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  1. #11
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    I aim for a contrast range close to 3, as that matches the material I use to make prints (carbon). It is a bit of a dance to get one's negatives to match one's vision and material.

    Vaughn
    At least with LF landscape, a bad day of photography can still be a good day of exercise.

  2. #12
    David Lyga's Avatar
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    Excellent, well thought out answers...but I'm still confused!

    First, Michael R 1974 and others: the increase in grain is handily reversed with the lower contrast grade of paper needed. (Honest, that is more than a mere truism.) You will end up with the same 'net' grain. And, I declaim the claim that lower sharpness will result with the highter EI and increase in development. Actually, the opposite is at least theoretically likely to be true because the basic density imparted though the reduced exposure is less likely to involve halation and irradiation factors.

    In retrospect, I should have posted this on a less technical side of APUG, like one branching towards aethetics. Actually, the responses expressed here veer towards that but the readership might have been yet more profound and focused. I think that the real answer is to make both kinds of prints and see which one imparts more of the thought you wished to express. That is one reason why I do not like 'titles' on prints (other than solely for descriptive purposes). The salon era (1940s and 1950s) used titles and I feel that that restriction limits my being able to come up with my own interpretive value.

    Life is best when forcing oneself to at least understand others' interpretations and points of view. - David Lyga.

  3. #13
    David Lyga's Avatar
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    When I first started printing color (1978) I did an experiement: I greatly underexposed a color swash by three stops on 5247 and gave triple the development. I will NEVER forget the purity and beauty of those hues (at the expense of much, much, much shadow detail). There is a need for exploring these alternative methods. - David Lyga.

  4. #14

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    IMO, everything starts with your printing paper and procesess (developer, toning, and what have you). You must calibrate to that to get control, not to a pre-published ideal for a piece of film alone.

    In general, I like my negatives to have more punch than the average. But that is just because I would tend to print a textbook "normal" negative on a 3 or 3-1/2 filter.

    However, for the most versatility, I'd aim for negatives that printed well on a grade 2, or maybe even a bit lower. It's much easier to add contrast when printing than it is to take it away. The "better safe than sorry" approach would be to make softer negs rather than harder ones.

    That being said, I don't often find myself wanting to take away contrast from a shot that I deliberately made to be contrasty. I don't find myself often changing my mind in the darkroom from when I was shooting.
    2F/2F

    "Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."

    - Rob Tyner (1944 - 1991)

  5. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by David Lyga View Post
    E= I wondered, and still wonder, why 'proper' gamma cannot be 1, the same tonal displacement/rendition as seen by the naked eye.
    - David Lyga
    I think that this probably represents a misconception. There is nothing magical about a gamma of 1. Gamma is the slope of the linear region of the characteristic curve when the exposure is plotted on a log base 2 scale versus density, which is a log base 10 scale of the fraction of light transmitted. The numerical value of the slope depends on the bases of the two logarithmic scales, which are arbitrary: 2 because we like to think in terms of doublings and 10 because that's how many fingers most of us have.

    The miraculous thing about the eye (and brain) is that they are able to perceive an incredibly wide range of light intensities (though not all at the same time), well beyond most physical/chemical sensors. This ability depends on all kinds of non-linearities in the retina and brain that I don't think are fully understood yet. A large part of the challenge in photography is to create an image using a much more limited range of light intensities (reflected off a print or emitted from a screen) that captures the sensation of seeing the original scene.

    So, if a negative with gamma=1 creates the aesthetic that you are looking for, that's what you should use. But, I don't think that you can claim that it has any special meaning with respect to natural vision.

    David

  6. #16

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    hi david

    i am kind of a slacker and never really pay much attention to exposure
    regarding contrast. i tend to use a masking / staining developer ( caffenol )
    so even if my film is over processed, it prints without much trouble .
    i don't use densitometers or anything to measure gamma &c ...

    one thing that helped me a great deal, aside from printing random " stuff "
    ( plastic, wax slides, ink, &c ) to interpret the negative was using more than
    one vc filter when making a print. i happened upon it when i had things that didn't look "right"
    so i made a few different exposures some with no flter, some with a low filter ( 1 or 0 ) and some
    with a high filter ( 4 or 5+ ) and all the tones fell into place, and the contrast was perfect ...
    les mclean has a great article about this on his website ( and probably in his book )
    http://www.lesmcleanphotography.com/...ull&article=21

    good luck !
    john

  7. #17
    keithwms's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Lyga View Post
    I have wondered if a more contrasty negative, with gorgeous mid tone separation, is really the 'ideal' and its semi-lack of shadow detail (to prevent the highlights from burning in too much) might provide the truest aesthetic rendition (ie, 'less is more'). By allowing deepest shadows to appear nonexistent perhaps we now are allowed to 'read into' the morass of darkness and come up with a more 'poetic' rendition.
    Well, I certainly don't think there is any 'ideal' anything in photography- there are so many different ways to perceive and interpret. We simply make executive decisions based on what we think makes the most effective image. I could argue that John's approach is the most artistically liberating! Or I could argue that BTZS makes the fullest use of the tone curves of the media and is therefore the best. So many different ideas, and all of them suited to different purposes....

    Personally, I think you might be on to something with the "less is more" idea. What I often find lacking in recent photography is a sense of mystery, a sense that the image invites imaginative interpretation, or that there is always more than you can see. When I look back through the old images of Steichen and others, I get a real sense of sadness about where photography stands today. Too academized perhaps- somebody persuaded everyone that you must have crisp, clean detail from one end of the tone scale to the other or you just don't know your stuff.
    "Only dead fish follow the stream"

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  8. #18
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vaughn View Post
    ...It is a bit of a dance to get one's negatives to match one's vision and material. Vaughn
    One of the fun, but often a bit frustrating aspects of alt processes is that I am often "experimenting" with both the negative and with the carbon process itself at the same time...while photographing in the changing light under the redwoods. Sort of like juggling except that I take notes.

    The desire to photograph in a high contrast environment is what drew me to carbon printing. The redwoods with sunlight hitting the trunks and forest floor, dark shadows of burnt and hollowed redwoods. It can be a quite a range...say from 2 on my Pentax Digital Spot in the shadows where I want detail and 9 or 10 in the highlights were I want detail. Expose at 4 (perhaps extra stop or two or three for reciprocity failure) and give the neg a little bit of extra development to bring up the contrast a bit -- lots of extra development if the the highlights were only 7 or 8 on the spot meter.

    If the scene only went up to 6 in the highlights (still 2 in the shadows) I might compose the image for platinum/palladium printing , try to use the film's reciprocity failure to give me a little boost in contrast and give the film perhaps 50% more development. There would not be enough contrast to make a carbon print the way I like to make them.

    The images of my carbon prints are reversed, so I compose on the GG with that in mind. Sometimes I come across an image that works both ways -- and sometimes by exposing more than one negative, I can develop them differently and print the image in more than one process. And I have lucked out a few times; a few 8x10 negs have turned out to have too much contrast for pt/pd, have been redirected and printed perfectly as a carbon print.

    So yes, contrast and contrast control are important parts of both my vision and my process...but I do tend to treat it more as a dance than a lab experiment.

    Vaughn
    At least with LF landscape, a bad day of photography can still be a good day of exercise.

  9. #19
    tomalophicon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by keithwms View Post
    Well, I certainly don't think there is any 'ideal' anything in photography- there are so many different ways to perceive and interpret. We simply make executive decisions based on what we think makes the most effective image. I could argue that John's approach is the most artistically liberating! Or I could argue that BTZS makes the fullest use of the tone curves of the media and is therefore the best. So many different ideas, and all of them suited to different purposes....

    Personally, I think you might be on to something with the "less is more" idea. What I often find lacking in recent photography is a sense of mystery, a sense that the image invites imaginative interpretation, or that there is always more than you can see. When I look back through the old images of Steichen and others, I get a real sense of sadness about where photography stands today. Too academized perhaps- somebody persuaded everyone that you must have crisp, clean detail from one end of the tone scale to the other or you just don't know your stuff.
    Well-said. On the level with my thinking about things.

    I would prefer to focus on the toes, shoulders and curves of models rather than the film or paper (I always skip those parts in the books).

  10. #20
    Bill Burk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by George Collier View Post
    Many years ago, when I was teaching photography at a university, some students and I tried producing a set of negs with different contrast ranges of the same subject (4x5, tripod, etc) and printed them all on different contrast grades of the same paper to achieve the same end values. The negs that had the most range, printing on grade 1 paper had a boring flatness to them, although the highlights and shadow values were good.
    How did the negs look for Grade 2?

    My concern with this specific test is that by allowing the darkroom worker to make the best print possible from the neg, the best print overall might not be the easiest to execute print.

    Say, technically, the thin flat neg printed on contrasty paper is best - especially for miniature formats. But the negs are hard to print! By judging the results disregarding the intense effort it takes in the darkroom - you doomed amateur photographers to a life among difficult to print negatives.

    Yay Ansel Adams had it right by me. When he said make the negs fit Grade 2 paper, he knew he was talking about making negatives that are easier to print!

    I'm a printer, so I made my primary goal to wind up with negatives that are easy to print. I stock Grade 2 and Grade 3 paper and I use that chart to aim right in the middle of those two papers. I assume I will be off my mark one way or the other -- but it will still fit one of those papers. And if I hit my mark, then it will fit either depending on my mood at the time.

    Again, this is my goal. Yours may be more graphically motivated. Wouldn't it be cool to have a neg that printed like lith on Grade 3? To get there you can develop the neg to Gamma 1 if you want.

    Then if you want to see it look natural, check with Vaughn - the neg will probably be good for carbon

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