The Online Darkroom Store

Thursday, February 5

A Digital Digression

Don't worry - I haven't gone over to the dark side. Last month I posted some pics of old cars that I'd taken years ago with a Mamiya Press 6x9 camera. Well, whilst cleaning stuff off my hard drive, I came across these versions of the same car photos - with a couple of exceptions - that were heavily breathed on in Photoshop when I was a digital dabbler.

I thought it might be interesting to post them here to get your opinion of them in comparison with the scanned but largely unadulterated versions in the earlier post. Three of the pics are the same but the VW shot at the top of this post is different and there's one missing from last month's post.

Although I don't go in for this sort of thing any more, I have to say that I quite like these Photoshopped files. It's all a matter of taste, I suppose, and I can imagine Phil Rogers reaching for the sick bag already.  I can't remember now exactly what I did to arrive at these images (photographs seems too "normal" a word) but I could probably recreate the look with some footering about for ten minutes.

Somewhat bizarrely, it would almost be possible to get this effect in the darkroom but it would be a hell of a lot of work. It would start with some under the lens diffusion, heavy edge burning and strong sepia toning. Maybe a bit of selective bleaching before the toning to get the bright highlights.

In fact, now that I think of it, I was probably influenced by Tony Worobiec's book Beyond Monochrome. Wait a minute while I nip into the darkroom and see if I can find it. Bloody hell, it's messy in there again! I swear that I'm going to throw everything out of that room except the bare essentials. Why is it that we tend to complicate life as we get older? Or is it just me? Why do I have four enlargers? How did that happen? Why do I have so many cameras and camera bags? Why do I need two tripods and a monopod? Anyway, I found the book easily enough as my bookcase is the only thing with any order to it.

Here's a quick iPhone pic of one of his images straight off the page which is sort of similar but not heavily diffused like mine. It just shows what you can do in the darkroom if you want to move away from pure black and white prints. Of course, Tony spent a lot of time and effort reaching that level of mastery whereas as I could duplicate it in seconds in Photoshop.

Tony's subject matter is much more interesting than mine but I haven't got time to nip out to North Dakota where I think he took this one. So with that in mind, here are my more mundane images given the same sort of treatment, albeit digitally. What do you think? Hit or miss?


Vincent Brady said...

To my eyes the images look false and are more what I would call digital images instead of photographs. If they were printed in the darkroom they would have a different look about them including minor imperfections that show that they were hand printed. Perfection is over rated in my opinion, I like to see the human touch in people's work. I do however like your compositions and would be pleased to have taken them myself.

Eric said...

Oooh, difficult one! I can see what you were trying todo Bruce and you did it well but I dont think the sepia photographs look much like a photograph should. Maybe you were right to call them "images"?

DavidM said...

A lovely RAC badge, don't you think?
As a guess, after some dodging and burning, you moved both the end sliders in Levels inward by "too much", perhaps moving the middle one a bit to get the mid tones, then converted from 8-bit monochrome to Duotone and went on from there. You might subsequently have re-saved the duotone .psd files in RGB as .jpgs.
I've never been able to replicate a duotone setting unless I saved it as a preset.
Alternatively, in the darkroom, after the D+B, you could heavily overprint them, bleach back to get the empty highlights and then do some unrepeatable things with baths of toner. You might have used a specific paper or grade to get the effect.
There's probably even less chance of replicating toning baths.
I believe that nowadays, you just click on the Old Brown Cars button and move the slider to eleven. Who knows?

MartyNL said...

For as long as the images are displayed on a screen, I really don't think it matters all that much. For me, you'd have to print them and hang them on your wall and see which gives you the greatest satisfaction. This would be a true test. Unless you're happy only ever experiencing your photography as an image on a screen.
Bringing analogue into the digital domain is only half of the equation. Digital also needs to be brought into the analogue world. And I am yet to be moved by the printing skills of a machine.

Bruce Robbins said...

Excellent point, Marty.

Joe Iannandrea said...

Let me start by saying I'm 100% behind the point Marty makes. At best all we can see online is a digital scan of an analog print viewed on a computer screen and this is in no way equivalent to viewing the original print itself.

That noted I have to say that even though it's a phone camera shot of a book page, the Tony Worobiec image still somehow conveys a photographic je ne sais quoi lacking in the digital images.

John Carter said...

I've never been big on digital post process to excess. I'm more of the type that likes his manipulation done by a crappy lens or in the darkroom. But that's me.

Daniel D. Teoli Jr. said...

They are freaky! (In a good way.)I like some of these better than others. But am glad you are diversified and try new things. I shoot lots of hyper real HDR street photography. I even HDR's some old negs from the 1970's. My motto...if it it. But taste varies.

Donato Chirulli said...

I did a lot of digital manipulation in the past but, as Daniel said above...the taste varies...
Actually I prefer a more straight way to express myself (and like more to see too) by plain b/w or colour film images.
I scan my negatives (no place for a darkroom now) but give them just curves and (if needed) some dodge and burning... So, I prefer your film ones... ;-)

Herman Sheephouse said...

Anyone want a half-digested bagel?

DavidM said...

Interesting posts.
Once upon a time, we had no choice and were obliged to use darkroom techniques to modify images. There's bromoil and suchlike, of course – a much more personal, hands-on technique than simply pressing the enlarger-timer button.
Today we do have a choice and having that choice makes it relevant to talk about ideas of Truth to Materials. Very arts-and-crafts, I know.
To my mind, although there's much more recreational potential in fiddling with prints in a small red room, it's the kind of thing that comes more naturally to Photoshop, which was designed for it, and is probably better done that way.
Do we remember a similar debate when resin-coated paper was new? Or multigrade? The same sort of phrases turned up. A multigrade or resin print had no soul, it was said. No doubt flint-knappers said much the same thing about bronze.
Unless we are genuinely photographing angels on pins, it seems sensible to keep theology and photography well separated.

morris1800 said...

I love the images. But whilst I will always admire the skill of a photographer in capturing a great image on film or even sometimes digital:-) I wouldn't consider a photographers skill in using a software package, keyboard and mouse comparable to darkroom skills.For this reason I prefer your original posted prints.