"in the midst of an early morning snow"
There's a real big part of your softness. You have more or less opaque/reflective stuff moving between your lens & subject.
I am weighing in here because you bring up a lot of poorly understood exposure issues which I see repeatedly brought up in this forum. Thanks for posting your negs, though (scanned) prints would also be nice. The (scanned) negs. look perfectly acceptable to me.
Originally Posted by mporter012
It was snowing, so apparently there was no direct light. The light is necessarily flat, without contrast. Almost without question, you have a compressed tonal scale (e.g., few zones) to work with. This very likely precludes significant micro–contrast within the snow, from which it appears you have judged inappropriately to be blown out. The negs. show about as much contrast a possible given the extant circumstances.
Good light makes good pictures.
This neg., which appears to be exposed similarly to the others, does in fact show texture in the overall features of the snow on the ground. Considering it was snowing, or at least presumably overcast, did you experience the snow as being blindingly white with micro-contrast? Why would you expect your prints to show contrast that was not actually present in the scene? It may be possible to increase contrast in the printing of your negs. That will not however affect the quality of light present in the scene as exposed by you on your film. BTW, there is nothing wrong with the softly lit beautiful light available to you without direct light. It's a matter of expectation and resolution.
Originally Posted by mporter012
Increasing the tonal scale is entirely possible. That may have gotten you closer to your visualization of the scenes if you had placed you exposure values differently (...I am dancing around the ZS here, for the sake of the timid). The basic exposure information you have related tells me nothing of this. Given correct placement, you could have expanded development (increased time), rather than contracted (reduced time).
It isn't clear to me from the negs. where you intended focus to be. Falling snow will blur out a scene. That is another issue.
Last edited by ROL; 04-29-2014 at 12:15 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Don't I ever!
Originally Posted by darkosaric
Thanks for the comments. I should have developed longer, under the circumstance of a low contrast lighting situation. Mistake #1. I'm not exactly sure what you mean by ''micro-contrast,'' but this was the first time I had ever shot in heavy snow, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I do see wonderfully interesting pics in low contrast lighting situations often, i.e. Michael Kenna, one of my favorite photographers. He's also a master printer!
Originally Posted by ROL
I wrongly assumed that not being able to get any detail in the highlights on the ground that they were blown out, but it appears that the snow just blurred out the scene somewhat, more than any exposure issue.
Thanks so much for the info.
I'd try and test print the snow, ignore the rest.
Once you get the snow highlight exposure close start adding contrast (and readjusting exposure to keep the highlights right until you get the blacks where they need to be.
Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR
"We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin
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I describe it this way:
Originally Posted by mporter012
"micro-contrast" is the difference in tones visible between small, adjacent details in the scene. The sort of contrast that makes the details jump out at you.
"macro-contrast" or to some, simply "contrast" is the difference in tones visible between large, adjacent and non-adjacent areas, and is also related to the difference between D-Max and D-Min in your print, slide or negative. The sort of contrast that gives the entire photograph a mood or tone.
“Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”
Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2
Tried to flash the paper? Could help in difficult highlights?
In that situation, I would probably have pushed the film instead of pulling it, ie. EI 800, increased development time according to temp and agitated 10s every minute.
That could have preserved details and a sense of texture in the snow.
It doesn't look like your highlights are blown though, probably just overexposed. With some work you could probably bring it out more in a print.
Last edited by Jaf-Photo; 04-30-2014 at 06:49 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Yeah, like the others, I agree that you should not have underdeveloped, as that decreases contrast for an already compressed tonal scale. Your negatives are not at their maximum density for the snow areas, and could have taken more development. This is all in hindsight, with the negatives now being a done deal. So whereto from here?
You could flash the paper before printing. This is tricky and takes a few trials to get just right. You have to make test strips, and settle on the flash exposure JUST BEFORE you see visible density in the paper. I suggest you read a good book on the topic, such as Tim Rudman's "The Photographer's Master Printing Course".
If you understand how to print with variable contrast paper, you can also do a lot to salvage the negatives. The rule is: Exposure time for the highlights, filtration for the shadows. So you tackle it this way: Start with contrast grade 2 or thereabouts. For the moment, ignore the shadows, and get your exposure time for the snow right, so that it shows just enough detail to your taste. Remember to dry the paper, as some papers dry down darker, and you may end up with a print that is overall darker than your liking. Once you have the highlight exposure correct, print the shadows with different contrast filtration, using the exposure time you selected for the highlights. When you have a contrast filter that gives correct shadow tones, you can now make a proof print. Take it from there and figure out where you want to dodge or burn etc. This is well explained in "Way Beyond Monochrome", 2nd edition.
I am almost certain you will get a better result following this method, so give it a try and post the results.
Last edited by dorff; 04-30-2014 at 03:59 AM. Click to view previous post history.