How Analog is silver imaging really?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by RossJarvis, Jun 29, 2007.

  1. RossJarvis

    RossJarvis Member

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    Sorry if this has been discussed before, but, it occured to me over the weekend that silver imaging records in a digital manner. I.e. as far as I'm aware the silver grains are either black or not there, So is comparable to "on or off" in the digital world. Tone is merely a perception by our eyes of the ratio of black to white/clear areas of the neg or print.

    Additionally, my understanding of how electric photography works is that the photo receptors will record tone at the micro level, not just black or white and position and store this digitally in whichever recording medium is used. So in some respects "digital photography" may be closer to what we feel intuitively is analog due to it's ability to put a value to dark or light tone at a micro level, wheras analog imaging only puts a black or not value to it at this level.

    However, if there are grey grains then my whole thesis sinks like the Hood.

    My thoughts moved along to the feeling that maybe "digital" imaging would actually be able to do something that silver imaging can't do due to it's recording of another level of information, missing to silver imaging.

    I am not advocating electrical photography through this as I am a strictly film chappie. But wondered if anyone else had thought of this, as I have not seen anything discussed about this.

    I was also considering at this level that the silver photo receptors are randomly scattered across the medium in position and varying in size/shape, wheras photo receptors in digital are I think much more regularly sized and positioned and how this may effect the image and our perception of it at the macro level.

    Any thoughts?
     
  2. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Over, and over, and over again.

    While this narrow meaning of "digital" is interesting from an intellectual perspective and for understanding how traditional photographic processes work, it's not the relevant definition that relates to what APUG is about.
     
  3. RossJarvis

    RossJarvis Member

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    Sorry! as a new member to the site I haven't been able to look through the history deeply enough to find the other discussions on this. My main thoughts around this was whether recording tone in a different way to silver had liberated something new in image production. It just seems to me that "digital" is doing nothing "new" apart from the ease with which the image can be manipulated. When maybe it could do something truly novel which cannot be achieved with a silver image.
     
  4. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Member

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    Actually, silver isn't an on-or-off thing. It can be partially "on". That's the analog part. In truly digital media, on and off are the only possibilities; somewhere in between is impossible. (In aggregate, an effectively in-between response is of course possible, but any individual pixel is either on or off.)
     
  5. RossJarvis

    RossJarvis Member

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    I suppose where my thoughts were going was how revolutionary "digital" methods of recording really are. And I don't want to go off the purpose of an Anolog Forum.

    Analog photography was I believe truly revolutionary due to the nature of the image itself. Prior to this images were man-made recreations of the world and this was possibly how people viewed paintings and drawings. (However maybe with Icons, people's perception was that there was life in the image itself). When photographic images started appearing I think people saw something totally new. For them they were seeing a window on a real world. For example, when I look at a photograph of a person, I perceive that I am seeing through a window, a living breathing person, or tangible place, not just different tones on a flat piece of paper. When taking and printing an image I am often trying to produce some reconstruction of, or creation of a live world. Or that at least is my aim.

    Maybe the next great image revolution was the cinema. People would feel that they were looking at breathing moving life, when in fact all they were really seeing was a play of light on a screen. This all relates to the psychology of how we look at images.

    I wondered whether digital capture had the potential to be as revolutionary as the advent of photography and the only new thing I could think it had to offer, was the ability to record tone on a micro level. Could this lead to something we cannot currently do with silver photography? Currently it seems to me that so far digital capture of images is little more a revolution than say, the move from glass plates to film or monochrome to colour (which happened a very long time ago).

    If not, then I can quite happily sit in the dark-room, knowing I still have the best chance of creating magical places that I can see through that window bounded by the edge of the picture. Almost believing I can pass into that world and interact with it.
     
  6. roteague

    roteague Member

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    However, sensors in digital cameras are also analog devices. It is the A/D converter that makes it digital.
     
  7. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Member

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    Since the final product is a product of the stored converted image, and not the raw image right on the sensor, that doesn't really matter.

    Jim
     
  8. DrPablo

    DrPablo Member

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    Tone at the smallest level is one area where film still towers over digital, and this gets more and more true as you increase in format size.

    You can do that both with film and with digital. Choose the tool that fits your vision and technique the best. You can't start off a conversation about the nature of digital versus analog data recording and expect that to be somehow predictive of art. Film is for some. Digital is for some. If you're making choices based on weak quantitative comparisons, then you're not really thinking like an artist.
     
  9. RossJarvis

    RossJarvis Member

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    this point along with maybe an incomplete understanding of graphs is what got me wondering initially.

    If we consider a black and white print as a graph with an x and y axis, we can consider the image made of black points, given positions on this graph. The density of points gives us tone which we perceive as an image. As we look at this image which is purely 2 dimensionsal (ignoring the fact that silver grains have thickness too!) our brains can perceive depth, usually caused by shadow tone and highlight, plus perceived position creating depth in the image. The image is "digital" in that the tones are formed from black points (on or off) on a white field (the opposite to whatever we assign to the black bits).

    In my mind I considered a digital sensor as this two dimensional field where the sensors were positioned via the x y axies, however as the sensors can record tone too, how do we represent this in graphical terms. (We could ignore a value for colour as maybe this could be attributed to different positions related to different colours). In my mind a value for tone would have to come into the z axis, therefore being out into the third dimension.

    Could this bring something into a black and white image which cannot be achieved by black or not points? Particularly when it comes to putting the image onto paper. My mind wondered if using tone, in tone based inks rather than perceived tone created by a ratio of black to white, we may perceive a form of depth or position so far denied to us.

    The conclusion I am coming to is no! So thank you very much, digital offers nothing we don't have in analogue and I can rub my hands gleefully whilst buying up lots of kit which I couldn't afford before all those people went digitalist and flogged it off cheap.
     
  10. Daniel_OB

    Daniel_OB Member

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    Ross
    I think you better to find some painting forum, or even airbrashing. Digital imaging has in common with photography just nothing, except that it try to steall the name.

    www.Leica-R.com
     
  11. roteague

    roteague Member

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    Each photo diode in the sensor contains an analog value of the strength of the light, as it passes through the Bayer filter, and so can have more values that simply 1 or 0. What makes it digital is the software algorithms that decide what color a particular point needs to be (one of the reasons that color digital images exhibit a continuous tone appearance). The Z axis really doesn't come into play as far as I'm aware of.
     
  12. jstraw

    jstraw Member

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    Wrong.
     
  13. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Ross,

    Go back to your X/Y axis and consider the minimum useful size of black/white unit offered by silver and digital in small images (up to say 1 metre square) viewed from any reasonable distance.

    You will supply your own answer.

    As Robert says, there is no Z axis.

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
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  15. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Member

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    I'm not exactly a digital fanboy (I rather resent it actually) but there's no question in my mind that digital photography is indeed photography. Where it diverges from being photography and becomes imaging is when the imported image recorded with light is manipulated in the computer.

    We manipulate images in the darkroom too, of course. The question is the degree of manipulation.

    When something ceases to be reality, it's no longer a photograph. It is an image. It may well be art. It's just not a photograph. Photographs by definition record reality, although the recording of the reality may be in some fashion enhanced or even unrealistic (as with infrared films). The picture is a reflection of reality, perhaps different from what the eye sees but real nonetheless.

    Edit the image so that it's no longer real and it's not a photograph any longer.

    I happen to like recording reality, so analog photography suits me just fine.
     
  16. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Hang on a minute. Are you saying that a photograph is reality?

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  17. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Member

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    I did, but didn't mean to. :smile: A photograph is a record of reality. It records what was actually there (although not necessarily all of what was there; we drop the infrared and the audio and the ultraviolet and the x-rays and so on all the time :smile: ).
     
  18. RossJarvis

    RossJarvis Member

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    Paul, yes I think I agree with you. What I mean is that in producing certain photographic images, with all my own emotional attachments to the process that is achieving that image, film is still the "best" way to get there. I could possibly achieve this "best" through digital means also, but maybe not surpass it. What I was wondering was whether the ability of digital processes to record tone at a micro/pixel level wheras silver only seems to be able to be black or not-black at that level, could achieve a new or different effect. I was not trying to state that silver imaging is morally or technically the best in any general way. In many respects I think digital photography is "better" than silver photography and is just a natural and useful part of the evolution of photography. I would also say that I feel very different about photography compared to other image production techniques, particularly in the emotional realm. I find using pastels much more intimate than photography for instance. I have also seen images produced in other media which are indistinguishable from film, or that can produce images which could not be produced that way. Each may well be the "best" in their own contexts

    It intrigues me that you say that silver images are better than digital on the very small level as my own understanding makes me feel that the ability of digital to record tone at a micro level should actually be the opposite. maybe the technology and software lags behind the potential of the process.

    Thanks for helping me to interrogate my own thoughts.
     
  19. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Fair enough, but even at that, it records what was 'actually there' at a given instant with a given viewpoint and a given focal length -- and arguably, even with a given agenda. And without colour (unless of course you prefer this new rubbishy colour stuff...)

    The big question is, where does selectvity become falsification?

    Once I took a picture in Red Square in the early morning, shooting on Fuji RF/RFP (the finest slide film ever made, in my book). There was a truck parked in front of St. Basilius. The driver, being a good Muscovite proud of his city, moved so I could take the picture.

    Was the truck 'really' there? What difference would there be if, assuming I were a skilled enough Photoshop operator, I had cloned it out?

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  20. RossJarvis

    RossJarvis Member

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    I will admit that I am probably mixing too many metaphors, and bearing in mind that calculus (along with calculating the height of an equalateral tetrahedron from base principles) made me retire early from an engineering degree, probably makes this comparison far from ideal. I could easily demolish my own argument and say that instead of being limited to putting black or not-black on the graph, I could just use various greys and even colours and then keep everything in 2 dimensions. My ponderings were along the lines of whether there was anything truly revolutionary about digital imaging, due to the ability of recording tone at a point by point level, which gives us a new thingy to use in photography, which may have a significant impact on our perception of produced images. At the moment I think not.

    Additionally, due to my own lack of inertia, I have not found out what the comparitive size of a silver grain is relative to a digital imaging sensor and the ratio of not-sensor to not-grain is, which probably has more influence over the whole affair.

    I will also admit that there aren't 3 dimensions. We are lumpy things in space and science is purely a human construct.

    Ross
     
  21. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    You know, if quantum theory is right, then forget about the notion of continuous tone forever. Even in the real world. It's just discrete bits of things. Only nothingness is continuous...
     
  22. DrPablo

    DrPablo Member

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    I don't think it's the technology or software. I think it has to do with several factors including 1) the Bayer interpolation, which causes an effective bleeding of exposure information into neighboring pixels, 2) the antialiasing filters that are necessary to prevent moire, and 3) the generally lower resolution per unit area of digital sensors than film emulsions. Practically speaking this difference is overcome by the lossiness of scanning or enlarging; but the highest resolution DSLR in pixel density, the Nikon D2X, has a theoretical maximum resolution of 89 lp/mm and the vaunted Canon 5D has a theoretical maximum resolution of only 61 lp/mm (because it has 61 photosite pairs per mm). This is probably never achieved in practice.
     
  23. jstraw

    jstraw Member

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    Is sheet music analog or digital?
     
  24. Jon King

    Jon King Member

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    It's the negative, so it must be analog, true???
     
  25. CPorter

    CPorter Member

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    Nowhere to be on this Friday night, so here goes.

    Jim, this is not a rant against you personally, I have just heard this analogy quite often and it makes no sense to me. I'm certainly not a digital guy, but....

    Semantics. A digital photograph vs. a analog photograph. A photograph is "of" an image. They're both photographs of images on different mediums. To me, simply, photography is "capturing" a moment in time with light, it's the light that provides us with the end result; without light what do you have? My guess is a huge problem be it with film or be it with pixels. Both mediums are satisfied when light strikes the film plane or the digital "thingy".

    On this question of reality: Literal representations, how boring!
    Have you (this a collective "you", to mean anybody) ever used a dark red filter to create that stark contrast between a blue sky and white clouds? How real is that? Have you ever manipulated the contrast in your black and white photographs to enhance your original visualization, to give it that expression you are looking for? How real are the tones in the final print versus how they looked in your mind's eye versus how they appeared in the viewfinder or GG? What manipulations have been provided to the subject(s) that are obviously not true to the "image" values? These manipulations are done to rocks, trees, cars, buildings, etc..., etc...

    I would argue that we see these subjects as rocks, trees, etc.....but, that is probably where the reality ends. Where is the expression that we all try to give to our prints, if we do not depart from reality at some point? In this community, I can think of several photographs that come to mind to me as being very expressive, optically true, but tonally, probably definite departures from reality consistent with their own visualization. Bill Schwab's image of the waterfall comes to my mind first, that was simply awesome to look at on my monitor; I can only imagine an actual print!

    (I know it's a stupid rock and tree analogy, but...:D )
    I think for most analog folks, we want there to be no question in other's minds that..........that rock really was next to that tree that was next to the waterfall, etc...However, many digital folks are into "creating" such an image (I can say this because I know some who just love that aspect of the digital medium) when, perhaps, these things were not all present together at the same time when the image was made. I know, this can be done under the enlarger too, but perhaps more easily perceived, IDK. Anyway, it doesn't interest me in the least just because it can be done with a silver image too. Not my brand of photography.


    Chuck
     
  26. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Not even that (string theory).

    Cheers,

    Roger