The Tower

Tower

Lately as I’ve scrolled through my “friends” posts on Flickr, Facebook, and Google+ I’ve done just that – scrolled through. Very few have made me stop and look. Most have left a different impression. An impression of the processing over the content. As Jay Maisel would say: “I don’t want to see the fine hand of the photographer”.

As I take my first steps exploring my photography through film, and I see the results of a well exposed B&W, I am reminded of the Stieglitz and the early masters. Their photographs had a quality that, although they used many developing and darkroom techniques to coax the best prints from their exposures, never exposed to the fine hand of the photographer over the fine mind of the photographer.

In this image, which I entitled “The Tower”, the representation of the clouds and sky that has been brought out simply by allowing my roll of Ilford Delta 100 to express the magic baked into the science of its emulsion. The final result is not something, I fear, that I would have ever pre-visualized. I am afraid that I have been too steeped in the 21st century digital mania to have done a digital color to B&W conversion with this subtlety.

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3 Comments to “The Tower”

  1. I don’t necessarily follow your metaphor or Jay’s usually cryptic expressions. Is Jay saying he doesn’t like nicely composed images? Does he not like post-processing? Does he not like sharpening?

    • Neil – Jay’s comment is referring to post processing but also to over overly manipulated ideas even when in camera – especially when not to advance the concept of the image, but just because. Stuff like overly wide angle or overly shallow depth of field.

  2. It’s a series of tricks, learned the long, hard way, usually. Sometimes a negative will just “lay down” on the paper and will pop up in your developing tray as a seemingly perfect Ansel-like master print. Other times you to have to dodge and burn and ferro-cyanide the shadows. I used to shoot Tri-X almost exclusively, and I always had a yellow filter on my lenses, to bring down the skies and plump up the clouds. Kodachrome of course was almost always perfect, providing your exposure was on the money.

    These days most sensors will handle a dynamic range greater than almost any of the old film stocks, so many digital photographers have either abandoned filters or never learned their proper use in the first place. It’s a matter of under-exposing the capture slightly and then judiciously applying an S-curve gamma in post. You can get some really delicious skies with digital, more so if you’re not afraid to use a polarizer or a gradient filter.

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