Each art or craft we engage in, as participants or observers, does something for our sense of being alive, our presence in and awareness of the world. Art feeds the head and the soul and it’s an important part of what makes us human. That’s why people should be rightly upset when art is removed from the curriculum in our schools. But for photographers, one major key to that awareness is a sense and sensibility about light. That appreciation starts to build in once you start considering what to photograph and when to make an image. In many cases, if you think about it, the quality of light is often the guiding hand. The bonus is that the love of light and shadow and its levels and color stays with you even when not walking around with a camera.
In olden times there was paper for printing color and for printing black and white. Structure, emulsions, and processing chemistry all determined how you matched media and paper, and it was all pretty self-evident. Surface choices were wider for black-and-white printmakers and while there were some choices for color (gloss, matte, semigloss) much of the surface treatment for color prints was added with sprays and varnish. Of course that’s all changed, and the “rules” regarding media and paper matching have been tossed.
While every image we make with a digital camera starts out as a color (RGB) image, it doesn’t preclude creating dynamic black-and-white photos from those image files. In fact, the ability to “convert” to color lends itself to producing more tonally rich images than we ever could have imagined when working with black-and-white silver materials.
The hybridization of cameras and phones has produced various manifestations of late, one being the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom, reviewed here a few months back, which looks like a smartphone with a camera/lens grafted onto it’s front. The Galaxy NX comes at this combination from the other direction, a decidedly camera-like design with built-in Android functionality, sans phone capability, but with all the other amenities and accouterments included. And there’s no confusing this with a smartphone, what with it being 3x5.5x2.25 inches in size, the benefit being a very large back display, 4.77” on the diagonal and width to height ratio of 2.5 x 4 inches.
There are many ways to share images these days, from social networks to clouds to full-fledged e-commerce platforms. For some, simple online albuming will do, but for others it can become an involving project that puts your images on the Internet in a very engaging way. It’s not only in the personalization of the look and feel of the wrapper around your image content that can separate your site from the crowd. It’s also the ability to work cross-platform, include an e-commerce component, and allow for a “translator” that can make your site accessible to folks and even clients around the world that can add to its attractiveness and functionality.
I have always had mixed feelings about so-called “film simulation” software, programs that offer one-click presets that add effects and options for manipulating digital images. On one side, I am unsure why the designers use visual references to types of film for their preset IDs. It strikes me that an increasingly small proportion of folks relate to them. On the other side, I admire their offering programs that open up a raft of image expressions in easy to attain fashion. I will not revisit that discussion here, although the near concomitant release of two such programs, Alien Skin’s Exposure 5 and DxO’s FilmPack 4, makes it tempting to do so.
Tonality does not exist in a vacuum; the tones form a visual impression in terms of both their intrinsic value and their relationship to one another. The context in which they relate is called contrast, simply the difference and relationship between the light and dark values in the scene. Contrast determines the “look” of the image, and has a profound effect upon visual effects.
This issue is dedicated to digital techniques, but I feel it’s important to have a discussion on the differences and similarities between black and white film and digital photography. I do this for two reasons—the first is that I figure some of you may have made the transition from film to digital and have carried over some assumptions about how things work. The second is that even if you have never shot film you have probably been exposed to information passed on from film photographers about how things work. Either way, there are a number of matters at the heart of black and white photography that have changed, or at least should be looked at in a new light.
A tilt-shift lens can be thought of as a flexible visual tool in the many ways it allows you to image the world. Unlike a standard lens, even a zoom, with a set point of view enforced by stance, elevation, focal length, and, within certain limits, depth of field, the tilt-shift lens opens visual doors a “fixed” lens will not. By tilting the lens within the mount you can enhance or greatly diminish depth of field beyond the “normal” abilities of the focal length and aperture setting. By shifting the lens you can “fix” perspective distortion or exaggerate it for “trick” effects.
These days you could consider any image as a special effect, what with the massive amount of processing that goes on inside the camera prior to it being written on the memory card. But that’s pretty much assumed and not even considered “special” anymore.