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12-26-2013, 10:51 AM - 1 Like   #1
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What's on film vs what's in the 'print'

A case in point, if anyone feels defeated by the flat looking negative scans or straight prints... Ansel Adams, "Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico" 1941



What a contact print of the actual bit of film from Ansel's camera really looks like:




Last edited by Nesster; 12-26-2013 at 11:05 AM.
12-26-2013, 11:01 AM   #2
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Ansel Adams is definitely a master of photography and he is one of the greatest photographers of all time. You can definitely see a huge difference between the two.
12-26-2013, 11:09 AM   #3
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His prints are excellent. Saw a showing of his work in new Mexico last match and left feeling inspired.
12-26-2013, 11:21 AM   #4
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I just bought a book today relating to him called "Ansel Adams: Images Of The American West". If my images turned out a fourth of the quality that his has, I would be happy.

12-26-2013, 11:36 AM   #5
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My understanding of old AA is that he was not as great photographer when compared to his peers but he was an absolute wizard in the darkroom. The images above show this. Great contrast and thanks for posting this.
12-26-2013, 12:19 PM   #6
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This is incredible work.
12-26-2013, 12:39 PM - 1 Like   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by blackcloudbrew Quote
My understanding of old AA is that he was not as great photographer when compared to his peers but he was an absolute wizard in the darkroom. The images above show this. Great contrast and thanks for posting this.
Note that a contact print does not tell a complete story. The above photo was not a botched negative salvaged in the darkroom. The image was exposed and processed with the final print in mind. There is obviously a lot more information on the negative that could be expressed in a simple contact print on grade 2 paper. To get the final image the following are required:
  • The information must be captured in the first place
  • The negative must be processed to retain the captured information
  • The print must be made to reflect the initial vision
All that being said, while Adams was pretty much the ultimate technician in the field and often made detailed notes to accompany each exposure, this photo was made under unusual circumstances. There are differing accounts, but the most compelling is one of a hurried assembly of tripod and view camera (not a trivial matter) while racing against the fading light without access to a proper light meter. After framing, focus, and stopping down, a fudge factor had to be applied due to known focus shift of the taking lens. Exposure was made based on the known luminance of the moon placed at zone VII with correction applied for the deep yellow filter used. Based on an estimation of values in the rest of the frame, Adams indicated specific development to retain the full range of values in the scene.*

For sure, the final print probably involved a significant amount burn/dodge, but the negative was tailored in advance to minimize the effort.


Steve

* Taken from Ansel Adams, "The Negative" p. 127.
12-26-2013, 12:48 PM   #8
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He also said the negative was a pain to print and that it was the 1970s (he took the picture in 1941) that he managed to obtain a print he was happy with.

K.

12-26-2013, 01:25 PM   #9
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Huh, interesting, thanks for posting that as Ansel Adams was an inspiration to me so many years ago. Truly, he had "vision".
12-26-2013, 01:48 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by womble Quote
He also said the negative was a pain to print and that it was the 1970s (he took the picture in 1941) that he managed to obtain a print he was happy with.

K.
I would expect

A month or so back, I looked up the Google street view for where this was taken. Much has changed, though the scene is recognizable.


Steve
12-26-2013, 02:10 PM   #11
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This one pic has quite a history... to amplify what Womble said, here's a site with 4 versions of the same image, printed over time.... '41, '43, ~'62, ~'75

Andrew Smith Gallery - David H. Arrington Collection of Ansel Adams

Also, I'm reminded of a fairly recent look at Cartier-Bresson, showing just how that decisive moment got picked, and often second-guessed, and picked again....

One might be tempted to say that photography is an art form based on lies.*

* and the biggest lies are towards us consumer/amateur photographers. Except for Adobe, most camera companies would be out of business if we really got serious about what matters...

Last edited by Nesster; 12-26-2013 at 02:34 PM.
12-26-2013, 05:02 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Nesster Quote
This one pic has quite a history... to amplify what Womble said, here's a site with 4 versions of the same image, printed over time.... '41, '43, ~'62, ~'75

Andrew Smith Gallery - David H. Arrington Collection of Ansel Adams

Also, I'm reminded of a fairly recent look at Cartier-Bresson, showing just how that decisive moment got picked, and often second-guessed, and picked again....

One might be tempted to say that photography is an art form based on lies.*

* and the biggest lies are towards us consumer/amateur photographers. Except for Adobe, most camera companies would be out of business if we really got serious about what matters...
Thank you so much for the link! The differences between the four prints are pretty striking. The first definitely fits the description of the time of day when the photo was taken, with the last two being a much more emotional expression of the scene. I walked by the Andrew Smith Gallery in Santa Fe this last fall. It is just around the corner from the Georgia O'Keefe Museum. I was on a tight schedule and did not go in, a choice I sort of regret.

RE: Cartier-Bresson and decisive moments and photography as lie...Yep, illusion, smoke, and mirrors and a re-mastering of a moment in time...


Steve
12-26-2013, 05:07 PM   #13
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The story is that he did not have his light meter handy hence exposed using the sunny 16 rule based on sunlight reflected off the moon which is not the same and therefore an underexposed negative and no chance of a second exposure as the light went that quickly.

I think it is fairer to compare his negatives that he had time to make and a meter compared to his prints rather than an exceptionally difficult negative. He did indeed change his printing style during his career as well which is most likely fairly common
12-26-2013, 06:08 PM - 1 Like   #14
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It's not easy to judge a negative just by looking at it, especially 35mm and smaller. I admire those who are good at it.
I have more confidence viewing proof sheets. But all too often good proofs reveal defects once enlarged.
Some shortcomings can be overcome; others cannot. Experience has increased my admiration of printing wizards like Ansel Adams.
After 35 years on and off in the darkroom I'm happy to feel merely competent, producing a decent print from a good negative.

Chris
12-26-2013, 06:20 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by redrockcoulee Quote
The story is that he did not have his light meter handy hence exposed using the sunny 16 rule based on sunlight reflected off the moon which is not the same and therefore an underexposed negative and no chance of a second exposure as the light went that quickly.
Interesting version of the story. It may well be true*, though according to Adams later accounts, the exposure was intentional to retain detail in the moon and the clouds (by estimation a full stop brighter). He indicated water bath development (similar to today's stand development) to help deal with the wide contrast range followed by IN-5 intensifier to further support the low values which he knew to be quite low. The resulting prints (see Nesster's link above) are adequate proof that the negative supported the full contrast range of the scene without blowing the moon or clouds.


Steve

* There are multiple versions of the story. In one (the earliest), Adams indicates that making the exposure was a fairly routine matter in which he had use of the Weston meter. Other accounts (including one by son Michael who was in the car) tell of a high-speed drive abruptly interrupted by a skid to the shoulder of the road and Ansel frantically assembling the camera in the fading light and the famous missing meter. Sunny 16? Lunar luminance of 250 c/ft^2 ? Crazy guess? Who knows.

Last edited by stevebrot; 12-26-2013 at 06:32 PM.
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