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  1. #1

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    Age and contrast

    Over the years I've seen a fair amount of evidence of (and references to) people printing with more and more contrast as they get older: Bill Brandt and Ansel Adams spring immediately to mind, but there are plenty of others and I think I've noticed the same trend in my own preferences (it's hard to tell because my early prints were so incompetent).

    Question: is this a matter of age, or of fashion, or of skill (as you get older, you can control a longer brightness range, better)? Indeed, is it a general rule? Any ideas?

    Cheers,

    Roger (www.rogerandfrances.com)

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    juan's Avatar
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    Or is it that with advancing age, poorer eyesight means less ability to see detail, so more emphasis is on contrast?

    I can't tell from my work in my 20s either - my negatives were generally underexposed and overdeveloped.
    juan

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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
    Any ideas?

    Cheers,

    Roger (www.rogerandfrances.com)
    As I get older my vision is getting poorer and I know that I need better light and I see higher contrast images more clearly. Maybe for your examples it's just the eyes not seeing as well as these photographers kept working into middle/old age.

    cheers

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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
    Over the years I've seen a fair amount of evidence of (and references to) people printing with more and more contrast as they get older: Bill Brandt and Ansel Adams spring immediately to mind, but there are plenty of others and I think I've noticed the same trend in my own preferences (it's hard to tell because my early prints were so incompetent).

    Question: is this a matter of age, or of fashion, or of skill (as you get older, you can control a longer brightness range, better)? Indeed, is it a general rule? Any ideas?

    Cheers,

    Roger (www.rogerandfrances.com)
    Hi Roger,

    I agree, but it seems generally claimed that materials have become more "contrasty" i.e less silver content. So it may be that as we get older we modify our style to accomodate this and the net result is increased contrast. Or, it may be that as our style develops we think that images are more arresting with higher contrast. So, may be a psychological development or adapting to materials. Or, may be as we age our eyesight accomodates a higher brightness range.
    Just a few thoughts .

    Regards
    John

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    My wife, a painter and photographer, usually urges me to print with more contrast. Being the excellent (hehe..) husband that I am, I often listen to her and take her advice. So...my prints are contrastier than they used to be, and I think I like them that way.

    Yesterday (Saturday, November 4th) I attended the PHOTOEXPO in NYC and had a chance to meet John Sexton and see one of his prints on the 'wall' of the Light Impressions booth. It was mounted, I think, on the same LI mat I use, and was the same size as I make my prints. I was startled to note that, at least as far as contrast goes, my prints were rather similar. Perhaps my wife is right......again!
    John Voss

    My Blog

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    Actually, I suspect that there could be several trends at play. Like many others, my eyes are doing strange things as I get older, and I'm anticipating the prospect of cataract surgery next year. So things are generally a bit fuzzy, and added contrast is a big help in clarifying the 'mush'.

    On the other hand, I've been involved in photography for a long time, and one of the things that I've noticed about myself is an affection for skillful printmaking. As a consequence, I want to see every bit of detail possible in the print. That trait has pushed me in the direction of LF for obvious reasons. But in addition, I find myself favoring lower contrast images with rich detail in both the deepest shadows and brightest highlights.

    So the question is which aspect of geezerdom is stronger?
    Louie

  7. #7

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    I probably print with less contrast than I did in days gone by. I would guess that my prints are a bit on the flat side since I am so aware of the tendency to use more than the required contrast.

    For myself, others may do as they wish, I feel that if the original scene was rather flat, then that is the way I will generally portray it.

    This I think raises the question for each photographer to solve as they will:
    If the scene is flat should the contrast be boosted to use the full range or a greater portion of the paper's range? If the scene is very contrasty, how far should a photographer go in reducing the range?

    I believe a photographer can have a personal philosophy of how to handle scenes as a genral rule or can expose, develop and print on a case by case basis. Whatever method is chosen it is, I believe, best to make your choice at the time the film is exposed.
    Claire (Ms Anne Thrope is in the darkroom)

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by juan View Post
    Or is it that with advancing age, poorer eyesight means less ability to see detail, so more emphasis is on contrast?
    Dear Juan,

    This is indeed one of the likeliest hypotheses, but I did not want, as it were, to lead the witnesses.

    Cheers,

    R.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by jonjonho View Post
    Hi Roger,

    I agree, but it seems generally claimed that materials have become more "contrasty" i.e less silver content. So it may be that as we get older we modify our style to accomodate this and the net result is increased contrast. Or, it may be that as our style develops we think that images are more arresting with higher contrast. So, may be a psychological development or adapting to materials. Or, may be as we age our eyesight accomodates a higher brightness range.
    Just a few thoughts .

    Regards
    John
    Dear John,

    I agree with everything you say except the point about more contrast as a result of decreased silver content. Yes, Dmax has risen over the years, buit not as as result of reduced silver. Contrast must surely be a function of the range available between paper-base white and maximum black, and once you have enough silver in the emulsion, there's no point in adding more. And you can't get more Dmax from less than you need.

    'Covering power' (grammes per square metre of silver) is a complex subject but I recall that the highest Dmax Ilford ever found was on an Agfa contact paper with under 1 g/sm while one of the Kodak papers was the worst with over 2 g/sm.

    I am of course aware that slow papers with more finely divided silver can give a better Dmax with less silver, but apart from brightness range and curve shape I can't think what else might affect contrast. Perhaps Ryuji or Photo Engineer might chip in here.

    Cheers,

    R.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by jovo View Post
    My wife, a painter and photographer, usually urges me to print with more contrast. Being the excellent (hehe..) husband that I am, I often listen to her and take her advice. So...my prints are contrastier than they used to be, and I think I like them that way.

    Yesterday (Saturday, November 4th) I attended the PHOTOEXPO in NYC and had a chance to meet John Sexton and see one of his prints on the 'wall' of the Light Impressions booth. It was mounted, I think, on the same LI mat I use, and was the same size as I make my prints. I was startled to note that, at least as far as contrast goes, my prints were rather similar. Perhaps my wife is right......again!
    Very interesting, John, thanks: I had not thought of comparing my own prints/printing style with that of others.

    Cheers,

    R

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