Mortensen investigated

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Alan Johnson, Oct 28, 2013.

  1. Alan Johnson

    Alan Johnson Subscriber

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    http://unblinkingeye.com/Articles/Mortensen/mortensen.html

    If lighting is flat, portraits (of light-haired people?) can be underexposed and push processed to give greater contrast between different parts of the skin.
    I tried it with a modern film, the flat curve Fuji Acros, developed in Fomadon Excel (similar to Xtol, just happened to have this).
    2 studio lights close to the photographer were used. Exposure was incident light on the model via a reliable flash meter.
    (1) Normally exposed and developed.
    (2) Underexposed 1 stop, developed 40% longer.
    (3) Underexposed 1 stop, developed 40 minutes, agitated every 10 min -this is complete development, called gamma infinity.
    Attachments are inverted negative scans, black/white points set, sharpened equally, resized, no other changes.

    I wonder if there are any comments on underexposing and overdeveloping portraits, thanks.
     

    Attached Files:

  2. MDR

    MDR Member

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    I believe your second image is best and comes closest to what Mortensen would have done minus the retouche, the third has maybe too much contrast for his liking

    Have you also tried his extreme compensating development 24h in the fridge with some agitation every few hours? Btw X-tol is a much more active developer than Mortensen adviced. Also take a look at Mortensen American Girl (http://www.thescreamonline.com/photo/photo06-01/mortensen/americangirl.html) which pretty much epitomized Mortensen approach. Mortensen was also the meter for the highlights and develop for the shadows type. What light did you use Mortensen prefered soft contrast and diffused light. What is often forgotten is that Mortensen developed a system just like the Zone system it started with previsualization followed by complete control of the lighting conditions and development. I also advice you to get a copy of Mortensen's Pictorial lighting

    Nice work
     
  3. cowanw

    cowanw Member

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    This is well described in Fred Archer's book on portraiture, although he makes a distinction between Minimum exposure and extra development and Under exposure and over development.
     
  4. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    good work.Ialso recommend his book on composition'the command to look' Mortensen wAS AHEAD OF HIS TIMe and overlookedv by his peers. he favored unorthodox approaches but delivered great images!
     
  5. Dr Croubie

    Dr Croubie Member

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    Personally, I prefer the first. On the second, there's too much contrast on the left between her hair and the shadow of her neck, and the third is even moreso.
    I presume that's what you were trying to achieve, but that's my personal taste, I don't like it too contrasty...
     
  6. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi alan

    i don't have experience doing what you are doing
    but i do have a recipe for mortensen's glycin varient:


    mortensen's glycin variant film developer for use with his '7-D' approach:

    water 750 ml
    sodium sulfite 19 g
    Glycin 4 g
    sodium carbonate 19 g
    water to make 1000 ml

    soft working fine grain developer ( for gamma infinity - about 2 hours or so for any film. )

    YMMV

    have fun!
    john
     
  7. el wacho

    el wacho Member

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    "if lighting is flat..."

    mortensen advocated flat lighting. it was a condition for his photography.
     
  8. el wacho

    el wacho Member

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    perhaps using an old school film with a metol 2gr, borax 2gr, sod.sulfite 70gr / litre developer may approach something closer to mortensen's desired results.
     
  9. Alan Johnson

    Alan Johnson Subscriber

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    I have the book "Mortensen on the Negative" but it was written over 70 years ago and I cannot find much clue as to the characteristic curves of his films.
    I am guessing that flat or upswept would be better than S shaped for giving good highlight separation,for 35 mm Delta 100, 100 T-max or Acros would give the finest grain and have flat curves.
    I did not find much difference in grain between normal and gamma infinity development in my first test, it seems to be OK to use the Mortensen gamma infinity method with these films.It is a method that went out of fashion in the 50's and not much is known about results from modern film/developers when development is to finality, but fine grain would be nice for portraits.
     
  10. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Nice work!

    It actually shows how I shoot and develop film in flat lighting conditions, but in a much less precise and more 'flying by the seat of my pants' kind of way.
     
  11. Trask

    Trask Subscriber

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    How interesting that you did this test, because two days ago I made some test exposures to do exactly what you've done. My exposures were of plants in full shade, so even lighting of low contrast. I plan to use a dilute developer and let the film develop for several hours. Regarding your exposures, it is evident that progressively each exposure is lighter than the previous. I can see that any of the three would be appropriate if that's your vision of the final image -- and clearly having that vision is part of the Mortensen process. This is something I'm trying to get more into my head: when I consider what to photograph, I am often paying most attention to the subject (obviously) and how the image appears on the screen or in the rangefinder, but I'm not paying enough attention to the contrast within the image and how I should best expose to maintain the tone relationships I want. A true learning curve...