Old saw: When critics gather, they discuss art. When painters gather, they discuss turpentine.
Technical discussions are the inevitable evil of photography. Partly because they function easily as words — one can talk at length about pixels, Permawash, bromoil, MTFs, market share. Simple, quantifiable, explicit. It’s very difficult to talk about the balance of a photo, or why you prefer the print that’s a half-stop brighter, or the slight variation in poignance that differentiates two portraits in an otherwise largely-identical series. These are attributes of what Nabokov defined as “sensual thinking” — art.
That disclaimer made, here are some thoughts about exposure:
The “roll-lessness” of digital cameras is totally messing with my filing system, which up into the last couple of years had been roll-based. Each roll tagged by date. In general, this also corresponded loosely with subjects, locations, and projects.
Now, the camera software splits everything into days. On a busy day that can mean hundreds of photos in the same directory, where before I could be confident know it was unlikely that there’d be more than 40. Add CDs to the equation and it’s clear the old system will have to go. What I haven’t settled on is a replacement.
I was reading a recent ArtForum article about moblog photos, and the reviewer hit upon a key word: inessential. Photos that run counter to the notion of “a perfect flower,” they are just: “a flower.”
They don’t contend to any special uniqueness or meaningful significance. They’re just tonight’s dinner, or the cat. They’re even less momentous than old snapshots — at least old snapshots were made on someone’s birthday or on the family’s Grand Canyon roadtrip. Moblog photos tend to be somewhere even less worthy of inspection, between snapshots and the dull gray eye of a security camera. And there’s a lot of them.
Finally replaced the battery for my G1 yesterday morning — once again able to run more than three or four shots before it poops out. Ran a couple of hundred frames through it since then.
Picking through the World Press Photo 2002 book, I realized: despite a ton of assurances that journalism has gone digital in a deep deep way, you might not know it looking at this “best-of-the-best” collection. What I was surprised at was the persistence, if not of film itself (hard to say for professional gear these days, really), but of Black and White Photography.
Six rolls of Delta 400 @ ISO 800, Xtol 1+1 15:30. Three rolls of TMax 100, Xtol 1+1 9:30. One roll Fortepan 400, Rodinal 1+25 7:30. One roll Acros, Rodinal 1+25 7 minutes. Everything at 20°C, everything spot on. Rodinal and Acros — snappy! Funny that I couldn’t find a recommended time until I checked with fujifilm.de…
After running a bit of Rodinal a few days ago, I’m all enamoured with it again, after a long hiatus. The Acros was particularly impressive for the short range and high contrast that the combination delivers, but the TriX had a look that’s also hard for any other combo to beat — even with digital hackery.
Scanning all the negs as soon as they’re dry has both good and bad aspects. The good ones are that if I’m happy with the Photoshopable result, I can be churning out 8×10’s in less than an hour, or blasting them off via the net to all parts worldwide. The biggest downside is storage.
Before I started scanning regularly, I would always make a contact sheet, and store the contacts in three-ring binders. I’d page through them regularly, looking for photos I might have not been interested in one upon a time.
Photoshop can make what it calls “contact sheets,” but they are a very poor substitute for a real, silver-paper contact proof. They just don’t carry anywhere near the detail of the old-style contact, making photo assesment for the sheet near-impossible.
Yeah, sure, you could open all the original scans — but that doesn’t let you see a whole roll at a time, and it takes forever to load all those photos. It’s even worse when the scans have been archived to CD or DVD. I’ve tried slideshows, Extensis Pro, Powerpoint, browsers of all kinds… I’m just about ready to go buy a big honkin’ box of 8½×11 photo paper and start getting my fingers full of fixer small, making contact sheets for these scanned rolls in bulk.
If anyone has a better idea for how to manage the digital “contact problem,” please let me know.