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Wednesday, 29 August 2007

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Good for you Carl. Carl is one of my favorite photographers, I love his work,I check his blog everyday.He has been very helpful to me. In return, I am trying to talk him into taking some Photoshop classes so he can get rid of those pesky power lines.:)E

Congrats to Carl! I really like these pictures. Reminds me of Mr. Evans, but taken at an angle instead of straight-on. :-)

I have no idea what the prints look like, but the web images look way too high key/washed out to me. Central point of the tonal range off and much highlight detail lost to view by compression up at the top.

As my interest is more photographic than in the subject itself, a site with tiny, washed-out images would simply not attract my attention.

As Ernest said, some PS training, or the help of a collaborator to prepare the web images, would help the web presentation.

Were they my images, this is roughly what they would look like on the web. I say roughly because the effects would be more subtle, working with bigger originals.

http://www.moosemystic.net/Gallery/Others/TOP/weesecentralia_17small.htm
http://www.moosemystic.net/Gallery/Others/TOP/weesetharptownsmall.htm

Yes, my screen is calibrated, using Monaco OptixXR Pro.

Moose

Power lines in the sky are a feature of coal mining communities, where everything below ground generally belongs to the coal owner company.

Wayleaves for burying cables and pipes were difficult to obtain, and the subsequent expense involved in surface disturbance, coupled with the possible mineral rights violations, means that to this day, electricity, telephones, it all comes in overhead. 240 volts enters my house just above the back door from a telegraph pole down the yard. Scary, I know.

(Properties are leasehold for the same reason.)

If the photographs are a documentary, for the sake of verite, might it be better to leave those power lines in?

This looks like a very good body of work, Carl. I would wish you luck but I don't think you'll need it. I don't know how Scrantonites will receive this work but I suspect it would do well elsewhere in the country and the world.

Go get 'em, Carl!

Note to Moose. Showing images from large-format, especially those destined for platinum, on the web is a waste of time. This from personal experience. I suggest making the effort to view the prints personally. From what I've seen of Carl's large-format work (though only in print) and others working in the medium (on the wall) your efforts will be rewarded.

Brendadada,

Thanks for those details about the power lines. In some of the Centralia pictures you see the cut-off leads that used to go to the missing houses. It reminds you that the lots weren't always empty. I live in a rural area where overhead lines are the norm so I hadn't picked up on the mineral rights connection forcing overhead utilities.

One of the Centralia controversies, put forward by those who refuse to leave, concerns mineral rights, or lack of them. There is a deposit of high quality anthracite directly below the site, and one contention is that evacuating the town will eventually allow coal interests to obtain mineral rights without having to pay anyone. The state maintains evacuation is required purely for health and safety.

BTW, Ernest is kidding about removing the lines from the pictures--it's an old joke between The Pictorialist and The Documentarian.

Thanks to all for the comments.

Washed out? I just see an incredible range of tonality. Beautiful work that I would love to see the prints of Carl. Here's hoping for a great show. Little too far from Chicago but if I was close I'd not miss it.

Beautiful stuff power lines and all.

Note to Moose. The photoshop remark was an attempt at humor. Carl photographs what is in front of him and prints what is on the neg. Brendadada is spot on. I photoshop the dickins out of my images. I was kinda referencing back to previous discussions about Honesty In Photography. Carl's web images just give you a hint of the subject matter and presentation. You have to see them in person. Although I have only seen one of his images in person, from a different series, it was gorgeous. E

Moose,
You're right that your representations of Carl's JPEGs (well, at least the first one--your version of the panorama seems overcooked to me) would more closely approximate conventional silver prints. But what Carl's trying to do with these JPEGs is to represent the "feel" of platinum/palladium prints and their digital pigment analogs, which are what are being shown in this show. Platinum prints have NEVER been well served by reproduction of any kind, except possibly skillful gravures--and then only with certain subjects. Even duotones in printed books only show an approximation. The JPEGs might seem "wrong" to you, but they're actually closer to pt./pd. originals than your versions. With pt./pd. (and some would argue to a lesser extent with ALL photographs), you really do have to see the originals before passing judgement.

Mike

Let me add to Mike's comment: I've found that a "pale but all there" JPEG representation of the picture does a better job conveying the feel of my large (or ultra-large) format monochrome work than a snappier, more conventional tonal range. There's also the problem of scale. Any web-viable presentation of a print that's 32 inches across will fall short anyhow.

The most convincing reproductions of platinum prints I've seen from the printing press are a couple books done from Richard Benson's quad-tone process-camera separations. A master platinum printer *and* a master pressman, Benson can make the translation work. Way better than anything I've seen produced by way of a scanner.

What I have in the show are digital pigment-ink prints. These are not reproductions of earlier Pt/Pd prints. I go back and scan the negative, and then experiment until I have what I think is the best interpretation of the picture I can make in the "new medium" of digital inkjet. Where I've printed the negative before in Pt/Pd, the difference can be fascinating. Digital gets a lot more out of shadows, but falls short compared to Pt/Pd if the picture relies on very closely separated highlight values. Nothing can convey a fog scene like platinum, but I've made digital prints of low-key pictures that are clearly more convincing than Pt/Pd versions. Variety is the spice, and all that...

I've been Googling for some time trying to find advice on scanning B&W prints using a flatbed scanner to generate Jpegs for website use. I use 35mm and medium format only and I do not have a negative scanner. I have done everything I can think off to improve the "web image" but am continually disapointed. I do know that matte or semimatte prints do generate a beter scan than prints with a glossy finish, but other than that I'm stumped.
Reading the comments here I'm hoping someone can steer me in the right direction.

Mike, Carl & others,

I was not trying to pass any judgment of any sort on the actual prints. I am well aware that a good silver print can't really be reproduced in a web image. Although I think it is possible to create an image as photographically "good" in many cases, it will not be the same. And I know others will disagree.

The unique qualities of Pt/Pd would seem to me to be especially impossible to come close to reproducing on the web, no disagreement there.

So if Stephen is right, "Showing images from large-format, especially those destined for platinum, on the web is a waste of time." and the point of the web page is so show the images in a way that will come within miles of the originals, sure; can't be done. Why not just remove the page?

If, however, the point is to direct the attention of those who may find themselves viewing it to either:
1. The documentary information and images of this place and its history
&/or
2. Exhibition attendance and possible sales of prints of these images,

I propose that making the web images as pleasing as possible - within the limitations of that medium, is the way to maximize interest and attention, attendance and sales. Flies, honey, vinegar?

I'm pleased that the responses from Mike, and especially Carl, are thoughtful, not kneejerk. And amused that the exhibition is of inkjet, not the Pt/Pd prints others leaped to defend.

Mike, I have been known to go a little overboard in "cooking" images. Often, I back off later to somewhere in between the original and my first mods. But I value the overboard ones as showing where the limits are and as references points for coming to a final choice. Also, it's really difficult to work with small JPEGs and attain any degree of subtlety. I really wanted to bring some texture/tonal differentiation into the big blank end walls of the church. Something I imagine is all there in the original print, but just a big blob of white dominating the image on the screen.

Carl, "Variety is the spice, and all that..." Exactly! Finding and trying new tools is quite wonderful to me. The more tools I have and learn how to use, the more things I can do and the closer I can come to the visualization I have.

And I hope the Coal Country exhibit is a great success! I'm afraid the closest I'll get is flying over on the way to Maine just after it opens and back from NY the day before it closes. Photo ops from the wilds to the big city.

Moose

Declan, have you considered the possibility that you are trying to do the impossible, or at least, the rather difficult?

Photo print paper has significantly less dynamic range than film. So although a print may look great, it has less tonal information than a decent film scan. And less dynamic range than a computer screen.

It's been awhile, but I'm pretty sure glossy paper has greater dynamic range than matte. Is it possible that your technique with scanner and scanning software isn't as good as it could be? You can't use the defaults and expect the best results; you need to learn the tool.

It's possible to make rather good web images from prints, but it does require some expertise/practice/technique in the use of the tools, including an image editor.

Working from a decent film scan is easier.

Moose

Moose,

The difference isn't so much in making the web images snappy, but a whole different approach to photography. It's a generalization, but small format images (from 35mm, DSLRs etc) work best if they grab you immediately. Perfect for the second or two you're going to devote to looking at them on the web. Large format on the other hand is more of a slow-burn. It takes time to appreciate the detail and depth. These qualities will only show up in the print on the wall, be it an 8x10 contact or an enlargement. Something from small format is manifestly a "photograph", whereas large format images are a slice of the real world ... and have more attendant authority. As records of a time or place they just have more information content. This isn't to say that one is better than the other, just that they have to be viewed (on the wall and in a general sense) as different. All I expect from web images originating from large format is a guide to the subject matter and a rough appraisal of the photographer's compositional skills.

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