Does Anyone Use the Wm Mortenson Method?

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by bjorke, Dec 15, 2004.

  1. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    That is, expose for the highlights in B&W and let the shadows work themselves out, so that you can leave the negs in the developer for an indefinite time and never worry about overdevelopment short of base fog?
     
  2. garryl

    garryl Member

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    You have checked out the article on Unblinkingeye.com and/or the pg.s 142-145 of
    Barry Thornton's "Edge of Darkness"?
     
  3. smieglitz

    smieglitz Subscriber

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    From what I've read, Fred Picker of Zone VI fame eventually evolved to exposing for Zone VIII but I don't believe he did the total development thing like Mortensen. I always found it ironic that a zonie singing praises of Ansel would also advocate an exposure technique shared by the Antiansel.
     
  4. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    I had not seen this one before: http://unblinkingeye.com/Articles/Mortensen/mortensen.html based on a later Mortensen book than mine ("Projection Control" from the 30's)

    thanks!

    Has anyone on APUG done this? (BTW, I'd rate Gibson as a user/abuser of Mortenson's "unacceptable" 9-D combo)
     
  5. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Hi Bjorke

    My first year in photo-college 1973, we were forced to do a negative ring a round and a paper ring around that looks alot like this article, I did not have a clue at the time the purpose of this experiment.
    I think if I did one now I would have a better appreciation on push and pulls with over , under and normal exposures.
    We also were forced to do a colour ring around from nuetral density and colour and the results are quite amazing.
    Still do colour ring arounds with interns here and I will force them to do a black and white ring around after looking at this article.
     
  6. david b

    david b Member

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    Wasn't Mortenson the arch-nemesis of the f64 group?

    As for exposing for the highlights, I have done this on several occassions while photographing the new mexico landscape, and I have great results.
     
  7. mfobrien

    mfobrien Member

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    This post got me looking on my bookshelves. I have the first edition, 6th printing of Pictorial Lighting by Mortensen. A very neat book.
     
  8. garryl

    garryl Member

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    Well with at least two of the group- Adams and Weston. The rest of the group, I haven't run across their opinion in writings. In "letters and Images" you get a flavor of the caustic feelings of both. An in one set of interviews, Adams refers to Mortensen as the "anti-christ"of photography.
     
  9. garryl

    garryl Member

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    That is one of the two best sources for an explaination of his exposure system. I've noticed that the whole secret is the fact that rearly does he go over a lighting ratio of 4:1. He take a flat subject and expands the mid tones
    and highlights. BTW, Barry Thornton did try the Mortensen technique with a ringlight("Edge of Darkness"; pg.s 142-145).
     
  10. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    While I often give highlight readings as much attention as shadow readings, I haven't tried Mortenson's technique as such. Sounds very much like "stand" development on steroids - parallel, perhaps, to the "aging" of food in Tupperware containers at the back of the fridge.

    The technique does sound interesting, though, and potentially useful in certain circumstances. But, techniques, like tools, (I believe) should be used for the things for which they are effective, but not elevated to a religion.

    The apparent conflict between Mortenson and the f64 boys strikes me as similar to the rivalry between the realist and impressionist schools in painting. Too much time spent narrowly thinking about technique, and not enough about producing images in styles befitting the subject.
     
  11. david b

    david b Member

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    Could this be why Adams' work became more as examples of the zone system than artistic expression?
     
  12. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    Perhaps, but I think Adams was sincere in his belief that the Zone System enabled him to create images that were representative of his artistic vision. The politics and marketing of the time strikes me as being secondary. It's entirely possible, though, that the politics, marketing and fame dulled his vision and/or passion later in life, and thus dulled his later work, as well.
     
  13. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    The contention went both ways -- if you get the big "f/64" book it includes an article or two by Mortenson about how bad they were. Mortenson was very much a prisoner of his own notion that to be Art, photography needed to be Painterly -- that is, to ape the formal characteristics of the paint medium, not just the common ideas of compositional strategies or tone. He genuinely seemed afraid to let photography just be photography. So you see him doing things like the Metalchrome image on the PSA site, looking for all the world like a knockoff of Johannes Vermeer (because it is). This obsession with credibility by aping the past is painfully nouveau and a carryover of the worst sort of Academie mentality. Good grief, he paints-on brush strokes and makes little stone-chip markings with a razor on the prints. I'm sure he thought he was the modern Alma-Tadema mixed with Frans Hals right until the end. I think his front-light strategy mostly came from a desire to have redecing planes be darker while surfaces facing the viewer are lighter, rather like pencil-sketch shading.

    All that said, I still think his ideas are useful ones to have in the available toolbox from time to time.
     
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  15. juan

    juan Subscriber

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    15-years ago, or so, after reading Picker's ideas about exposing for the highlights, I gave it a try. It didn't work for me - I didn't have sufficient exposure in the shadows. I think the previous post explaining that Mortenson had a SBR of 4 is the key to his success with the technique - here in Florida with SBRs of 7-9 I needed more exposure and less development.
    I agree that his ideas are useful to have in the toolbox.
    juan
     
  16. mark

    mark Member

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    I am not sure I understand. Can someone explain the technique to me, or point me to a place where I can read about it on the net. I have no access to a decent library and a ver small photobook collection.
     
  17. garryl

    garryl Member

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    >The contention went both ways -- if you get the big "f/64" book it includes an >article or two by Mortenson about how bad they were. Mortenson was very much a >prisoner of his own notion that to be Art, photography needed to be Painterly

    Please, which book is this- curious minds want to know.

    I think it was more of the times he was in. Mortensen came to photography out of the pictorialist training and into a Hollywood apprenticeship of D.W. Griffith. The era of epics of "larger than life" heroes, romantic plots, and grand sets.Of not portraying people as they were, but as they should be or could be- the total opposite of F/64.
     
  18. Rocky

    Rocky Subscriber

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    I have started to collect Mortensen books, just to get another viewpoint. It does seem that the basis of his method is to use flat lighting and then expand the midtones as stated in a previous posting.

    I am going to experiment with his techniques and see what I get.
     
  19. garryl

    garryl Member

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    quick correction- it was Cecil B. DeMille , not D.W. Griffith. Sorry 'bout that chief.
     
  20. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    Either way, they were Alma-Tad and Leighton junkies :smile: and it shows... what we now call "Hollywood style" was clearly where that camp of Victorian-ish artists moved after their previously-ascendant styles were declared regressive with the birth of cubism/futurism/etc

    (and hence we don't see Mortenson in German photomags and their American children like LIFE and LOOK -- though I would place Karsh in the same bin with Mortenson (and later Annie Liebowitz))
     
  21. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    I'm pretty sure it's: "Seeing straight : the f.64 revolution in photography" published as a show catalog by the Oakland Museum, 1992. Editor Therese Thau Heyman, Fwd by Beaumont Newhall. Been a couple of years since I looked at it, but I'm fairly certain that's the one.
     
  22. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member

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    But the issues of Der Satrap I have in my collection (1934) are full of pictorialism...
     
  23. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    There was a link in a previous response that might be helpful. I also found a couple of other articles by doing a Google.

    If I understand the concept correctly, the Mortenson technique is to expose for highlights within scenes of small SBR (1:4ish), and then use what amounts to very long stand development (hours, days, a week in the fridge), with little or no aggitation, to bring up the shadows. That might be over-simplifying the concept, though.
     
  24. mark

    mark Member

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    Okay. I did a google search but did not come up with much. SOmetimes I think the Google Gremlins don't like me.
     
  25. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    I meant of the Stefan Lorant school (Munchner Illustrierte Presse etc). LIFE, BTW, showed up in 1936 and is decidedly non-pictorialist from the cover forward.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]"That the photograph should not be posed; the camera should be like the notebook of a trained reporter, which records contemporary events as they happen without trying to make a picture; that people should be photographed as they really are and not as they would like to appear" — editor (MIP and Picture Post and Bilder Courier) Stefant Lorant
     
  26. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

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    wasn't abrading the paper emulsion and using lead a pretty common technique?
    the portrait photographer i worked for was trained in the 30s through the new york institute of photography ( correspondence school ). she was still doing rembrant lighting, negative retouching ( with leads ) as well as print retouching ( abrading and lead dust ) through the 1990s.
     
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