Photoshop Sunday

I spent the day on Photoshop, learning basic techniques as they are supposed to be done. Every once in a while you just have to sit down with the latest version of Photoshop and re-learn the basics. It’s a real timesaver.

So it was appropriate I would run across this blog post, Was That Photoshopped? It Doesn’t Matter! by Rick Berk. What I love about it is he compares digital “darkroom” techniques to an Ansel Adams. Ansel Adams taught me to use the darkroom. Not literally, I’m neither that old nor that lucky. But his were the first photography books I read, when I was in high school and had access to an actual projectors and chemicals darkroom.

Ansel Adams was a technical master. He approached photography in such a methodical, technical way that most people would never have considered possible before digital. And he was also a realism purist. He did not like photographs that abstracted from the original subject. His goal was always to catch the feeling of being in a place at a particular time while being 100% literal. He co-founded the famous photography group, Group f/64, named after a very tiny aperture setting (the lens on my camera now only goes to f/32). At f/64 everything in your frame is going to be in focus, which implies being absolutely faithful to what is in front of the lens.

But he wrote extensively about darkroom techniques such as dodging and burning which allow you to selectively darken or lighten an image. He also talked about how if you tilted the bellows on the projector or the easel your print was resting on, you could distort horizontal and vertical lines. This might be done to correct distortions on the film, but anti-Photoshop “purists” would probably still object. I don’t remember if he talked about retouching, but I remember in my high school photography class we were taught how to remove unwanted spots and lines on our prints with India Ink and a fine-tipped paintbrush.

One thing that sticks with me that Ansel Adams talked about, was how as he got older his images became more theatrical. He was still making prints from some of his old negatives, and a print made in his later years might have more dramatic contrast, clouds and shadows. I think about this often when I’m working on my photos. It encourages me to be a little more dramatic than my instinct, to bump up that contrast and saturation just a hair more than I otherwise would have.

Before edit (only a crop is applied)

Before edit (only a crop is applied)

Book on Digital Black and White Photography

I just got a book from the library called Advanced Digital Black and White Photography by John Beardsworth. Apparently it’s his second book on the subject. I’ve already read about all the books on photography my library has to offer, but this one was new and it should be no secret I’m big on the subject.

Skimming through it I picked up a couple of tricks here and there. The book pretty much describes my workflow, Lightroom to Nik Silver Efex Pro. One piece of technical info I wanted to share here (and keep for myself as reference) is about sharpening. Sharpening is a technically difficult thing that we rarely want to have to think about (most of the time I just let Lightroom take care of it and cross my fingers). But Beardsworth nails the problem very succinctly:

…sharpening is like a rim or halo around the edges within the picture, and remains effective yet imperceptible if it is around 1/100 of an inch (.25mm) on the final output. If you correctly sharpened a picture and printed it at Letter or A4 size on a 300 DPI inkject printer, that sharpening rim would be too small to be effective if you then decided to resize the picture and make a smaller print.

Anyway, if you’re getting interested in B&W digital photography I would recommend this book. If you’ve already read a bunch of photography books though, I wouldn’t pay for it (try to do what I do and get it from the library), it’s totally worth the skim but as you would already know these books cover a lot of the same material over and over again. I really like that it reserved a whole section for photographic presentation.