Metamorphosis Of A BreathWednesday, May 22, 2013
Sometime in 1962 while living in Mexico City I went to a supermarket and purchased Countdown – Time in Outer Space – The Dave Brubeck Quartet. The album (a mono recording as I did not have a stereo phonograph in 1962) is dedicated to Lieut. Col. John Glenn, Jr.
Amazing, to this 70 year-old, I listened to the 52 year-old record last night which I played on my Sony (linear tracking) PS–X555-ES turntable. I have a Stanton cartridge on the pickup. The sound of the record was superb and I felt that same thrill I had experienced back in 1962.
As I listened to the record (I have some very nice JBL speaker monitors and an Acoustic Research stereo amplifier) I was scanning the pictures of the very beautiful Caroline Matthews which I posted yesterday.
In 1988 when I took the pictures I used an optical spotlight, Ilford FP-4 b+w film and a 140mm lens on my Mamiya RB-67 Pro-S. At the time I was concerned and interested with contrast. Extreme contrast helped iron out the minor imperfections that even perfect woman somehow had. If you note the contact sheet seen here you will see that I exposed the contact sheet to show the face and ignored the fact that detail around her was obscured.
In order to get shadow detail, something that I understood in 1988 for one very big reason. Reproduction of photographs to magazines and newspapers did not include the modern day scanners. This meant that to reproduce a true black the photograph had to be a shiny glossy. The glossy side of photographs (we might think that glossy looks cheap now) was the only way to ensure a good black. Matte prints might have looked nice then but the matte finish produced muddy grays in magazines and newspapers.
If you happened to send a photograph of a person with black hair next to a black wall with no separation (the purpose of hair lights in those days) to a magazine you were probably sacrificing a career in business with that magazine. It was virtually impossible to get details in the shadows.
Our digital age with good scanners (matte or glossy makes no difference) and digital printers (and no scanner needed if the images are digital to begin with) has produced a situation where almost any kind of photograph can be “saved” for publication.
|Modified with Shadow/Highlight|
The new is in many cases better than the old. But I would defy many of my friends with smart phones, MP-3 files and ear buds to tell me without any shadow of doubt that their sound, is better than the sound I routinely listen to in my living room.
Paradoxically sound these days can be glorious but people opt for convenience over quality. The same might apply (as seen by this old-stuff guy) to how people approach photography now.
|Further work with Shadow/Highlight and with Levels|
Going back to the original topic of how to get shadow detail I must now confess that it has never been easier (only if the detail is there as it is in my negatives shown here) than with a decent scanner (an Epson Perfection V700 Photo) and a good monitor (in my case an obsolete Dell Cathode Ray Tube Monitor). To ease in the operation I have Photoshop CS Version 8.0 which is about 8 years old). This Photoshop has a tool called Shadow/Highlight which helps diminish the tendency of scanners to add contrast to a picture. Shadow/Highlight can bring in details easily for which I might have to use every trick in the book (including premium variable contrast photographic paper) to almost mimic (but not quite!) the results of a good scan and a giclée printed by my good friend and expert on this sort of thing, Grant Simmons at DISC.
Until now I have despaired at the disappearance of Agfa and of its very good photographic paper Portriga. This paper had an almost uncanny (other papers could do this to some extent but not as well) in being able to split tone. This meant that when the finished print was immersed in a very strong solution of Kodak Selenium Toner, the photograph would go warm in the shadows (magenta/sepia but cold, cyan in the highlights. Recently I found a box of 100 sheets of 8x10 Portriga in my darkroom. The box must be at least 13 years old. But it is still good.
And yet, the pictures of Caroline Matthews in which I “abused” the Photoshop Shadow/Highlight tool do show a startling and to me attractive split toning.
Paradoxically few who might learn this trick will go as far as having the picture printed as hard copy. What a pity, that we live in a world where flat design, a movement perhaps fomented by monitor viewing, is paramount.
Waltz Limp- Dave Brubeck Quartet