Enhance Your Photography: Look Into the Smaller “Landscapes”

 

My personal work includes a lot of landscape shooting, and I usually try to take in a large swath of territory. I often like the grand vistas, the sweeping plains and looming mountains. In urban landscapes I might include wide-angle shots of buildings crowded together, along with bustling streets and milling people. But sometimes it’s the things at my feet that intrigue me too. Here’s a few images from a trip to Bodie, California, a 100+ year-old ghost town built around a gold and silver mine.

These were originally shot in digital color and converted to black and white.

These images are all from the machinery used to extract the gold and silver from the rock ore.

_MG_5783 stamps copy

 

_MG_5773 nuts copy

_MG_5779 detail copy v copy

New Workshop: Art and Practice of The Black & White Portrait

Art and Practice: The Black & White Portrait
Monday, October 8th – 6:30pm to 9pm AND Monday, October 15th – 6:30pm to 9pm
David Saffir instructor – fee $119

Part One: October 8
An overview of styles and approaches to black and white portraiture
A hands-on session on studio lighting in two styles: High-Key and Rembrandt-style with a live shoot with a model
David will be shooting tethered to a computer display for easy viewing
We will use appropriate lighting and color management tools
This is a great opportunity to work with studio lighting, refine your photographic style and understand fine-tuning of your black and white images so they sparkle and impress! You are encouraged to bring your camera, portrait lens and light meters, but it is not required.

Part Two: October 15
Tonight is all about processing the images from week 1. David will cover the following topics as he shows you how to process your images from week 1:
Editing the image library for final selections for processing
Foundations of image editing for portraiture including managing white and black points, dynamic range and mid-tones
Converting color images to black and white. This will include Photoshop, Lightroom and Nik Silver Efex Pro 2
Fine tuning images after conversion including skin tones, light and shadow and tone transitions

Please bring your computer with either Photoshop or Lightroom to work on processing of your images, but it is not required. Part 1 will be held on 10/8/12.

CALL MEL CARLL TO REGISTER – 661 904 2092
OR REGISTER http://www.scvphotocenter.com/registration.html

Girl In A White Dress © D Saffir

Complete Text – “The New Black and White” – Article Pub in Photo Technique Magazine May 2012

The New Black and White: Digital/Darkroom Large Format Printing

I’ll always remember my first experiences in the darkroom, watching my prints come up, feeling like something magical was afoot. In recent years, I’ve frequently wished that there was an effective way to use my digital images in the darkroom, and make prints on fiber-based paper that have that special silver-based depth and luminosity.

Mesquite Flats, © David Saffir 2011

Hewlett Packard Company has developed updated technology* that makes it possible to create a “digital negative” using a digital file or film scan. That digital negative can be used in a traditional darkroom to make prints of any reasonable size. HP calls this the Large Format Digital Photo Negative Solution. In this article, I’ll review the process in detail, including some of the methods used in the darkroom-printing phase.

The process consists of six steps:

1. Creating a base digital file via camera capture or film scan
2. Performing normal editing of the image through Photoshop or other application
3. Adjust image file for correct printing density
4. Flip and invert file
5. Print to HP Designjet Z3200 printer using the Photo Negative pre-set for the printer driver
6. Make a contact-style darkroom print, using your preferred chemistry

*Printing large format photo negatives with inkjet ink is an old concept. There are a number of books and methods that helped pioneer this. The goal in creating this solution was to make the process of printing large format photo negatives easier, and to achieve maximum quality using the HP Designjet Z3200 printer.

Creating a Base File

Image quality is, as always, a key driver in final print appearance. Obviously, a high-quality DSLR will (all else being equal) yield a better digital file and final print. Similarly, a high-resolution drum film scan will give better results than a scan made on a low-end tabletop flatbed scanner.

At the end of the day you’ll want a digital file that would also provide excellent quality as an inkjet print−a print the same size as the negative you plan to make. So, if you want a 16×20 negative, ideally you’ll want to have a digital file with pixel dimensions equivalent to a 16×20 @ 300 dpi. You can improvise at lower resolution, but your mileage may vary.

Image Editing

Initial image editing follows a normal path, with adjustments as needed. Keep a close eye on highlight and shadow detail−remember that you’ll be printing to inkjet film, not paper−and the film is somewhat sensitive to clipping, particularly in the shadows.

Flip and Invert

You’ll be making a negative, so of course you’ll flip the on-screen image horizontally, and invert it.

Flip and Invert The Image

We’ll make one last adjustment to the file before printing the negative−but first, we have to create a test chart and evaluate the results.

Adjust Image Density

HP recommends printing a test chart, and making a test print to set image density correctly. I’ve found that one can in many cases use a shortcut for this. I’ll review the process by the book in summary form, and then describe the shortcut. (Please refer to the HP instructions for full details).

The adjustment for image density enables creation of a negative that will yield a darkroom print with best possible shadow, mid-tone, and highlight values.

Print the 256-step target generated by the HP software. Here’s the original test target:

(The digital test target is printed on the inkjet film, and then a test image is printed in the darkroom.)

You can print from an image-editing application, or directly through the HP Z3200’s Embedded Web Server (otherwise called EWS−Postscript model). Quoting from the manual “If the printer driver is used to send the image to print, make sure to select “no color management” in the application used to print the image and “application color management” in the driver. Select the plug-in preset for the digital negative film type using “HPPhotoSilverNegative 1.0 for clear film, and HPPhotoSilverNegative 1.0d for translucent film. The printing parameters must be “maximum quality,” “no gloss enhancer” and “more passes.””

The figure below illustrates the settings to use when printing using the EWS’s “job submitter” interface.”

This “gray” chart negative can now be used in the darkroom to create a print using your silver paper and your standard printing time−once completed, find the patch that yields “paper white”. The “value” of this patch in this case is 200. This value is used to adjust the digital image file when printing the digital negative (described below).

Final Image Adjustments: Printing the Negative

First, go to the Channels palette, and fill the Red channel with black. (Select the Red channel, then Edit> Select All, then Edit>Fill>Black).

Next, click on RGB in the channels palette to reselect all channels. Create a Curves adjustment layer, select the Red channel. Left click, hold and drag the low left point of the line upward until the output level indicates 200.

Generally, an adjustment in the red channel between 195 and 210 will get the job done. Keep in mind that small adjustments may have significant impact on image appearance, particularly in shadow detail and midtone transitions.

Printing On Inkjet Film

Print the negative the same way you printed the test target, above. Please keep in mind that these negatives are a bit fragile; handle the film and printed negative with care. Use lint-free gloves. Carry the negative in a folio with interleaving sheets to prevent scratching.

Darkroom Printing

We used fiber based fine art papers in our darkroom printing. Here are a couple of examples of methodology:

Example 1
Silver Halide Paper: ADOX Premium MCC VC FB (glossy)
Enlarger: Omega Super Chromega D Dichroic II
Developing: LPD, Hypo cleaning, Selenium Toning,
Archival Wash and Dry

Example 2
Silver Halide Paper: Ilford Multigrade FB Fiber
Enlarger: Devere 810 w/ Dichroic Head
Developing: Dektol D 72, Sprint Record Fixer/ Sprint Archive Fixer remover
Archival Wash and Dry

Prints are made using a contact frame. You can purchase one or simply adapt an old picture frame as we did. Ensure that the frame is completely flat, and that there are no gaps or spaces between the glass, negative and paper.

Given the size of these negatives and the material used, tend to attract dust. When possible, handle with lint-free gloves and use a hand-held blower when mounting/dismounting from the contact frame. We also used an archival-style washer that featured continuous low flow of clean water.

We used enlargers listed here for a number of reasons, including the ease of filter selection, and high quality adjustable lenses. On the ADOX paper, for example, we finalized settings of f/22 or f/27, approximately 24 seconds, with magenta filter (ranged from 45-80).

Islands in the Stream, © David Saffir

Tips and Hints:

The manufacturer suggests that any light diffused light source can be used. Certainly we tried this; however I have found that sharper prints can be made with a lens mounted in the enlarger. Another benefit of this setup is that an adjustable aperture makes exposure easier to control.

Use reasonably fresh chemistry. Once you immerse the exposed paper in the developer, try to be patient. It may take a while for the print to come up (be visible) and then the process seems to accelerate a bit to completion. If you’re working with a low-key image, watch the shadows carefully; it seemed that even with the modest contrast of the ADOX that it was possible to over-do and lose detail in this area. I suggest in-process inspection (after initial wash), as you may find that you’ll want to make small adjustments.

Some photographers suggest that they like the idea of using dodging/burning to enhance the image in-darkroom, however, it’s a pretty big negative for this. My personal preference is to do as much of the image editing on the digital file− if nothing else, once the adjustments are “locked down” in the digital file, the printed negative can provide very consistent prints.

We also found that image contrast continued to improve, as did some high-light detail, after dry-down. Take a close look at this stage−if you find that shadow/highlight detail, or transition areas are not exactly as you’d like, consider making a small adjustment to the density of the negative using the curves adjustment described above. You might also try adjusting the enlarger filter settings.

Results

It all starts with the negative−it has to hold its own in critical areas. The darkroom work is straightforward−just be sure to attend to the details. We made a number of prints, ranging in size from 8×10 up to 20×24. I feel that image quality was excellent, showing good depth and dimensionality, holding up well in shadow/ highlight areas. One model I had photographed had very fine blonde hair and the detail shown was remarkable. Another image with strong textures held up very well, even at larger sizes. And of course, silver-gelatin fiber-based prints are unequaled for their inherent luminosity and presence!

This process asks that the photographer/printmaker adopt a modified workflow. I found most of this work to be only moderately demanding, with the curves density adjustment requiring a few trial and error cycles be-fore I felt completely comfortable. Overall, the prints looked great and it was well worth the effort!

My sincere thanks to Tony Zinnanti, print-maker, of Santa Clarita and Eric Luden of Digital Silver Imaging for their support in this project.

Photo Technique Magazine

SPECIAL NOTE: We have a new photo tour and workshop in the Palouse (Pacific Northwest) coming up in June 2012. For more information, click here.

Update, “A Look at Nik Silver Efex Pro 2” for black and white imaging……

Nik Software Education just published an updated version of my overview of Silver Efex Pro 2, my all-time favorite application for creating black and white images. I think you’ll find it is readable and provides a good overview, plus some useful tips and tricks for making the most of this great piece of software.

If you do decide to acquire the software, or any of the others on the NIK site, remember that the code DSAFFIR will get you a 15% break on the cost.

Here’s the link:

http://education.niksoftware.com/2012/04/12/a-look-at-silver-efex-pro-2/

Shooting at Descanso Gardens this morning……

Take a look at the Workshops tab above to see the latest on our Palouse Photo Tour!

Photography Quote of The Day – 4/3/12

© D Saffir

The best camera in the world is the one you have in your hands when you need it.

Check out our new workshop in the Palouse here!

Photography Quote of the Day – February 3

Poppy Fields © David Saffir

..

 There are always flowers for those who want to see them. ~ Henri Matisse

I will be the gladdest thing under the sun! I will touch a hundred flowers and not pick one. – Edna St. Vincent Millay

Join us in our upcoming workshop in the Palouse!