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Friday, July 31

An aid to Light and Shade?

It's the essence of photography, isn't it. Light and shade. Given the right quantities of each the subject matter is almost unimportant. It's what I've been concentrating on for the last six months or so with varying degrees of success.

As I've said before, it's not always easy to weigh up a scene and decide if there's likely to be an image left once the detail has been stripped away and there are only a few elements left in the picture. When looking through negatives of landscapes, it can be tricky deciding which one works and which one doesn't especially if there are some of those "marginal" (semi-failures would be another way to put it!) frames.

With the more graphic photographs I've found that the cut off point between good and bad is much more clearly delineated. I can almost have a quick glance at them and throw the marginal ones straight in the bin. But, while it's easy enough to see if I've been successful when looking at 2D negatives, viewing the 3D, detail-rich scene doesn't give me quite the same clarity.

I've sometimes wondered if I should get one of those monochrome viewing filters that reduce the colour in a scene to assist with black and white visualisations. It might help to see the areas of tone more clearly without detail getting in the way.

I suppose a similar effect could be achieved by carrying a small digital camera with the contrast set high and taking a picture of the scene before committing it to film. I've used the iPhone on a few occasions when using large format as a similar sort of aid. The angle of view of the iPhone lens seems to be roughly similar to what a 40mm lens would see on the 35mm format.

Happily, that coincides quite well with the 127mm Ektar lens I have for the 5x4 Speed Graphic or, as I found out earlier in the week, the 90mm Angulon on quarter plate film. Sometimes, the corner of the large format ground glass is so dim that it's not always easy to see what's at the edges of the frame. By sitting the iPhone on top of the camera I can take a pic of more or less the same scene (at least in the horizontal plane) and work out what's what by using the iPhone screen as a reference.

Could the iPhone be pressed into service as a guide to light and shade? I'll have a look in the App Store later today to see if there's a bit of software that might, with a single click, chuck away lots of information from a photograph, although I doubt it will be marketed like that!

The pics here are from different rolls, one shot on the Leica and the others on the OM2n. The middle one is the Summicron shot in case you're wondering. As good as the Leica is, there's no way I'd have got the picture of the nettles growing inside an old tyre with it. Close-ups like this are where the 50mm f2 Zuiko macro excels, as you might expect from its name.

It's great being able to go seamlessly from a landscape photograph to something just inches from the front of the lens without breaking sweat. And it's one of the main reasons rangefinders and SLRs have co-existed for decades.


DougH said...

I'm contemplating getting an iPhone primarily because of all the apps including B&W camera apps. Would be a great tool for pre-visualization (much better than a 90 wratten viewing filter).

DavidM said...

You're really getting the hang of this photography thing these days. Can it be the paint fumes?
For the Real Camera, have you tried the app called Viewfinder Pro? It shows framing at different focal lengths for different cameras – 10x8, 5x4, 7x6, 6x6, 35mm and do on. You can set it suit to your own equipment. The only limitation is that it won't show framing wider than the iPhone itself, but apparently, if you have one of those dinky supplementary clip-on lenses, it will work with that.
It doesn't seem to convert to B+W, but I have a very old iPhone.
And now, the dim corners of the Speed Graphic screen. A fresnel lens is what you need, but real ones are amazingly expensive and fragile. One of those magnifying sheets that are sold for reading books will make a screen. As they're plastic, you can cut them to size, although as your adventures with cutting film have shown, it's a bit tricky. Some people find the lines distracting when fine focusing, but you can contrive matters so that you can lift it out. If you get thick one, you might have to adjust your loupe. I'm sure you already know that it goes on the photographer's side of the ground glass and not inside the camera on the lens side.

Aaaaargh!!! I'm wrong. The name has changed to Mark II Artist's Viewfinder for more up-to-date phones with Retina screens. New features but sadly, more expensive. A pittance for Leica owners of course. Less than a bottle of Bolly.

Bruce Robbins said...

What's a loupe? ;)

DavidM said...

It's the magnifying thing that you use to help focusing. A cylinder, usually opaque with a positive lens at the top. Usually about 4x – 6x magnification. More expensive ones can be adjusted to focus accurately on the ground surface. Similar to the things used to examine slides and negs. A linen-tester is a square folding one with a scale engraved on the base. There are very expensive ones made for printers with scales in tenths of a millimetre or even less to examine the half-tone dots. Some people use those reading specs that you see in chemist's shops. I've heard that a redundant 50mm lens can be used, but that seems rather heavy and clumsy. Can't dredge up any more useless information at the moment.
You do use one, don't you?

Bruce Robbins said...

It's been on my list of things to buy for ages but I haven't got round to it yet. Fortunately (?) I'm very short-sighted and can get within a couple of inches of the screen. If only the maximum apertures of these LF lenses weren't so minimum.

David M said...

You might try washing the screen. They can get dirty and dim. If it has grid markings, take care to check that they are waterproof,
Use clean warm water and ordinary washing-up liquid. Let it soak for a while then very, very gently rub it with your fingers or a soft brush. Rinse in running water and let it drain. Examine it and wash again if it seems to need it. Final drying should be like film, with dilute wetting agent (washing-up liquid or rinse aid will do).
Remember to replace it with the ground side towards the lens. Discussions on ground glass placement can be very confusing, because people use terms like "in front" which can mean either side depending on the assumed datum point.
After that, you might try making a new one.

Dave said...

The 645Pro app for iphone will shoot in B&W, in all aspect ratios, and in addition to some presets designed to mimic classic types of film (with limited success) you can set your own, so you could set up a high contrast monochrome setting to preview images. You can also set it to B&W and then select colour filters to preview their effect too. For die-hard large format shooters you can even set this display to show the image upside down, which I actually use!

c'est Jeff ici said...

The arrangement of light and dark in an image is what gives it its poetry. I have been studying painting as a way to see better and one of the first lessons is about something called Notan. It has helped me go back over my images and see why I like the ones I like and why some just don't work. Notan is a big factor and worth studying.