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Thread: What was Feininger using?

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Apr 2022

    What was Feininger using?

    One of my all-time favorite images is Andreas Feininger's photo of Route 66. This photo was taken in the late 1940s and appeared on the cover of Life Magazine in 1953.

    As seen here:

    The contrast is incredible between the clouds and the black sky.

    What techniques or equipment do you think he was using? What kind/size of film, camera?

    I've tried to capture black skies with a red filter, but haven't ever come close to those skies!

  2. #2
    Alan Klein's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    New Jersey was NYC

    Re: What was Feininger using?

    It appears he wasn't afraid to let things go black. Photographers today are caught up with trying to capture shadow details that few people really care about. It washes out pictures eliminating too much contrast. They get bland. His black shadows make the pictures pop.

  3. #3
    Nicholas O. Lindan
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Cleveland, Ohio

    Re: What was Feininger using?

    For guaranteed black skies try the combination of a #25 red filter and a polarizing filter. You can even try a #29 deep red. Depending on the conditions a #21 orange filter can work almost as well as a #25.

    A prerequisite, of course, is a deep cobalt blue sky.
    Darkroom Automation / Cleveland Engineering Design, LLC
    f-Stop Timers & Enlarging meters

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Dec 2018

    Re: What was Feininger using?

    The star on the Texaco sign is red.
    The star is dark in the photo, which makes me think he might have used orthochromatic film, perhaps with a yellow filter and a polarizer.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    now in Tucson, AZ

    Re: What was Feininger using?

    The dry air of the West will amplify the effect of strong filters, too. It's also possible that that the Route 66 image was intentionally underexposed and overdeveloped to increase contrast. (in small formats that's called 'pushing' film, in large format that's called 'using the Zone System'.)
    Feininger wrote technical books too, as I recall; perhaps you'll find some answers there. Certainly he used large-format cameras and long lenses wherever possible.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Sep 1998
    Oregon now (formerly Austria)

    Re: What was Feininger using?

    I don't know about you, but I see full exposure and lots of shadow detail, despite the rather contrasty conditions. Maybe those of you that don't live or work in the SW find the quality of the clouds and the strong sunlight "contrasty," but that's just the way it is.

    Given that the star on the Texaco sign is red, with a green "T" in the middle, I don't see a whole lot of strong filtration going on. Most likely a polarizer (with maybe a yellow filter) and then judicious burning of the skies (I'm betting that the clouds at the top of the image would be "blown out" in a straight print).

    As for orthochromatic film... I would rather imagine that that would result in lighter, not darker, skies, even through a yellow filter. Ortho film isn't red-sensitive. Still, if only a polarizer were used...



  7. #7

    Join Date
    Jun 2001
    North of Chicago

    Re: What was Feininger using?

    I had no idea polarizing filters were invented in 1928 by Edwin Land who, of course, started Polaroid. They are much older than I assumed.

    Richard Wasserman

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Dec 2014
    Suwanee, GA

    Re: What was Feininger using?

    I think it likely is a combination of filtering and creative printing. Notice the sky in the distant background does not have the extreme contrast as the near sky. If it was due to haze in the air the distant mountains would not be as dark.
    Its a bit too contrasty for my tastes but indicative of his style.
    Adventure is worthwhile in itself. ... Never interrupt someone doing what you said couldn't be done. -- Amelia Earhart

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