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What is considered acceptable brightness or darkness
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2009 9:00 pm    Post subject: What is considered acceptable brightness or darkness Reply with quote

Having seen a bunch of original b&w prints exhibited - from the days when silver was plentiful and other, more poisonous materials, were mixed into photo paper... One thing I note is, given modern brightness standards, many of these prints would be called 'dark' (and 'unsharp' too but that's another kettle of fish).

I read in Annie Leibovitz's Working book that when she was publishing in Rolling Stone, she ended up making brighter and brighter exposures. This was because the cheap paper sucked up ink, and what looked right on real paper or slide, was hopelessly muddy in the magazine.

Over on the Pentax forum, a landscape that I thought was well placed tonally - there was good light and a long grey scale - someone thought 'dark'.

Looking through vintage National Geographic magazines, I see many of the photos would be called dark or washed out, these days.

I wonder, the standards of Auto Balance, of seeing photos on the net, and in magazines - these are our de facto standards, to which we've grown accustomed - are they in fact too bright? By historical standards, that is.

And is this an improvement in realism or communicativeness? Were the old standards due to limitations of materials (i.e. the printing process)?


PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2009 10:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nesster wrote:
...is this an improvement in realism or communicativeness?...


I'd suggest "realism" but perhaps at the expense of "communicativeness" in the sense that when we look back at a lot of those old 'grainy' 'washed out' or whatever pictures, we don't see the 'faults' if you like but we do see the message. Would we be moved the same if they were technically accurate, or would it even matter?

It's a bit like the selection of a suitable microphone for a recording - you could pick out a condenser with the flattest and thus most accurate response or you could choose one that is more 'coloured' and 'musical'.

Which is preferable to actually listen to - the warts and all recording or the technically inferior but very possibly nicer sounding one?

Or the difference between solid state and valve audio - I work for a company that manufactures state of the art digital pro audio equipment and they produce a valve (tubes for our US friends) based input module that basically dirties up the input signal path.

The conventional one measures better but the valve one SOUNDS better.

All IMO of course... Laughing


PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2009 10:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Laughing I refrained from making the MP3/Ipod analogy in sound - but the situation is similar, in that most of us most of the time see photos online or in magazines, rather than as good prints or projected slides.

The photo equivalent of the valve input - depending on how gadgety said valve gear is - would be the Holgas, the texture layers etc that people add or use to try to capture the sign or signature of old time equipment.

The high end equivalent of the valve stage is perhaps slide film through a good camera scanned and displayed online?


PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2009 10:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nesster wrote:
Laughing I refrained from making the MP3/Ipod analogy in sound - but the situation is similar, in that most of us most of the time see photos online or in magazines, rather than as good prints or projected slides.

The photo equivalent of the valve input - depending on how gadgety said valve gear is - would be the Holgas, the texture layers etc that people add or use to try to capture the sign or signature of old time equipment.

The high end equivalent of the valve stage is perhaps slide film through a good camera scanned and displayed online?


I would largely agree with that.

Strange thing is that we have all these PS plugins etc. that all seek to digitally emulate various film characteristics, much like one used to be able to buy a $2000 or thereabouts 1U hardware box of tricks that attempted to emulate analogue tape saturation, and that's before we get into all the countless software gizmos...

We have unheard of accuracy almost literally at our fingertips yet we still want to throw some, or all of that accuracy away for Digital Velvia.

Sometimes it doesn't pay to throw out the past to make room for the present... Laughing


PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2009 10:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

bob955i wrote:
Nesster wrote:
...is this an improvement in realism or communicativeness?...


I'd suggest "realism" but perhaps at the expense of "communicativeness" in the sense that when we look back at a lot of those old 'grainy' 'washed out' or whatever pictures, we don't see the 'faults' if you like but we do see the message. Would we be moved the same if they were technically accurate, or would it even matter?

It's a bit like the selection of a suitable microphone for a recording - you could pick out a condenser with the flattest and thus most accurate response or you could choose one that is more 'coloured' and 'musical'.

Which is preferable to actually listen to - the warts and all recording or the technically inferior but very possibly nicer sounding one?

Or the difference between solid state and valve audio - I work for a company that manufactures state of the art digital pro audio equipment and they produce a valve (tubes for our US friends) based input module that basically dirties up the input signal path.

The conventional one measures better but the valve one SOUNDS better.

All IMO of course... Laughing


I think, you cant compair that in technical facts of modern times.
I understand what you want to say, but valves produce a special kind of harmonics, like an effect in photography. Take your measurement instruments and you know that.

Yes, its sounds more "natural".. but to compair this, there are lots of other facts important, which you cant let out of the sight.

Having a signal chain in audio is different to what you get in Photography.
In terms of what i prefer, me sometimes like the warm sound a tube amplifier can produce more, but as long as i didnt know, what the engineer in the recording session wants to create, which microphones and recording medium was used, this is a boring discussion only in terms of better or not. Thats are meanings, no technical facts.

To have opinions about this or that, feeling this or that touches me more..
OK, but realism is what the creator wants to say, not what you want to hear. And therefor he uses his toolbox of tools to let you know, how he wants that you have to hear.

Also in phtography !!!

Cheers
Henry


Last edited by hinnerker on Tue Nov 17, 2009 10:45 pm; edited 5 times in total


PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2009 10:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Philistine that I am, I completely forget the professor's name or the program - there was a TV series broadcast over public tv here in the states, I think this was originally a Brit production.

Anyway, the guy traced the development of Greek sculpture. He shows us how the development was for greater and greater realism, and the very statue that actually attained near perfect realism. Immediately after that the real Golden Age of sculpture started: now the statues were more than perfect, more than realistic. For example, they lost their tailbones.

His thesis is that we don't really want real, we want the ideal.


PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2009 10:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have thought a lot about these issues over the years.

My conclusion is that what we perceive as a lack of technology is really a lack of perception and education and skills. And also the result of different environmental conditions.

I try to make an example:

- why the photos of the old masters, look so good, even if they are unsharp, and sometimes even misfocused?

One could say, because the old lenses and emulsions, like the valves in amplifiers, gave a "human" dimension to the aesthetic experience.

But then, how is that, if we repeat those type of artworks today, both by digital imitation (grain plugins etc), and by direct use of original equipment, we do NOT obtain, except very rare cases, the same poetry and fascination of the old masters?

The answer for me is that we are looking in the wrong place. We must not look for that poetry in the tools. Sure, they played a role too. But the place to look, is in the souls of those artists. In their minds and hearts. And not only in that, but also in the world that they had in front of them.
The world, then, was different - not only more aesthetically beautiful than today, but also more humanly rich. Every world thing then, had a human breathe to them. The shop windows were made by individuals, not designed by faceless companies. The baker, the tailor, the shoemaker, all these were people, not brands. Even the bankers had a face then, today, banks apply periodic rotation to personnel, to avoid that they get too bound to a place and the people, which could create personal bindings that could affect the business decisions. In other words the bank leaders do everything they can to dehumanize their business.

This is my idea. I am convinced that if I had a time machine, and could go back to the 30s and give Brassai a Canon 5D or a Contax RX with today's multicoated lenses, he would capture exactly the same poetries in his shots, just as much as we, if we use Brassai's camera and lenses, can not replicate his magic here today.
Because he was an artist and most of us aren't, that is sure. But also because he was photographing a different world.

-


Last edited by Orio on Tue Nov 17, 2009 10:51 pm; edited 1 time in total


PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2009 10:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

bob955i wrote:


Sometimes it doesn't pay to throw out the past to make room for the present... Laughing


Right, the best way IMHO is to combine the best of both... for your toolbox.

Cheers
Henry


PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2009 10:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
...we don't really want real, we want the ideal.


My point exactly.

@ Henry: You're actually agreeing with me as far as the end result is concerned (I think...). Laughing I only used the analogy of an audio signal path in regard to how one achieves that end result and how they can differ in connection with individual preference and in that sense it does stand comparison.


PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2009 7:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great topic!

To start with, I think we are victims of a modern delusion that a well-placed histogram is "technically accurate". It isn't; it is just one way or representing an illusion. Who tells us that this way of exposing or that is "perfect"? The technicians who make sensors, the advertising gurus, stock agencies and book writers, that's who. But a photo is not an accurate representation of reality, it is a motionless, two-dimentional parody of it. As artists we are allowed to do what we like with it.

I think the audio comparison has gone in the wrong direction, it isn't about valves and microchips (the equipment) it is about symphonies and punk rock. A "perfect" exposure is soothing and delightful, like a Mozart Violin Concerto, an imperfect one can be jarring but exciting, like a bit of Punk Rock.

It is up to us, as the "conductor" in charge of each composition to decide whether to aim for a waltz or some hard rock. Either is acceptable if that is where our inclinations take us. You might want blown highlights or filled in blacks, you might want low contrast or very high contrast.

I recall, back in the days when B&W was king, we had a choice of printing papers, from Grade 1 to Grade 5. the contrast increased from 1 to 5 and most work was printed on either 2 or 3 - but the extremes (which would probably be considered "wrong" now) were considered valid enough choices for paper makers to provide for.

Today we can easily duplicate that in PS - but we are told not to because everything should be "normal" and "right". We are still, just about, allowed to shift the mid-tone slider, but heaven help us if we blow out the highlights or fill the lowlights.

I think it is a mistake to romanticise the past. I am sure great photographers would produce much the same work in any era. The human verities have not changed in 1,000 years, social organisation/"progress" doesn't affect that.

Also, by imagining a kinder, gentler, better world was being recorded 40 years ago we risk tricking ourselves into thinking there is nothing worth recording today. In fact, the glamour in old photos (even awful ones) comes because the past is a strange land ... perhaps it is the only inaccessible land left; I can be in Sydney, Seattle, Cape Town or Copenhagen tomorrow if I choose but I can't be in 1969 again (unfortunately!). Give it another 40 years and today's mundane mobile phones and fashions will acquire their own veneer of romanticism; if we don't record them now, nobody will be able to be nostalgic about them then.

I've gone rather wider than the question of exposure - but my thesis is that there is no "right" or "wrong" as long as you deliberately chose to create a particular look. If you produce the result you wanted but everyone else thinks it looks like sh*t then your exposure was correct, because it is you who are in charge. Who knows, maybe the next generation will think you were an inspired genius.

It is very important to know and understand the formal "rules" of good and bad exposure and composition. Once you do know them, you are entitled to do anything you like.


PostPosted: Fri Dec 25, 2009 8:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When Orio touched on the heart and soul of the artist I think he NAILED it!

Its all subjective from individual to individual.

There isnt a person on this site that can make a decision for me: im the one in charge of that. No long winded explanation is needed from my point of view.

What may be technically correct in tonality by scientific standards means very little to me, its what the photo represents and how it makes me feel that counts.


PostPosted: Thu Jan 14, 2010 3:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Perhaps dragging up an older post here but I agree with Orio on it being the artist's messages and emotional meanings that give photos a particular photo a soul. However I think the minutiae of the scene being captured and the environment it can take us to is as important and the exposure is part of this.

In regards to music much of my favourite modern music mixes old and new technology. Analogue synthesisers of age similar to many of the m42 lenses discussed on here are mated to modern recording equipment and digital audio workstation software. Is this not the equivalent of scanning slides and Photoshopping them? The warm sound of vinyl is also analogous to the distinctive look and saturation possible in film.


PostPosted: Thu Jan 14, 2010 6:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Orio wrote:
I have thought a lot about these issues over the years.

My conclusion is that what we perceive as a lack of technology is really a lack of perception and education and skills. And also the result of different environmental conditions.

I try to make an example:

- why the photos of the old masters, look so good, even if they are unsharp, and sometimes even misfocused?

One could say, because the old lenses and emulsions, like the valves in amplifiers, gave a "human" dimension to the aesthetic experience.

But then, how is that, if we repeat those type of artworks today, both by digital imitation (grain plugins etc), and by direct use of original equipment, we do NOT obtain, except very rare cases, the same poetry and fascination of the old masters?

The answer for me is that we are looking in the wrong place. We must not look for that poetry in the tools. Sure, they played a role too. But the place to look, is in the souls of those artists. In their minds and hearts. And not only in that, but also in the world that they had in front of them.
The world, then, was different - not only more aesthetically beautiful than today, but also more humanly rich. Every world thing then, had a human breathe to them. The shop windows were made by individuals, not designed by faceless companies. The baker, the tailor, the shoemaker, all these were people, not brands. Even the bankers had a face then, today, banks apply periodic rotation to personnel, to avoid that they get too bound to a place and the people, which could create personal bindings that could affect the business decisions. In other words the bank leaders do everything they can to dehumanize their business.

This is my idea. I am convinced that if I had a time machine, and could go back to the 30s and give Brassai a Canon 5D or a Contax RX with today's multicoated lenses, he would capture exactly the same poetries in his shots, just as much as we, if we use Brassai's camera and lenses, can not replicate his magic here today.
Because he was an artist and most of us aren't, that is sure. But also because he was photographing a different world.

-



" . . But also because he was photographing a different world."


+2