Contact Sheet for a Portrait(04500031/32/33/34)

Hexar RF, 50 Hex, TriX, Xtol
Hexar RF, 50 Hex, TriX, Xtol
Hexar RF, 50 Hex, TriX, Xtol
Hexar RF, 50 Hex, TriX, Xtol

Kate and I usually talk while I’m photographing her, often leading to series like this, where her expression covers a wide range. I’m not sure what we were talking about here, but I know we’d just finished a pint or two – the glasses in the previous frame are nearly empty – so the discussion was likely getting animated. Kate’s slightly surprised expression in the last frame probably indicates that I’ve just said something outlandish, something which she finds herself agreeing with despite herself. So, pretty much your standard Sunday afternoon at the bar.

I’ve only been professionally photographed once in my adult life. I remember making some slightly awkward small talk with the photographer as she changed out sheets of film, but I don’t think my face went through anything like this kind of range. Perhaps a pint and a discussion of the Hegelian roots of Marxism should be a part of every portrait session?

Note: the first three images in this series didn’t make the final cut, so I didn’t bother cloning out the light fixture, dust on the negs, scratches, etc.

“Frozen Perfection” (03750012)

Frozen Perfection, Hexar RF, ZM Biogon 35, HP5, Tmax Dev

One of my frustrations with contemporary photographic technique, mine included, is the feeling of sterility. Digital processes have become so sophisticated that nearly every picture you see is dusted and anti-scratched to a state of frozen perfection. After awhile it all feels so airless.

Alec Soth is onto something. Lomos and Holgas aside, so much of contemporary photography is dedicated to the perfect representation of the world, and these perfect representations of our world are missing something. They’re missing the art. They’re missing that part of photography which is about the camera letting us see something our eyes can’t. Like motion blur, or grain, or flare. Those flaws that we are often trying to avoid are part of the photographic art. When we eliminate them entirely, we’ve left part of the art behind.

For those looking for some imperfect art, take a look at these modified polaroids. The rest of Kea’s stuff is great too.

Restaurant Light (03280023/03280035/03280003)

Restaurant Light, Hexar RF, ZM Biogon 35, TriX/Diafine

Most restaurants have terrible light. Angular and insufficient seems to be high concept for restaurant lighting design. It’s not a look that flatters food or people, and it sucks for most photography.

Restaurant Light 2, Hexar RF, ZM Biogon 35, TriX/Diafine

Sometimes, like in the case of above, you can use the angularity to produce a kind of edge effect. But in the end, it’s just not enough light in all the wrong places. Take the girl in the background for example. Why is her shirt so comparitively brilliantly lit? A little over head cone light that throws more like a spot illuminates her back, but why should a restaurant want to back light things. Or to put in another way, why should another customer’s back be the only well lit object to pass under a customer’s gaze. Are we here to eat or to be voyeurs? I’m here to eat and to talk to the people whom I came with. Put a nice diffuse light source right over the table. Like a china ball. Not something like this:

Restaurant Light 3, Hexar RF, ZM Biogon 35, TriX/Diafine

You never see china balls in restaurants though. Do the restaurant lighting designers of the world hold an idealogical grudge against difusion? Or is it a matter of collusion with the chefs; the silly customers won’t know the food is bad if we just back light it. And don’t get me started on compact flourescents. Angularity, low intensity and spectral castration? No thanks, I’ll eat at home under the nice soft light of my china balls.

Resizing the Right Way?

I don’t seem to know how to resize the right way. I often end up with jaggies and other artefacts around details. Take a look at this pic for what I’m talking about. Note the artefacts around the text.

So what’s the secret here? A magic $20 plugin? Selective blurring and sharpening at various stages. Not that long ago I started downsizing in steps using a PS action. It doesn’t seem to make that much difference. Kate’s old glasses seemed to present a particular challenge in this arena nearly always rendering with some jaggies at one particularly part of the curve. See below.


I know the root of the problem has something to do with having sufficient pixels to render curves or lines of particular angles. But am I approaching that threshold that often? And if I am, what am I doing differently from all the other photographers that don’t seem to have this problem as often? This isn’t the end of the world, but it’s kind of annoying. I often find myself backing off the sharpening to reduce the apparent jaggies. I’m asking too much?

Noise; A Train of Thought in 3 Parts

  1. A certain amount of noise can improve the performance of non-linear systems. This sounds like nonsense, but it’s not when you stop to think about it. For example, B&W photographers have long known that a grainier image can often look sharper than a grainless one. If you are interested in the science behind it, this guy has written some articles about noise that are entirely over my head. His book, which was discussed on Science Friday recently, sounds like its more my speed. He also has some challenging thoughts on the diminishing importance of the comma.
  2. Although a lot photographers seem to be pursuing noiselessness, noiseless photos fail to satisfy me on some deeper level. I can appreciate the technical mastery, or least the amount of money, involved in creating a noiseless image, but I don’t find them particularly interesting. I’m not the only one, but I’d argue that as a group, photographers don’t know nearly enough about the roll noise plays in the success or failure of a photograph. For example, can you to a certain extent hide blown highlights by adding the right amount and kind of noise?
  3. I’m pretty happy with the noise qualities of the D80. You can check out a whole bunch of test shots and comparisons over at Dpreview. I haven’t used the D80 at 1600 all that often yet, but I’m pleased with the results so far.

ISO 1600

Crop of ISO 1600 image

As a side note, this is the first DSLR I’ve owned whose AF system functioned well enough in low light that it could actually take some advantage of the available high ISOs.