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Thread: Exposure and meaning -- an observation

  1. #1

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    Exposure and meaning -- an observation

    A few weekends ago, I made my first serious portrait in about 15 years. I made two exposures, the second with a minor pose request to the sitter. Neither is particularly good, but, in studying the contacts and a dozen or so prints made from the two, I relearned something I thought I would share, though it breaks no new ground.
    The subject was seated at a table, drawing, framed horizontally about eight feet from my 210mm (4x5), with direct sun coming in from a window behind her, partially included to one side of the frame. The face is relatively small in the composition, an “environmental” portrait.

    I had intended the film for special low-value-support development (SLIMT). My subject has dark skin, which I had placed on Zone III, the lowest reasonable placement in a 12-stop scene with this process. However, I inadvertently used a development with the opposite effect on low vales and the resulting density and separation in the low tones suffered. No great loss; the composition has a number of problems. (I'm not too bad a printer, but the time and effort to solve this problem adequately in a composition significantly flawed eventually led me to move on.)

    My print study discovery was that the lowering of those values really changed what the photograph is about. Since the facial values are so low, the image becomes one of someone drawing, with the emphasis on the activity rather than the individual.

    Philip U.

    Sine scientia ars nihil est.
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/156933346@N07/

  2. #2
    Joe O'Hara's Avatar
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    Re: Exposure and meaning -- an observation

    "...the lowering of those values really changed what the photograph is about. "

    Indeed. That is one of the reasons why I like B/W so much-- there is so much flexibility is available in one's interpretation of the subject.

    I don't do portraits, but my understanding is that the usual exposure guideline for e.g. a Black American complexion would be
    Zone IV, one stop below what a meter reads off the lit part of the subject, not Zone III. If that were your intention.

    But working outside the guidelines sometimes is part of what makes this interesting.
    Where are we going?
    And why are we in this handbasket?


    www.josephoharaphotography.com

  3. #3

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    Re: Exposure and meaning -- an observation

    Quote Originally Posted by Joe O'Hara View Post
    "...the lowering of those values really changed what the photograph is about. "

    I don't do portraits, but my understanding is that the usual exposure guideline for e.g. a Black American complexion would be
    Zone IV, one stop below what a meter reads off the lit part of the subject, not Zone III. If that were your intention.
    Yes, generally speaking. My reason for the low placement was driven by the extended luminance range. I had chosen N-2 to land the highest-value densities on Zone 10 instead of 12, but I still pushed the exposure down a stop, knowing that the SLIMT would support the low values to maintain a respectable Zone III densty. Instead, the film got D-23 1:3, which does not support low values -- although the rendering of highlights is superior to that of SLIMT, at least in D-23, my only developer at present, by design.
    Philip U.

    Sine scientia ars nihil est.
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/156933346@N07/

  4. #4
    Joe O'Hara's Avatar
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    Re: Exposure and meaning -- an observation

    I am unfamiliar with the SLIMT process, so I don't know how it behaves, or what it is supposed to do.

    I use D-23 1:3 all the time for subject brightness range compression (compensation), but when I
    do so it is in a tray, so that I can limit the agitation the film gets. I have no trouble getting N-2
    compression this way. In fact I overdid it a bit on a picture a couple of weeks ago and had to print
    it using filtration for grade 3.75, but the final outcome was what I had planned for. (I need to increase
    my development times a bit now since I started using Ilford MG Fiber Warmtone, which is quite a bit softer
    than the regular stuff.)

    I find--without measuring it, but just roughly--about a 1/2 stop loss of film speed thus compared to normal
    development (which for me is D-23 1:1 in the Jobo tank).

    Best I think is to provide ample exposure to get the low tones up off the toe of the curve, and develop
    gently to keep the highlights under control. I use TMAX 400-- those who do the densitometry often say
    that it has less of a toe than other films, so more exposure compensation may be required if you are using
    some other film.

    Unless you really abuse it it's hard to block the highlights with D-23, in my experience, but you can
    overdevelop with it to the point that things get hard to print, like with anything else.

    There's no substitute for experimentation, consistency in your process, and making a lot of pictures,
    until you find a process that works for the kind of pictures you want to make.
    Where are we going?
    And why are we in this handbasket?


    www.josephoharaphotography.com

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