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Archive 2011 · Lighting Ratios, beyond the numbers....
  
 
Peter Figen
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p.2 #1 · Lighting Ratios, beyond the numbers....


"How does negative density of "old school" convert to today's digital hisotgrams that don't show the full range of what's available to work with. To me, using only the "safe" part of the histo's is akin to not using the full range of the negative."

I'm not sure you can make a direct correlation between negative density and a histogram on a digital camera. Within reasonable limits, if you have an overexposed, and to a lesser degree, an underexposed neg, you can just print it lighter or darker to compensate. Color negs can be overexposed by as much as four or five stops and still make great looking prints with highlight detail. I've been able to pull amazing detail drum scanning negs that were just too dense to print at all - so the detail was there, but it needed a different tool to extract it.

With digital, once your pixel value goes over 255 or under 0, there is nothing there to recover, and in a practical sense, it's more like 10 and 250 for real detail. The histogram will get you much closer to that than a light meter ever will, and considering the absolute finite nature of the exposure limits on digital, the histogram is really the best tool. Well, unless you're shooting tethered and can read actual pixel values. But what I don't understand is why you're so afraid of having the Histogram be a little conservative and giving you a safety margin. That's a good thing. You an always choose to toss that information later if it doesn't fit your needs, but you can never get that back if it's not there in the first place. It's really not unlike when we used to shoot Polaroids. If you got a good looking Polaroid, your film would look great. No one EVER complained that their film looked better than their 'roids. That was always the bonus surprise at the lab. I just don't see the slight understatement of the histogram as being anything but a good thing all around, and every professional friend of mine feels the same way. It's also a much smaller leap from the histogram related exposure to the final in digital than it was from Polaroid to film. In the film days you learned to adjust and anticipate and you do the same today, just with more accurate tools.



Nov 21, 2011 at 03:20 AM
RustyBug
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p.2 #2 · Lighting Ratios, beyond the numbers....


+1 @ 10 (ish) & 250 (ish) for practical terms.
+1 @ actual pixel values (i.e. SLR/C, tethered, etc.) being better than either a light meter or a histogram.
+1 @ detail lost is never regained (on both ends)

I get the margin of error thing, but I just feel that by leaving 3/4 - 2 stops on the table, it is an issue of practical convenience vs. technical excellence. I just come from a perspective that a measuring device should be accurate and I decide how much margin of error I need to apply, rather than the other way around.

Not sure I can agree that a histo that intentionally leaves more than a stop for margin of error is more accurate than a light meter. If that were the case, I'd think that Sekonic (et al) would be in a world of hurt ... or are masters at duping well regarded photographers. Okay, that might be a bit much, but still ... I don't see a histo as being more accurate. More convenient and sufficiently practical with the additional compensation that PP offers ... sure.

If a histo with 3/4 - 2 stop 'safety margin' is truly more accurate than a light meter (each properly used), how do Gossen, Sekonic, etc. stave off the demise of their products. I might be a bit tehnically retentive vs. practically pragmatic on this ... but I just have a tough time agreeing that a device that intentionally represses/consolidates 3/4 - 2 stops of information into a "clipping signal" as being more accurate. It seems akin to to having a warning light (for the clipped region) on your dashboard vs. having actual guages.

For most people, they get along fine with a 'warning light' as good enough (and is reasonable), but most professional drivers and serious automotive enthusiasts (not to mention pilots) want actual guages. They use that detailed information in context with their given application and have to self-impose risk managment accordingly (not for everybody). To suggest that a "warning light" is more accurate than a guage/meter ... that I don't get ... sufficiently practical and "good enough" for routine application ... sure, I get that.

Anyway, I do appreciate/respect the counter-perspective and certainly see some of the pragmaticism involved. It does provide for some additional thoughts on the subject ... to which others might discern for their own needs. It would be interesting to hear from camera engineers vs. light meter engineers on the subject to see how they compare on the subject as both a technical science and as a practical approach. Like so many things in our craft, we often times have divided camps and differing perspectives ... but nobody ever said there was only one way to skin a cat.




Nov 21, 2011 at 04:16 AM
Peter Figen
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p.2 #3 · Lighting Ratios, beyond the numbers....


Rusty,

You're looking at it all backwards. You're not leaving anything on the table. What you really don't want to do is do what shooting in camera jpegs does - clip both end. So what if you get an extra half stop to stop on the highlight end. That's a GOOD thing. It's not leaving anything on the table. It's giving more options in how you want to deal with your final file. It's also more accurate than a meter because the meter will never know exactly where the limits of your sensor is, and you probably don't either. The histogram will be faster and more accurate for almost all types of shots, except the two scenarios I've already mentioned. I mean, really, you're seeing a graph of the actual data your sensor is recording. That it gives you a small safety buffer can only be a good thing.

Y'know, when I first started shooting digital over ten years ago, I had the same attitude toward exposure you seem to have today. It took me a few years to get to the point where I recognized that you didn't really need a meter anymore. I mean, we never had that immediate feedback before, and after learning to correlate the histogram, it's really really easy.

One other thing that I've not addressed directly is that different cameras have noticeably different dynamic ranges, and if you rely solely on a meter, setting exposure for one part of your image, say, that person's face, the highlights might be fine on one camera with that exposure but blown on a different one, even though the meter gave you the same exposure for each camera. The same theory applies to shooting at high ISO, where every camera has a reduced dynamic range.

Even when I drum scan, I set up my base scanner settings to convert a specular highlight from the scanner profile to working space with a bit of headroom that I can adjust later with the more accurate tools in Photoshop. And the shadows are set so the rebate edges of the film come in at about 3 on Velvia, knowing that nothing will ever be darker than that and other transparencies will come in a bit higher because their densities are a bit less.




Nov 21, 2011 at 06:27 AM
RDKirk
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p.2 #4 · Lighting Ratios, beyond the numbers....


Y'know, when I first started shooting digital over ten years ago, I had the same attitude toward exposure you seem to have today. It took me a few years to get to the point where I recognized that you didn't really need a meter anymore. I mean, we never had that immediate feedback before, and after learning to correlate the histogram, it's really really easy.

Yes.

Without getting into technical issues that I don't really fully comprehend anyway, it certainly seems logical to me that data collected directly from the sensor has the potential to be more complete and more accurate, the potential to be more accurately calculated to purpose, as well as more accurately applied than data collected by an unattached device through an entirely different sensory mechanism.

Sekonic has stolen a base on camera manufacturers with the customization capabilities of the L778--but that lead only lasts as long as camera manufacturers are too short-sighted to put the same tools into the cameras themselves.



Nov 21, 2011 at 05:49 PM
cgardner
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p.2 #5 · Lighting Ratios, beyond the numbers....


I didn't do a very good job of explaining it apparently but the "baseline" exposure method I'm suggesting is similar to the Zone System, modified to accommodate the inherent limitations of digital capture short sensor range.

Baselines are a process control concept. With any engineered process there is some "nominal" result produced when all the parameters are controlled in the way the process is designed to work. With the negative/print system the nominal result was obtained when the darkest detail had a slight density on the negative and the highlight density on the negative in the brightest solid objects produced a density on the print slightly darker than the white paper base.

The magic of photography process has always been that when you do manage to expose the shadows and highlights correctly at the same time it creates a state of visual nirvana where the technical parameters and the perceptual impression mesh perfectly and EVERYTHING IN THE MIDDLE LOOKS NORMAL! Get the white shirt and black suit exposed correctly and the face will be rendered accurately regardless of its color or tone.

The Adams Zone System has three process control baselines.

1) 18% Gray Card = Zone V the middle of the tonal range perceptually: It was also the technical baseline for exposure measurement by reading the card in the same light as the scene with an averaging reflection meter. Adams had an irrational dislike for incident meters, despite the fact they produce the same result as a reading off a gray card. Metering long ago shifted to a 12-13% reflectance baseline, but the Kodak Card remains at 18% in part because Adams threw a hissy-fit when Kodak proposed changing it to the new standard, which would affect this baseline and the ZS gravy train.

2) A Sunny 16 clear day is a "normal" scene range: A clear sunny flat lit (light over shoulder) scene has a range of about 10 f/stops, part of the Zones = f/stops confusion that persists today. Since Adams did most of his photography outdoors on clear sunny days it was a logical baseline to use.

3) Development to fit the "normal" scene range to # 2 Print paper: The common practice with roll film is to develop the film for a standard baseline time. That then requires different contrast range papers to fit sunny, overcast, snowy scenes. Instead Adams preferred to print all his photos on #2 grade paper and the system is based on predicting what development time is needed to fit the scene to the #2 print at the time is captured. Thus the negatives for a normal scene and the same scene on a snowy or overcast day would have different development times to fit the scene range to the print range.

Zones are not f/stops but rather tonal definitions on both print and in the scene created by Adams. A capture was nominal when the print reproduced the zones (tones) on the print in the same way seen by eye, with the same 18 % of light reflected off the photo of the baseline gray card as in the original. If you laid the card and print together they would match. So you see the "Sears Look" is in fact similar to the Zone System baseline...







Zone 0 - Maximum black on print. Black voids with no detail see. Film border
Zone 1 - First detail seen above black.
Zone 2 - First discernible texture.
Zone 3 - Average dark materials.
Zone 4 - Dark foliage, stone, landscape shadows and portraits in sunlight.
Zone 5 - Middle Gray 18% reflectance: north sky, gray stone, weathered wood.
Zone 6 - Average caucasian skin, shadows on snow or objects.
Zone 7 - Light gray objects, very light skin.
Zone 8 - Textured objects (i.e., white shirt / towel), highlights on caucasian skin.
Zone 9 - Smooth white objects without texture, snow in flat light.
Zone 10* - Print paper base: Specular highlights: reflections of light sources in highlights.

* In the 1968 edition of his Basic Photo Series (the one I used) Adams didn't assign a "Zone" number to the white paper base of the print.

The Zone System workflow was "calibrated" with two simple tests:

1) True film speed: When an 18% gray card was metered at the rated film speed more often than not the shadows in the same light would not be exposed correctly on the negative. The same is true for the highlights on a digital camera which is way meters must be compensated to match camera ISO. The compensation in the Zone System was done by changing the ASA speed on the meter until the grey card reading did put detail from Zone 1 in the scene (detail above inky void) on the negative and print (when exposed for border = max. black).

2) "Normal" film development time: Only one development time for the film fits a "normal" (i.e 10 stop) scene to the range of a #2 print. By coincidence the density range needed for a #2 print is 3.0 density units. Density units are log10(Incident/Transmitted) and .30 cuts light intensity by 1/2 the same as an f/stop. So the #2 print by virtue of being needing 10 x .3 = 3.0 density units on the negative was referred to as having as "10 stop range". That's also part of the "Zones = f/stop" confusion.

You would determine "normal" development time by putting a subject in direct sun with dark and light clothing and shoot four or five sheets or rolls of film identically at the ASA speed determined in the first test. Each would be developed separately for a different time, then printed with standard "baseline" methodology. The print exposure was based on making the film base (no scene exposure) black and the lightest negative density above the film base dark gray (Zone 1).







When the four test prints were laid out can compared the shadows would be identical on all of them solid black on the border with perfect detail in the shadows. We'd file the negative carriers larger to create a black border with the negative base as a hallmark of Zone System zealotry. What changed on the prints with development time when prints were "exposed to the left" was the highlights. Under developed film has lower density which makes the print highlights darker than nominal and muddy gray similar to an underexposed digital file. Over developed film will increase negative density to the point where the print, when exposed for the shadows, will have blown highlights similar to an overexposed digital file. The development time which as "normal" made the print look "real" and every bit as good, technically as one of Adams' prints. in addition to the "normal" scene time you would do additional tests to find the times needed for 8,9, 11, and 12 stop ranges which in ZS parlance were Normal - 2 development, Normal - 1 development, etc.

The shooting workflow, before spot meters, would be to meter the 18% card for exposure then visually compare it the scene. With experience scene range outdoors could be guessed based on the conditions most of the time. When in doubt average meter reading could be taken off light and dark content in the scene to determine range precisely. The range determined what development time was needed.

By the time I learned the Zone System 1 spot meters which could meter a golf ball from 100' were available...





My workflow was to meter the Zone 1 (detail above void) shadows (e.g. EV 3) then move the exposure dial so Zone 1 on the grayscale representing the 10-stop range of the #2 print was aligned with EV 3. Then I'd read a Zone 9 (no specular white) highlight in the scene. By consulting the gray scale I knew that with shadows pegged on EV 3 I needed highlights on EV 11 to fit the scene to print with "normal" development. If the highlight reading was EV 12 (one f/stop greater than a "normal" baseline scene. I knew exactly how much to reduce development time to fit the #2 paper based on my initial set up tests.

The Zone System greatly simplified the print making because getting a full rich tonal range was a no-brainer. By front loading the process control Adams made the back-end more or less automatic. I had an enlarging meter set to null the needle at the exposure needed for max. black. I'd meter the blank edge or space between frames, put in the paper and simple as that get a print with a full range. That baseline print recorded, accurately, what the camera saw. That's when the "creative" part started with dodging and burning. Using the baseline print or proof sheet as a starting point you'd plan how to burn and dodge with hands and paddles to vignette the edges, make the face a bit lighter than captured, etc. as now done in Photoshop.

I had the opportunity to compare my results with Adams directly side-by-side. In the mid-80s I was production manager of the USIA publication center in Manila and one day a staff member came into my office with a fiber case and asked: "We got these prints and there's a note that says they are valuable, what shall we do with them?" I looked at the note, saw "Ansel Adams" and said, "You can leave them here."

The USIA magazine "Topic" was doing a feature on Adams and opening the case I found a dozen original prints of his most iconic scenes. While working at me previous job at National Geographic I had reproduced photos from staff photographers and an original Edward Curtis portfolio as full range 4/C sepias for an NGS book on Native Americas, but as a Adams' Fanboy that was as close to heaven as I've gotten so far. To reproduce the Adams photos I used a full range double impression black duotones technique I'd perfected at NGS which retained as much shadow detail as physically possible using analog methods (contact screens and litho film).

How did my prints compare? The paper was the same tone and the max.blacks where the same, and both had all the same tones in between. They were a perfect match technically. Content-wise? That was a different story, but notwithstanding my lack of creativity behind the camera, I do know a bit about high quality reproduction of photos and have understood that a basic requirement to make them seem real is a full-tonal range.

Peter made an interesting observation (and suggested I use better examples) in a side-bar PM about how Adams pre-visualized the result when shooting and would use filters at capture to darken the sky and then dodge and burn when making the print. In terms of actual cause and effect what Adams was doing is very similar selectively adjusting color with Hue/Saturation or styles and adjustment layers in Photoshop: capturing the end points with accurate detail then manipulating what is between them.

Film is engineered with a linear DogE reproduction curve. In layman's terms it looks like the straight line you see when you open a file in curves. If you shoot a gray scale target in a photo it will, with nominal exposure, look the same in the photo. What Adams couldn't do with B&W film at capture is grab the middle of the curve and pull it up or down to change all the mid-tones at capture. What he could do is selectively change how some colors in the scene were rendered as gray tones with filters.

B&W panchromatic film without any filter makes the sky lighter than normal because it has greater blue sensitivity than the eye that looks at the sky and creates our baseline for what normal skin looks like. To correct for that deficiency a savvy B&W photographer always had a yellow filter over the lens. When darker than "normal" seen by eye sky was desired an orange or red filter would darken it. But the same red filter that darken the skies would make any red objects a lighter shade of gray than seen by eye. So if you were shooting purple mountain's majesty above the fruited plains adding a red filter would make the sky darker than normal and the mountains and apples on the trees lighter than normal.

We can get a similar result in digital B&W conversions by altering the channel blending when converting:





Applying styles will have a similar effect as shown on this MacBeth chart with differently ones applied:










Note how in the color files changing the style selectively alters how the colors look relative to each other, but the neutral gray tones remain the same. The "global" contrast remains unchanged (18% gray card will still look 18%) and only the "Zone" values for the color patches are altered when the conversion is made.

In the darkroom Adams could take the 18% gray Zone 5 value recorded on a gray card in a scene, then in the darkroom dodge or burn that area of the negative to change its reproduced Zone value on the print to Zone 6 or Zone 4 as his pre-visualization dictates. I've gone the same with digital files since first bought one in the same way I dodged and burned prints...

On a visit to a historic site I saw and captured this machinery the barn...





but before shooting it visualized this end result...





Had I not been of the mindset due to my Zone System shooting of looking past what I see to what I want the final result to look like I probably would haven't bothered to take the shot.

Same with these ...




















The last shot OOC looked like this, which is similar to what I saw with my eyes that morning...





The first shot, taken with my first 2.1 MP Kodak DC290 looked like from the same spot with with lens zoomed wide. It was inspired by Adams shot of Weston sitting under a similar tree but the tree was on a hill. It looks like she is sitting bolt upright, but that's and illusion. I had her bend forward with chin over knees to keep her upper body and camera parallel and minimize near/far distortion. All pre-visualized from this seen by eye baseline...






Digital can't alter rendering of the scene range like B&W to fit the print but there are ways to alter it when shooting. For example by putting the sun at my back outdoors I know the camera will record detail in 95% of the shot because 95% of the content was highlighted by the sun. From that scene fits sensor capture baseline know I can selectively alter midtone values with the adjustment layers as I did in the flat lit shot of my wife fishing above.

The Zone System still has great value as a pre-visualization and communication tool. For example I've seen and participated in many debates over the years about definitions of "correct" exposure, "pure" white, "high" and "low" key, etc. In the Zone System parlance the definition of correct exposure is "get the end points recorded accurately". The stuff in the middle? How you you render than will be baseline "normal" at capture if you use perceptually normal looking lighting strategies.

The possibilities in your photos beyond the "normal" perceptual baseline of how things look in the room you are sitting in are limited only by your imagination and creativity with lighting, posing, finding interesting people to photograph, capturing great expressions and creating the same mood in the mind of the viewer that inspired you to take the shot of the rusty farm implement or broken down outboard motors.

White? If I told someone to expose a shirt to make it white that is subject to their interpretation. Do you want the highlights Zone 10 specular white, Zone 9 solid "paper" white (how paper looks in a photograph when seen on a white background like the print paper), or Zone 8 or 7 shaded white? .Shoot someone in a white backlit shirt and different parts of the shirt will fall on Zones 9, 8, 7, 6 and 5. With the lexicon of the zone system you can precisely instruct some one how to take a baseline image of the white shirt and selectively dodge and burn to achieve those values. That's how Adams was able to delegate the job of printing to assistants he gave them a blueprint for the final image in the form of a tissue overlay or a marked up "baseline" proof from the negative.

Let's revisit this studio image...







The advantage in the studio is always being able to fit everything to the sensor range by adjusting light intensity of rim light, key, fill and background; the four basic ingredients. Like cooking how the dish turns out depends on how well you can cook. Whether is is a perfectly executed fried egg or a 5-star exotic dish will determine how the critics like it. To some nothing is better than a perfectly cooked egg

The shot above recorded the camera "normal" in that lights were adjusted to record detail everywhere. But had I not opted to use the rim light, the same ratio of key and fill would not have worked. The fact that I backlit and wanted those backlit areas to be the brightest thing in the image and retain detail required me setting the rim light to create a Zone 9 white where it hit. That in turn forced me to "underexpose" the whites in front with key light darker that I would have without the rim light, on Zone 8. Had I not used the rim light I would have needed to place the highlights hit by the Key light on Zone 9, not 8 because without the rim light Zone 8 would look abnormally dark.

That's what I meant by "Beyond the numbers..." I'm in complete agreement they don't matter and that is why I don't use a meter. Like everyone I bought one when I got studio lights because I thought it was necessary only to find I could live without one. I shot with speedlights for 30+ years without one not using ratios, simply moving the key and fill until they recorded a full range of tone on whatever I was using to record the image: B&W film, color neg., transparency, digital my goal technically is fit the scene to print, and creatively to make it look on the print how I imagined it, not how my eyes saw it. For conventional portraits however what I want is more or less what I see... That why they are conventional.

I set up a target, get the ends of the scene both exposed accurately then play with the middle by eye until it looks "right". I just happen to like convention portraits more than some of my critics.

In terms of technical cause and effect adding the rim light changes the PERCEPTUAL BASELINE FOR WHAT LOOKS "NORMAL". In the backlit shot it looks normal to have key key lit whites an off-white Zone 8 because that's how backlight is perceived in person. I could have placed the rim light on Zone 10 (specular - 255) and the key lit front on Zone 9 (solid - 250) but I did not want the rim lighting to blow out detail where it hit the clothing or skin of the subject who would replace the target a few minute later.

I don't measure rations any longer or thing in those terms (except to communicate how to set lights) but for those who do set lights via metered ratios consider how they would change numerically had I measured them. The shadow tones controlled by the fill would be the same whether or not I used the rim light. If I started without the rim light I would have adjusted Key for Zone 9 white in front. If I afterwards decided to add the rim light and also keep it at Zone 9 white below clipping it would not contrast. So I must lower the key light, relative to the constant fill, changing the numerical ratio of key:fill. What was the Zone 9: Zone 1, key:fill ratio before the rim light was added now becomes the Zone 9:Zone1, rim light: fill ratio with the key:fill ratio becoming slightly less. Yes that can be computed and set with a meter, but it is far simpler to set it visually to the end points, then adjust the balance in the middle, controlled by the key light in that case, by eye until it looks "right".


The creative part that occurs between your ears is executed in the space in the image between the accurate rendering of the lightest and darkest detail in the image. The middle tones are your creative playground. You can play with them with the lighting or your can play with them in post processing but to look real the final result will, ideally, have detail in the shadows and highlights. What looks "right" is always relative to your creative goals for the shot. If my goal was to make the kid look like he had been shot of cannon and flying in mid air with a set of bagpipes in close pursut I would had suspended him from the ceiling with wire, turned on a fan and lit him differently, but the photo would have the same full tonal range.

Yes it's OK to blow highlights and eliminate detail where expect in shadows for creative reasons, but while some of the artistic inclination may think that brilliantly creative (because its different) other more technically oriented viewer like me will thinking, "nice creative shot, all 10's for that, but I wish he was more technically competent..." Those two different world views seen in most forum threads like are a reflection of the fact we have different temperaments (personality types) and experience.

Call me old fashioned but much of what is trendy in photography today such as flare, blown highlights, exaggerated contrast looks very similar to all the defects I worked hard to learn to eliminate from my images and remarkably similar to the technically incompetent work of the "Uncle Joe's" the pro's complain are putting them out of business.


Edited on Nov 21, 2011 at 07:03 PM · View previous versions



Nov 21, 2011 at 06:31 PM
Micky Bill
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p.2 #6 · Lighting Ratios, beyond the numbers....


RDKirk wrote:
Yes.

Without getting into technical issues that I don't really fully comprehend anyway, it certainly seems logical to me that data collected directly from the sensor has the potential to be more complete and more accurate, the potential to be more accurately calculated to purpose, as well as more accurately applied than data collected by an unattached device through an entirely different sensory mechanism.


Maybe the meter companies could borrow a line from Chico Marx "Who are you going to believe, me (meter) or your lying eyes (histogram, blinkies, LCD)?"



Nov 21, 2011 at 06:46 PM
cgardner
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p.2 #7 · Lighting Ratios, beyond the numbers....


RDKirk wrote:
Sekonic has stolen a base on camera manufacturers with the customization capabilities of the L778--but that lead only lasts as long as camera manufacturers are too short-sighted to put the same tools into the cameras themselves.


RD was one of the first to drink the white towel Kool-Aid.

Technically it would be simple to have red, yellow and green flashing playback indicators for shadow clipping , 18% gray, and highlight clipping, but that would reveal how inadequate the sensor range is so it's probably one of those ideas the engineers have suggested but the marketing department has vetoed.

Personally I'd like to see the mirror and focal plane shutter disappear so metering is real time down to the pixel level on a 1.6 or larger sensor. It wouldn't improve the DR, but would provide more accurate data for making exposure choices automatically and manually.

Given the fact scene exceeds sensor nearly all the time outdoors I think a spot meter is a waste of time and money. Outdoors you meter and find the range is 10 stops and know the camera range is 7 no way to change it so why bother. Expose to the right, slow shutter 3 stops and take another shot and blend with HRD, change foreground range with flash, or recompose the scene do the lost shadow detail isn't noticed.

Indoors fitting scene to sensor is like shooting fish in a barrel if you drape white and black towels over the barrel



Nov 21, 2011 at 07:17 PM
dmacmillan
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p.2 #8 · Lighting Ratios, beyond the numbers....


BrianO wrote:
Color me confused.

We were never assigned "take a portrait with a lighting ration of x:x". For film characteristics, I know that if I set up a portrait shot and I'm looking for the same "feel" of the portrait, I will have a different ratio if I shot Plus-X that I would if I shot Kodachrome. We weren't taught specific ratios like I understand the students at Brooks or R.I.T were taught.

We were encouraged to relate to our subjects instead of our light meters.

Now that the Lighting Forum's equivalent to Godwin's Law has been invoked with the mention of Ansel Adams (I'm crossing myself as I type), I need to point out an irony. When Fred Archer and Ansel Adams codified the Zone System, AA was teaching at Art Center!



Nov 21, 2011 at 07:35 PM
Peter Figen
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p.2 #9 · Lighting Ratios, beyond the numbers....


Your recollection of Art Center is the same as mine. I was going to mention that Adams taught there but I didn't want to muddy the waters further. More musical analogies, I guess.


Nov 21, 2011 at 07:41 PM
cgardner
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p.2 #10 · Lighting Ratios, beyond the numbers....


Well it's good to know I have something in common with elite, effete Art Center denizens: the same teacher.


Nov 21, 2011 at 09:20 PM
 

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Peter Figen
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p.2 #11 · Lighting Ratios, beyond the numbers....


Ansel Adams or Muddy Waters?


Nov 21, 2011 at 09:54 PM
dmacmillan
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p.2 #12 · Lighting Ratios, beyond the numbers....


Peter Figen wrote:
Ansel Adams or Muddy Waters?

Or the Pope?



Nov 21, 2011 at 11:05 PM
BrianO
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p.2 #13 · Lighting Ratios, beyond the numbers....


cgardner wrote:
Well it's good to know I have something in common with elite, effete Art Center denizens: the same teacher.


Peter Figen wrote:
Ansel Adams or Muddy Waters?

dmacmillan wrote:
Or the Pope?


Well, I'm not an "elite, effete Art Center denizen," but I have learned much from two of the three above-named persons. (I don't play jazz.) I've also been taught by one of Chuck's other "mentors." So we do have a little bit in common. Not that that means much.



Nov 21, 2011 at 11:43 PM
Peter Figen
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p.2 #14 · Lighting Ratios, beyond the numbers....


Muddy Waters (McKinley Morganfield) was the king of Chicago blues. He's mentioned as one of Keith Richards' main influence when he started - in Richards' book Life. I was fortunate enough to photograph Willie Dixon in 1986 while I was still a student at Art Center and not learning about lighting ratios. Willie played bass for Muddy and for a lot of the artists on Chess Records, as well as being an unbelievably prolific songwriter covered by acts like The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Pointer Sisters etc. I mention this because even though it's not a direct link to photography, any photographer reading Keith's book will recognize the similarities in the creative process and hopefully come away with something they can use in their own work. For me, it was more of an attitude toward the process and a willingness to experiment and come up with things that work, even though they might not be by the rules, or the ratios.

I posted this image of Willie - the one I shot in his living room in Glendale, Ca. in '86 for Frets Magazine in the People forum here. The particulars involved an RZ67, a 90mm RB lens and one Balcar umbrella jammed up against the ceiling scraping the bumps off the ceiling tiles. No fill. I did use a meter, and even so, the lab that processed the film underdeveloped it, so I had a slightly thin neg. It was a neg that would take several hours to pull a single print let alone duplicates. I've since drum scanned it and done about 95 percent of the burning and dodging and output a new T-Max LVT neg that can be printed with minimal burning and leaving the original untouched.







Nov 22, 2011 at 12:47 AM
cgardner
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p.2 #15 · Lighting Ratios, beyond the numbers....


You Art Center guys crack me up. Remind me of all the Ivy League dweebs I dealt with in the Foreign Service. You brag about how Adams taught at the Art Center, yet Troll about me referring to his work as still being a good model to follow as a sign the discussion has veered off to discuss Nazis and Hilter? If you are going to Troll, at least do it logically.

I know Peter's closest encounter with Adams was driving next to him on the highway and loading a jug of hypo into his assistant's car, so big deal that he taught at your school. Did either of you ever take a class from him? If so what did you learn and apply that wasn't in his books I read that helped you earn a living?

Props to Peter for doing continuing to apply what he learned at the Art Center. I agreed with him on most things, just see it from the opposite direction of craft before art, not the opposite. But Doug didn't you quit photography and jump to IT back in '84? How is that Art Center education working for you now? In the ten years I've been trolled by you on DPR and here about my background and work I've yet to ever see the benefit of your fine education at the feet of geniuses in the form of a photograph you have taken and posted. When asked you say you fear for your intellectual property or some hack will critique it. covers that Doug. Sue me if I say anything bad about your creative masterworks.

I make no apologies about being a Adams fanboy. While I think the Zone System is filled with as much artistic BS as you guys are to sell the books, its broader lessons about process control are genius. It's just "expose for the shadows / develop for the highlights" but by putting the process control on the front end and standardizing the print he solved the problem of how to make the printmaking so "paint by numbers" simple he could delegate it to an assistant, handing him a print with an annotated overlap showing where the baseline camera capture on the negative needed to be adjusted from one zone to another with dodging and burning. Had he not developed the Zone concept and definitions it would have been far more difficult to communicate those instructions.

Beyond the photography, which now is just an occasional avocation, Adams introduced me to process control. Thanks to him I learned to make a decent set of prints for a portfolio, which helped get me my jobs with Zucker and National Geographic by showing I was both technically competent and trainable by virtue of the fact I learned on my own from his books rather than being fed artistic claptrap with a silver spoon instead of how to meter a ratio. You can meter a ratio and be creative, digital has just made the hand held meter redundant. Adams' framework for simplifying a complex multi-variable problem was one I used in a variety of problem solving situations over the years and continue to as this thread demonstrates. Adams helped me made a good living and retire early but not with a camera. So laugh all you want at my expense, 'cause Ansel, he been berrry, berry good to me... And no I didn't stay at a Holiday Inn last month it was the Ritz-Carlton



Nov 22, 2011 at 12:50 AM
BrianO
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p.2 #16 · Lighting Ratios, beyond the numbers....


What the heck are you going on about Chuck? Hitler? Nazis? I haven't seen anything like that on this thread.

Take your meds and chill out, dude!



Nov 22, 2011 at 01:11 AM
RustyBug
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p.2 #17 · Lighting Ratios, beyond the numbers....


Peter,

Nice shot. Sorry to hear about the lab doing you a dis-service. Gotta love the lattitude that diligent recoverly can accomplish, along with the D&B.

I too studied Adams, but not in the traditional way. When I first found out how much his work was heavily achieved postcapture ... I felt like he was a big cheat. (Hey, I was young, what did I know.) It took me many years before I could swallow my pride and embrace learning what he (and others) subscribed to ... to come to understand how he wasn't cheating, but being exacting and process-oriented. Combine that with Deming and well ...

I shot chromes to avoid the nearly infinite lattitude of the darkroom and wielded my control 'in camera". So, while digital has a ton more lattitude than chromes ever did, I still aspire to shoot "tighter" than most (Deming).

As for "Muddy" ... I listen to his Blues even more than I look at Ansel's images. Both are candy for the senses ... both are iconic.



Nov 22, 2011 at 01:50 AM
Peter Figen
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p.2 #18 · Lighting Ratios, beyond the numbers....


I'm thinking it wasn't bragging but more like ironic that he taught there. Hell, I remember one instructor who was so stuck on Adams and his history with the school that we all thought he was mired in the past. Everyone used to call him "Gray" Ray because he went on incessantly how his skin was the same reflectance as a Kodak Gray Card.

The bottom line is that are a lot of ways to get the job done, and maybe there have been a few misunderstandings in this thread. In the end there is some good information and hopefully people have learned something.

For the record, I had more than just the one incident with the little drag race with Ansel. I did meet him at the local museum in Monterey, shook his hand and had a nice quick chat with him. We also used the same framing shop in Monterey and used to get a close up private viewing of his shows before they went out to the public. Now, that was a treat. I had much more interaction with Bret Weston, who used to come in the camera store where I worked. Very giving of his time and knowledge. Always showed me everything in the van, which held every format from 35mm to 11x14.

I don't think there are many photographers who don't owe Ansel some sort of debt, whether they know it or not and whether they like his work or not. He not only made quite a few compelling images, he popularized photography and helped pave the way for it to be more accepted as legitimate art.



Nov 22, 2011 at 02:24 AM
Peter Figen
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p.2 #19 · Lighting Ratios, beyond the numbers....


"As for "Muddy" ... I listen to his Blues even more than I look at Ansel's images. Both are candy for the senses ... both are iconic. "

The boxed set is really fantastic.



Nov 22, 2011 at 02:26 AM
RustyBug
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p.2 #20 · Lighting Ratios, beyond the numbers....


I met a man from China that ran a photo shop in Trinidad that was big on metering off his hand and applying the necessary ec ... but, "Gray" Ray ... that's priceless.


Nov 22, 2011 at 02:43 AM
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