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  1. #1

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    Nick Brandt does NOT add animals

    I just wanted to make a public correction about a thread that was posted several weeks ago about Nick Brandt. Among other comments from many that suggested digital trickery with his images, I contributed much too hastily and misquoted from an article in Photo Pro Magazine. To correct myself, he does not clone in animals.

    To quote correctly in full:

    "Even though I use heavy ND grads and red filters, there's still a lot more grading that is usually done in Photoshop. Pulling more details out of the highlights and shadown is the main thing, and I draw the line at adding in animals, cloning them, etc, and my skies will all be from the actual time and place. I do bracket sometimes if I get a chance to get a better exposure on the sky from another frame, but it's shot at the same time. I only ever added in one sky, in a photo called 'Giraffe Fan' in 2000. I don't soften the images in post at all - any 'softening' is all done in-camera at the time of shooting, with a low-tech, on-the-fly crude version of swing and tilt"

    I've just come off the phone with Nick and we had a good chat about his work. In between my continuous 'I can't believe I misread that' apologies, he talked quite candidly about his process and where he draws the lines in post production. He does stich panoramas (a 6x17 is too impractical for the wild!) and he does dodge/burn in PS. His platinum prints are made with what sounds like an amazingly involved process with multiple negative and so on, and he is no longer as fond of the polaroid borders he added to earlier images.

    Nick, I'm so sorry for misquoting, and so releived I'm not a journalist! If you should ever contribute to a thread on this forum, I am quite sure people would love to hear your thoughts direct, rather than as second hand news!

    PS: Nick has offered to send me some contacts of the original images. While I will take him at his word re: digital manipulation (or lack of), the opportunity to hold the raw material he creates his artwork with certainly sound appealing :-)

    Mods: please ammend comments in the previous thread.

  2. #2
    SuzanneR's Avatar
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    I had a chat today with Nick as well, and in fact, my recollection of something I had read and written about his work was inaccurate, so apologies to Nick for my carelessness. The work is gorgeous, and unique among photographers who specialize making pictures of animals. I still find his pictures somehow lacking a certain emotional depth, but that has more to do with my own personal taste (a preference for documentary photography) than with how he chooses to make his pictures.

    I hope he'll be able to take a moment, and share his thoughts about his work.

  3. #3

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    Nick Brandt here. I saw the earlier thread regarding my photography, and felt compelled to enter the fray and clarify some points and misinformation. Thanks to the very gracious Ciaran for his post above.

    I shoot with a Pentax 67II and scan my negs. That much is true. Photoshop is a fantastic darkroom for getting the details out of the shadows and highlights with a level of detail that I never could obtain in the darkroom. However, the integrity of the scene I am photographing is always unequivocally maintained in the final photograph. Animals and trees are not cloned or added. The sky is the sky that was there.
    In panoramic photos, I take two consecutive frames and stitch them together. They are taken consecutively, and as quickly as possible. In the past, I tried working with a Fuji 6x17 rangefinder camera, and if you know the camera, you'll understand how impractical that is with animals on the move.
    I have no interest or desire in cloning or adding animals. It would indeed defeat the purpose. Anyone is welcome to trek up my to my house and look at my contact sheets to see that the final photos are what I am shooting.
    Some people think that what some of what I shoot could not possibly be real. If you wait long enough, and are lucky enough (and don't use a telephoto lens and therefore look at the literally bigger picture) you'll also see scenes just like in those photos. (Many times, those scenes were taken with many other vehicles there). However, hurry, because with every passing year, those sights are disappearing.

    However, I do agree with the criticisms of those borders on the early photos, damn it. There is a good reason I originally used them - to try and further convey that these animals were from another bygone era, but I now regard that particular effect as overly cheap, tricksy and ubiquitous, and now print those images without the borders. Live and learn.

    I also agree with some criticism of overly zealous dodging and burning, but only in early prints. These were the work of a new photographer getting over-excited with the tools of the trade. However, a lot of what you see is due to use of the heaviest ND Grads and red filters. If you think there's too much dodging and burning in later work, fine, we'll agree to disagree. (Until maybe I agree with you in another few years....)

  4. #4
    Eric Rose's Avatar
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    Thanks for contributing Nick. I love your stuff, bought the book and look forward to more. I hope you can find time to become a member of our group and share some of your vast knowledge with us.

    Eric
    www.ericrose.com
    yourbaddog.com

    "civility is not a sign of weakness" JFK

    "The Dude abides" - the Dude

  5. #5

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    Nick,

    Thanks for the info on your process. I would love to buy your book, but I am a university student on an ambitious project to open my own studio soon. Therefore, no money for art books or prints. I love the work and cannot wait to see more!

    Tommy

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Rose View Post
    Thanks for contributing Nick. I love your stuff, bought the book and look forward to more. I hope you can find time to become a member of our group and share some of your vast knowledge with us.

    Eric
    Well, you over-flatter me with talk of "my vast knowledge". I've learned everything by much trial and more error, and had I seen posts with a couple of the more valid criticisms, I might now a better photographer for it!

    I will say that I plan to stay shooting film for the forseeable future, repeated airport x-ray exposure problems permitting.
    1) I personally have found there to be a kind dull perfection to the digital 'capture' (ugh, awful word).
    2) Even though not being able to see the film for weeks/months scares the hell out of me, I find it helps in the actual shooting - being in the moment. With digital, the very advantage is the exact danger - that you look at what you're shooting as you do it, and thus potentially change what you're doing for the worse, instead of being completely in the moment, spontaneous and instinctive.

  7. #7
    Sean's Avatar
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    With digital, the very advantage is the exact danger - that you look at what you're shooting as you do it, and thus potentially change what you're doing for the worse, instead of being completely in the moment, spontaneous and instinctive.
    What a superb statement. Welcome to the site Nick!

    Sean

  8. #8
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    Nick, very nice of you to stop in, and I wish we'd hear more from you in the future. Keep up the medium format work, it's beautiful!
    "Only dead fish follow the stream"

    [APUG Portfolio] [APUG Blog] [Website]

  9. #9

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    Thanks, Sean. But of course, a photographer using a digital camera could justifiably argue that being able to review what he's doing in the midst of shooting, he could change what he's doing for the better. And in many cases that is true. I just know that from my personal experience, when I've experimented shooting digital, my mid-shoot reviewing got in the way of being in the moment and getting a good photo. One time, I looked at what I was shooting digitally and thought blah, it's boring. But the very same subject shot almost at the same time on film turned out great, because the mysterious unpredictable interaction of light on negative created something much more interesting and surprising.
    Last edited by nickbran; 01-10-2010 at 08:00 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  10. #10

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    Glad for the clarification re cloning. It would have been like Salgado adding miners to those climbing the ladders, unthinkable. Now we can enjoy your work from both an artistic and a documentary viewpoint.
    van Huyck Photo
    "Progress is only a direction, and it's often the wrong direction"

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