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Peter Lee Monochrome Photography

Classic black and white film photography with the occasional digital image

Author

peterlee10

I am a medium and large format analogue photographer based in Orange NSW. I returned to photography in 2014 after a 30 year absence and after a brief period with digital cameras I reverted to film cameras. I believe that film images have those special qualities not easily produced digitally and this applies particularly to monochrome images as they reveal texture and shape not easily seen when masked by blocks of colour. I have a wide variety of photographic interests from old timber and iron buildings ,environmental portraiture to fine art nudes. I have a number of images on this website for sale as Fine Art prints - contact me for further information - peterlee10@optusnet.com.au.

Agfa Super Isolette 6 by 6 review

A review of classic 6 by 6 folders would not be complete without including the Agfa Super Isolette , considered by many to be the finest 120 folding camera ever made including the much heavier Zeiss Super Ikonta IV. Having said that the Super Isolette is no lightweight either but that bares testimony to the excellent build quality from this german made camera.

I purchased mine around 12 months ago from the well-known folder specialist in the US , Certo6 ( Jurgen Kreckel).It is in immaculate condition , fully serviced and operating very smoothly with the rangefinder spot on.It came with a lens hood and 2 x 32 mm slip on filters ( red and K2 yellow).Unlike almost all Agfa folders, this camera has leather bellows which are in near perfect condition.

Ken Rockwell speaks very highly of this camera boldly claiming-

Unlike many of the cheaper and more popular Isolettes and Speedex cameras, the Super is made with the quiet precision of a fine wristwatch and has a 4 element Solinar (Tessar) lens which is super sharp from edge-to-edge, even wide open”

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Much better than any Leica, it has an even quieter leaf shutter and shoots medium-format film with resolution that Leica people merely dream of. It is a jewel of silent precision, making a Leica feel lumpy and unrefined by comparison.

I would have to agree with him on the build quality and that superb images can be made with one.To date all my photos have been hand-held and whilst I have no doubt putting this camera on a tripod could improve things even more, the beauty in this camera is its portability. I carry mine around all the time in a small shoulder bag so its ready for use in a moment unlike eg TLRs and other “compact” 120 cameras without retractable lenses.

_P2M7294

At present, I have only used 400 asa film (mainly T Max400 , occasionally Ilford Hp5) but I do want to try some medium speed film such as T Max100 Ilford FP4.The Agfa Super Isolette is easy to to focus quickly so it  good has potential as a street camera.

1930s girl web

When sourcing one , make sure you get a leather case with it as like many of the folders of this era , it has no strap lugs which increases the risk of dropping this beautiful camera.

_P2M7293

Although hard to explain but easy to see, the images produced with this camera which incidentally was made between 1954 and 1957 have a unique look about them just as  Leica and some Rolleiflex cameras . As they were only made for a relatively short time they are pretty rare  and expect to pay between US$700 to $1000 for one.

Boars Head in fog copy

Echo Pint Stump

Gingerbread manNationalParkbranchwharf in Forestbarn013_webbarn014web

The saddle shed

Background

This time last year I was invited to take photographs at a remote sheep grazing property on the Bell River some 30kms from StuartTown. Horses are indispensable in this rugged. drought affected country and the saddle shed is an integral part of the property’s overall operation. My intention was to document important buildings and landscapes on this property using a large format camera in order to keep a “closed loop” as I would have needed to outsource scanning if I had used a medium format camera.

The Exposure and Development

I set up my 4 by 5 Crown Graflex with 135 Schneider Symmar S lens inside the saddle shed- as I had anticipated some very long exposures in the shearing sheds the only film I had loaded was Fuji Acros100 .The bright sun was already high in the sky and was bleeding through gaps in the iron walls, lighting up the dim dusty interior of the shed. I did not anticipate that these narrow shafts of strong light had biased the incident light meter resulting in an incorrect exposure reading of 8 secs @ F32, at least one stop underexposure.Back home I developed the negative in Rodinal 1:50 with minimal agitation but, concerned about the excessive contrast in the scene, reduced the development time far too much, resulting in a partially underexposed/underdeveloped negative. Whilst it had low density and contrast, some shadow details were present.

To come up with an acceptable print even in a wet darkroom would be a challenge.

Saddles148

My Workflow

I used my usual workflow for large format work, scanning the negative with my Epson V700 scanner, editing in Photoshop then making the final print on my Epson 3880 scanner. Details of the structured workflow is as follows-

GLOBAL ADJUSTMENTS

I scanned the negative at 1600 dpi as a linear positive, setting the black point at 0, white point at 255 and the gamma (midpoint) at 1, opening the 16 bit grayscale tiff in Photoshop. I then created a Levels layer, reset the black point and white point to align with the histogram then adjusted the midpoint until I was happy with the result. On a new layer I straightened the image, resized it to 14 by 11 inches, then used the spot healing brush to remove dust/ spots (for white spots the darken mode and for black spots, the lighten mode). I then flattened the image, renaming it as my stock file, and made a 10 by 8 print to use as a reference point for future edits.

Saddlesstockstock

BROAD  ADJUSTMENTS

From examination the stock print, I could see the tonal values in the mid tones and shadows particularly in the lower half of the image, were “muddy” and that a number of sections of the image had to be improved independently of others. To address this , I made a series of luminosity masks, eventually deciding on 3 masks to boost the tonal range of  key areas without influencing others  e.g. a Zone 3 luminosity masks would enable me darken specific areas of the saddle or anything around Zone 3

Zone 3 luminosity maskweb

I  then painted on the masks with a soft white brush or used a curves adjustment which would only impact on the white or partially  off white areas ( i.e. black conceals , white reveals).In other areas, I made a number of curves adjustments, inverted the masks (to black ) and selectively painted on those areas with a low opacity brush building up contrast with each stroke. I  saved this file as a PSD which would allow me to come back and make any adjustments if required

Saddle broad adjustment

LOCAL ADUSTMENTS

Some fine tuning at this point was necessary so I flattened the image and created a new layer and applied the history brush using a number of blending modes, painting on selected areas with a soft brush around 6-10% opacity. The history brush blending modes most used are –

  • Multiply– darkens local areas.
  • Screen– lightens local areas
  • Colour Dodge-lightens light/white areas only
  • Colour Burn– darkens dark areas and shadows only
  • Difference – Darkens extreme highlights
  • Soft Light– increase contrast in local areas

In practice, some example of this are –

  • I painted on the light rope on the saddle and the light canvas under the saddle with the history brush in both the screen and colour dodge blending modes to lighten and highlight these areas.
  • I painted on the dark parts of the saddle with colour burn and multiply blending modes and the writing on the box and signpost to bring them out more.
  • I “outlined” some edges in the image, using a reasonably hard but very fine brush in multiply mode at 15% opacity to separate objects within the image.

Once I was happy with the result , I flattened it and sharpened it using a third party sharpening tool Focus Magic applied through a mid-tone luminosity mask to restrict sharpening to only those areas.

PRINTING

I decided to print this image on Museo Silver a 100% cotton heavyweight archival fine art paper with no optical brighteners and a high D Max to enhance the deep blacks in the image. I used a custom warm profile by Les Walkling – in this way the slightly warm toning is applied in the print driver rather than Photoshop meaning the print could still be made in Epson’s Advanced Black and White mode rather than the colour mode. I waited 24 hours for the print to dry and applied 3 coats of Hahnemuhle Protective Spray.

Saddle Hut001 Panatomic X FINAL by11

Affordable medium format film cameras- part 1.

These days our brains are being bombarded by millions of photographic images from digital /phone cameras posted online web each day. So much so that photography has to a certain extent lost its value as serious form of artistic expression with so many clinically perfect images being produced . Even notable images are only as good as their last “like’ on social media as many people no longer make prints. Over the past few years film photography has enjoyed a  revival as people are looking for a more “organic” experience that re- establishes the true value of a photograph.

This revival has resulted in prices of film cameras “going through the roof” – e.g. basic plastic 35 mm point and shoot cameras that were being sold for $30  three years ago are now selling for up to $600, making getting into film photography difficult for some people. However, if people are willing to forgo the convenience of fully automatic cameras, there are some good bargains to be had out there, with the added advantage of providing the user with a greater “organic” experience particularly if they develop and print their own negatives and not leave it to a professional lab to do it for them. The easiest way to do this is to work with black and white film which has a timeless pictorial look.

Medium format cameras by virtue of their much larger negative size, will produce prints with far more detail than even the most expensive 35mm cameras but some people new to photography are concerned about the perceived initial cost and the complexity of operating these cameras and shy away from them.

One of my favourite cameras is a 1938 Zeiss Ikon 521/2 medium format folder that produces large 6 by 9 negatives, yet is capable of being slipped into a large coat pocket and carried around. I estimate its value at around $130 making it affordable for anyone wishing to get into film photography .This particular camera has a sharp 4 element F3.5 105mm Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar lens and produces images that have a beautiful pictorial look.

 

Operating the camera is a truly “organic” experience as every part of the process has to be done by hand, from opening the camera, advancing the film (using the red window at the rear of the camera), cocking the shutter and focusing .The latter can be daunting at first as the camera uses zone focusing – the user needs to estimate the distance from the subject then set this distance on the lens. In practice one gets used to this quickly and it is possible to produce very clear images in a short time. Anyone who has zone focused their digital camera for street photography will have no trouble in adapting to a zone focus film cameras. There is a sense of satisfaction in using this camera that is only rivalled by operating a large format camera .It has the added advantage of slowing the user down, slowing their mind and allowing them to think more about the photograph itself rather than taking quick “snaps” with an automatic film camera. Underneath are a few images taken with this camera.

Milthorpe car webCADIA LOGS 8M FOCUS

Cashens skull Epson_web

Cashens windowweb

Cashens NO

Old House Woodward st110

When buying a folding camera like the above there are a few things to look out for. Make sure the bellows are light tight and that the camera opens and closes without any obstruction. Make sure the focusing mechanism is smooth and the slow shutter speeds sound plausible especially the 1 sec speed. Some shutters on these old cameras can be dry and run slowly at low speeds.

Of course, this is not the only medium format camera that can be purchased cheaply. There are many other types including twin lens reflex cameras- a much underrated one being the Flexaret 6 by 6 .Look for the well known and respected EBay seller Cupog who always have a few of these for sale at very reasonable prices.

The Cashen Photographic Project

Over the last few months I have been focusing on a photographic project, an old abandoned house in the forest near Orange NSW. Sylvia Cashen lived in this old house for 85 years, only leaving  in 1997 when she was 92 years old. Since her husband died in the 70’s she lived there by herself with two dogs and three cats. Life was very simple – Grandma Cashen as she was called, grew her own vegetables, trapped rabbits and had no modern cons inside aside from electricity connected in recent times. Water came from outside tanks and heating provided by a wood fire. Grandma Cashen was quite content with this lifestyle – when she was 80 years old she was given a television but hardly used it.preferring the simple life.

 

Chair on porch 20 by 16soft proof print

When she finally left, she walked out of the house without taking anything. I saw the house for the first time a year ago and it was as she had left it, suitcases covered in dust in the bedroom, pots still on the stove and bathrobe still hanging on the wall above the tin bath.

Cashen Bed FINAL

To me, it was a moment frozen in time, a time dating back to the 40’s .Sadly, the old house is falling into disrepair with floorboards starting to rot, water coming through the roof and the forest rapidly closing in. For me it’s a race against time to finish the project which has been difficult due to low light levels and the unstable structure especially as I was using a 4 by 5 film camera.

Cashen Hut Series 3

New door and chair 20best final

 

 

outside cashen hut2028 FINAL

I had intended to use the old house just for some modelling shots.

looking-out-web

However, I then thought I had a rare opportunity to document the history of both Grandma Cashen and this old house. By nature, the images are  clinical, rather than artistic/creative and I make no apologies for that.

Cashen Hut Series 6

Cashen Hut Series 5

 

Cashens Spider Fused FINAL22221

Cashen's Hut project fireplace

Cashen's Hut project loungeroom

Cashens Hutrbslide1

 

 

 

Producing digital contact prints from negatives

In the wet darkroom , it is important to identify the best negative to print.Once a true black has been established, everything else fell into place.It is much easier to print a correctly exposed negative than one either under or overexposed.

The same principle still applies in the digital darkroom when scanning and making Inkjet prints. Although its easier to adjust less than perfect negatives in Photoshop than the wet darkroom, if one starts with the best negative, its will produce a superior print.

This is how I do my contact prints – others might do it another way.Not much equipment is needed – a $20 lightbox , an older enlarger base and column and a digital camera.The results don’t have to be perfect , just good enough to give you a snapshot of the roll of film or sheet film.I have been testing Kodak TMax400 developed in Kodak D-23 1:1 and did some bracketing on 120 film, so it was the ideal opportunity to demonstrate the digital contact print method.

The negatives are left in the print file sleeves and placed them on top of the light box and the camera mounted and leveled. After positioning the camera, it is focused, exposed and  photos taken in JPEG monochrome mode.12314522_930480687028254_3373924348820213543_oFiles are then taken in Photoshop and as they will be in negative format, they will need to be inverted.

4 by 5 neg
Image in negative form

After the image is inverted , a curves adjustment layer is selected and the black point sampling tool placed on an area of clear film that should be pure black -this completes the editing of the contact print.

4 by 5pos1
image inverted and BP established- from this point it is easy to produce a workflow

The same process is used for both 120 and 4 by 5 film and gives an accurate snapshot of the contrast ,density and exposure of each negative which is exactly what contact prints are supposed to do in the wet darkroom.These negatives are a little flat which is common when developing in Kodak D-23.

4 b5 contact
Kodak D-23 produces a fairly flat negative 

The first 3 images on the 120 roll ( below) were bracketed using Kodak T Max 400 rated at 200 asa .The first image, exposed as per incident meter reading , looks the easiest to work with.Contact print test

A quick “contact” print was made of this particular image which provides a lot of information going forward with the edit.

car test

Although not essential, its also a good idea to actually make a actual print of the “contact print” as one does in the wet darkroom .I was given some paper unsuitable for my style of printing ( Sihl Masterclass Satin Baryta ) which I use for the prints . It is then filed with the appropriate negative sleeve.

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The entire process can be done in minutes once an efficient workflow is established and for me is much better than an ad hoc approach of scanning every negative or trying to pick the correct one to print.

 

 

 

 

 

Kodak D-23 developer for large format negatives

This week I took advantage of Bruce Hogben’s new darkroom and did some tray processing of 4 by 5 negatives. This was the first time I have ever tray processed  – when I had a large format camera 40 years ago, I  used an UniColor drum and Cibachrome Uniroller for my large format negatives.

I have to say I enjoyed the experience of tray processing and will certainly do it again.However, I just need to fine tune developing times as in my ignorance, I deducted 15% off my times for very gentle constant rocking of the tray.

I only had two sheets of FP4 to develop and rather than use the Jobo 3006, tray processing seemed a sensible option.I made up some fresh D-23 developer earlier in the day and diluted it 1:1 just before use. The first sheet was developed for 6.30 minutes at 21 degrees and on inspection in the wash I could see it was underdeveloped. I extended development on the second sheet to 8 minutes  and this produced a more detailed negative -not perfect but with a smooth range of tones .

Kerrs Creek 2019
Graflex Crown Graphic with 135 mm Schneider Symmar S lens

Negatives are scanned in the 4 by 5 film holders at 1800 dpi on my Epson V700 which represents an 6 x enlargement factor, enough to produce a 20 by 16 print at 360 ppi. I prefer a flat detailed scan with no clipping rather than produce the final image out of the scan- scanning software is crude at best and doesn’t allow you to carefully massage the tonal range if printing.

As is my usual practice I made a positive linear raw scan in  16 bit grayscale mode using the Epson software.This produces a 16 bit tiff file that is almost identical to the original negative in terms of density and detail.My workflow is –

  • Under configuration – turn off auto exposure and set gamma to 2.2 ( Windows)
  • Turn off sharpening  and all other adustments
  • Set Output to  0 and 255, then set Input to 0 and 255 , moving gamma to 1.00
  • Scan to file

I prefer to scan as a positive and invert it in Photoshop or the Photoshop filter ColorPerfect / Virtual Grades.Clyde Butcher once stated that scanning as a positive and inverting in Photoshop produces images with smoother shadow detail and I agree completely.

In Photoshop the image is converted to Adobe RGB and checked to ensure there is no clipping around the edges as this can impact on the conversion.At this point I could have inverted the image in Photoshop and adjusted the black point, white point and gamma or, use the Photoshop filter ColorPerfect /Virtual Grades.Its important to understand the inversion algorithms in Photoshop are totally different to ColorPerfect so some experimentation is required to get the best option. – On this occasion, I processed it in ColorPerfect, settling on Virtual Grade 3 before bringing it back into Photoshop for further editing.

Kerrs Creek merge second
Stock image from ColorPerfect Virtual Grade 3

This stock image might appear to some to be flat but it contains a level of detail and tonal range that makes for a very smooth edit from this point .This comprised  some  spotting , selective curves and enhancing tones using luminosity masks.The history brush is then used on a flattened image,painting with a low opacity brush ( 3 -7%) with various blending modes.Finally the image is selectively sharpened.

Kerrs Creek web 2

The final image has been prepared for print so on a computer screen it will appear a little too high in contrast .However monitors have a contrast ratio up to 1000:1 whereas a fibre based matte paper has a contrast ratio of around 100:1.Good monitor calibration is essential to achieving a close monitor /screen match.

Earlier this week I had processed some sheets of Iford  FP4 again using D-23 , this time in my Jobo 3006 tank  with (slow) constant agitation .There are some small differences – I think the tonal graduation from tray development is marginally better .The following images are stock ones straight out of conversion with no editing and all display the same characteristics –  a little flat but with beautiful smooth tones so easy to work with

shed web

Stuart Town hut

I am liking this old developer more and more -it dates back to the 1940s but has not been commercially available for decades.However it is so easy to make up fresh from only two ingredients , Metol and Sodium Sulfite.

Flushed by the success of D- 23 , I am about to try divided D-23 as a two bath developer, the second bath being Borax.This should allow me even more control over negative development.

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The large format photograph explained- abandoned farmhouse near Orange NSW

SETTING THE SCENE

This image is part of a series of abandoned farmhouses I am working on. The diffused morning light coming through the doorway of this old farmhouse revealed all the texture of the timber and gave the scene great depth and presence. I previsualized the final image as a square format print with some areas being allowed to drift into Zone 0. Using my Pentax Spot meter, I metered several areas before deciding where to place the important shadow details- exposure differential was approx. 5 stops, which indicated normal development.

EXPOSURE and DEVELOPMENT

As is my usual practice, I scoped the scene with my Sigma DP2 Merrill digital camera to get a “feel” for the final result much the same way as large format photographers used to make a Polaroid

bw-edit
“Polaroid” taken with my Sigma DP2 Merrill digital camera

I then exposed a sheet of Fuji Acros 100 (rated at 80 asa) using my Toyo45a field camera and a 135 mm Schneider Symmar S lens – exposure was 30 secs at F22 with a little forward tilt to increase DOF. The negative was then processed in a Jobo 3006 tank (using manual rollers) in X-Tol 1:1 for 8 mins at 20%.

EDITING

The negative was then scanned at 1800 dpi as a raw negative on my Epson V700 scanner and taken into Photoshop. In Photoshop, I opened Color Perfect Plug in Filter and applied a Normal Grade 2 in Color Perfect Virtual Grades. Returning to Photoshop. I then cropped the image into a square format, cleaned up dust spots etc. and selectively applied deconvolution sharpening to the mid tones.This is considered the “stock” image.

door-blend-2-copy
The stock image should be a little flat to give “wriggle room” to edits

To complete the edit, the image was darkened to increase the “mood” as I originally previsualized it, and the tonal range expanded by painting through a number of luminosity masks then finally making two curves adjustments. At this point I added a separate layer using the History Brush and a low opacity brush to make final adjustments to the image – e.g. the color dodge mode mimics how I used to use Potassium Ferricyanide in the wet darkroom by lightening light areas and increasing the presence of the final print. The file was flattened for printing. Even though my dedicated NEC PA series monitors are carefully calibrated to produce a very close screen to print result, I also made a step wedge (aka the wet darkroom) to fine tune the final print.

PRINTING

I only print on one paper – Museo Silver Rag as it is far superior to any other black and white inkjet paper on the market. If this paper wasn’t available, I would most likely return to the wet darkroom. This heavyweight Fine Art paper has a smooth lustre finish and produces deep blacks and a tonal range that both Les Walkling and I think make it indistinguishable from my much loved Agfa Portriga Rapid.

Using a Les Walkling custom warm ICC profile and my Epson 3880 in Advanced Black and White mode ,the final 16 by 16 inch print is produced .

dp2m5301-copy
Final print emerging from my Epson 3880 printer

The print was then left to dry for 24 hours – inkjet prints made on 100% cotton paper need this time to “cure” as minor changes will occur. I re- examined the print after 24 hours and was not entirely happy with the shadow detail – they appeared to have darkened fractionally. I returned to Photoshop and opened up the shadow detail a fraction and a new print with this adjustment.

dp2m5302
The two prints compared – the one on the right will be framed

Later this week the print will be T- hinged onto archival heavyweight backing board, a 50 mm off white “Palm Beach White” matte cut and T hinged onto the backing board before placing the completed photograph behind True Vue glass in a 40 mm matte black frame.

door-and-chair-inverted-stock_16by16finalversion2-copy

 

 

 

 

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Processing black and white negatives with Vuescan and ColorPerfect – does this software produce images close to a wet darkroom?

Oberon Vuescan Church

Many film photographers are familiar with the Photoshop PlugIn ColorPerfect – it is an excellent way to produce quality prints from colour negatives. Not so well known is ColorPerfect’s ability to produce high quality monochrome images that look very much like wet darkroom prints using an additional feature within Colour Perfect, Virtual Grades.

Generally speaking images from film scans often do not look the same as wet darkrooms, and in my opinion, that can be a good thing for some images. However, for other images I like the look of wet darkroom prints- it’s a very subjective thing.

So how is this process different from the normal process- scan and edit in either Lightroom or Photoshop?

It starts with the scanning – the negative must be scanned as a RAW file, not a JPEG or TIFF and as far as I am aware, a RAW scan can only be done in Vuescan. A brief outline of this process is detailed below using a 4 by 5 black and white negative I shot this week of St Barnabas Church of England Church at Oberon NSW.

The original negative , shot on the new Atomic X 4 by 5 sheet film , was a little too dense as it has been slightly overdeveloped ( processing times are still under test for this new film- I used Kodak X Tol 1:1 for 8.5 minutes at 20% c. I had placed the front of the church (around the door) in Zone 6 but failed to notice that the dynamic range of this image was great enough to be processed using N minus 1 development to curtail highlight blowouts.

DP3M4469

The idea was to produce a totally linear scan with no adjustment to the gamma value of 1.00 and the image saved as a negative RAW file. I scanned the negative on my Epson V700 in Vuescan this way- It looked like this –

raw0001+

I then took the file into the host application Photoshop and under the Filter drop down menu selected ColorPerfect .I didn’t invert the image in Photoshop as ColorPerfect inverts the negative using totally different algorithms to Photoshop. You then have access to Virtual Grades with a choice of 00, 00½, 0, 0½, 1, 1½, 2, 2½, 3, 3½, 4, 4½ grades. Grade 2 has a gamma of 0.62 and is similar to Grade 2 paper (normal) in the wet darkroom.

Here’s how ColorPerfect describes the process-

In the wet darkroom you would alter a black and white print’s gamma value by choosing between different paper grades to print your image on. Virtual Grades in ColorNeg will act similarly to actual paper grades in the darkroom. When working with graded black and white photographic paper the utilization of a grade that is too low would result in a dull print. This means that depending on exposure such a print would either contain no tonal values that are anywhere close to a pure white or anywhere close to a deep black. On top of that the mid tones would not be ideally distributed. Virtual Grades have an impact on contrast and on the mid tones without influencing highlights or deep shadows. When switching between different Virtual Grades you can be certain that no more clipping occurs at either end of the tonal range than was the case with the previously selected grade.

I had used Virtual Grades before but never from a RAW file so my first attempt was much better from working with TIFF negatives. Grade 2 would have been a little harsh so I selected Grade 1 and made some minor adjustments, then taking the image back into Photoshop where I cropped it, cloned out some unwanted man-made objects and applied some low opacity Reverse Overlay masking. For some time, I had been working on toning that is close to warm toned wet darkroom paper so I applied this to the final image.

This final image has a natural softness to it (some of which is due to the excellent tonal range of Atomic X film).It could have been better as some sky highlights are close to being blown out. To address this, I could have double processed the negative, once for the sky and another for the church and blended it in Photoshop.

Oberon Vuescan Church

By comparison, I processed the same negative using Epson software outputting it as a positive TIFF and editing in Photoshop.I should mention I scanned the negative twice, once for the sky and the second time for the church In spite of this ,to me, the image doesn’t have the depth of the Color Perfect Image and doesn’t look like the scene I visualised when I was taking the photograph.

Oberon Church merge-2

To test how much the processing influenced the results, I “scanned” the negative on a digital camera making sure the gamma was neutral and no highlight or shadows were clipped. I took the desaturated negative image in ColorPerfect and repeated the same process as the first image.

The result was quite similar to the Vuescan RAW image ,not quite as good but to me much better than the Epson scan/Photoshop result.

DP3M4469-3

Anyone interested in this alternative approach to scanning black and white negatives should look at the ColorPerfect Website and this video

 

http://www.colorperfect.com/black-and-white-negatives/digitize/digital-camera/reproduce/

Making the transition to large format

Life of light and shade: the mechanical, methodical love of large format analogue photography

Posted 14 Dec 2015, 11:55am

During his corporate career, photographer Peter Lee, of Orange in central-west New South Wales used the latest electronic equipment to analyse high-level financial data.

These days the tools he uses for his large format analogue photography are a far cry from that and in fact, there is not a piece of digital equipment in sight.

All he uses is a pencil, a simple mechanical light meter, a cardboard frame to help compose a shot and an angular black camera with adjustable bellows that looks a bit like an accordion.

It is a slow, solitary art, but one he has found to be life-sustaining.

You’ve got to force yourself and be mechanical; you don’t just hold it up to your eye and take a photograph.

Peter Lee, large format analogue photographer

The attraction of large format analogue photography

Mr Lee said he rebelled against digital photography because it could not capture the range of light and shade he was looking for in his images of nature, old buildings, and country vistas.

“With analogue photography it may not be as pin sharp, but it has that beautiful range of tones you can’t capture on digital,” he said.

“I only work in black and white [and] I haven’t been happy with black and white digital for quite a long time.”

He uses large format negatives that are 10 by 12 centimetres in size — and sometimes even larger — which allow him to capture big images without losing quality.

“So the more you actually blow the image up the more you lose that tonal range graduation.”

Moulder Park morning scene

Expensive, methodical and solitary photography

Large format analogue photography can be an expensive practice because the negatives cost around $70 for a pack of 25.

“You take your time; you don’t shoot off a lot,” Mr Lee said.

He buys his cameras overseas, mostly from the United States, where he is currently getting another one built.

Mr Lee explained that analogue photography required him to blend the creative and methodical parts of his brain.

He said when he first arrived on scene he thought of how it was going to look in black and white.

“At this stage you’re not thinking about anything technical; you’re just thinking about the creativity of the scene.”

Then the mechanical processes take over as he undertakes up to a dozen tasks before taking a shot, including composing the scene with his cardboard frame and measuring the light with his hand-held meter.

“You’ve got to force yourself and be mechanical; you don’t just hold it up to your eye and take a photograph.”

“You have to be methodical and sometimes you may ruin a shot.”

While Mr Lee’s former career saw him analysing data in high finance, now he finds himself scribbling a lot with a pencil in a small notebook.

“Unlike digital where you get all the data like f-stop or light, you’ve got none of that with analogue.

“In order to understand where you went wrong or to get the best types of exposure, you have to keep a written record.”

Mr Lee prefers to work alone because it helps him think clearly.

“When you’re working with film photography it’s a very, very slow process and you don’t want other people around you,” he said.

Mr Lee does delve into the digital world, particularly to connect on Facebook with other Australian large-format analogue photographers, whom he said seem to be concentrated around Melbourne.

7025026-3x2-940x627

A life’s light and shade in full circle

Mr Lee is now 65 but he fell in love with film photography about 50 years ago when he was a teenaged member of a camera club at Leura in the NSW Blue Mountains.

“Those old fellows taught me a lot,” he said.

For two years in the 1970s he spent every weekend travelling to the historic central west gold rush town of Hill End to capture the tonalities of its heritage streets, buildings, and natural beauty.

However, then followed decades where the cameras got put on the shelf and eventually sold.

“As I continued to work and climb up the corporate ladder, I found I had other influences coming down on me and photography got forgotten,” he said.

Now, after Mr Lee has survived cancer and is semi-retired he said he wanted to get some creativity back in his life and has rediscovered his photographic passion.

He still does some part-time work, but said now it was simply to earn money to fund his photography.

“This time I’m not going to get sick of it. I think I’ll be doing it till the day I die.”

One of the analogue cameras used by photographer, Peter Lee.

 

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