Saturday, December 14, 2013


Winsted, Connecticut

More rainy day light. The cyan color of the vinyl siding (the rgb numbers are 193/205/205, depending on the exact spot) is faithful to the scene, though the camera's auto white balance made a more neutral, warmer, and inappropriately cheerful, interpretation. A click in ACR on a custom white balance setting I've recorded for this specific camera ("heavy overcast"—the actual K/T numbers will be different for every camera) came much closer. Then a bit of tweaking got the color just the way I remembered.

Most of the things I learned from David Vestal, who was writing about small format b&w photography, have been universally applicable in the medium—to color, color printing from negatives, color digital capture, faking monochrome from a color digital capture. A particularly important train of thought was that, "good pictures are easy to print." (Preparing a capture file for web publication of course is one of the many ways now available to us, "to print.") The point was, if you find yourself struggling to make a successful print from a negative, move on to a different one or, better yet, go out and make a better picture. Here, the white balance adjustment was the strongest one needed. I moved the Exposure slider a tweak of +20 from the uncompensated camera exposure, moved the Shadow +30. Nothing else needed. I often end up with minor (sub 50) tweaks to nearly all the sliders, but generally find that heroic efforts end in lost battles.

So a thing that comes up whenever I teach (one that I can't remember David ever saying, so I'm not quoting) is that the vast majority of badly printed photographs in the world, from any era, result from the photographer/printer exercising heroic efforts, darkroom magic, fix-it-in-Photoshop: not from being lazy and not working hard enough. Shooting well lets you print lazy. Win-win.

Finally, I began this blog a surprisingly long time ago, with posts that included a lot of text. It has continued with a lot of pictures. I don't have something to say about photography every day, but there are always new pictures. Meanwhile, the pictures I've been making, a lot of them, took on a form similar to the classic "Quote Without Comment" feature in the New Yorker Magazine. If anyone wants to provide feedback on whether more discursive prose would be welcome, or, shut up and show the pictures, I'd be interested to hear.


cj gordon said...

I think the balance you have so far is just fine.

DerekL said...

I enjoy your prose.

Markus said...

For me the images certainly come first, Carl, but as I am somewhat thick sometimes, the prose is highly estimated as a teaching ingredient.

James Weekes said...

I am in favor of the same amount of pictures and a bit more prose. You always have something interesting to say or to teach.

I think that for American photographers of a certain age, there is quite a bit of David Vestal in our DNA. I still use his incredibly simple and effective file numbering system, and can always find a picture. And his shooting/printing advice is, as you say, universal.

Carl said...

Thanks for the comments.

James, I use a digital version of David's numbering system, and a large format version. Negative 12.17.45 is the forty-fifth 7x17" negative of 2012.

For captures, as soon as the card is downloaded I do a Batch Rename in the format, yymmdd_001, etc. This way, not only is the file dated for easy reference to shooting notes, but descendent files (jpg files for the web, psd files for printing) maintain the identification and also automatically sort themselves into chronological order. When copied into "selects" or "archive" folders.