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Tuesday, 13 May 2014


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That sentence should be engraved on the back of every Holga sold. Of course, everyone's 'signature effect' is another's fatal flaw...:)

Not just in photography.



The corollary is to shoot "with" the cameras defects rather than against them.

Noisy small sensor? Go for a grainy B&W look with great DoF.

Poor performance high ISO? Either use the noise for grainy B&W or look for more photons (in brighter light or with longer exposure).

I'm not sure there are any technical flaws if the photographer intends the effect. Photographers such as Trent Park go out of their way to over expose parts of the image, likewise Ralph Gibson creating exaggerated grain and over exposure, William Klein with grain and over exposure. Don't tell me they don't know what they are doing despite that fact they would each loose a bundle of points at the amateur photo club. Flaws are accidents (sometimes happy), but not when they intentionally go against a generalised axiom of perfection.

I don't want to give a spoiler, but for anyone that has seen the season 2 finale of House of Cards, they used blown highlights for exactly this reason. It was the most visually beautiful scene in the series, in my opinion.

SPOILER image:


except for blown highlights which are going to show as 'paper white', just sayin'

I had a lab fault produce a stunning effect many years ago.
I had been out for a day shooting a brochure for a multipart stationary printing business.
The cover shot was an arty shot looking into the side of the printing machine with about 5 webs of paper running over printing plates. All lit with coloured gels and using a prism filter. (Well it was 30 years ago).
Next morning the film was processed on our dip and dunk E6 processor. My colleague somehow managed to not put one frame folding the rolls onto the machine. Instead the frame was left having on the wall of the poorly ventilated darkroom. When all the frames came off the machine it was quickly realised that one frame was missing, it was found and sent down the E6 line.
The effect on the film of hanging for and hour and a half in the slightly putrid air of the processing room was a colour solarisation. The shadows had lost density but the highlights were unaffected.
It was pure luck that the only films affected were the shots for the cover.
We did not tell the customer, just did a mockup of the brochure and presented it to the customer. They loved it and we ran the job.

Visitors to the upcoming Josef Koudelka show will see a few images that appear to make the expressive best of bad exposure and focus. Some were made by design while others were recovered from rubble by an exceptionally skilled b&w printer (familiar to some TOP print offer buyers).

'Paper white' is sometimes the only way to show how the human eye responds to extremes of contrast rather than the way you might hope your new camera responds to it.

Dynamic range in a camera is nice, and it can reveal things the human eye can't in one image, but as an overriding rule it becomes the thing that makes it a purely camera derived photo rather than something we see day to day squinting into the light. We choose to see into the shadows or into the highlights, but never both at the same time. And this is where the 'faults' of over or under exposure can be used to connect with the viewer, making it more real than the perfect dynamic range regurgitated out of a Nikon etc.

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