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Wednesday, 19 December 2007


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Ken T. wrote: "Take the time to learn your tools. Take the time to learn through experimentation with your images."

So true.

As an "expert" advisor on particular professional software (non-photo) I m constantly amazed by the number of people who expect ready-made answers to everything. No ever seems bothered to play around and see what it does.
The only reason I got to being an "expert" was by making lots of mistakes and a few good hits.

I apply the same philosophy to my photography. I glean a few gems on objectives from my reading then play with the tools to figure out ways to get what I want.

Every time a technique becomes routine I go off looking for a new one.

My lighting instructor at photography school, who later became my son's grandfather, once told me that the hardest part of teaching lighting was to get people to simply look at the light. He said that everybody wanted charts and diagrams and ratios and so forth, but nobody wanted to just move the lights around while looking at the subject to see what the effect was. He said that even when he told people to do this, they sometimes still wouldn't.

That really stuck with me!

Mike J.

I really like Michael Freeman's books, although I haven't yet read the one on B&W. An important thing to note is that the ones published be Lark Press suffer from very poor copyediting, which is unfortunate given the quality of the content. Also, much of the really interesting and practical advice is dispensed in the fine-print photo captions rather than in the main text.

Like you, the Ansel Adams books were where I learned technique, reading very little else when I started back in the early 80's. In fact, I don't remember reading anything else and I have no books in my collection from then other than the Ansel Adams ones.

More recently, George Schaub's "The B&W Digital Darkroom" proved useful as I began using digital capture to artistic ends. In general, I will forever be indebted to George DeWolfe for "Fine Print Workshop" as it played a role in creating my current style. Vincent Versace's "Welcome to Oz" is now percolating though, but will take some time to incorporate. I think that all three of these books are in the intermediate to advanced category, going beyond how to why.

I'll recommend the new edition of _Light: Science and Magic by Hunter, Biver, and Fuqua_ just out this year. They've updated the photos from earlier versions and have addressed some digital issues while keeping the book focused almost entirely on concepts that apply equally to film and digital photography, and that are arguably more important than all the discussion we have about lenses, cameras, film, developers, scanners, printers, fine printing techniques, and so on.

Back to your many hours in the darkroom: there is no substitute for making a lot of prints to see how to make good prints. I suspect that many people believe that they can read the books and do it all on the screen, with great prints rolling out of the printer. Just as you invested a lot of hours and a lot of material costs in the darkroom world, you need to do the same in the digital world.

If someone has read a few of the technical books, perhaps it is time to recommend that they shift their reading to photography books, rather than books about making photographs. Combine that with trying things in Photoshop, printing them out, and trying something else. Do that for 500 prints and then see if you are making better prints.

While it isn't a book I can recommend Reichmann and Schewe's 6.5 hour video: From Camera to Print. I picked up a lot from that video and have watched parts of it repeatedly. That video certainly changed my workflow and got me started on soft proofing.

I've been avoiding Steinmueller's eBook since the blurbs and chapter headings make it appear to be relentlessly Epson specific. And I don't have an Epson printer.

I am going to pick up the new Real World Camera Raw..

I find it somewhat telling that Ansel Adams' original set was titled the "Ansel Adams Basic Photo Series". Somewhere along the way the "basic" got dropped and the "New Ansel Adams Photography Series" would now be considered advanced reading.

I think ultimately though the best sources of information on current procedures is to be found on the 'net, backed up by your own tireless experimentation. The brief of most books is be a one stop shop for anything remotely connected to the subject, and this breezy approach just dilutes the message. There also seems to be an underlying desire by many to think the topic is simple and expect a few chapters to tell them all they need to know. Maybe the author doesn't know much more than you anyway. Printer manufacturers also seem unwilling to own up to the fact that to create digital B&W prints of the highest calibre (on third-party papers) you need to use a (separate) spectrophotometer (or at least a reflective densitometer).

I don't have an Epson 3800 but I highly recommend the articles below:


This "basic" approach of selecting a media type, playing with driver settings then adding a final linearization will get you most of the way there. It's a pity Diallo in how many hundred pages couldn't see fit to provide this information.

Comment on MJ's PS:
"Masterpiece" is often misused. In a non-guild world, its definition must be somewhat different that the original, but still shouldn't be used to refer to an artist's or craftsman's best work. It is, more properly, the work that first defines that artist/craftsman as a master of his craft.

Oh, the heck with it! I ordered the Amadou book through the TOP link anyway. I've been printing with an Epson R2400 for over a year. I think I'm doing pretty well but if nothing else, perhaps the book will confirm what I'm doing. Or not. I also ordered "Women Who Think Too Much" for my spouse, but that's another story.

Hello Mike/TOP readers,

One wonderful B&W photography book is missing in the list:
Tony Worobiec and Ray Spence's 'Black and white photography in the digital age'.

Check it out if you can.

I can speak to the usefulness of the first Beardsworth book. It passes the burn/dodge test. (What's the best method of digitally burning and dodging? Wrong: use the burn/dodge tool. Right: paint on an overlay layer.) It lacks some more advanced topics, such as edge sharpening (apparently because the publisher insisted on slimming it down); these may be covered in the "Advanced" title.

Personal preferences in a good digital B&W book: not Adobe- or Epson-centric; avoids coverage of gimmicky effects or "digital art"; a focus on replicating or at least starting from traditional techniques; some aesthetic discussion; inspiring photos instead of just illustrative examples; sufficient depth of topic to avoid simply repeating nine-tenths of most other books. I know, dream on...

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