Sunday, September 03, 2023

Looking more deeply ~ Six

la traversee de Paris estivale ~ 2023

Question: Was this photo of a WWII re-enactor taken using a Linhof Tech II 5x7 view camera, a Fujinon-A 240mm f/9 (wide open), and Ilford FP4+ 125ASA film? 

Answer: Maybe.

Shadows look good. The highlights look well-managed.  The resolution of the subject can't be beaten.  Yes, you can see this is a contemporary image by the dress of the subjects in the background.  So it must be recent. The base of the obélisque in the place de la Concorde is seen, too.  We know where this was taken. 

The quality of the out of focus regions are very smooth creamy, just like we'd expect from a large format lens of decent quality, which the Fujinon-A series most definitely were.  Kodak (Commercial Ektars), Nikon (Nikkor-W, Nikkor-M), and Schneider (Symmar and G-Claron) could all render this well, too.

Truth:  If by now you haven't clicked on the image to read the EXIF data, you'll not be surprised to learn that, no, this was in fact taken using a digital camera.  I know.  Shocking, isn't it?  Well, not really.

The Sony Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 is legendary for it's wide open resolution and out of focus rendition.  The Sony A7 (original) has excellent dynamic range (even a decade on from first introduction).  No matter how hard camera companies try to get me to buy their latest stuff, my old digital gear still does the needful.  

New stuff is simply too expensive for this Old Fart who lives on a fixed income.  Besides, what benefit would I gain by being able to shoot at 20fps with an AF system that can accurately track a flying pigeons eyelash?  

Further, lenses are so good these days that it's difficult for me to tell any difference between them.  The designers are calculating their designs out to 9th and 11th order effects and I've had optical designers tell me going beyond solving for 5th order effects is Shear Madness.  Obviously that comment was made back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, yet it's something to think about.

Which leads me to the last thing.  Image processing.

I do not let the software decide for me what's "best."  I ignore the automated adjustments (of which there are at least four to choose from, not counting all the "specialized" filter-like arrangements).

I set the black and white points, raise the mid-tones, manage the overall tonal scale using a second set of "Curve"s (thank you RawTherapee), vignette the edges, and add a tint that I created myself.  All this is a conscious effort on my part.  I know what I want and that is to emulate film-era print tonal ranges.  

For me this is a Worthy Goal.

All too often at photo exhibitions here in the City of Light I can tell from a mile away which images were digitally printed and which are original film prints.  Many image processors today feel all they need to do is take a digital file, convert to B&W and call it done.  And if they start with film, that all they need to do is make a digital copy of a negative and invert the digital image.  But that's not how film prints to paper responded to a negatives tonal range.

Those common digital conversion approaches are enough to drive me from a building.  I can't stand it.  Crushed blacks, dark/muddy/undifferentiated mid-tones, and blown-out highlights are not The Way.

There.  I have spoken.  Now that I've gotten that off my chest... um... where was I?