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What you are saying is exactly the opposite of the beauty of using BW negative material. It has the widest DR of any photographic medium. That's why the masters used it. Over twice of what transparency film gives and about 50% more than color reversal. When my blacks are mostly shades of gray, that's a great day! Of course, some areas do go solid black, but some should because they are.
As far as being able to translate all this to the digital age and website presentations, that's another complete science. The quality of the neg and the execution of...Show more →
LF is "a" look, but not "the" look. There are fine photographers doing wonderful work with LF, but there are fine photographers doing equally wonderful work with other film formats and with digital media. There is no intrinsic aesthetic better-ness in either medium. They aren't the same - though there is a lot of overlap - and if your preference is to work in one rather than the other, that is fine, but don't confuse that with a general notion that your choice is better than that made by others.
Speaking of which, the number of folks who cut their teeth in the film era (I'm one of them) and switched to digital is much larger than the number moving the opposite direction. This includes a number who started on LF (4x5 and larger) film who have since moved to digital MF or even full frame camera systems and who now prefer to print with inkjet. Others work in what we might term hybrid media - scanning film and doing post in Photoshop and printing digitally. Or, as one person I know sometimes does, scanning negatives, digitally reproducing larger versions of them on transparent media on digital printers, and then contact printing platinum prints!
I have a great deal of respect for those who have and who still do produce great photographs using film/optical/chemical processes, but I have no less respect for those producing equally brilliant work using other media. Ultimately I care about the final print and not what technology was used to create it.
Regarding the question of tones in the image presented in this thread, I had a response the first time I saw the post but initially thought that it might be better to not share it. There are things that are admirable about this image. One is, of course, that it represents an experiment with the classic black and white large format methods. Compositionally, I find some interest in some elements - the stacked diagonals of lines of surf, edge of water, and two differently toned rocks, for example. There are, too, some issues that catch my attention - the intersections between near and far rocks that many photographers might try to avoid, the loss of detail (in the online version at least, which is not a fair representation of what might be in a print) in the shadow areas in the center and right, a few quibbles about stuff at the boundaries of the frame including the "weight" of all the dark rocks at the right. An overall response of mine is to wonder what the central subject of the image is.
Digital or film, the lighting and atmosphere here and at this time was very, very tough - with low and flat light under what appears to be rather thick overcast or high fog. I can visualize how the image might get some additional "punch" in the foreground, where more contrast (via curves, if processing digitally) might bring a bit more relieve to those rocks.
About the "blacks and whites" question, I'm thinking of something I heard John Sexton say earlier this year at a talk where he discussed a number of Ansel Adams' prints. If I recall correctly, he suggested that there is often something that is truly black and something that is truly white in Adams' prints, but that most of the image is neither, but instead the majority of the image consists of those in-between tones. Here we do have Adamsian black and Adamsian white, but the in-between tones, where the real action can take place, could have a bit more life, I think.
In the end, I sense both pluses and minuses in this image:
- The low contrast and flat light is problematic - perhaps a bit of a brighter interpretation (a la Alan Ross?) could make this work more successfully.
- It is hard for me to see the composition as a coherent whole - there are a lot of interesting elements, but for me they don't quite work together and it might be that there is just too much in the frame for this subject. (Someone probably said something like 90% of composition is deciding what to leave out.)
- I applaud you for trying something that I've thought about but not gotten around to doing - actually going out there and making a photograph using the classic techniques and gear. :-)
- Given one chance - unlike the nearly infinite chances we get with digital gear - you managed to find and grab an interesting slice of time along this coastline. (I've done the same with digital gear, thinking carefully about the right moment... but I virtually always get to record many "right moments!")
Edited on Jul 25, 2013 at 08:19 PM · View previous versions