Six rolls of TMax 100, 9.5 mins @ 20C, Xtol 1+1. Using coffee filters on the water does the trick... clean and crisp negs.

After a lot of struggling with color profiles I'm back to printing B&W prints via pure-black on Epson Matte. Shadow detail is better on small prints with multiple color, but for a larger print the pure-black is fine, the blacks are truly black, and the hazards of metamerism are left far behind. For my printer, at least, it seems to be better to print @ 720dpi "finest detail," rather than 1440dpi.

Made about 30 prints yesterday, most for the current project, the printer humming in the background while I prepped materials for the class I'm giving at Siggraph 2003. The prints are all around the living room, there for me to ponder for a while. I plan on printing some of them quite large, maybe 50" square.

Posted July 25, 2003 | Comments (0)

Scotopic Photo Topic

Debate about the application of color in photography will continue as long as there are photographs. Feature articles on the topic pop up with great regularity in the standard photo mags, and online articles and debates rage endlessly. My local bookstore carries at least two magazines, B&W and Black and White Photography, dedicated entirely to one camp (and yes, Benetton's advertising rag Colors, too).

The language of these debates is often laughably inflammatory, raging from "anyone shooting B&W today is morally suspect" to "B/W is the true photographer's medium." It's right up there with declarations like "film is dead" (and has been for many years, or so I've often been told in one well-meaning lecture after another since at least the early 90's) or "digital is just craftsmanship, photography [with silver wet processes] is art."

Can somebody open a window in here? Phew!

There have been both monochrome and colored images since the days of cave painting. Raphael and Durer worked in both. This long history suggests to me that both kinds of image have merits that are embedded deeply in human development and the way our brains function.

While it's common knowledge that humans have greater color discrimination than, say, cats or dogs, color vision is evolutionarily very old — and probably developed for the sake of identifying food. At a very primitive level, animals can identify organic compounds by simply filtering UV — more recently, our tree-dwelling ancestors used complex color vision to identify which berries were sweetest (the "L" photoreceptors in our eyes, which detect red, are a late evolutionary addition). Color vision also plays a role in sexual selection and community wellbeing, providing animals (especially furless ones like humans) quick reference to the health and potential fecundity of available mates.

Advertisers have recognized the appeal of food and sex for a long time, and it was the desire for color advertising that drove color printing into magazines and then newspapers. It's hard to competetively market mac & cheese or lipstick without color, if your competitors are using it. And nothing sells cars or liquor like a pretty, clear-skinned girl.

Our eyes, unlike our cameras and printing presses, have two overlapping vision systems. We have scotopic vision, provided by the rod cells (which don't distinguish color but work well in low light) and photopic vision provided by cone cells (which show color but need a lot of light). The centers of our eyes (the fovea) are dominated by color cells, but the eye as a whole is heavily dominated by monochrome rods.

Significantly, our eyes don't only have two different classes of cells for detecting colored or panchromatic light — those different cells are actually wired-into the optic nerves and the brain in very different ways. The monochromatic rods pass their signals to the visual cortex quickly, with a minimum of filtering. This is to be expected for quick response, since the rods dominate our peripheral vision and are key to our ability to navigate through the world and react to objects (read: predators) approaching from the sides.

Color cells connect in groups to local processing cells, comparing the inputs of the various red, green, and blue-sensitive cones. These processors then route their information further, to cells near the center of the eye, which process yet further and only then pass their information upstream to the cortex. Their inputs are more-considered, but also slower. The red and green cells are sometimes confused, resulting in variations and color blindness — the blue cells are scattered less-frequently, and shift in focus and apparent detail against red and green (useful to designers for creating some dimensional effects in art, such as the notion that reds pull "forward" from the page, while blues "recede").

The more we look at human color vision, the more we realize that it varies considerably from what occurs in CCDs or color films.

In short, what many accept so readily as "real" from color photography is every bit as much an abstraction as what we see in B&W. Not only that, but our brains actually experience the two kinds of images in different ways, and at different speeds; along different neural pathways; and with different primordial connections. Both kinds of vision have function, both have their own character. And barring injury to our brains and eyes, we're stuck with both kinds of images, as long as we and our audiences remain human.

To borrow from Matthew Alpern: "the real business of primate vision is the discrimination of features or objects based on their location; color vision is just a hobby."

Posted July 20, 2003 | Comments (2)


Six rolls of Delta 400, Xtol 1+1@20C, 11.5 mins. Very little PhotoFlo, very short wash, squeegee'd and almost every frame seems dustless. What had I been thinking?

Couple of rolls of Velvia and some 6x6 E100S for good measure.

For the past couple of months now, I've been collecting images for a project that I've not even mentioned in this log. A blog is simply a poor mechanism for working on something large, if the author has a desire to build something wth structure and scope. Imagine a composer posting a few randomly-chosen bars from a musical piece, different each day. Pointless.

Posted July 17, 2003 | Comments (0)

Motor Drive

Three rolls TMax100, 9.5 mins Xtol 1+1. Less-diluted wetting agent, no squeegee on drying.... Ugh! This was the worst idea. Following Kodak's Photo-Flo instructions has resulted in the dirtiest, chem-stained negatives ever. Pec-12 hardly marks a dent in this schmutz. Didn't solve the original staining problem, either.

The past two or three weeks have been motor-driven to an astonishing degree. So far to go, yet so little looking at anything. Tonight was the first time in those weeks that I've had opportunity or energy to do any processing, between the furious preparations for the Siggraph, CEDEC, and Virtual Storytelling conferences and endless driving, driving, and driving back and forth to a parking lot 200 miles away. Lovely mountains, but views that are wasted with both hands on the wheel, on a tight schedule, tired and distracted under the brutally direct midday sun.

Rather than photograph, I made myself some notes for future photos. And made a few shots — mostly 6x6 slides, trying to finish-off my supply of E100VS.

Posted July 11, 2003 | Comments (1)


It's Streetphoto Salon day once more, today's theme: Duplicity.

Scanning the last round of negatives, I can see that the heavy filtration has worked, but only to a degree. On a couple of rolls the dirt is almost eliminated, but there are still occasional cabbage-shaped patches that look like hard water stains. Maybe not enough wetting agent on the final rinse?

Very busy these past few days — still almost a dozen rolls in the "unprocessed, pending" box.

Posted July 07, 2003 | Comments (1)

Talking Story

Nothing Hawaiian this time: I'll be giving a keynote lecture at the 2nd International Conference on Virtual Storytelling in Toulouse, France.

The conference is neatly-tucked between November Comdex and the Thanksgiving holiday...

Posted July 01, 2003 | Comments (0)


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