January 28, 2010

Drifting in and out of the shadows as I explore the night in East LA, a house of worship is never far. Beautiful examples are abundant, and make wonderful subject matter. The confluence of geometric shapes shown here is, for me, total eye candy. Since I was a child I have literally ‘traced’ shapes with my eyes. Imagine following the lines on a building, chair, or car, with your eyes. It’s something I do all of the time.

Using this photograph as an example I wanted to start to talk about the digital negative, or DNG. I treat a digital file much like I would a film negative, working to make sure that my exposure and color temperature are as perfect as possible in camera. That way there is a lot less work to do in post production. DNG’s are imported into Adobe Lightroom 2 for basic tweaking, with final changes made in Adobe Photoshop. Essentially I create digital photographs which look as if they were made with a film camera. I call myself a ‘pure’ photographer, meaning that I don’t add wild effects, or swap in sky’s that weren’t there to begin with. I don’t have anything against that style, only that, coming from a long background in film, I prefer pushing myself to create the best image of what is actually there. I only add effects in post that mimic the look of certain film stocks, and processing/darkroom techniques.

I thought this was worth mentioning because tonight’s photo was treated exactly like a black and white negative. Using Photoshop, and OnOne’s incredible Photo Tools Software Suite, I ‘processed’ this image just like a film negative. Edge vignetting, slight diffusion, and dodging/burning, are exactly what I used to do in the darkroom. If you aren’t using OnOne software you should be. I can’t recommend it enough. Playing with opacity, and blending multiple presets, I’m easily able to achieve the look , in this case, of a photograph developed in the darkroom. After years in the soup, it’s wonderful to have software that can aid me in using those darkroom techniques, but with my computer. For those of you who started with digital, and aren’t exactly sure what I’m referring to, simply look to classic photographers like Ansel Adams to understand what I’m talking about. There’s a ton of darkroom in his final images.

If you’ve never been in the darkroom, I encourage you to take a class, and get your hands dirty. Watching your photograph come to life from a blank sheet of paper is truly magical, and will give you new insight into processing with the computer. If you’re interested in private classes, and live in, or near Los Angeles, please contact me. I was a professional printer for many years, developed many darkroom tricks myself, and love to share my passion for the disappearing art of darkroom printing.

Confluence – Lincoln Heights
ISO 160, 24-70 @ 28mm, f/5.6 @ 15 sec – tripod – available light

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