Thought I'd put up copy shots of recent printing. Conveying what a platinum/palladium print looks like in a web file is kind of a fool's errand, but it's better than having nothing to show at all. As background to this work—I'll be teaching a workshop this Fall at the Penumbra Foundation in New York, in cooperation with Leica Akademie. It will be a variation on my "digital platinum" workshop, modified to specifically support Leica Monochrom users (or people who are Monochrom-curious). The one-channel files really are different to work with than normal Bayer-array RGB files. Finding that out and getting a handle on working with the files is why I had a loaner MM-246 for a couple weeks recently.
These eight pictures are the first that I've printed from the 1500 or so captures I made with the camera. I shot these with my 35mm Summicron and 50mm Noctilux, both lenses dating back to the 1980s. After adjusting the files in Adobe Camera Raw, they were output using my digital negative system, making negs on Fixxons film with an Epson 3880 printer. The prints are a Pt/Pd mixture with only about 10% Pt (I find that with most papers a small amount of traditional Pt makes a marked improvement over pure Pd, but that only a small portion of Pt is needed) on Hahnemühle Platinum Rag paper. Potassium oxalate developer, used at room temperature. Multiple clearing baths of a mixture of edta disodium and sodium sulfite.
I like the results with the nature subject matter a lot. The extremely high resolution of the monochrome sensor helps with highly detailed forest scenes. I like the urban subject matter pictures I made with the camera but I'm not so sure they do their best in platinum, though I like the results with the two shown here. There are more pictures in the folder I find interesting enough to print, so I'll be doing more of them in coming days.
Another set of platinum/palladium prints from shots made with the Leica M Monochrom T-246.
From a series of experiments using my 35+ year old Noctilux wide open at f/1, not because of especially low light, but to intentionally limit the focus to very shallow depth of field. (If you click on the image area of the pictures you'll get a slightly larger but more accurate tonal representation of the pictures, though showing what a Pt/Pd print looks like in web files is pretty hopeless). These are 11" wide prints, Pt/Pd, on 11x15 Hahnemühle Platinum Rag.
The same lens used at f/5.6 for more normal-looking depth of field. Both of these were made in the Hidden Valley section of Steep Rock Preserve in Washington, Connecticut.
Back to the workhorse 35mm Summicron.
Preceding two from White Memorial Conservation Center in Litchfield, Connecticut.
Back to Steep Rock Preserve, this one from the original main section of the park.
Out of the woods and into town, a shot from Brewster, NY.
The past couple weeks I had a loaner Leica Monochrome (Typ 246) to work with in preparation for a planned workshop next fall at the Penumbra Foundation. The workshop will be called something like "Digital Platinum for Leica Photographers"—actual title and other details TBD. Aside from satisfying my curiosity (I've used film Leica cameras since 1967 but haven't used the digital models) the idea was to get a good look at how the single-channel files from the b&w-only Monochrom differ from typical Bayer-array RGB digital capture files, in terms of working them up to make digital negatives for Pt/Pd printing. So here are the first two Pt/Pd prints I've tried, in-process shots while they're in the clearing baths. 11-inch wide prints on 11x15 Hahnemühle Platinum Rag. The first is from the White Memorial Conservation Center in northwestern Connecticut, the second from mid-town Manhattan.
This factory complex in the Waterville section of the city has been vacant for as long as I can remember. Periodically the grounds get cleared out and some demolition work is done in a section or two, indicating that maybe it's about to be rehabilitated, but then the work stops and the brush and trees take over the parking areas again.
Another MM246 shot that reminded me how useful rangefinder focusing can be. Manual focus exists on EVF digital cameras, but I find it quite difficult to use even though I still have no trouble focusing the dim ground glass images on my large format view cameras. Here I wanted exact focus on the foreground cherub, and the beautifully smooth transition-to-bokeh of my old 35mm Summicron to fall back to the house. Focus where I wanted it with the rangefinder was essentially instant. Then after reframing I could make several slight variations in the framing without having to refocus, or assign a far left focus spot, etc.
Last Tuesday I took a long hike around the Hidden Valley area of Steep Rock Reservation. I had the loaner M Monochrom and three lenses: my 35mm Summicron, 50mm Noctilux, and 90mm Elmarit. All lenses I bought in the 1980s to use on my then-current M6 cameras and my already venerable M4 from 1967. Since these lenses of course lack the indexing/coding that current Leitz M lenses use to communicate with the camera body, I've set up three "user profiles" (these work a lot like the "custom modes" that I've written about at TOP that help streamline work with modern digital cameras)—one for each lens. Change the lens, hit the Set button, do a dial spin and a couple more button pushes and the camera now knows which lens is mounted. Not as sleek as an indexed lens, but it only takes a few seconds.
The 35mm was too wide for a shot I wanted to make, so I switched to the 50 and used it at f/4 in quite dim light. When I reviewed the shot on the LCD, the relatively shallow depth of field looked nice and gave me an idea. I'd bought the Noctilux (having wanted one for quite some time) used, in a private sale around 1988, in utterly mint condition, for $1200. It went to work right away on some commercial assignments, one where I was shooting in a hospital operating room where the lights were turned way down low so the surgeon could clearly see the monitors of the new-fangled laparoscopic tiny-incision procedure he was using. It also saw a workout in low-light situations on personal projects I was doing, including some of the "Ten Pictures" set from Kingston, NY, on my website galleries page, and work with first Gulf War evening/night demonstrations. The incredibly small depth of field of the lens used at f/1 gives a distinct look. I decided to see what would happen using this razor thin dof for nature shots in the woods. The results seem interesting to me and I want to try some more experiments in this line. I'm sure it's not what the designers of the Noctilux had in mind.
Two more pictures from Sunday morning at White Memorial Conservation Center. Also made with the loaner M-Monochrom and my 35mm Summicron which dates back to the mid-80s. I've given them a bit of split tone treatment in Adobe Camera Raw to make the web files look a little more like the platinum/palladium prints I'll eventually make from the most successful pictures. Even with a 30+ year old, pre-asphereical lens, the resolution of the 24 MP monochrome sensor is impressive. Since I'm used to working with a 16 MP, Bayer array, M-4/3s camera for my digital capture work, the 100% view of these files on-screen is astounding. Scrolling all the way out to the corners does show up some resolution falloff with the old lens. It would be interesting to compare to an up to date aspherical version of the 35 'cron.
For the next several weeks I have a Leica M Monochrom camera on loan, curtesy of the Penumbra Foundation, where I'll be teaching a modified version of my "digital platinum" workshop in October, aimed specifically at owners of this camera. This past Sunday I took it to White Memorial Conservation Center in soft, deep, early morning light. The idea was to test the high resolution 24 MP monochrome sensor with highly detailed subject matter, along with some tonal range torture testing. Below is a phone snap of the camera with one of my 30+ year old M Leica lenses and even older TilTall tripod.