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Thread: Impressed by this

  1. #1
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    Impressed by this

    I'm not usually one to post links to images or bodies of work that I'm impressed by, but I'm about to do just that...

    http://www.burnmagazine.org/essays/2...v-awkward-age/

    First and foremost I'm really impressed with this mans ability as a photographer and story teller. Secondly, I'm really impressed with the way the photos are processed. I know there are plenty of other good processing examples out there that really sing, but it's rare I see a body of work so well processed and expressive of content. It's really consistent and subtle. Very professional.

    I shoot a D700 but have hesitated shooting it for "real" work because, it I'm honest, I don't know how to satisfy my vision using a 100% digital workflow. I'm plain crap at raw processing. I can do the basics, full stop. I'm still on film for my personal work as a consequence where I can scan trannie in Vuescan using a Nikon 8000, save in DNG and process in Lightroom / PS to get it right with absolute confidence.

    What I'm interested in is how this guy might achieve such a broad dynamic range and luminous appearance without it seeming unnatural. I don't see too many of the usual tell tale signs of what I'd call "ugly digital highlights and banding, " i.e. the highlights are generally well handled and shadow detail looks natural. (There is some highlight clipping in several high contrast scenes, I know.) Would some be examples of blending two processed variants, one for the highlights and one for the shadows? I'm particularly thinking of the images with vast cloudy skies in them. The photos also have very good depth and modeling to them in general, which is something I often find lacking in end digital photographs. They don't look flat, which in some way goes against my impression they have a broad DR. Also, the skin tones are very good. I'm finding it hard to get good warm "kodak" skin, and my processing of skin often looks a bit plastic and / or "dead grey / thin," for want of better terms. It seems in Lightroom I have to change the hue and sat of red and orange to get things looking half decent without stuffing the overall W/B and making things too yellow. This guys skin tones just look filmic. I find digital skin often has an unnatural red hue bias.

    Sorry if these are some really boring, basic questions to some. I'm genuinely in need of some tips and tricks to get my processing ability up to speed. I often feel I should not even try to reference what I like about the look of film when assessing digital files because they're clearly different technologies, each with its one strengths and weaknesses. What do others think?

  2. #2
    tokengirl
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    Re: Impressed by this

    These are terrific photos, he tells the story well.

    See my notes below in your quote:

    Quote Originally Posted by tjv View Post
    What I'm interested in is how this guy might achieve such a broad dynamic range and luminous appearance without it seeming unnatural. I don't see too many of the usual tell tale signs of what I'd call "ugly digital highlights and banding, "
    Did you look at the silde show in full screen mode? There are a few indoor shots that do indeed have some "ugly banding" or excessive noise in the shadows
    i.e. the highlights are generally well handled and shadow detail looks natural. (There is some highlight clipping in several high contrast scenes, I know.) Would some be examples of blending two processed variants, one for the highlights and one for the shadows? I'm particularly thinking of the images with vast cloudy skies in them.
    Judicious use of fill flash. Go to his first photo in the series, and look at the shadows on his body from the water drops, and then look at the shadows along the building's roof in the background. Two different light sources.

    The photos also have very good depth and modeling to them in general, which is something I often find lacking in end digital photographs. They don't look flat, which in some way goes against my impression they have a broad DR. Also, the skin tones are very good.
    Good post processing techniques, and possibly a custom camera profile.
    I'm finding it hard to get good warm "kodak" skin, and my processing of skin often looks a bit plastic and / or "dead grey / thin," for want of better terms. It seems in Lightroom I have to change the hue and sat of red and orange to get things looking half decent without stuffing the overall W/B and making things too yellow. This guys skin tones just look filmic. I find digital skin often has an unnatural red hue bias.

    Sorry if these are some really boring, basic questions to some. I'm genuinely in need of some tips and tricks to get my processing ability up to speed. I often feel I should not even try to reference what I like about the look of film when assessing digital files because they're clearly different technologies, each with its one strengths and weaknesses. What do others think?
    You may want to read THIS to learn about creating custom profiles for Lightroom.

  3. #3
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    Re: Impressed by this

    Thanks for your reply.

    Yes, I've seen the larger versions. Maybe I'm just super critical of my own work, but the issues you mention with regard to shadow noise and banding etc just aren't so ugly in these images. Even in really underexposed scenes the texture to it looks good to my eyes. Going over my D700 files, I reckon it looks great up to and including 3200ISO if exposed and NR is applied well. In fact, I'd say I prefer it's look to fast 1600ISO color film as long as the scene I'm photographing isn't too contrasty, then I think the latitude of color neg film is superior, especially when well scanned to stretch out the highlight information. I see what you mean about fill flash. It can really help when used wisely, especially in the photo you mentioned. I've not really used fill with digital but I should give it a try.

    Perhaps in the end it comes down to practice and getting to know the limits of my tools. I've been shooting for so long with film that I just know how a scene will look in print when I'm taking a photo. Not so for digital yet, especially since there is far greater scope for manipulation etc and RAW files are always flat when first imported into Lightroom.

    I've been told that making a custom profile for Lightroom / ACR is a waste of time because it will only be correct for under one measured light source. Is this false? I would have thought that profiling a camera under a near daylight color temp would fast identify if a particular hue was "wrong," or if contrast, black and gamma points are off by default etc, and bring it back into line for an overall base calibration setting. What do others think? It's also useful to note that "true" color is probably not what most people want, especially when referencing popular film of old. Again, I'm always telling myself to give up the comparisons between film and digital but it would be good to be able to at least get the colors to match between the two mediums so photos taken with each can fit seamlessly together.

    Another photographer who's work I admire, Paolo Pellegrin of Magnum Photos, also does a very good job of processing his 5D images. They are more heavily manipulated in the sense they are dramatically dodged and burnt, but the colors and contrast are very specific, muted but luminous.

    Tim

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