Black and white film has undergone a lot of changes over the years. One of the bigger changes was making it less blind to certain colors.
Yes, less blind. If you look around you, different colored objects will appear to you at different brightnesses, and you might be able to imagine how the scene looks in black and white, simply by translating the brightnesses into grey levels.
And that's how many black and white films work these days. They try to create a black and white picture that reflects the perceived brightness levels that you see with your eyes.
But originally, black and white film would translate colors very differently.
Look at the visual spectrum. It starts right beyond infrared, goes through red, orange, yellow, green, blue to violet and then disappears into ultraviolet. Infrared and ultraviolet are black to our eyes, simply because we don't have the right receptors to see these colors.
Now imagine a black and white film that can see an even narrower range, film that can only see part of the colors. And that's exactly what black and white film did in the old days. It was blind on the red side of the spectrum, so whenever it saw red light, it would register that as black. We call that an orthochromatic film. Only some time after the 1950s did black and white film become more sensitive to other colors. A film that sees the entire visible spectrum is called a panchromatic film.
Here's a snap I took of the same scene, but this time with a digital camera:
Compare the two and you will notice that the black and white film is very sensitive on the blue side, but it almost doesn't have any sensitivity on the red side of the spectrum. Blue renders almost identical to yellow, and green is somewhere in the middle grey area. In the early days of black and white photography photographers had to learn how to see in black and white to get to the picture they envisioned, and still today a lot of films have their characteristic look that's at least partially based on how the different wavelengths are rendered on a scale from black to white.
Back in the day, art went so far that during early black and white film productions, the actors had to wear bright and colorful make-up so that a normal looking black and white image could be achieved. Imagine an actor with green lipstick to avoid the lips from going all black on the film. These early film sets must have looked very colorful.
I recently posted a bunch of pictures that I took back in the United States in August.
Here are their stories.
Clicking on pictures opens them in a new window.
Let me start with the one picture that is my favorite of the whole bunch. It's Liliana, the daughter of my friend, photographer and parfumeur Douglas Hopkins and I made several pictures while we spent some time during my stay in Washington D.C.
I try my best to treat children with the same respect and at same eye level as I treat anyone else, and I try to carry that into my photography whenever possible. Lili sat ona structure in front of the Washington Air and Space museum, and when I noticed what the sun and the wind were doing with her hair, I took a few shots. What came out was one of those in-between pictures, where the posing stops and the real emotion happens.
Lili again, at the museum's gift shop, trying on props. This time I deliberately didn't shoot her at eye level, so I could emphasize the huge gap between the little girl and the pilot's gear, making for quite some contrast and fun. The goofy look on her face helped a lot to make this a humorous picture.
This is one of those street shots where I'm really happy that everything has it's place. The guy in the foreground sits very comfortably in the corner, facing outward, which gives him a bit of a lost feeling, and the fact that he's sitting on the curb holding his face, helps a lot in conveying that feeling. I shot several frames while different people walked past, the guy in the background also touching his face was the final winner.
Meet Peter, his friends and his dog. This one I'm very proud of. At first I walked past them, and the stream of thoughts in my mind went a bit like this: "Awesome, three guys in wheelchairs, with a tiny dog, I totally should take a picture of them. But how would you feel sitting in a wheel chair and some stranger asking to take your picture? But it's such a great scene! But I really don't want to hurt anyone's feelings…" and so on. At that point I had long walked past them, but then luckily the urge to get that picture won, I turned around, approached them, asked if they'd mind me taking a picture of them and they said "Oh sure, absolutely!" and I took about 10 shots of them from various angles.
I tried from their eye level, which I felt was the appropriate thing to do, but the busy background (it was at a street festival) didn't work, so I had to revert back to a standing perspective. A bit of tilt on the lens helped guide the attention to the three - and to the dog, wearing an SF Giants jersey.
I come to the United States every year to hold photo workshops. One of them was the Fire & Night workshop in San Francisco. I always wanted to include night photography in the workshops, and adding fire to the mix turned this into a really exciting one! There were a lot of pictures with lots of detail in the flames and great color contrasts between warm and cold, but in the end this is one of my favorites, even though the flame itself is blown out. I love how it shows the raw power of the flame, its strength to light the entire scene, its heat, and the motion of the fire breather juxtaposed with the other guy waiting.
Last but not least, the Fire & Night workshop also took us out to Treasure Island to take pictures of the San Francisco skyline at night - or rather at the blue hour. That term is misleading though, as it actually describes a window of maybe 10 to 15 minutes. It's the time shortly after sunset, where the sky turns a deep blue. We were really lucky to get the fog behind San Francisco lit by the city lights and glow in a bright orange. The color contrast with the sky turned out very dramatic. Initially I was unhappy about the clouds in the sky, but they turned out to add some great drama to the pictures.
I'm back in the States, getting ready to hold the Fire & Night workshop in San Francisco. (still got some room, if you're interested).
And as the tradition goes, there will be a meet-up downtown SF at Annabelle's (5 4th street, next to the Mosser hotel) Thursday, Aug/18 at 6pm.
You don't have to be on the workshop to drop by, it's open to everyone!
Want to join for a drink or a bite? Drop me a quick line at email@example.com
Remember the time when I broke Leo's Tricaster? Well, I didn't exactly break it, but it broke while I was at the TWiT Cottage.
It is now three years later, and after having been able (thanks to Leo Laporte's incredible generosity) to hold the Photo Day for several years (yes, he repeatedly handed me the keys to the TWiT network!) it is now time to go back.
Not to the TWiT Cottage, but to the TWiT Brickhouse!!
Leo and his network have come a long way since that Tricaster disaster. They have recently built an amazing new studio and moved into a new building, the TWiT Brickhouse.
Tomorrow I will make my way up to Petaluma again to record an episode of Triangulation, together with Leo Laporte and Tom Merritt.
You can watch the show live at 4pm Pacific Time at live.twit.tv - or if that doesn't work for you, you can watch or listen to it later as a recording.
Hey Washington D.C folks. do you fancy some photo chat, or a drink with Chris?
We reserved space at the Jackson 20 at 7pm on on Friday, Aug/12/2011 (address: 480 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314)
This meet-up is open to everyone, you don't have to be on the workshop for this!
Please drop me a line if you want to attend, so I can make sure to reserve the right amount of places.
See you tomorrow!
Yes, I deleted my facebook account. Or at least I'm on the way to. They don't let you delete it right away, they tell you they'll deactivate it for two weeks, just in case you change your mind, we don't want to rush things, do we? And then if within those two weeks you don't log back in, they delete your account. I'm not sure what exactly they delete, if they'll leave pictures up or some other things I wrote, but to be honest, I don'treally care. I just want to send a message out that I'm not on facebook anymore.
Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of great people on facebook, a lot of my friends, a lot of my relatives, and so on. I didn't quit facebook because of them. The facebook platform has a lot of value for a lot of people, just not for me at this point. I quit facebook because I never actually used it. All I did was pipe my Twitter messages into facebook. And sometimes, maybe once or twice a month I actually logged in, just to find out that I had a ton of pokes, things on my wall that I didn't want, and a lot of friend requests from strangers.
The facebook concept of mutual friendship doesn't really work for me in the online world, facebook only lets me friend someone when they friend me back. It doesn't scale. Wait... "friend"?! Wrong on so many levels. Where I come from, a friend is someone I like to spend time with. A person that I'd be comfortable enough with to share personal things. I can't really deal with the concept of "friends" as a currency, and that's exactly what facebook does. He who has the most "friends" wins. I'm sorry, you could be the coolest person in the world, but if I don't really know you, why should I call you a friend?
My circle of real friends is small. Maybe a hand full of people who I would call actual real friends. I can ask them anything, I can tell them anything, I can share with them whatever I want. Friends. True friends.
The concept that other platforms use rings much more with me. On Twitter I follow someone because I'm interested in what that person has to say. They don't have to follow me back, they don't even have to know me. On Google+ the circles work in a similar way, with no real expectation of following someone back. If someone posts too much, I can remove them from my circles. If I post stuff that's too much or not relevant to other people, they are free to ignore what I do.
That just makes so much more sense to me.
And no, I haven't done this because Leo Laporte did it in the past. He deleted his account, but he's back on facebook now. I guess because with what he does, he just can't afford not to be there, but I don't have the feeling he particularly likes it. But I remember the feeling that I had when Leo pulled the plug a while ago. When he announced that he had deleted his account my first thought was "You @#$%!$%, doing what I wish I could do." I had wanted to do that for quite a while. And I didn't have the guts to do it back then. Lots of "friends" and connections, a network holding me back. But the simple fact is that I never really used that network. I had an account there because I had the feeling that I had to.
What is the value of a blog if nobody reads it? Well, okay, you are not nobody, but looking at the access stats and at the level of engagement (e.g. the amount of comments and mentions), this soapbox is pretty much barely alive.
This blog (aka soapbox) is my little well-hidden space that I post and that a few hands full of people read. Some have subscribed via email, some via RSS, some juststop by every now and then and read. People come to consume, not to interact.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not blaming anyone, on the face of it, this soapbox is simply a sub page in my web site, not even the front page.
In contrast there's Google+ now. From an engagement point of view, the difference between the soapbox and G+ is the difference between a warm summer breeze and a storm. The first time I stuck my head out into G+, it's been pretty much one of the most refreshing interactive experiences I had in a long while.
Engagement is what it's all about in social media and just in case you miss my posts here (yes, they will still come and yes, they have been more frequent in the past), then you might want to stick your head in over at G+ and say hello.
They are in closed beta at the moment, but I've got a hand full of invites to give away, so shoot me an email if you want one.
Update Jun/28/2011:Thanks to a comment from jhazelbaker and some more experimentation, it's now clearer what caused the issue. Apparently FCP X does indeed honor ICC display profiles... as long as they are ICC version 2. Profiling your display with an X-Rite ColorMunki, which is what I use, will by default create a v4 ICC profile that apparently gets interpreted in the wrong way by Final Cut Pro X. Other applications such as Adobe Lightroom don't show this issue, which lets me assume that it is an FCP X bug. The best place that I found to report this to Apple is at http://www.apple.com/feedback/finalcutpro.html which still references older FCP versions, but it seems to be the most official way at the moment. If you suffer from the same issue, I encourage you to let Apple know about it, this will give them a reason to look into this.
Final Cut Pro X has been out for a few days. And I've given it a test drive on my MacBook Air 11" (1.6GHz, 4GB). It works amazingly well even in that hardware configuration, and not working in a broadcast environment, I like most things about it. A lot.
But here's something I don't like about it. Or maybe I justdon't understand it.
FCP X claims to be fully color managed, using Colorsync. However, the viewer inside FCP X seems to show the wrong gamma. Look at the picture above.
Now before you go "but you need a calibrated broadcast monitor for a good preview" - no, I don't. The original files are H.264 progressive 1080p. They are RGB. They will never see a TV set, they will always stay on computers. They will be only viewed on computers, so I should be able to edit and view them in FCP X on a computer while they look the same way they are exported to a computer.
It took me a while to figure out that the viewer in FCP X needs a color profile with a gamma of 1.8 in order to show things the way they are.
I'm a photographer. I have worked in Gamma 2.2 for years. It's the default. And a lot of photographers have started adding video (DSLR video that is) to their portfolios. Ask wedding photographers. They don't want to switch back between different gammas depending on what they work on. They also don't want to have separate computers or monitors fixed to these gammas. That is simply not practical.
The way it works right now feels wrong to me. With Mac OS X 10.6, Apple officially switched the default gamma of their Macs from 1.8 to 2.2. If FCP X is really as fully color managed as it claims it is, then its viewer should honor a gamma 2.2 color profile the same way the players and the other parts of the system do.
Or am I missing something essential?
Group shot, Berlin LIMITED workshop 2011. Photo: Sean Galbraith
Large format photography has the potential to seriously mess with ones mind. The photographer's mind and that of the audience.
For a photographer it is still the most affordable way to get spectacular resolution. The camera movements allow for compositional freedom beyond anything that ispossible in smaller formats. Due to their simpler and much more symmetrical design, the image quality of the lenses is generally superb. And last but not least, the different workflow and the more thorough approach to each individual photograph generally make for more thought-out pictures.
The audience reaction to large format pictures is often a different one than to 35mm photography. Due to the higher resolution, the pictures will typically have more detail, which oddly enough tends to be true even when downsized to web resolutions. The large size of the medium (4x5" and higher) results in a very different look and depth of field. And the typical lack of falling lines tends to give even very busy pictures an amount of structure and a tidy appearance that is hard to achieve with smaller formats.
My typical reaction to the higher resolutions used to be: "meh". My impression was that at the sizes typically used on the web, it wouldn't make any difference if the picture was shot with a DSLR or if it was taken with a large format camera.
After having immersed myself in large format photography for a while now, I had to change my previous "meh" into a "HOWLY COW" though. The amount of perceived detail even at smaller resolutions tends to be spectacular.
I should have known about the detail thing from the video side of things though. A very similar effect happens when you downsize HD video footage (1920 x 1080) to SD resolution (544 × 480). The amount of perceived detail is just a lot higher than with native SD footage.
Here's my audio engineer's look at it: sound recordings are often made at a much higher bit-depth (24 bits) and higher resolution (96 kHz) than the resulting CD will ever have (16 bits / 44.1 kHz). Why? Higher perceived resolution, even at the final down-sampled stage.
My next step is to print one of these pictures at 25x50" to see the ACTUAL detail. Zooming in to tiny portions of an image to see them at a 100% pixel resolution on your screen just isn't the same.
By the way, here's a little detail from the above shot:
Group Shot (detail), Berlin LIMITED workshop 2011. Photo: Sean Galbraith
What's the largest print you've ever made?
Man muss analoge Bilder auf die Schatten belichten, die Lichter finden sich dann schon von alleine. Solches hört man immer wieder, und es ist schon ein Stück weit berechtig, speziell wenn man sich im Bereich der "guten" und "normalen" Belichtung befindet.
Die wirklich spannenden Bilder finden sich allerdings oft in den Extremen.
Was, wenn man sich an die Enden heran pirscht, an die Bereiche ganz im dunkeln oder im hellen? Bereiche, die sich an anderen Stellen auch gerne mal "Zone 2" oder "Zone 9" schimpfen. Bereiche, die man als guter Fotograf gefälligst mit einem Reflektor oder einem Blitz aufzuhellen hat?
Dort begibt sich so mancher Fotograf dann in derart unbekanntere Gefilde, dass er sich nicht mehr so ganz auf die Dinge verlassen mag, die er viele Jahre lang gelernt und praktiziert hat.
Ist Schattenzeichnung wirklich so wichtig? Darf man nicht doch diese Ungewissheit ins Bild legen, die dem Betrachter Spielraum zur Erforschung gibt?
Von 15.-17. Juli 2011 halten wir in Braunschweig einen Doppelworkshop gemeinsam mit Spürsinn zu den Themen Fotografie am Ende des Lichts und Entwicklung am Ende des Lichts, in dem wir uns ganz analog und mit viel Spielfreude in die Extreme begeben.
Die dunkle Ecke im Keller, in der sich die Monster verstecken, mag beängstigen...
...spannend ist sie allemal.