internet. I find that if I email photos to be viewed on monitors, I need to cut down a bit of the contrast and luminosity I build into a soft-proofed version for printing, in order to simulate equivalent viewing conditions.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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Ben Rubinstein
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« Reply #117 on: January 01, 2006, 10:47:22 AM »
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I don't know, my screen is calibrated to print and in print it looks great, not at all uncomfortable.
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #118 on: January 01, 2006, 11:20:16 AM »
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Yes, that confirms what I see. When I turn-on soft-proofing - to simulate what the print would look like printed on Epson Enhanced Matte using the Epson profile, the overall luminosity is comfortable.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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Ray
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« Reply #119 on: January 01, 2006, 11:49:22 AM »
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Quite right! You've nailed the problem Mark. With softproofing on and simulate paper color in PS the image looks much more natural. This is something to bear in mind when posting images on the net.
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