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Thread: Describe a style for me

  1. #1

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    Describe a style for me

    There is presently a thread on PHotrio ( https://www.photrio.com/forum/thread.../#post-2258985) that has moved me to finally ask a question about how to describe what is seen and the more technical describers of the style and points on how to achieve the style. My problem is that I cannot even find the words for what I am seeing,
    but what got me writing was the images of Maria Isabel Leblanc, especially the cabbages
    https://mariaisabelleblanc.com/de-la-luz-2
    and of Ken Lee, especially his plant images
    http://www.kennethmorrislee.com/Plant.php?img=41
    I see sharpness of course but overall greyness with acute local contrast.
    help me describe this please and what darkroom techniques would assist this in the darkroom?

  2. #2
    ic-racer's Avatar
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    Re: Describe a style for me

    Quote Originally Posted by cowanw View Post
    help me describe this please and what darkroom techniques would assist this in the darkroom?
    Are those darkroom prints? When I take pictures of my artwork for to show what it might look like in person, it does not look like that.

  3. #3

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    Re: Describe a style for me

    Quote Originally Posted by cowanw View Post
    ...help me describe this please and what darkroom techniques would assist this in the darkroom?
    One approach is to find subjects that already photograph nicely with little effort. This saves a lot of time and energy. All the hard work is done during the selection process, rather than down-stream using special techniques. The vast majority of my images are basically straight prints with only minor adjustments to tonality, spot removal, etc.

    Following this approach, if our photographs improve over time, it's because we are learning to recognize subjects that will easily make nice prints - whatever their style or category.

    Esteemed forum member Merg Ross has told us that back in the day, he and Brett Weston used to go shooting for a weekend at Point Lobos California. Merg would bring no more than around a dozen sheets of film, so every shot had to count. That approach really encourages us to look before we leap.

  4. #4

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    Re: Describe a style for me

    Quote Originally Posted by cowanw View Post
    T ... I see sharpness of course but overall greyness with acute local contrast.
    help me describe this please and what darkroom techniques would assist this in the darkroom?
    Seems like you are doing a pretty good job of describing things yourself

    I'd use the term, "rich in midtones," or "with a full range of tones," or "wide dynamic range," etc. instead of the word "greyness," however.

    It seem like you admire prints with lots of subtle tonalities, rich midtones and not an overly contrasty or "dramatic" representation.

    As for darkroom techniques: it all boils down to exposing and developing correctly for the type of print you want. In this case, a full exposure is needed to get a lot of shadow detail coupled with a development time that doesn't make the final negative overly contrasty. I.e., more exposure and less development than many advocate. Printing at a lower contrast will help too, as will knowing what scenes and types of lighting to look for for the style you want, i.,e. softer light (as Ken mentions above). You'll note that none of the images you link to were taken in harsh, glaring sunlight...

    Hope this helps,

    Doremus

  5. #5

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    Re: Describe a style for me

    Tonal qualities aside, the stand out thing I see here is F/(Big number). Lots of DoF. Even the macro shots look to be well stopped down.


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk Pro

  6. #6

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    Re: Describe a style for me

    What I see in Ken Lee's plants and in some of Maria Isabel Leblanc's images, (including for example the first image of the cabbages, and the images of the tented rows of plants with hills in the background, and of the rows of furrowed soil), is that major areas of interest in the image are placed on medium gray to dark tones and that there are relatively few areas of bright white or light gray - small areas, or it's a background like a whitish sky. In some of Ken's plants I don't think there's any area of the image that is white, and possibly not even zone 8 or 9 light grey.

    This is different from simply being underexposed, of course, because it's deliberate, and also because the local contrast is still strong. Because so much of photography is about trying to cram a high-dynamic range scene onto the limited range of paper (or even screens), we often reflexively try to make images that span the gamut from black to white and with the areas of primary interest somewhere in the middle grays. These images appear different because they emphasize darker zones more.

    A complementary style to these would be images that are mostly light gray and white with localized areas of darkness. That is a popular style for portraits; you can find many examples by searching "high key portrait," for ex https://www.lightstalking.com/bite-s...-to-set-it-up/ However, when people talk about "low-key" portraits they usually mean something that looks like a Blue Note album cover, which is different than what we're talking about here. (Plus I find it totally confusing ,because high-key and low-key seem to mean high and low fill-to-key ratio.)

  7. #7

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    Re: Describe a style for me

    This advise is all bang on. I think my failures are twofold. Firstly I think the subject matter has to be large enough to have substantial areas of tone. My attempts at doing this with a large wall of ivy left the tonal visuals overall to minute to differ. and secondly proper subjects; I suspect variegated plants look better from the start in black and white.

  8. #8
    C. D. Keth's Avatar
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    Re: Describe a style for me

    What I see is a great deal in the midtones of those images and just enough shadow and highlight to give them perspective. If you viewed histograms of the images you're talking about, I think you'd find a wealth of information in the midtones with just tiny bits extending to extreme shadows and highlights. I think this midtone "wealth" and the skillful separation within that range is what you're responding to.
    -Chris

  9. #9

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    Re: Describe a style for me

    Not to beat a dead horse, let's pretend we're back in time with Merg and Brett, watching them shoot Large Format at Point Lobos. My guess is that we'd observe a lot of pre-selection and rejection.

    "This scene looks promising. OK let's walk around and view it from all the angles. Now let's see what the light is doing... nice. By the time I'm set up the light will be even nicer."

    Out comes the tripod, the camera, the dark cloth, the composition.

    Then "Now that I really see it on the ground glass, it's really not so great. Frankly I've done better. Yawn... Forget about it. Let's keep looking."

    Of course there's the other scenario, as with Ansel driving through Hernandez New Mexico, where he looks out the window, sees the scene, slams on the brakes, sets up the 8x10 and makes the shot without even taking a meter reading. He knows from experience. From a lot of previous pre-selection and rejection. From training his aesthetic sense, which doesn't speak in words or follow recipes. When it sees something beautiful, a bell goes off all by itself. We've all heard the bell.

    There are talented artists who can assemble beautiful scenes by brute force but for the rest of us, photography is largely a game of waiting for the most pleasing subject to appear - waiting for that bell to go off - and then merely bagging it.

    If we review our work and regularly toss out the duds, we're doing the same training. Whether we train in the field or at home with the trash can, it's the training we need.

  10. #10
    C. D. Keth's Avatar
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    Re: Describe a style for me

    It's the first pass of the editorial process.
    -Chris

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