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  1. #1

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    high contrast - weird or kinda normal?

    After seeing a rant on another site where the posters first and main complaint on others photographs was the use of high contrast I got to wondering about this. I mean I enjoy contrast I use pentax gear known for being a bit contrasty shoot fomapan 100 400 and Acros 100 both high contrast films light here in the deep south tends to be harsh even more contrast piled on. Admitted i use diafine to help with contrast but I still get lots of contrast and like it. To me a large percentage of the shots on tri-x 400 for example seem almost all midtones and flat. Am I way out on my own on this? Before I get flamed by tri-x lovers I will say I find Chris Crawford's work on tri-x or actually anything to be an absolute visual feast.

  2. #2
    cliveh's Avatar
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    One man's masterpiece is another man's reject and vice versa. In terms of contrast it's what you prefer, although baby pictures are perhaps more suited to low contrast and operatic stage pictures the opposite. But I can't see how someone could have a rant about contrast if that's the way the artist/photographer prefers it.

    “The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”

    Francis Bacon

  3. #3

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    Blocked up shadows and blown highlights are often a way of hiding excessive and unwanted detail with 'amateurs'. Some people like bold images, but lack the ability to see bold subject matter/compositions. It's seen as a creative compromise or an afterthought in that regard.

    I suggest you pick up John Blakemore's Workshop book which covers the art of contrast control like no other book I own. It certainly taught me a great deal about the art of contrast. His prints tend to be very somber, but with full detail. The master of high contrast image making is without a doubt Thomas Joshua Cooper. That's how it's done properly - serving the subject matter appropriately.

  4. #4

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    I think it's like anything in art. When used with an intent and employed skillfully, it can help express the emotion behind the image. When over used or misused, it can help create garbage....

    I agree with your mystical poster that I see many images that are way too high in contrast and saturation - so much so that that's the only thing I see. I'm kind of thinking this is becoming more common. Many digital photos I see online are too saturated and contrasty. Many consumer electronics display images that are too saturated and contrasty.

    Personally, I like subtle tones punctuated with areas of good to great contrast.
    Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?

  5. #5
    cliveh's Avatar
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    Batwister makes a very valid point, as until any photographer/artist understands what various differences in contrast look like, they can't make that decision.

    “The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”

    Francis Bacon

  6. #6

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    It should be noted that once people discover the zone system they tend to go to the other extreme and start making very flat prints. Ansel's early prints with the ZS are often criticised for being flat, whereas his later prints were more "operatic". I suppose we all go through these phases in our photography; starting out with no sense of contrast, then we're cautious ("watch those highlights!"), then eventually we loosen up and work with contrast intuitively depending on what the image requires. It's the same with composition I find - wanting to return to that instinctive approach we had at the beginning, but a developed instinct, as Bresson would say.
    Last edited by batwister; 09-16-2012 at 03:47 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  7. #7
    jp498's Avatar
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    I've seen both extremes and hesitate to complain. High contrast is an easy and unique way to use B&W film. Lots of people like that. Not just photographers.

    Finer control over contrast can have nice results too; ever seen real Karsh portraits hanging on a wall? Or old modernist prints from the 1930's?

    Lower contrast has it's place too. I like the lower contrast of some of the pictorialist stuff. (They probably didn't use the zone system to make flat prints, like some people do now). A SF lens can lower contrast as can a plat print of a pictorialist image.

    I like my negatives to be slightly lower contrast than final, then I can add contrast to suit with the printing process.

  8. #8
    cliveh's Avatar
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    I use to find that trying to get the correct contrast is often a distraction to correct exposure of the print.

    “The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”

    Francis Bacon

  9. #9

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    Good points all, I can say the blocked shadow blown highlight syndrome does not appeal to me as a rule. Battwister thank you for mentioning cooper and Blakemore I wasn't familar with them and honestly Blakemore's work comes closest to what I want to achieve.Hopefully I'll get there sooner than later. clive you are right about swings in likes and yes one mans meat so true .



 

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