The print as taskmaster

Regular readers will know of my regard for printing and the pleasure it potentially brings. Seeing an image move from screen to fine paper can be nothing short of a revelation. New tones, colour relationships and detail are revealed, and there is a strong sense of a veil being pulled from in front of the picture. It does, however, have a ‘negative’ side too: it has the power to show up the flaws. The print makes you work harder: you have to be more critical of your image and must be willing to solve all the issues before it sits right.

I was reminded of this just the other day when I made a print of my fern picture (see this post here). If you read the post about this image, you will know that I am an apprentice large format photographer, and was wrestling with a one second exposure in windy conditions at f16. All seemed to be well in the end, that is, until I printed it.

The problem is there are some significant - and visually unattractive - shifts in depth of field. The chosen aperture of f16 is simply inadequate to give the kind of generous clarity I had visualised. Thinking about it, it’s hardly any wonder: I was looking down a fairly steep slope and there was no way I was going to bring the film, lens and tree planes into alignment, even given the tilt options of the field camera. Trees aren’t very considerate too, and tend not to grow straight upwards!

There were good reasons for not wanting to go longer than one second at the moment of exposure, so this limited my aperture choice. I didn’t have any faster film with me at the time, although even HP5+ (a sensible alternative) probably wouldn’t have solved the issue. I chalk this up to part of my learning experience with large format: 35mm photographers are blessed with few problems when it comes to securing adequate depth of field. Indeed, it’s something of a historical irony that in these days of ultra-fast lenses and small formats, photographers often strive for less depth of field, when photographers of the past sought more. To move ‘up’ the formats is to encounter these self-same problems. Adequate depth of field is now on my picture-making radar (as an experienced LF photographer would doubtless have counselled me).

The print may be a hard taskmaster, but it’s a teacher too. All the parts of the process are connected. What a wonderful medium this is.

Summer print sale

For two weeks starting from today I'm offering 30% off all print purchases in my summer sale. You can buy a single print or more than one, and receive the discount. Simply use the code ALL30 at the checkout.

To launch this little sale, I'm offering a chance to win one of my small (A4) prints. All you have to do to enter is to re-tweet the tweet shown below. The competition will remain open for one week from today and the winner will be picked at random. I will contact you by Twitter direct mail if you win. No cash equivalent is offered and the print in question will be of my own choosing.

Photography advertising, the invisible influence

The other day I came across a reproduction of a Leica advert from the late 1990s. They were advertising the then latest incarnation of the famous Leica rangefinder, the M6 TTL. As you might expect, the advert is aspirational and contains a carefully crafted studio shot of the camera.
The advert got me thinking about photography advertising, and more specifically its influence on me. We live in a world of sublimated desires driven by consumer advertising. We might not always reflect consciously on the effects of advertising, but they are measurable and real, as the gargantuan advertising budgets of the multi-national corporations attest.
What if my regard for my Leica M6 TTL was a product, albeit an indirect one, of this advert from the late 1990s? I don’t think I remember it specifically, and yet it has something of an uncanny familiarity. I had a little chuckle to myself, rolling this possibility around in my head. It may not be the whole story - I should hope not, a big chunk of my practice nought but the fulfilment of a market instruction - but there is a strong possibility that my desires were at some level shaped by the adverts of the time. It is sometimes said that we acquire in later life the cameras we once lusted after in our youth and when money was too short to make the dream a reality.
I wonder what other photography advertising has helped to shape my choices and paths through equipment and practice? I wonder which ones have shaped yours?