David Vestal on Printing

Camerashy

Member
Registered User
This discussion has moved quite a long way from the original post which I interpreted as asking, what are our thoughts on over-worked prints. Personally I don't like to see prints with obvious signs of dodging or burning or excessive toning that are a step too far away from reality. I don't like muddy flat prints, but for me sometimes high contrast prints occasionally work. If we all had the same opinion and tastes for me at least photography would be very boring.
 

David M

Well-Known Member
Registered User
We have certainly rambled. But we were debating the styles of printing that we impute to Camera Clubs, where digital cunning and ingenious modifications may be more highly prized. (In fact, literally given prizes.)
Perhaps it's tricky to define an overworked print.
Top of the list of imposed unreality is, of course, the later versions of Moonrise. The tonal relationship between sky and foreground is entirely reversed and huge areas are burned to extinction.
This may be irrelevant. I believe you quoted "...show no effort" rather than "...used much effort." I'm inferring that it's the visibility that you don't like. Might there be a distinction between clumsily executed manipulation (badly burned sky perhaps) and over-the-top effects, however competently executed?
HDR is my own least favourite look, but long-exposed Velvia comes a close second.

Ian: Yes, they are clubs, like tennis clubs. We don't castigate tennis players for emulating Novak Djocovic or the Williams sisters.
 

David M

Well-Known Member
Registered User
May ask for help.
Halfway through this thread, one member found something offensive and said so. Then another member said that he was "getting a feeling" for where the first member was coming from. He had expected that we would be more "cordial".
I've re-read the whole thread and I'm baffled.
I can see different points of view, but no lack of cordiality. I look with English eyes of course.
Are there some forms of words that are innocent over here and offensive in the USA? I ask because, as much as lieth in me, I'd like to live peaceably with all men.
 

thronobulax

Member
Registered User
You're what's wrong about this type of photography - a self important ass.

I thought then- and think now that this - while not particularly offensive - is mean spirited and inappropriate (and said so). We can have vigorous debate about our ideas with resorting to personal ad hominem attacks.

I was raised to respect people with whom I disagreed and expect the same in return. Would that the larger population observed this as well.

(And I am old enough to not remotely qualify as a millennial snowflake ...)
 

David M

Well-Known Member
Registered User
It is the ad hominem part that concerns me most, but for myself, I don't want to see words that we would probably not use in front of our grandmothers, either.
I still can't see what triggered it all.
 

thronobulax

Member
Registered User
It is the ad hominem part that concerns me most, but for myself, I don't want to see words that we would probably not use in front of our grandmothers, either.
I still can't see what triggered it all.
For me, it wasn't the words that triggered the response. It was the spirit and tone that was the problem.
 

Ian Grant

Well-Known Member
Registered User
Well despite their posts I remained cordial. I thought they took offence because I pointed out that Antony's posts about Vestal and also Fred Picker needed some context, neither have had work published or exhibited in the UK and predate the Internet, and Fred Picker's Zone VI products were never exported to Europe.

Only a few older UK photographers here who read some of the US magazines where Vestal & Picker had articles, and Zone VI advertised, wwould know who they were. Vestal was a better writer than his photographs portray, but to me they are as anti the traditions of AA, Minor White, the Weston, and others, as the later New Topographers.

The way iread the quote -
I prefer prints that show no effort to those that trumpet "difficult!" or "masterpiece!" at the viewer. Those are distractions. They are also good for sales to collectors - one reason for me to stay out of the print business. Many dealers, collectors, curators, and other dilettantes have a weakness for spectacular prints and can't see good prints that aren't noisy. If I worked to please them, I'd be falsifying and my work would be no good.

What you decide to do is up to you, of course; but anxiety to shine is a trap that catches too many talented people and leads them to accomplish less than they might. You deserve to be warned of this.*


Antony then mentioned Fay Godwin, she had a a quiet mastery of technique, as there is with John Blakemore, John Davies etc.

I agree with @David M about the unrealism of some of AA images (it's only a few) Half Dome for instance with it's over-use of a red filter, and to me that's what Vestal is alluing to Moonrise as well.

Vestal is talking about technique not getting in the way of image making. @David M and @Alan Clark have both seen how John Blakemore works and like myself will have seen how simply he explains using the Zone System practically and how quickly people pick it up from him. I taught myself the ZS from AA's The Negative, and then that was re-inforced by a workshop with Peter Cattrel who's technique is.was the same as John Blakemore and also Fay Godwin.

Some make the Zone System mystical, others over technical, but in reality it's a technique taht goes back to the early days of photography - Expose for the shadows and Develop for the Highlight. All the Zone System does is allow fast meter readings to determing if you need to make chaes to exposure via EI and development time. It doesn't get in the way of image making

I think you have to see and compare the work of John Blakeore, John Davies, Thomas Joshua Cooper, Linda O'Connor, Olivia Parker, and Minor White, they all move on from the way Ansel Adams worked.

In musical term you can copy or move on, Gary Moore covered Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac sons note perfec and added nothing of himself and I found that a faining in a superb guitarist (I saw him live in Skid Row and Colessium 2), where as John Lee Hooker took Jimi Hendrix's Red House back to it's raw African roots with his ow excellent interpretation, there's plento of other examples but maybe the best is Ewan McColl - The First Time I Saw Her Face, written for Peggy Seeger, compare the original to the Whitney Houston version. It's similar to the way AA used the ZS to a more polished mastery of John Blakemore.

My point is we learn from our own and others experiences, so Antony claiming I was calling Ansel Adams a hack is to misunderstand that with some years of evolution and experience people like John Blakemore are using the Zone Systyem in ways Ansel Adams etc could not have imagined, building on a their legacy from the past.

I have to add that I was very fortunate to buy a copy of John Blakemore's book "Photographs 1955 - 2010" published by Dewi Lewis, it's superbly printed, I think it's still available at £75 + postage etc, mine's second hand but mint. I'm also lucky to have bought a couple of Blakemore's prints and he sent me a small one as a Christmas gift a few years ago.

Where Antony fell down was his lack of ability to go check for himself, and his lack of openess.

Ian
 

Sal Santamaura

Member
Registered User
...the unrealism of some of AA images (it's only a few) Half Dome for instance with it's over-use of a red filter...
First, Ian, best wishes to you and your wife for a positive outcome.

About "Monolith," I'm not so sure the black sky (in a monochrome image) is unrealistic. The depth of blue one encounters at high elevations in the American West, especially looking upward, is quite extreme.

Beyond that, I'll not wade into the unfortunate contentiousness that surfaced in this thread. :)
 

David M

Well-Known Member
Registered User
Well, AA describes how he realised that a simple transcription (or a translation) wouldn’t quite give his sense of being there. He,and we, also know that film and our retinas respond to blue light in different ways. In that sense, it can be seen as an attempt at a kind of meta-realistic representation, rather than manipulation. We might say that he’s merely moved from silver’s perception to human perception. I’ve seen similar things done to show how a bee perceives flowers.
In think I’m assuming here that anything that happens in the camera is fine. Clearly, this is simplistic. All kinds of things may happen in camera, but in this case, we’re not contemplating starburst filters and the like.
On the other hand, a even moderately experienced photographer can’t help the thought “...red filter?” crossing their mind when they see Monolith.
[Digital cameras offer so many in-camera bells and whistles that this issue is now very blurred. I’m confining my comments here to film.]
If we now look at Moonrise, we see much more than a simple “wavelength” correction. It is very extensively altered. On the other hand, it does convey the effect, as you say, of a very deep blue sky. It does look, as AA says “...very remarkable...”
Do we object? Not me. The scene is the flour and water and the print is the loaf.
 

Sal Santamaura

Member
Registered User
...We might say that he’s merely moved from silver’s perception to human perception...
From the glass plate he was using's perception to human and a linear-responding digital camera's perception. :) Attached is an image just grabbed off the Yosemite Badger Pass ski area's Web cam. The right side of that sky looks awfully dark blue, don't you think? Even considering the bright snow causing a likely averaging meter to close the aperture a bit.yosemite-ski.jpg
 

David M

Well-Known Member
Registered User
Yes, that’s pretty dark. And it has those whispy clouds too. Prussian blue rather than sky blue, perhaps?
Many thanks.
 

thronobulax

Member
Registered User
I'd make the observation that art of any kind is a constructive process. We don't "take" pictures, we make them and in so doing apply an interpretive filter to the reality observed. (This is rather different than, say, photojournalism which - at least in theory, but much less so recently - is supposed to be recording events as news.) So maintaining fidelity to nature's range and expression of light has never been my goal. I suspect the same was the case for AA, Weston, Man Ray, and a host of other fine photographic artists.

As to digital and its many doodads... As tools change, the art involved also begins to change. I worked in a recording studio around the time synths started to become popular. After the initial release Walter Carlos' "Switched On Bach", the music world was all gaga for this new toy. Hours of horrible, overproduced, uninteresting synthesized dreck ensued.

As synths got better, we heard all the usual, "This will replace musicians and their silly acoustic instruments" tropes. Well, synths didn't replace fine musicians and they certainly didn't put Steinway out of business. What happened, and what is now happening in digital photography, is that the new technology lowered the barriers to entry and an entirely new artform came into being. Very few young musicians have the money (or space) for a Steinway concert grand piano. Almost all of them could afford a sampling synth.

Digital photography is related to Silver photography the way Silver photography is related to Oil painting. They are cousins, but they are distinct in their aesthetic, practice, and application. Just like in the early synth era, digital photography is causing all manner of horrid dreck to be produced. Why? Because people are experimenting. Because excellence is difficult in any art form.

In my view, the biggest mistake Silver photographers make is trying to directly translate their Silver vision into a Digital vision. They two media are very, very different and require different ways of seeing things. (Personally, I find Digital's aesthetic to have far more in common with Ektachrome than any monochrome Silver practice.) At least this is true for digital capture. But even scanning negatives, I find it difficult to exactly mimic the split VC printing techniques that are now deeply wired into my soul.

My only complaint is that in democratizing access to these artforms, we are seeing a steady dumbing down of art into simpler- and more reductionist expressions. There is simply no question that form the 19th- to the 20th- and now the 21st centuries, music is getting simpler and simpler, and - in my view - far less interesting. Ditto other kinds of art. It's a broadly felt disease in almost the entire culture. I routinely see spelling and grammar failures in the newspaper, for example. Ah well, it's time to get back on the porch with my shotgun and yell at the kids to stay off my lawn ...
 

David M

Well-Known Member
Registered User
Oops! Pressed “post” too soon.
Once upon a time art and making were the same. Leonardo was a painter - an artisan, along with goldsmiths and architects - and the arts were poetry and music. Somehow, art has become Art and is the worse for it.
We can hardly doubt that making the tools available to more people means that more rubbish - “dreck” - is produced. Witness the influence of the aerosol can.
Writing is another case (or perhaps I mean literacy).
Writing was invented to make laundry lists and invoices. As we know, it’s expanded greatly. To be illiterate was once normal, but today it’s to be crippled. We still make laundry lists, but we now have a torrent of other writing. No longer the elegance of hieroglyphics or the Book of Kells, but would we want to go backward?
On the whole human talents probably remain much the same, so we’d expect any expansion to produce more of everything, including more rubbish. Our problem today, I suggest, is not that there’s a larger proportion of chaff, but that there is just so much more.chaff everywhere.

We haven’t mentioned the influence of collecting. I’ve heard it suggested that photography became Art when the supply of affordable minor Impressionists began to dry up. There may be something in it.

Apologies for the rambling; I haven’t had my coffee yet.
 
Last edited:

thronobulax

Member
Registered User
I stipulate that with more people "doing art" broadly spoken, there will be more garbage. This is especially true when the marginal cost of distributing said garbage is zero.

But I still think the overall arc of complexity is downward at a precipitous pace. The two most popular musical acts of the 20th Century were Elvis and the Beatles - neither one of whom produced music that is complex or particularly interesting outside its own immediate context. Both will be relegated to the dustbin of history sooner rather than later. (Witness that the Beatles are already played in elevators.)

Yet, less than 300 years a go - a blink in human history - Madrigals were being written and sung that remain fresh and interesting to this modern day. Frankly, your average sea shanty has more going on than anything in current pop music.

Rinse, repeat in all the arts, writing, publishing, and pop culture. With the internet to fill, yes, more trash is produced. But even the "good" seems less rich, complex, nuanced, or satisfying. Methinks we've embraced the fast food ethos in pretty much everything...
 

David M

Well-Known Member
Registered User
Times change; swings and roundabouts persist.
Let's remember that when Bach's employers couldn't get the man they wanted the decided to "take do with a nonentity." And of course, even he went through period of neglect.
They play Vivaldi in lifts too. That puts the Beatles in fairly good company.

I can't disagree at all, that there's a great deal of dross today. Wasn't this always the case? Our own problem is that we can now produce so much of everything that we cannot see even a small fraction of what's being done. As a small current example, consider how US members of this forum seem unacquainted with many British photographers. I assume that it's much the same everywhere – Japanese photographers unaware of what's being done in Palestine, perhaps or Palestinians knowing nothing of the Belgians or Icelanders.

My guess would be that you're over twenty-one, sir. Time has two effects, one of which need not detain us. In the long run however, over several generations, the chaff is blown away and the grain remains. There is an additional effect; our appreciation changes too. We value different things. Consider how tombs were looted for the gold and the other treasures discarded. Closer to home, until recently historic negatives had no value at all.

By coincidence, I've just heard a radio programme about Dub music. Not my cup of tea at all, or my glass of water, but I was astonished at how complex its production is. I simply don't have the right ears to appreciate it.

You will see that I am commending optimism. Very qualified optimism, to be sure. All we can know about the future is that it will be different, and that the difference won't be what we expect. Some of it must be better.
 
Last edited:

Ian Grant

Well-Known Member
Registered User
In my view, the biggest mistake Silver photographers make is trying to directly translate their Silver vision into a Digital vision. They two media are very, very different and require different ways of seeing things. (Personally, I find Digital's aesthetic to have far more in common with Ektachrome than any monochrome Silver practice.) At least this is true for digital capture. But even scanning negatives, I find it difficult to exactly mimic the split VC printing techniques that are now deeply wired into my soul.
What is Digital vision ? I actually think that Digital has more in common with conventional monochrome Silver based photography than Ektachome or in my case Fujichrome.

Here's why, with E6 films there's no room to adjust contrast, no latitude in exposure, whereas with Digital colour or B&W you have similar controls to conventional B&W darkroom techniques. C41 and RA-4 offered slight advantages as there was a chpice of films and papers allowing slight contrast chages and more exposure latitude.

Perhaps what you really mean is previsualising or composing differently for B&W and Colour, I've shot B&W film alongside Digital for at least 20 years and don't think differently, althought I accept there may be the odd shot that would work in colour but not so well in B&W.

I worked photographing rock/reggae musicians for decades live and on location or studio, essentially the same core key people & eventually joining the record company. B&W wasn't an issue but colour (E6) was, particularly when the specialist push process Kodak and Fuji films disappeared and moving to digital solved all the hassles and issues and gave higher quality results. There was a point I think 2005/6 where I was shooting 3 nights a week sometimes at two different venues a night and with one sometimes two assistants as I was also shooting video.

Maybe that's just me but I don;t think differently :D

Ian.
 

thronobulax

Member
Registered User
What is Digital vision ? I actually think that Digital has more in common with conventional monochrome Silver based photography than Ektachome or in my case Fujichrome.

Here's why, with E6 films there's no room to adjust contrast, no latitude in exposure, whereas with Digital colour or B&W you have similar controls to conventional B&W darkroom techniques. C41 and RA-4 offered slight advantages as there was a chpice of films and papers allowing slight contrast chages and more exposure latitude.

Perhaps what you really mean is previsualising or composing differently for B&W and Colour, I've shot B&W film alongside Digital for at least 20 years and don't think differently, althought I accept there may be the odd shot that would work in colour but not so well in B&W.

I worked photographing rock/reggae musicians for decades live and on location or studio, essentially the same core key people & eventually joining the record company. B&W wasn't an issue but colour (E6) was, particularly when the specialist push process Kodak and Fuji films disappeared and moving to digital solved all the hassles and issues and gave higher quality results. There was a point I think 2005/6 where I was shooting 3 nights a week sometimes at two different venues a night and with one sometimes two assistants as I was also shooting video.

Maybe that's just me but I don;t think differently :D

Ian.
This may be highly subject matter dependent. I'm one of those rocks/trees/abstracts shooters and - for me at least - I have to think about them very differently in monochrome than I do colour.

Great minds think differently :)
 

David M

Well-Known Member
Registered User
I’ve only known one person who was at ease shooting colour and monochrome at the same time. I’ve never been able to do it. We are looking for different things. A red object on a green background might be vivid in colour and a uniform grey in monochrome. Apologies for the elementary example.
Should we consider the mental attitude that is engendered by different image-capturing devices? A digital camera makes us notoriously profligate with exposures. Transparency film makes us very cautious about exposure. Large format, even more so. Perhaps the biggest modifier of attitude is not the camera, but the tripod.
The experienced photographer will always be aware of the next step: a quick download, followed by hours of scrutiny and selection; separation into plus-, minus- and normal piles; packing and sending to a lab; posting to Instagram.
How much does this influence us in the field?
 
Top