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Friday, 10 June 2011


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Please Mike, delete the text about the Don Nelson experiment. Sellers who were not aware of this have made it possible for knowledgeable people to buy lenses in perfect working order for very little money. And we want to be able to do so in the future too.

re. flaws and imperfections in your glass, fascinating article below as to how far you can go;

I don't worry any more.

Have a good weekend. phil

OK, I've read over the years that the front outer lens element reduces the size of a piece of dirt or scratch as it passes back to the film or sensor and that the small rear element on the lens would enlarge that same piece of dirt or scratch as it passed back to the film or sensor. I still would be uncomfortable with the cosmetics of the outer element being scratched. So now that I have 7 UV filters on my 7 lenses, more as a protective shield than as a filter for UV rays. Would you say that the miniscule distortion caused by the added outer UV element is not worth the trade-off as a protective element.

Re: Don Nelson test - My sharpest and most flare-resistant lens (a medium-format Zeiss Jena Flektogon 50mm f/4) has a glob of the 1970's multi-coating scratched off, a (Don Ho) tiny bubble in the rear element, and behind the massive front element is a galaxy of silver speckles where the blacking flaked off to who knows where.

What a bargain on eBay for this "lemon."

David Zivic,
A filter can degrade the image in some situations. I've written about it here:


Ironically, the better-quality (and more expensive relative to similar-spec'd competitors) your lens is, the less you need a protective filter...but the more likely you probably are to use one.


Interesting; I hadn't thought this through far enough to note the highlights vs. shadows issue (in my defense, I haven't been planning to stockpile either film or paper; so such thinking is merely recreational for me).

Now, I'm pretty confident I had stocks of paper that lasted well over two years on occasion back when I was running a darkroom. I never noticed any problem. However, I'm more inclined to lower my estimate of how carefully I examined my prints than I am to doubt your statements about paper storage life.

And I absolutely plead guilty to getting all weird about the slightest sign of imperfection in my glass. I need to try the Don Nelson experiment, now that it is (as you say) so easy. Except that the idea of sticking paper to my lens with an adhesive fills me with dread.

And then there is the "toe" of the curve on film. Look at the characteristic curve of any film and you'll see a flat area on the left bottom before it starts to curve upward. That's because film has to receive a certain threshold amount of exposure before it begins to register and curve upward. The miniscule radiation from cosmic rays, etc. would merely shorten the toe slightly, i.e. move the entire curve fractionally to the left.

An interesting aside is that one of the methods for handling a scene with excessive contrast is to "pre-expose" the film to an out-of-focus grey card. Do that to have the grey card register at Zone II or III then reshoot on the same frame at the proper exposure to render the highlights you want. This shortens the toe for the dark areas compressing the tones so that you can record a broader tonal range than you could otherwise. It's a very useful technique and I doubt cosmic rays would amount to even a fraction of such pre-exposure.

Just some thoughts from a white beard (I'm well past the grey stage).

fb+b. Cool. I actually learned something new, although it won't do me any good now. Thanks.

Oops. That's fb+f.

I have a battered 180 f3.4 Leica APO Telyt-R that takes great pictures. Got it on eBay for cheap (less than €200) because the front and rear lenses have slight scratches.

Thanks for letting that secret out of the box: now I won't be able to get bargains any more!


Dear Mike,

I'm rather amused to learn that there were people who took my “Kodak is right but it's not something you likely need to worry about” answer as suggesting that I knew more than Kodak about this. Well, there are some matters where I do know more than Kodak… But this is one of those areas where the information comes from the horse's mouth.

When it comes to the keeping characteristics of films, both exposed and unexposed, there are two things people must keep in mind. The first is that Kodak uses different standards for different classes of customers, with amateur photographers being accepting of the loosest standards, professional photographers demanding higher standards, and cinematographers demanding the very highest standards. This has, in the past, caused confusion among customers. It took Kodak many years, for example, to stamp out the mistaken notion that their professional films were less stable at room temperature than their amateur films (I'm not sure they have entirely succeeded, yet). The professional films were just as stable, both before and after exposure, in some cases even more than the amateur films. Kodak was simply acknowledging that professionals are much fussier about the results.

The other important point is that Kodak has no way of controlling how film actually gets used and handled once it leaves their premises, so they try to plan for the worst plausible case. It's one of those “your mileage may differ” situations, and they base their standards on the worst mileage they can think of, short of outright abuse. They would much rather have customers who acted too cautiously and conservatively and were happy with their photographs than more casual ... and dissatisfied ... customers.

And, as I said, that's Kodak speaking, not me.

On the specific matter of radiation fogging, it presents one problem with film that thermal fogging doesn't. Thermal fogging is like a gentle rain that excites an electron here and there, and every so often enough silver ions come together to form a minimal latent image site in the emulsion. Ionizing radiation is capable of kicking out a whole bunch of electrons at once. Sometimes you end up with a minimal latent image site, sometimes you end up with a honking big one. Thermal fog looks like fine sand; radiation fog can look like fine sand, mixed with pebbles and bigger rocks. This is one of the reasons why radiation fogging contributes to the graininess of film. It's also why restrainers and anti-fog agents will only work up to a point; they can't do anything about those marble-sized-and-bigger fog grains.

In my limited experience, anti-fog agents work well with B&W photographic paper, regardless of the source of fog. If you have to add too much agent you will chop the toe off the characteristic curve, changing the total characteristics of the paper (for the worse). In moderate doses, it's pretty much indistinguishable from fresh paper.

This is another case where your mileage may very well differ. I have not experienced the long-term cold storage problems with darkroom papers that Mike reports, and I have some in my freezers that are more than 15 years old. I'm not seeing any fog, I'm not seeing any obvious change in the printing characteristics. I can't tell you why. Phase of the moon? Good karma? A clean and moral life (well, that one's unlikely)? I have no idea. Obviously there's a lot of variability. Perhaps I'm fortunate enough to be in an especially low-background-radiation environment? I don't know; maybe I should borrow the gamma-ray spectrometer that Howard Davidson and I cobbled together out of spare parts one afternoon (no joke– he has a GREAT closet!) and stick it in the freezer and see what I get.

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

You're welcome, 11 people out there who have actually decided to stockpile film!

While I can understand that anyone printing in a darkroom and attached to particular film would want to ensure supplies going forward, I can't see the reason of doing so before its discontinuation is announced. (It's curious to ponder the message this would send the manufacturer should stockpiling take off.)

For those printing B&W digitally, the best film (in my assessment) on offer today is Ektar 100 ... a colour negative film. It scans well, has grain comparable to the best general-purpose B&W films, and rich colours to aid B&W conversion (better than Portra 400 in this regard). The enormous creative control of doing post-shot filtration in Photoshop should be familiar to anyone shooting digitally for B&W. There's no suggestion that Ektar 100 is likely to disappear anytime soon, hysterical articles on film's demise notwithstanding. It seems to me that Kodak has a better perspective on film's future than their customers.

Ha! as far as lens defects go, just ask anyone who wears glasses! I am stunned at the crap I look through most days, pretty much anything shy of a smudge goes unnoticed.

Many years ago I had to lay on my belly to get the perfect angle while photographing a car race. The ground was dirt with many small rocks and somehow while squirming into a comfortable position the lens hood of my 400mm lens collected a 2 inch wide rock. I shot half the roll before it fell out but I don't remember the pictures being unusable or even being able to tell exactly which frames had the rock and which frames were without.

Graybeards can remember when old or slightly fogged film was thought to be "faster" since it was slightly lower contrast thus more "pushable" and the threshold of exposure in the shadows was lower. Some photographers would even fog the film on purpose.

Graybeards also know that post-its, black paint, and the like are a lot less conspicuous than some scratches especially the so called "light cleaning marks" which is why painting over even big scratches with black paint works so well*. Therefore I don't think a post-it is such a good test. Maybe a piece of frosted cellophane tape would be a better test.

Graybeards also know that bubbles in lens glass used to be a good thing.

Some of the best lenses of some pro photographers I used to assist had dozens of deep gouges in them from getting thrown into the bag without a lens cap and showed no degradation whatsoever.

Disclaimer: I myself have never put a scratch on a lens element that wasn't incidental to totally destroying it by impact or thermal shock, so my only experience is with lenses that were scratched when I got them.

*except for big fast wide angle lenses stopped down and very small formats like 8mm cine film where you are screwed because the stuff will be in focus.

Oh, and I never liked the way anti fog agents looked on prints with old paper, but a little cyanide perked them right up without messing up the shadows.

must have asked some silly question -- can one protect this kind of background radiation.

We are not talking about world war 3 aren't we? Just background radiation and well, from the concrete wall here in the city.

Can we protect it? The films are in a metal box already (a refrigerator/fridge). Is this kind of background radiation of a different type that cannot be protected at the same time it can cause chemical reaction or atomic/sub-atomic effect?

Add some lead sheet over the top ... And do not put your banana there as it may radiate a bit as well :-)

Dear Stephen,

It's pretty much just a psychological consideration. Objectively, there's no compelling win for stocking up in advance vs stocking up at the last moment. Both have their pros and cons.

Consider, though, that for folks who are genuinely concerned about losing film (or, at least, their favorite film) stocking up in advance reduces the uncertainty about their future, which is what's making them fretful. The cost is money laid out now vs later, plus an increased degree of care and maintenance around the craft. For some, this will be a desirable tradeoff.

For others, not so much, but fortunately it's not mandatory.

Point of my column, in the main, was that folks who were worried about the filmic future were not unavoidably at the mercy of the manufacturers; they could take steps to protect themselves.

pax / Ctein

...and yet, wearing this aluminum foil pyramid on my head hasn't seemed to make my current thinking any less foggy?

Au contraire, Crabby Umbo, I have found your thinking to be admirably lucid. Keep wearing that tinfoil pyramid, and never mind the whispers (those are real, by the way).


Thankyou John Camp for the felicitous comment which brought me down to earth concerning the technicalities of photography versus the reasons why we even raise the camera to our eye. I'm more convinced now than ever to shoot and print rather than fret over the future.

Interesting that film now accounts for what, one one hundredth of one percent of the pictures being taken, and yet seems to constitute about half of the discussion here at TOP. Just saying.

What I find unbelievable is the fixation some folks have in stopping film from being used.

What busines is it of yours if I or Ctein or whomever stash away a few thousand rolls so we can continue to enjoy our hobby?

What, you lost all knowledge of how to enjoy film use and therefore everyone else must also?

Dream on!

It's our choice to use whatever we want. If the film gets damaged for whatever reason, then so be it: none of your business.

Although of course I share Ctein's opinion on this, regardless of anyone's interpretation of Kodak's dogma.

Matter of fact, the film I stash is not even Kodak's. And it works fantastically and has been doing so for longer than I can remember.

There. Now, kindly go photoshop something and stop interfering with one's choices for hobby.

When we northern Englishmen wish to concern ourselves about film storage, lens detritus or, indeed, the price of cheese, we have the option to spurn fretting and mither (pronounced m(eye)ther: probably of Welsh origin) instead. As the activity itself is usually the point (rather than the ostensible reason for it), I wonder, Mike, whether you might collect a world-wide stock of colloquialisms from your readership and have them handy for the next time we need to bother ourselves needlessly (yet enjoyably) about a topic that, in the scale of things, is as consequential as a fart in one of those monsters that has been tearing across your Mid-West?

Hi Mike,

I used to say it the way you did, but I was corrected long ago by my two daughters who both speak German. Ich spreche "kein" Deutsch.


I do remember working as an astronomer back in the early 60s, we pre-fogged some Kodak plates, supposedly to make them more sensitive. We also used some exotic developers.
Of course we never printed them, most measured stellar brightness with an iris photometer, but talk about grain the size of "golf balls"...

If you really were worried about cosmic radiation, could you just shield your fridge with lead foil (and also make a hat?)

Thank you John Camp. Well put and hardily agreed with. I once went to a seminar with the very well regarded woodworker Sam Maloof, who sadly is no longer with us. He took the time to patiently answer each question, but when someone asked what kind of pen he used to trace his template I thought he was going to faint. The fact was he could make a beautiful rocker with a Boy Scout knife and a finger nail file, it would just take longer. I believe he was amused by us hacks who thought the reason our stuff didn't look like art was the fault of our tools. He was just too much of a gentleman to say it.

Dave Kee,
I don't know how pertinent that is. I mean, I've always been interested in the work of large format photographers, all through my involvement with photography. Even though I've hardly done any of it myself. And all my lifetime they've been a tiny minority of photographers. I don't see how it matters what "most people" are doing.

Film is still being used by a majority of art photographers. Look at the roster of any top photography gallery and look at what those people are using and you'll see more film users than not. Maybe that's "overhang" from the old era, but who knows.

I'm always going to be interested in film photography, whether I practice it myself or not...or, for that matter, whether *anyone* does. Seriously...if nobody ever took another film picture for the rest of time, I'd still be interested in film photographs for the rest of my life. I can hardly comprehend how anybody who makes any claim at all to love photography could feel any differently.


Stephen Best,
That's an interesting comment. I've been mulling over the notion of shooting some 120 Portra specifically to convert it to B&W digitally. I don't know that it would be a way I'd like to work, but I'd like to try it once.


I have a 50-200 Olympus lens (the old version) which I bought very cheaply. After I bought it, I noticed that it has a couple of scratches on the front element. Here's money thrown away, I thought. But I never, and I mean never, notice any effects on the photos.

On the other hand, David is right about the back element. When I was trying out the PEN, it came with its kit zoom, 14-42*. After a couple of days, I noticed a smudge on the photos. Turns out, a bit of coating flaked off the back element and the flaw created that smudge right in the middle of photos - both very soft and a bit darker than the rest of the image. Got on my nerves something terrible so I stopped using the lens completely.

* I bought just the body with the 4/3->m4/3 adapter and am using it with a couple of manual OM lenses or with some of my regular 4/3 lenses.

Wow, I go on holidays for a week and miss these film posts! I suppose the tech pan in my freezer won't be having too much of these cosmic ray problems... *grin* only thing for me is, being actually bothered to pull that particular film out to use it!


I think Henri Cartier Bresson is quoted as saying "sharpness is a bourgeois concept"


My words exactly. But also in art shooting that is diminishing fast as the capabilities of digital camera's keep improving. In 10 years a normal (that is consumer) priced DSLR will probably outshoot my 108 Mp scans of Velvia 50 and Delta 100 (done on Aztek which cost the amount of a small car 10 years ago and is now in my focus as need to get gadget) at least in detail probably not in tonality (damned an Aztek shure can pull out black if it wants to, no comparison to my v750 or Coolscan). But I guess the 4x5's and 8x10 still demand the attentional and thoughtfull and mindfull proces of shooting and that cannot be replaced. That maticulous attention to detail people like Jeff Wall, Thomas Struth and Gursky display generates art just as well as Henry Cartier Breson's maticulous attention to the moment he presses the shutter in order to capture the "moment decisive". But having said that......I can resort to a pana head and a good stitcher and receive the same (or more) amount of detail.

And to conclude this......what would happen if I were to store the film in one of the 20 lead bags I have (x-ray's are not to kind to emulsions as well). Would or wouldn't that shield of background radiation? Ctein, you are the physisist egghead (bearded though) here.....

Greetings, Ed

But aren't rules of thumb supposed to help you get past the angst?

While perhaps not 'technically' correct, they do distill practical information into an easily remembered (and useful) form.

f/8 and be there.

This talk of sharpness is relevant to me lately for two reasons: First I got bad news last week when I took my D700 into my favorite repair shop for a yearly sensor cleaning and they told me they spotted a scratch on the optical low-pass filter covering the sensor. (I guess my home cleaning methods were either too aggressive or I got unlucky with a sharp piece of dust.)

When I got home I decided to look for the effect of the scratch on my images the same way I check for dust on the sensor: take a photo at f/22, out of focus, on a blank wall. I did see some dust spots, and a slightly darker narrow band, running through 1/4 of the image along one side. On this blurred shot of a blank wall at this extreme f stop, it was faint but visible.

So in reality, the scratch wasn't going to affect my images, especially since I routinely shoot almost wide open. But then I worried it would affect the resale value of the camera.

And actually, a scratch on the sensor was just the excuse I was looking for. I've been tempted for a long time to have the low-pass filter removed and replaced with a sheet of optical glass, identical except for the lack of that intentional blurring that camera manufacturers use to eliminate most moiré problems. Thom Hogan has reported that removing the low-pass filter gives an additional 15% acuity, though of course that depends on the camera model, since manufacturers make different decisions about how aggressively to counteract moiré. Me, I'd much rather trade occasional moiré for additional sharpness in my final prints.

So to keep this long story from getting any longer, I shipped the camera off to a shop in NJ that specializes in this procedure, maxmax.com, and after the surgery, images from my D700 are now actually a bit sharper right out of the camera. I shot a test chart before and after the fix and there's a clear difference at 100% (though I couldn't possibly estimate the percentage of improvement).

I'm sure I won't see any visible difference in much of the work I shoot, and even with finely detailed images, it's hard to know how much of that additional acuity will be visible once images are printed.

But I blew up some landscapes for a show last January, and I was frustrated by the softness of the winter branches against the sky when I got to about 30x45" and bigger. And I'm telling myself that this additional acuity will get me just that much more fine detail in those big blowups, just enough to let me get my nose up against the prints. And it's that thought that helps soften the blow of the $450 it cost to replace the low-pass filter.

Every time I start worrying about the quality of my photographic hardware I get out my copy of Truth Beauty: Pictorialism and the Photograph as Art, 1845-1945. The oldest piece of gear in my bottom drawer is far better than that used to produce these masterpieces.

Related, I purchased the book on Geoff Wittig's recommendation (TOP, February 16, 2009) and see that it is now available on Amazon for $899, "condition used-acceptable." If this is the true value, thanks.

A couple comments, from the perspective of someone who is still on the path from being a completely ignorant idiot to being an incompletely ignorant idiot... First, a lot of the Internet experts don't even understand what sharpness is. They think it's just resolving power. Second, and I think I've commented on this before elsewhere, a reason why resolving power is such a popular criterion on the net is that it's so easy to recognize. Blow the image up to 100% and look for fine detail. Recognizing qualities like tonal rendering or clarity is more of a skill. You have to practice, by looking at some images, before you will start to be able to distinguish a good rendering of tonality from a poor one. Beginners are drawn to the criterion they can recognize themselves. There's nothing wrong with that, so long as they eventually learn to apply the more sophisticated criteria. Unfortunately some people either can't or won't take that additional step.

Re the analogy to eyeglasses: I don't notice when my glasses get filthy. I sure do notice the difference when I clean them, though. And when I got my first set of contact lenses, after having worn glasses for years? Wow. Talk about clarity.

Finally, Mike, thank you from a nerd who has no intention of stockpiling film but who does like to learn about materials and equipment.

Digital camera CCD sensors are not immune to Cosmic Rays either. Some cameras have automatic remapping of the sensor to hide pixel problems, but others do not, for example the Leica M8/M9. Its a costly return to Leica for a remap or even CCD sensor replacement.

MIKE....thank you for the reply and referring me to the Luminous Landscape piece. That is exactly what I wanted to know. I live in Cabo San Lucas and work in the boat business. Exposure to salt water and sand will dictate the filter occasionally. I have an old 200mm Nippon Koguka (Nikkor if purchased in Japan) and will make a note that it's outer element may not be well coated. Speaking of ultimate sharpness, Gordon Lewis seems to use it to his advantage.

thank you John Camp...

Once again I'm getting here late. But I wanted to loudly cheer, "Hear, hear!" to John Camp's mini essay. Thank you, John, for so skillfully and concisely blending several thoughts that have been sloshing in my mind for years.

Sharpness -is- unquestionably a factor when judging prints (and certainly when they're priced for sale). In the collection here at the AIC we have several instances of prints of the same negative, often made by different hands at different times, that are markedly different in sharpness and contrast. It does make a difference.

But the kernel of John's assertion -- that sharpness is not a central feature of any great art photo -- is mostly true. In fact I can think of many examples where softness is the ingredient that elevates a good image to greatness. Much of Saul Leiter's early color work, for example, would be rather mundane razor-sharp and color-accurate.

@ Mike: I don't know if "a majority of art photographers" are still shooting film. I've done no survey. Many certainly are. But the overwhelming majority of notable new work is color, and getting large-format color film processed becomes a steeper climb each year.

I've observed many younger photographers using digital capture but then turning to lower-tech printing methods to make their work, errr, "special". Digital C-prints, for example, are all the rage today.

John Camp rocks. Sorry John Camp, I should perhaps rephrase my enthusiasm and empathy; John Camp is lucid. Most lucid.

OK. That I shouldn't fret about minor blemishes or dust on the front element comports with my received wisdom and limited experience. (Even if it seems to contradict somewhat the received wisdom that filters are detrimental.)

On the other hand, it's my understanding that marks on the rear element are a more serious matter.

And then there are the exceptions, like the case of Kirk Tuck and the Zeiss 21mm, in which a few specks on a front element seemed to cause a very good lens to misbehave (in certain situations): http://visualsciencelab.blogspot.com/2011/05/second-chance-at-writing-competent.html

(And we all know that KT is not one to fret about test charts and specks on lenses.)

Perhaps the real lesson is, once again: "it depends"?

Thank you John Camp.

"Interesting that film now accounts for what, one one hundredth of one percent of the pictures being taken, and yet seems to constitute about half of the discussion here at TOP. Just sayin"

I'm not surprised at all.

Discussion is more often about what was or what will be rather than what is.

In the film day's of old, the digital discussions were endless and annoying (both to film users and those who foresaw digital as being the way of the future and an area of rapid change). Now the situation is reversed and everyone wants to talk about film as it's position in the world is changing.

The status quo is generally perceived to be both boring and obvious.

"Related, I purchased the book on Geoff Wittig's recommendation (TOP, February 16, 2009) and see that it is now available on Amazon for $899, "condition used-acceptable." If this is the true value, thanks."

The problem is usually that the books run out before the demand does. The publishing industry is structured for sales that spike high and then tail off to next to nothing, which is the pattern for good-selling novels. But that's not the way photo books sell. Many photo books are relatively low-demand items--3-5k copies is typical for a good photo book and 15k makes it a distinct success (and some evergreen bestsellers are only in the 100k range, which is still not much by publishing blockbuster standards). But the demand is steady and doesn't quit when the book goes out of print.

So what's been happening is that the books come and go fairly quickly and then people who really wanted one but didn't buy it when it was in print compete for the copies that are still floating around. So a fairly common (not universal) recent pattern is for a book to come along, stay in print for 6 mos. to 2 years, then go out of print, at which point the used price spikes way up. Then when the book really is gone and people start to forget about it, the price usually subsides a bit because people are no longer looking for the book. So one title I tracked over the past few years went from $50 (new price) to $500 then back down to the $250-295 range, although you can find beat-up copies for less.

$899 seems awfully high for that particular title. It might be just one seller trying to get lucky. But maybe that's the going price now; it's possible.


@ John Camp: I love it! It reminds me of the stereo guys who go into great detail about this amp, and those speakers, and thousand dollar wires... and when you ask to hear how it sounds, they put on a record of Swedes playing jazz.

Dear folks,

Regarding UV filters…

Let me start out by saying I am 100% in John Camp's camp, and the last thing I wanted do is be empowering the folks who get fetishistic about sharpness (viz.: http://tinyurl.com/ynr62a )

That said, filters are not the same as small-area lens flaws. Filters change the shape of the entire wavefront entering the lens.

Back when Mike was still editor of PHOTO Techniques magazine, I started looking into the effect of UV and polarizing filters on sharpness. To my surprise, I found that all of them degraded sharpness to some degree and it varied hugely from filter to filter. My best filters degraded sharpness by less than 10%. That's insignificant and ignorable. The majority of my filters degraded by 25% –– tolerable, but not insignificant. The worst degraded by 50%, which was completely unacceptable.

In my extremely limited sampling, I didn't detect any pattern, and I would've had to test a large number of filters from a large number of manufacturers to make general statements. I just wasn't interested enough to turn that into an article. So I didn't pursue it further.

Note that this is aside from issues such as contrast, flare, reflections, and anything else associated with filters.

At that point I stopped using filters unless I needed them. I definitely don't have a fetish about any aspect of image quality, but I couldn't see any good reason to be unnecessarily using something that I knew was going to be degrading my photographs in any number of ways to a greater or lesser degree, solely because it protected the front of my lens. My cameras are tools for making good photographs, not investments.

You may feel differently. Your choice. Just understand that you are likely paying something for that “damage insurance” you're buying by always putting on a filter in nonmonetary ways.

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

Dear folks,

Y'know, I was really hoping this whole radiation subthread would just burn itself out… so to speak… on its own. Apparently not.

Okay, short answer–– you guys are getting obsessive about this. Background radiation exists, there's not much you can do about it, ignore it so long as it's not making a visible difference in your results, and when it does, use restrainers or anti-fog agents to suppress it. Noticeable (to ordinary professionals) problems take somewhere between years and decades to arise depending on the emulsion, speed and your local background radiation flux.

That's it. Just forget about it until you actually see there is a problem. Satisfied?

Yeah, I knew you wouldn't be (sigh).

Okay, here's the long form:

Background radiation consists of alpha particles, beta particles, gamma rays, muons, and neutrinos. It comes from the sky (secondary cosmic rays) and from the earth (naturally occurring radionucleides). It is highly variable from location to location, although it is pretty constant with time.

You can ignore the neutrinos. They care little about interacting with ordinary matter: any neutrino flux high enough to produce film fog means something very bad has happened, like a supernova going off within a light year of earth.

Alpha particles are stopped by a sheet of paper (or your epidermis). Unless the alpha source is an intimate proximity with the emulsion side of the film, it can't do anything.

Beta particles are stopped by a thin sheet of metal. Like the walls of your refrigerator, the metal film can, the aluminum foil wrapper on rollfilm.

That leaves gamma rays and muons. They can both contribute to film fog. They both require a lot of shielding to block. Thin sheets of heavy, dense elements like lead only attenuate them slightly. if you want to stick all your film in those radiation-blocking film travel bags, be my guest. You won't be hurting anything. You also won't be much helping anything.

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

Just to note part of the problem when traveling with high speed film isn't necessarily the x-ray machines but exposure when traveling on the aeroplane. International flights can affect high speed films due to the exposure from radiation involved in reaching the upper atmosphere. I tried this with ilford 3200 film and about 4 transatlantic flights, with hand checking of film at check-in, starts to get fogging in my hands in my darkroom.

John Camp, thank you for the superlative commentary on the issue of sharpness. I wish that I could transform your words into an antivenin and inject it into some of the folks afflicted with pixel peeping over at the gear-centric POTN site.

Hi there.

John Camp wrote:

>Photographs need to be 'sharp enough,' and no more.

Yes, I often like to say I don’t use my lenses for shaving.


Dear Andrew Burday, you wrote:

"...from the perspective of someone who is still on the path from being a completely ignorant idiot to being an incompletely ignorant idiot..."

Ah, a man of true wisdom! Not only have you described nearly all of us, but your modesty explains why you have learned so much so quickly :)

Thanks, John Camp. Amen.

@John Camp: +10

Hi Mike,

Just a personal note,

I tell everyone that my hair (whats left of it) isn't grey, it is SILVER!

Gets a few smiles.

P.s. On Monday I'm going to our local second hand shop. There is a FED 3 for sale for 9 Euros 99 cents. I am very interested, if it works I think I will "risk" the money.

Have fun,

Silver Stephen

Thanks, Ctein,

That was what I wanted to hear......no offence btw......just a thought these bags are designed to stop X-rays and indeed Ctein these pesky gamma rays in cosmic radiation have a lot more energy then X-rays......its would take a lot more then a lead bag to stop them......especially over a long period of time. So no stockpile of film for me in the fridge (It's meant to stockpile brewskies anyway).

Greetings, Ed

Angst (german) : Anxiety is a psychological and physiological state characterized by somatic, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral components

Furcht (german): Fear from the Greek: φόβος,phóbos, meaning "fear" or "morbid fear", is a distressing negative sensation induced by a perceived threat

Source. Wikipedia.com

German Angst (no german expression.Not used often in Germany): It means that Germans are constitutionally and notoriously pessimistic and generally afraid of the future.

Source: leo.org

@Tom Brenholts - Hey! I have that record! lol

Anyone who has been around that scene for any amount of time, knows exactly what you're talking about!!

Thanks for the laugh.

Dead highlights in traditional B&W printing are a big headache for us old school types.
Bad safelights are probably the biggest offenders. Try putting a quarter on a piece of paper on your enlarging easel and leave it there for two minutes then develop it.
This has been a discouraging exercise for me more than once.
Dry down is also a major pain. A print that looks perfect in the fixer tray can lose much of the sparkle in the highlights when dried. Experienced printers learn how to put a little "english" on their exposures to keep the Zone 9 stuff in Zone 9.
Now you say that if I freeze paper for use in my golden years, which by the way start next Wednesday, I'm going to get hit with dead highlights yet again.
I guess I better stock up on Potassium Ferracyanide too.
That Epson 3880 is looking better every day.
Oh and BTW the Oscar goes to John Camp.

John Camp said:

"You rarely see them writing about composition, values (tonal qualities), color, etc., which are aspects of the brain unit."

And here we have, laid bare in its grey and wrinkly glory, the elephant in the art photography closet.

Most photographers are not artists. You don't need to be one to wield a camera. You don't need to learn to paint or draw, or learn the theory behind form, composition and colour, or to look critically at art and other artists and genres, or understand their historical context.

Technical aspects of photography are not of course irrelevant. Photography is as much craft as art*. You don't have to be a sculptor to be a furniture maker, or a painter to be a wildlife photographer. If anything, an artisan needs a greater level of manual skill, deeper technical knowledge and better equipment than an artist.

But when it comes to art, a good technical grasp may allow you to emulate, but it's not enough on it's own to innovate or communicate your own ideas. You have to think like an artist. You have to see something beautiful or interesting where others often don't. You have to understand the emotional or cultural resonance in an image.

It is often** fruitless trying to get into a discussion with a photographer about art. Without the appropriate vocabulary discussion dissolves, either into a heated exchange of personal preference*** (I like it so it's good), or received wisdom (it must be art, it's taken in black and white on a large format camera), or cult worship (it's taken by Henri Cartier-Bresson, dude, of course it's amazing!).

But here's a question. If you want to make art with a camera, but cannot articulate the artistic merits or limitations of a photograph, are you not simply pointing a camera aimlessly in hope of random revelation?

Conversely, if you could, how much would that actually help your photography?

*this semantic distinction is a real pain. Until the Renaissance, art and artisanship were barely distinguishable. Sometimes representational art is called "fine art" but it's intention is, ultimately, to glorify the subject of the image. Although the line is still blurred (photojournalism straddles the boundaries somewhat), art today is more often about creating an image in order to get the viewer to see a subject in a different way, or to use an image to communicate an idea. At least for the purposes of this argument.
**of course there are exceptions. Some photographers went to art school ;)
***preference is not a bad thing, indeed it's inevitable, but without justification it is merely opinion.

Funny looks abound from other "photographers" when I whip out my beater Ftn to record my world. I get the 3rd degree as to what I should be using. Always enjoy near pilfer prices on "hobbyist -technician- philosopher photosnapper" gear when it does not meet their silver bullet mentality. Thoroughly enjoy this issue.

Generalizations like this are rarely accurate on the internet, and most of the time are really rationalizations to justify ones own perspective. Why so many feel the need to try and justify their own point of view by criticizing others I'll never know but it seems to exist everywhere. So sharp enough is right … but the spectrum is much to large to restrict it to one point of view. sharp enough for you doesn't mean it's sharp enough for everyone. I've got 5 to 7 foot images in my home, and they look great from 20 feet and better from 5. I don't think i'll be using the cell phone for stuff like that (or the 5dmark2 for that matter). (well, maybe the iPad that Ctein's talking about with 100 cameras in the back of it someday).

Now tear a small corner off of the adhesive portion of a Post-It Note—maybe half the size of a pea. Stick in on the end of your lens. Now take the same picture again. Compare the two. Surprised?

On a forum a few years ago, someone posted a photograph which looked perfectly o.k. He then posted a picture of the front of the lens used to take it. It had been dropped and the front element had several cracks in it.

Dear Steve,

"But here's a question. If you want to make art with a camera, but cannot articulate the artistic merits or limitations of a photograph, are you not simply pointing a camera aimlessly in hope of random revelation?"

I don't think so. I don't think a VISUAL artist has to be able to articulate IN WORDS what they do or why they do it, either to themself or to others, to do it successfully.

I know that I can't. (I've memorized some buzzwords and catch phrases. It's all smoke and mirrors to make my audience happy.) I don't even want to. It works best if I just let it work.

That's purely descriptive of me, not meant to be prescriptive for others. Different artists do this very differently. Applies the other direction, as well-- your remarks, as a prescription, would fail me.

pax / Ctein

Dear Ctein, I think I fail myself as well, it was an honest question not a rhetorical one.

But when I talk about someone else's work I try very hard not to judge purely on aesthetics but also on intent. If I can glean the intent, or have it explained, then I can at least judge whether I think it was successful.

In truth I struggle terribly with my own work, which is why I get my friends to come up with words and emotions that they associate with my images. It's quite interesting to hear what other people see, and quite painful as well sometimes.

One day I may put their words as captions to some of my images. An interesting experiment perhaps?


Synthesizing comments from a couple of people as I remember them from yesterday, and relating them to myself -- I definitely lack artistic training, and that definitely makes it harder to talk and think about actual artistic issues. I believe Internet for that is "I resemble that remark" :-).

I got into photography with a view to documenting things, and that's still my primary interest. But from fairly early on I have also tried occasionally to make "art", or at least "pretty". Pretty is fairly easy, given a pretty subject.

There's an excellent few photos that look decent followed by a picture of the front element of the lens that took them at Lensrentals. (In general, their articles are interesting; they handle so many lenses they see trends and interesting outliers both.)

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