Adams and HDR

Discussion in 'Photographers' started by Grif, May 27, 2011.

  1. Grif

    Grif Member

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    I'm sticking my nose in the Zone system(again), finally with a sheet film camera, and have always enjoyed Ansel Adams photographs. Having read, and looking at his images with the thought in mind,,, I wonder if he took any heat for the HDR look of some of his works? I've seen posts about the connection, just wondering what his peers had to say about the extended brightness range of his images?
     
  2. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    As for HDR is a sort of digital version of zone system contractions, in which one wishes to retain detail in both the shadows and highlights. Adams usually worked for a long, rich scale in his prints. The later printings are typically higher in contrast and more dramatic in interpretation, which he himself admitted in describing his later prints as more "Wagnerian" than earlier versions. The later prints (which are the ones most people are familiar with due to these being the versions he printed in higher volumes later in life, and the versions appearing in most of the modern books) are sometimes criticized for being overly dramatic, but I guess that is for the viewer to decide. Although it has become increasingly in vogue to criticize Adams, there is no denying his technique and his ability to render a full range of tones, especially given the more restrictive materials he had at his disposal.
     
  3. ROL

    ROL Member

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    How could he have taken "heat" for it? HDR is a fairly recent digital technique, so far as I know. And I've seen digital HDR. His work doesn't look like HDR to me (I'm not a peer) – it is infinitely more refined tonally.
     
  4. MaximusM3

    MaximusM3 Member

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    The simple truth is that Adams was a GREAT printer, knew what he wanted and how to get it out of his negatives. Whether one likes the resulting images or not, is always a matter of taste. I believe that without his truly incredible printing/processing skills, his photography would not have been idolized as much.
     
  5. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    What is HDR?
     
  6. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    Adams was a great printer. He had materials that were harder to work with like graded papers. Has also a masterful with camera and film too. Looking at his prints is inspirational.
     
  7. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Assuming you are serious about the question....

    Stands for "high dynamic range" imaging. It's very popular in the digital world, but like everything else, is easily overdone.

    If you wanted to try something similar with film, you would put a camera on a tripod, lock it down to prevent movement and shoot exactly the same scene with two different sheets of film.

    For the first shot, you would choose exposure and development/contrast to favour the shadows (and mid-tones?).

    For the second shot, you would choose exposure and development/contrast to favour the highlights (and mid-tones?)

    Then you would print the two negatives on to the same sheet of paper, with one used for the shadows (and mid-tones?) and the other for the highlights (and mid-tones?). In order to do this, you need some system to permit registration.

    Good for scenes with important detail in both shadows and highlights (think seaside cloudscapes over a pier).
     
  8. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    In analog, masking can be used to achieve similar effects, although like HDR, it can easily be overdone.
     
  9. Mustafa Umut Sarac

    Mustafa Umut Sarac Member

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    I did not print in traditional way but the automatic machines with 24 step analog control , 100 000 pieces.
    I am guessing , but is masking can be opening a hole at the paper and over expose or mask some areas.
    Is that is masking ? And I read some posts last year but I am not remembering details , that simulating unsharp masking , how it is done ?

    Thank you ,

    Umut
     
  10. tomalophicon

    tomalophicon Member

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    When he used to post on flickr, some trolls said his 'captures' were fake and gay, but most people didn't mind them.
     
  11. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Digital "HDR" techniques are just another way of doing what photographers have done as long as there has been photography. Keeping a book of various dramatic skies to print into blank white ones from ortho film is just one of many examples of the ways photographers have combated the limitations of their materials to get something closer to what they want. Masking to control contrast is another. Contending with differences between what the eye sees and what our materials render will need to be practiced as long as photography exists, no matter what techniques arise for doing it.

    Personally, I don't think Adams' pictures are anything like what the eye sees, however. Their strength is in the fact that they are not, in fact. They are extreme and fantastic (as in "of or pertaining to fantasy") manipulations that get more to the emotional heart of a subject than a purely literal rendition would (i.e. attempting to render exactly what the eye sees).
     
  12. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    I do know Ansel took a lot of heat for copying the gaussian blur filter in photoshop when he made Lodgpole Pines in 1921. So I'm not surprised he was secretly emulating the look of the great digital masters with his other work.
     
  13. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    Some new steam locomotives were built in the 1970s and the V2 rocket went in to service in 1944. So I'm not surprised when contemporary youngsters think men went to the moon on a steam powered engine and the first intercontinental railroad was rocket powered. But to think Ansel's work overlapped the digital craze is a little too much for me...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 27, 2011
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  15. hoffy

    hoffy Member

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    But didn't Adams also say that he was excited about the emerging technology of digital in an Interview in the early 80's?

    As much as many are going to shoot me down in flames, I am sure that Adams would have embraced Digital and HDR simply as a tool.

    Do I find his images HDR like? The problem when people start comparing HDR to anything else, is they try and compare the worse possible examples of HDR. Adam's are not like this, but it could be easy to see where the comparison comes in against HDR that don't look HDRish.
     
  16. tim elder

    tim elder Member

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    Ansel definitely took heat for the look of his images during his time. Walker Evans specifically criticized his use of filters to create a dramatic effect. Cartier-Bresson famously questioned even his subject matter. Many of Adams' contemporaries said they preferred his earlier prints. I also remember reading in his biography that his assistants felt his use of selenium became heavy-handed in the Seventies.

    Tim
     
  17. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    I tend to agree with Cartier-Breson on Ansel's subject matter question and empathize with Walker Evans. I Am more of a fan of Karsh and Cartier-Breson, Erwitt.

    So what.

    All of these guys succeeded by being a bit different.
     
  18. Joe Lipka

    Joe Lipka Member

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    An analog version of HDR was a standard technique in the early days of photography when the emulsions were extremely blue sensitive. One exposure for the sky and the foreground was blank. A second exposure for the land and the sky went black from overexposure. And if your clouds were well exposed you could use those clouds in other photographs.
     
  19. MaximusM3

    MaximusM3 Member

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    Bresson's images stand on their own. Adams' do not. Bresson was a great photographer, Adams was a great processor. I like both for different reasons but, again, Adam's work without his sometimes outlandish renditions at printing stage, would certainly not be as exciting, to say the least.
     
  20. Grif

    Grif Member

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    Wow,,,

    Thanks for the reply. I don't remember which of the Yosemite photos finally struck me as a bit HDR'ish, I like the effect if it's not over done, and really like it in black and white for some reason. (not to the cartoon stage however).

    I'll never be good enought to do it well in analog, but still appreciate the skills and effort. Not sure why it took me as long as it did to wonder about his peers opinions, I can be a bit obtuse that way.
     
  21. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I believe Ansel Adams took a lot of heat for a lot of things he did.... I guess it's a risk one takes to be a pioneer.... Even the fact that photography is an art (which he started and promoted) was criticized. Even his well respected (for most) Zone System has critics to this day.

    I generally don't like many HDR images as they are over done. Many people do it for sake of doing it. They take a technique (HDR) and see where they can apply it rather than take a scene and vision and see what technique can best achieve the result.

    I really don't see darkroom manipulation as analog to HDR.... I'd rather not go beyond this as it will have to be digital vs analog discussion. I'll just say it's a time honored technique that works well in skilled hands.... I don't particularly like Adam's use of overly dark sky that occupy large area of his images but that's just my personal preference....
     
  22. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    I don't think HDR is necessarily bad. Before the digital photography, photographers tried to recreate what the human eyes see. Film doesn't have the same dynamic range as our eyes. On any photo or movie set you'll see grip equipment with shiney boards to fill in shadows and flags to shade off hot highlights. Adams also tried to control contrast. The Zone system allows previsusalization and control contrast. Digital HDR is convenient way to control contrast. The drawback of course is photographers going to far with it. I'm not sure if it's true or not, but there was HDR done with multiple shots with film and printers were able to combine different parts through pre-press offset lithography process.
     
  23. bobwysiwyg

    bobwysiwyg Subscriber

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    Good point Maine. Hand colored prints can be very nice if not overdone.
     
  24. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    With all due respect I think it would make slightly more sense for you to say in your opinion Bresson's images stand on their own and that Adams's do not, rather than stating it as fact. Personally I never cared much for most of Bresson's so-called decisive moments. I think a few of them are excellent. And I think that is the point. The best of Adams's images stand on their own just as well as the best of Bresson, or the best of anyone else for that matter. And people might also change their tunes if they saw some of Adams's earlier printings, which are typically quieter and more subtle. Perhaps not. Furthermore, it is unfortunate late printings of crowd favorites like Moonrise, and Moon and Half Dome dominate Adams's artistic output, and are therefore often held up as examples of how Adams was simply a skilled technician, rather than a photographer. Nonsense. In my opinion the best of his images are some of the very best photographs ever created - and they succeed despite the negatives having actually been subject to rather severe processing errors. Adams's images are often criticized because so many people have copied them, the original vision has become boring to people.
     
  25. Steff1

    Steff1 Member

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    Google Talk

    This reminds me of a Google Talk available on Youtube, entitled "The Ansel Adams Zone System: HDR Capture and Range Compression by Chemical Processing" wherein John McCann (who used to work for Polaroid) explains the Zone System to Google engineers, presumably, and reflects on how digital technology should better utilize this.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Xanb3J81EA

    I stumpled over this by chance, and must say I'm surprised it hasn't had more views. Plenty to learn from it even if you're not interested in bits and bytes, especially if you're a newcomer to the zone system (like me).
     
  26. tony lockerbie

    tony lockerbie Subscriber

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    I will agree that his prints are a revelation when seen up close and personal. As to subject matter, I like a lot of it, some don't like any of it. Photography is a very personal expression, and Ansel took what he liked, so not to everones taste.
    I recall a photo of a creek, I think it was Dogwoods in the rain, very HDR if you like, but I was still impressed by the image. The tonal scale and feeling of light was masterful to say the least. The problem with Digital at the moment is the gross overuse of photoshop tecniques like HDR, but especially sharpness/saturation. Like anything new, the image makers need to mature, see how it is in 10 years time.