Honestly, the John Blakemore print, to me, looks like a solarized or a weird HDR attempt (if you were to use a ....hmm... non analog camera).
To each their own, I don't care for it, I'm more in the line with CPorter.
A. Adams did a lot of good things, but he sure messed up the thinking about shadow detail around the world :P
Many people wrongly thinks zone system means you always need to have detail in the shadows. This is false, off course, but a lot of people seem to adhere to this thinking.
Last edited by Helinophoto; 11-28-2012 at 06:31 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Many of Adams' prints have solid black shadows and he did not advocate that prints need to always have detail in the shadows. What he did advocate was that photographers need to learn is the craft part of photography so that they can achieve prints that match THEIR vision. If you want deep solid blacks in your image that is fine - after all they are your photographs.
My personal preference is images that look contrasty but retain some detail in any largish area of deep shadow. Nevertheless, I also like the work of Daido Moriyama, Brett Weston, Ralph Gibson, Bill Brandt, Ray Metzker, etc all of whom have employed jet black shadows in their work. I have also seen a lot of John Blakemore's work as both prints and reproduction. Whilst I respect his work and know that he takes great care over the way he crafts his prints, the majority (for my personal taste) of his prints I find flat and lifeless.
Blakemore is a zone system advocate. He made creative, practical sense of it with his teaching. Most people are too rigid about contrast, as if it's an absolute truth. Which is fair enough - if you make strong pictures this way to back it up. But those who are in a mental straitjacket tend to be in a creative one too.
Originally Posted by Helinophoto
The HDR comment. I didn't know whether to leave that alone. Bad experience? Tip of the day: stop looking at HDR pix and you'll stop seeing it in everything you look at.
It's like those 9/11 obsessives that scream controversy when they see anything in a pair. Tip: stop watching 9/11 videos.
You know, no matter how much you want to refute this, it is true: Ansel Adams was primarily an academic, primarily theorizing about photography. In this respect, using his mindset, shadow detail becomes mandatory and not to be excluded. 'Aesthetics' becomes either outwardly subordinate or 'absorbed' into the academics.
It is true, David Allen, that some of his photographs do not have shadow detail but that is decidedly rare with his work. Helinophoto, you do have a point when you say that he 'messed up the thinking about shadow detail' but I think that that is going a bit too far. You do, however, make a valid point about his 'having to have' that detail in order for the picture to be 'complete and whole' as a photograph can be, sometimes, a downright misinformed aesthetic assessment.
What this thread forces us to do is bifurcate the two realms: theory and aesthetics, rather than simply and conveniently combining the two. Sometimes there is a conflict with the two realms and, thus, that combination becomes futile. That separation of the two is not easy to even WANT to do. I have had an ongoing conflict with this for many, many years. On one hand I like the look of a thinner but somewhat more contrasty negative (and the delightful speed increase that goes along with it). But too often when I make the print, no matter which contrast grade I use, it looks incomplete. Other times a negative with a full rasher of detail provides all the necessary panoply of tones but something is missing in the print. For example, on a cloudy day the 'accurate' print shows a dull scene. But if underexposed and overdeveloped the scene suddenly becomes slightly surreal and better.
What I just said makes a heroic point in favor of the segregated development that is an attribute of sheet film! - David Lyga
Last edited by David Lyga; 11-28-2012 at 08:34 AM. Click to view previous post history.
David, my all time favorite photograph (The Walk in Paradise Garden by W. Eugene Smith), hanging on my office wall, is a classic example of letting the shadows go inky black and creating a very dramatic moment/result. It doesn't get any better than this!
Minamata, by Smith, is also a classic example of using deep shadows to tell a very moving and dramatic story. In fact, people were so affected by his Minamata photo essay that he was severely beaten by goons.
Last edited by Fred Aspen; 11-28-2012 at 11:28 AM. Click to view previous post history.
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less shadow detail mght be 'more'...
Tonality can be used as a compositional element. Deep blacks and bright whites can support a composition, direct the eye, or even be an important ingredient in creating mystique. To print everything to reveal a maximum amount of tones is a flavor that's personal, and is no more valid as an approach than any other flavor. Variety is good. Use it to your advantage!
"Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank
"Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman
"...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh
Fred, you would have to search the world for a more poignant photograph than Minamata.
Smith paid a brutal, physical price for that photo and died younger than he had a right to.
And, Thomas, Yousuf Karsh said it correctly, with both words and photographs, when he said: "the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - David Lyga
David, like you, I am still conflicted. Personally, I am drawn to photographs that show a gradual change from some shadow detail into a jet-black of the paper. Here is my attempt at that: http://rafal.net/belonging/photo/canyon-x--entrance/
I love the moment when the eye no longer sees the detail, while it scans a print—or, the other way round, how it suddenly discovers detail in what was nothing, but where previously, at a casual glance, nothing was expected. It creates a moment when an expectation of the viewer is exceeded, a little surprise, and it is satisfying. I could wax lyrically about that feeling; I suppose I ought to blog. Bear in mind, this gradation looks way juicier on the real, Se toned print, and the web repro is a only a 2nd relative.
This picture, however, is the one that I hear the most contrasting comments about. Some people love it the most of all of my photographs, some people feel the "black" area is too overpowering. Have I had my way, many of my prints would have large black pools, but over the years I have learned to print with more shadow detail, mainly due to an occassional comment by another photographer that I was making a basic printing mistake in printing so dark. I cannot deny that a statistically average eye seem to be drawn to a highlight, while deep shadows are to be only examined by the more dedicated viewer. So there I am, still conflicted, to appeal to more, or to risk it more. I'd say my newer work (sorry, not on the web site yet) is an attempt to have the best of both, time will show if people like it.
Sorry for blatantly directing you to my own photo, as I do not wish to hijack the thread. It is just that I have been thinking a lot about what David asked, lately. I agree very much with the comments here, in particular with Thomas's and Michael's observations.
David - I'll present an alternative view of Adams, even though it is slightly off topic. The notion that he was primarily an academic, theorist and technician is based mostly on his relatively late years:
1) The technically accomplished, dramatic (some would say melodramatic) prints from the 1970s
2) The books (mostly also written relatively late)
3) His late fame and time spent on teaching, reprinting and writing rather than photographing
4) The millions of people who have since essentially copied him, which has had the rather odd effect of devaluing (from a critical perspective) the original work
I think it is important to highlight a few things about Adams's work.
First, from a compositional perspective much of his work is quite "free". In this respect I actually find his aesthetic approach significantly less academic and/or theoretical than that of say HCB. In general Adams doesn't have very much to say about compositional rules, formulas etc. Second, many of his well known images were made before the Zone System. Third, a careful reading of his technical books reveals that many of his negatives are printable despite being quite flawed in the context of the measured technique he prefers. He does not try to hide this either. Fourth, while he was certainly more interested in lenses, filters and films than say Edward Weston, he used pretty basic equipment, materials and darkroom/printing techniques all the way until the end.
As much as he wrote about technique, the best of his images have relatively little to do with it. He was interested in the land and the light. These are the things that excited him. His images really need to be viewed in the context of when they were made. If they are looked at without the clutter of all the similar photography done since, to me they are astonishing in their artistry and creativity.
Just some thoughts.
While I appreciate this conversation, find it very thought provoking and enjoyable I must say that statement is simply false. Ansel made FAR too many photographs to be referred to as "primarily an acedemic".
Originally Posted by David Lyga
He was an academic AND a prolific photographer. I'd say undeniably.
Edit: Perhaps I've missed the intent of that statement... none the less I have a hard time, in spite of context, referring to someone as prolific as Ansel as primarily an academic.
Last edited by Shawn Dougherty; 11-28-2012 at 11:21 AM. Click to view previous post history.