Pages: [1] 2 3   Go Down

Author Topic: Ansel Adams and Shadows  (Read 3563 times)

drralph

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 162
    • Ralph's Instagram
Ansel Adams and Shadows
« on: December 14, 2018, 04:08:15 pm »

I was priviliged to view the preview to the exhibit "Ansel Adams in Our Time" at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts last weekend.  I was struck by the depth of the blacks in Adams' prints.  I think most contemporary photographers would be tempted to wring out every last bit of shadow detail, and leave the shadows a bit weaker for the effort.  While Adams did not block up his shadows to black, he left many areas with just barely discernible shadow detail, even under museum-quality lighting.

I came of age in the 70's, and always felt as if Ansel himself had taught me photography, as I honed my chops by studying his classic trilogy "The Camera," "The Negative," and "The Print."  I also carefully observed the prints on display at the Cleveland Museum of Art.  I came away with a passionate love of deep, rich blacks in prints.  As I look now on some of the prints I produced at that time, they are too dark for my current taste.

Ansel Adams is acknowledged as perhaps the greatest master of the art of darkroom printing.  While current technology makes it much easier to adjust tonal control, I think it was no accident or lack of control which resulted in the depth of his shadows.  It was an artistic choice.

Another show at the MFA spawned similar thoughts.  The current exhibition "French Pastels: Treasures From the Vault" features an extraordinary selection of works by Jean-Francois Millet.  Many show scenes at night or long after sunset, and have dark tones and low contrast.  Since Millet was creating these images from scratch, he could have done whatever he liked, but he chose to make things dark.  And it works spectacularly!

I have been rethinking my treatment of shadows.  I have begun, in small steps, to return to my embrace of the deep.

John Nollendorfs

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 535
Re: Ansel Adams and Shadows
« Reply #1 on: December 14, 2018, 04:21:15 pm »

Having studied under Bernie Freemesser at Oregon in the early 1970's, I became familiarized with using Agfa Broviara, processed with Amidol developer and lightly toned with selenium, resulting in those incredible blacks. Another technique we used was "toning" highlights, by putting the properly developed print in a water bath for a minute, before fixing.

The quality of those prints was quite incredible. Tuff for ink jet to simulate.

But I have seen quadtone B&W inkjet prints that are also quite nice in their own particular way.

Logged

drralph

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 162
    • Ralph's Instagram
Re: Ansel Adams and Shadows
« Reply #2 on: December 14, 2018, 04:49:28 pm »

Agfa Brovira was my favorite paper as well.  A warm, rich black that I have not been able to replicate digitally.  I try by applying a bit of sepia toning digitally.  But the luminosity is not the same.

luxborealis

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 2773
    • luxBorealis.com - photography by Terry McDonald
Re: Ansel Adams and Shadows
« Reply #3 on: December 14, 2018, 05:15:07 pm »

Agfa Brovira was my favorite paper as well.  A warm, rich black that I have not been able to replicate digitally.  I try by applying a bit of sepia toning digitally.  But the luminosity is not the same.

If youíre working in Lr, try Split Toning, but only change the Shadows only. I set them to Hue 48, Satín 12 with Balance set at -50 to give a subtle warmth to B&Ws. Itís about as close to Brovira as Iíve seen.
Logged
Terry McDonald - luxBorealis.com

Eric Myrvaagnes

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 17255
  • http://myrvaagnes.com
    • http://myrvaagnes.com
Re: Ansel Adams and Shadows
« Reply #4 on: December 14, 2018, 07:48:22 pm »

I still have a few Adams prints, and I expect to see the MFA show in early January.
In the wet darkroom, I always tried to match Ansel's printing style, and my best prints I think come pretty close.

When I went over to the (digital) Dark Side, I scanned several of my old negatives and some prints (when I could no longer find the negatives) and tried to match my best darkroom prints with digital ones (Epson). It took about three years before I was able to get digital prints that I, at least, could not distinguish from the old Brovira prints.

I must try Terry's suggestion of Split Toning. Thanks, Terry!

Eric
Logged
-Eric Myrvaagnes (visit my website: http://myrvaagnes.com)

Mark D Segal

  • Contributor
  • Sr. Member
  • *
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 12510
    • http://www.markdsegal.com
Re: Ansel Adams and Shadows
« Reply #5 on: December 14, 2018, 07:53:28 pm »

I have numerous enlargements from medium format negatives that I made on Agfa Brovira and Portriga rapid back in the early 1970s because where I was living at the time that's all I could buy. Turned out to be excellent paper producing very rich, warm blacks, no doubt it. But I also have no doubt from various tests I've done that using an Epson SC-P5000 with scans of those same negatives (which I still have ) the results would be at least as good if not better, due to the denser maximum Black and more control over black tone gradation in the lower quartertones it affords when used with appropriate paper and software.
Logged
Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
Author: "Scanning Workflows with SilverFast 8....."

Rand47

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 1536
Re: Ansel Adams and Shadows
« Reply #6 on: December 15, 2018, 04:38:30 pm »

If youíre working in Lr, try Split Toning, but only change the Shadows only. I set them to Hue 48, Satín 12 with Balance set at -50 to give a subtle warmth to B&Ws. Itís about as close to Brovira as Iíve seen.

+1   Michael Reichman, here on LULA, introduced me to split-toning shadows only in Lightroom.  I've generated several presets as good starting places for warm, deep, blacks.

Rand
Logged
Rand Scott Adams

Alan Klein

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 4007
    • Flicker photos
Re: Ansel Adams and Shadows
« Reply #7 on: December 15, 2018, 09:54:34 pm »

I was priviliged to view the preview to the exhibit "Ansel Adams in Our Time" at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts last weekend.  I was struck by the depth of the blacks in Adams' prints.  I think most contemporary photographers would be tempted to wring out every last bit of shadow detail, and leave the shadows a bit weaker for the effort.  While Adams did not block up his shadows to black, he left many areas with just barely discernible shadow detail, even under museum-quality lighting.

I came of age in the 70's, and always felt as if Ansel himself had taught me photography, as I honed my chops by studying his classic trilogy "The Camera," "The Negative," and "The Print."  I also carefully observed the prints on display at the Cleveland Museum of Art.  I came away with a passionate love of deep, rich blacks in prints.  As I look now on some of the prints I produced at that time, they are too dark for my current taste.

Ansel Adams is acknowledged as perhaps the greatest master of the art of darkroom printing.  While current technology makes it much easier to adjust tonal control, I think it was no accident or lack of control which resulted in the depth of his shadows.  It was an artistic choice.

Another show at the MFA spawned similar thoughts.  The current exhibition "French Pastels: Treasures From the Vault" features an extraordinary selection of works by Jean-Francois Millet.  Many show scenes at night or long after sunset, and have dark tones and low contrast.  Since Millet was creating these images from scratch, he could have done whatever he liked, but he chose to make things dark.  And it works spectacularly!

I have been rethinking my treatment of shadows.  I have begun, in small steps, to return to my embrace of the deep.

I love dark shadows.  The contrast make pictures "pop".  It highlights the highlights where the content is usually located.  This whole thing about seeing details in the shadows because we can do it, has confused technology with art.  Anyone who has shot chromes has learned to love shadows.  This Velvia 50 shot actually has a lot more detail in the shadows then I decided to show.  I may have overdone it.  But then again.

Swan in Autumn by Alan Klein, on Flickr[/u]

Eric Myrvaagnes

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 17255
  • http://myrvaagnes.com
    • http://myrvaagnes.com
Re: Ansel Adams and Shadows
« Reply #8 on: December 15, 2018, 11:59:10 pm »

I like the way you chose to process this, Alan.
Logged
-Eric Myrvaagnes (visit my website: http://myrvaagnes.com)

hogloff

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 656
Re: Ansel Adams and Shadows
« Reply #9 on: December 16, 2018, 09:52:46 am »

Over done for my likings. The dark black areas really don't add anything to the image. Extreme contrast is great for B&W, but with colour I feel it really diminishes the image.
Logged

1PhotoGuyinNM

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 8
Re: Ansel Adams and Shadows
« Reply #10 on: December 16, 2018, 11:17:59 am »

Agree.  The extreme contrast and saturation comes across as heavy handed without subtilty and refinement.
Logged

Alan Klein

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 4007
    • Flicker photos
Re: Ansel Adams and Shadows
« Reply #11 on: December 16, 2018, 12:31:57 pm »

Well,  I've never been called refined or subtile. 😎

Telecaster

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 3690
Re: Ansel Adams and Shadows
« Reply #12 on: December 16, 2018, 03:18:00 pm »

I've been a big fan of Millet since discovering him in the late '80s while reading about van Gogh's influences. He's a master of both color and tone. Been able to see some of his work in various galleries in the US and Europe but never a proper show.

-Dave-
Logged

jmlphotography

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 57
Re: Ansel Adams and Shadows
« Reply #13 on: December 16, 2018, 05:14:49 pm »

There are many video interviews with or about Adams that show how is style changed over the years.  The classic and most documented example (that I know of) is "Moonrise over Hernandez", which over the years he printed increasingly more contrasty. So dark shadows/light shadows (among many other aesthetic decisions) is really just a part of an artist's preference at any particular time.
Logged

drralph

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 162
    • Ralph's Instagram
Re: Ansel Adams and Shadows
« Reply #14 on: December 17, 2018, 11:45:22 am »

I've been a big fan of Millet since discovering him in the late '80s while reading about van Gogh's influences. He's a master of both color and tone. Been able to see some of his work in various galleries in the US and Europe but never a proper show.

-Dave-

Might be worth the trip from Michigan to see this show before it comes down.  Because of the fragile nature of pastels, they rarely show these.  Van Gogh saw these same Millet pieces in an auction show in Paris in 1875 and wrote his brother Theo ďI felt something akin to: Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.Ē  The MFA bought 10 of those same Millets, and seeing them now I can understand Van Gogh's reaction.

drralph

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 162
    • Ralph's Instagram
Re: Ansel Adams and Shadows
« Reply #15 on: December 17, 2018, 06:30:43 pm »

If youíre working in Lr, try Split Toning, but only change the Shadows only. I set them to Hue 48, Satín 12 with Balance set at -50 to give a subtle warmth to B&Ws. Itís about as close to Brovira as Iíve seen.

I tried the Split Toning technique you suggest.  Brilliant!  I found the settings you use, but with saturation at 10, to be most pleasing.

luxborealis

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 2773
    • luxBorealis.com - photography by Terry McDonald
Re: Ansel Adams and Shadows
« Reply #16 on: December 17, 2018, 08:27:10 pm »

I tried the Split Toning technique you suggest.  Brilliant!  I found the settings you use, but with saturation at 10, to be most pleasing.

Great! Are you using it for web or for printing? Iím using Ď12í on MOAB Entrada Rag Natural for printing. I could see how Ď10í might be more suitable for screen display.
Logged
Terry McDonald - luxBorealis.com

drralph

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 162
    • Ralph's Instagram
Re: Ansel Adams and Shadows
« Reply #17 on: December 17, 2018, 11:15:18 pm »

Great! Are you using it for web or for printing? Iím using Ď12í on MOAB Entrada Rag Natural for printing. I could see how Ď10í might be more suitable for screen display.

I have made a series of proof prints of a single image on Canson Photographique using the technique so far, and am very pleased.  I believe I have a  Brovira silver gelatin print of the same image printed from the original negative in storage, that I should pull out to compare before making a finish print.  It is an image where I have explored the issues of deep shadows which prompted my original post, and I have had a lot of fun with it.

Mark D Segal

  • Contributor
  • Sr. Member
  • *
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 12510
    • http://www.markdsegal.com
Re: Ansel Adams and Shadows
« Reply #18 on: December 18, 2018, 09:20:11 am »

I have made a series of proof prints of a single image on Canson Photographique using the technique so far, and am very pleased.  I believe I have a  Brovira silver gelatin print of the same image printed from the original negative in storage, that I should pull out to compare before making a finish print.  It is an image where I have explored the issues of deep shadows which prompted my original post, and I have had a lot of fun with it.

I would be very interested in your observations once you have been able to compare the silver gelatin with the inkjet versions.
Logged
Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
Author: "Scanning Workflows with SilverFast 8....."

nirpat89

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 431
    • Photography by Niranjan Patel
Re: Ansel Adams and Shadows
« Reply #19 on: December 18, 2018, 09:42:21 am »

I would be very interested in your observations once you have been able to compare the silver gelatin with the inkjet versions.

+1.  Hopefully with the images.
Logged
Pages: [1] 2 3   Go Up