Thursday, November 23, 2006

Sharpen This!

We were duly impressed with Alumni Joe Reifer's review of the text: "Real World Image Sharpening with Adobe Photoshop CS2" that appeared recently on Mike Johnston's Blog, The Online Photographer, as well as the response by another Nocturnes alum, Richard Sintchak: "These books, and the different aspects they cover, are the what the zone system, developer process and darkroom process were in the pre-digital age. You can dive in as deep as you want or just wade into the shallows up to your knees. But as in the past, it seems the waders are generally the ones who seem most frustrated in why their work never seems to go over the top or be all they want it to be."

I agree with both contributors in theory, but being a fierce "non-tinkerer" (more interested in the process than the product) I am more inclined to comment along the lines of the blogger "Photo-essayist" who commented on TOP Blog that he just wanted "to go throw cold water on my face." Adding that: "I, too, will pass on Fraser's book. Does anyone else wonder how it is "progress" when we increasingly make everything more complicated?"

Brooks Jensen, Publisher of LensWork takes a similar stance in his "Audio-Blog" - he nows call them "podcasts" (Oh-h-h boy! Got pods?) - pointing out that photography has become "an obtuse and arcane pursuit" in terms of technology. We agree with Mr. Jensen that photography should be about the photograph - and how it affects our emotions, thinking, and how we communicate with each other.

"The arcane raised to new heights -- or lows, you be the judge." (Brooks Jensen)

Coming from a publishing background myself and having spent WAY TOO MUCH time in front of a variety of computers (various platforms, too) and far too many vers. of PhoShop (starting with Photoshop vers. 2.0.1: in 1991), I feel I've lost a crucial sanctuary - photography (for that's what we came here for, no?) - from all that "stuff."

Here is the link to Brooks's commentary ("A Book I Won't be Purchasing" - Copyright, LensWork 2006) - BTW, if you haven't listened in on any of Jensen's photographic commentaries, you might might visit the LensWork Web site and try some out. You can also subscribe to receive them in your email - they're free, too!


Anonymous said...

Could this "tinkering" not be viewed as another "process"?

I consider myself a highend casual photographer. I get paid to do a few weddings every summer and photography is a small part of my job as a web-developer for a municipality. However, most of my photography is for myself and my family.

I too, for the most part, am more interested in the process of taking the pictures - ask my wife -I take thousands of pictures that never get seen, much less printed. But I have extended that interest in the process to the craft of "photoshopping" a photo.

I'm not necessarily talking about putting one person's face on another persons body (or an other object), rather, increasing contrast, adding depth of field blurring, colourizing, converting to black and white from colour etc. etc. I am so interested in this process that I'll spend hours working on a photo and never print it.

That being said, it's unfortunate that the trend seems to be towards the requirement on these technologies to get a good print. Not too long ago, you could spend 10 bucks on a disposable camera and get prints that were pretty decent in terms of colour balance, contrast etc. Now, you can spend thousands on a digital SLR and the images need to be colour corrected on a computer before being printed to achieve this quality.

Richard Sintchak said...

"...Does anyone else wonder how it is "progress" when we increasingly make everything more complicated?"

No one is "making" anything more complicated. It is what it is. If one is happy with their workflow and their results, then they are "there". If one feels they want more from their results and feel that understanding and applying better or more knowledgeable technique will get them there then they apply it, get involved in it, or work more deeply with it as they see fit.

Many eschew the zone system and think it's a waste of time, many feel it's indispensible to achieve the look and results they want; heck, many do not even bother to understand basic exposure technique. If they can get the results they want without that, then great.

It is interesting though to see some of the animosity towards this book as if some people wish it would go away.

Tim Baskerville said...

Anything you ever wanted to know in the lively debate about digital vs. analog photography; complicated vs. progressive practices; Ansel Adams' book "The Negative" vs. Bruce Fraser’s sharpening-book-with-a-very-long-title; or process (and when that might end) vs. product - can all be found amid the additional comments on Joe Reifer's blog -

Be sure to read Joe's review first!

Jim Roelofs said...

In relation to PS sharpening, I also like to think of myself as a "non tinkerer".

That's why I bought a Sigma/Foveon camera!