Tied down with battleship chains

I’ve been slowly moving away from film photography forums.
It seems that everything is a reason for starting a war of opinions.

I envy some people for their certainties as I keep having doubts and questioning everything I do.

Things like, “photo as scanned”, “absolutely no Photoshop”, “scanner settings set to zero”, “no crop”, “no edit”, “I don’t care about gear”, “dust and hairs are part of film”, “I don’t use auto focus cameras as they are not in the true spirit of photography”, “I only use primes”, etc… are added as captions as if those words could grant images a certain kind of immaculacy.

They do not.

I believe that statements like the ones above are like battleship chains tying us down and keeping us, many times, from evolving.

Am I suppose to be passive about what comes out of the developing tank?
To be passive about my own mistakes?
To be passive about what comes out of the “set to zero” scanner?

– This would be a nice shot but it’s a bit over/underexposed. Too bad.
God forbid me from importing it into Photoshop, adjust the thing and make a digital print.

– This portrait looks good, too bad for the hairs and dust on her face but I rather keep a pure example of film photography than to risk compromising it’s pureness by cleaning it using a digital tool.

I don’t comply with an attitude that keeps on lessen the work of others because of those “battleship chains”.

When I’m doing something creative I use everything in my powers to deliver the best job. It does not matter if it’s a graphic design piece or a photograph. It does not matter if it is digital, film or polaroid. Doesn’t matter if it is a silver or a digital print. I always try to dignify my work.

I don’t see the use of Photoshop or any other digital tool as a betrayal to photography. It’s up to each one to determine the degree of manipulation they feel comfortable with and, if someone truly believes that, no matter what, they will stick to what comes out of the developing tank, that’s totally fine too.  Respect is the key word.

I will crop, straight, adjust and clean using any available tool, be it an enlarger or Photoshop.

My images are bad, I’m aware of that and I’m the first to admit it, but I’m still the master of my own (bad) creations.

PS: This is a personal blog and, as such, this is my very personal opinion.
I’ve been around Portuguese and international photography forums for a while (and I’ve learned a lot) but I feel that lately the war of words about film vs digital, film photography vs truer film photography, is taking over. I like photography and I like gear and I like to talk about both but there’s talking, and there’s… talking.

PS 2: I’ve been using Google Translate a lot. Still trying to improve my English skills.

Thank you

Original scan. Not straight and dirty. Mamiya 645AF Fuji Pro H 400 (If I recall right)

Original scan. Not straight and dirty.
Mamiya 645AFD
Fuji Pro H 400 (If I recall right)

Straighten and cleaned. Color, brightness and contrast adjustments. Mamiya 645AF Original scan. Not straight and dirty. Mamiya 645AF Fuji Pro H 400 (If I recall right)

Straighten and cleaned. Color, brightness and contrast adjustments.
Mamiya 645AFD
Fuji Pro H 400

Original scan. I didn't like the magenta cast. Mamiya 645 Original scan. Not straight and dirty. Mamiya 645AF Fuji Pro H 400

One of the original scans. I didn’t like the magenta cast.
Mamiya 645AFD
Fuji Pro H 400

Adjusted image. Mamiya 645AF Original scan. Not straight and dirty. Mamiya 645AF Fuji Pro H 400

Adjusted image.
Mamiya 645AFD
Fuji Pro H 400

Original scan. Again, a cyan cast all over the image. Mamiya 645AF Original scan. Not straight and dirty. Mamiya 645AF Fuji Pro H 400

Original scan. Cyan cast all over the image.
Mamiya 645AF
Fuji Pro H 400

Converted to B&W and adjusted. Mamiya 645AF Fuji Pro H 400

Converted to B&W and adjusted.
Mamiya 645AFD
Fuji Pro H 400

Original scan. Mamiya 645AF Fuji Pro H 400

Original scan.
Mamiya 645AFD
Fuji Pro H 400

Converted to B&W and adjusted.

Converted to B&W and adjusted.
Mamiya 645AFD
Fuji Pro H 400

One of the original scans, this time with a yellow color cast. Mamiya 645AF Kodak Portra NC 400 Mamiya 645AF Fuji Pro H 400

One of the original scans, this time with a yellow color cast.
Mamiya 645AFD
Kodak Portra NC 400

Adjusted. Mamiya 645AF Kodak Portra NC 400

Adjusted.
Mamiya 645AFD
Kodak Portra NC 400

One of the original scans. Mamiya 645AF Kodak Portra NC 400

One of the original scans.
Mamiya 645AFD
Kodak Portra NC 400

Adjusted and enhanced saturation. Mamiya 645AF Kodak Portra NC 400

Adjusted and enhanced saturation.
Mamiya 645AFD
Kodak Portra NC 400

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23 comments
  1. Mark said:

    Very true. Whilst I think the opinions and discussions can be really interesting, some people do seem to get carried away by their own views! A good English phase is: ‘tell them to poke it!’, meaning bugger off! 😉

    By the way I like your images and do think the adjustments are needed in these cases.

    Mark

    • Thank very much Mark.
      Things are moving so fast, it is stating the obvious I know, but they are. All sort of tools, solutions, new ideas, appear every day. I like to keep an open mind.

      No matter how much we all like (or not) gear or a certain kind of medium, film or digital, I believe that we all love Photography above all and I think that photography is redefining itself everyday.

      I can’t refuse something as a valid way of visual expression, may it be a large format amazing picture or some colorful iPhone capture, just because I rather use something else.

      PS: designer talk: some of these samples toke up to 12 layers. It’s hard adjusting color film images I find it easier to deal with digital files. Is this strange?

    • Me again.
      I answered your email but my internet connection is a bit crazy and I’m not able to send it. Will do as soon as possible. 🙂

  2. yummania said:

    dear Paolo, i couldn`t agree more.i hate such comments as a matter of fact. photography to me is visual and not technical.is a matter of soul , not a matter of mechanism. so if one wants to transmit their picture cropped, in high contrast or saturated tones that`s up to the photo composer, no one can judge.
    and your photos are not bad at all 🙂

    • Thank you so much dear Eni, that’s exactly it. We are the masters of our own creations and we can’t place something above something else just because it was done using a certain tool and a certain process.

      • yummania said:

        exactly. doing so is so very pathetic to me.

      • Every tool and every process speaks a different language, visual language. Not better, just different.

        Which is a “better” work of art? The Sistine Chapel or a Jackson Pollock?

        They are equally great, they just speak different visual languages. 🙂

      • yummania said:

        the more differences the more exciting;)

      • Somehow that’s a very… hot sentence. 🙂

      • yummania said:

        hahahaha

  3. fbonito said:

    “haters gonna hate”

    there is always a compromise between the things you do and how you do it and in this crazy analogue “revival” (still now i really don’t understand it…) there are many misconceptions and people tend to be (for whatever reason) very territorial about their “believes”, i say “believes” with quotation marks because in most part of the cases they are wrong believes, just ideas that people copy around many time without a point and many times without truth.

    what i like most is “i don’t use any parameters on the scanner” wrong… scanner is always going to follow a preset, even without a preset, the software will interpret the negative according with some algorithm, and even the brand of the monitor in which you see the photos will give you different results… so if you look in to it it’s pointless

    in the end, it’s really a question of taste and what drives you

    keep up photohoping, just don’t abuse in the presets 😉

    ps. now i’m going to make also a battleship, some time ago, in a forum where we met, there was someone (i really don’t remember how) that shot with a leica and then ad vignetting in photoshop.. this is just wrong 😉

    ps2. a few years ago, a photo of mine was included in a photo-book it was a portrait of a friend with some fire in the background made with a lighter and a aerosol, b&w, when they asked me for a high resolution photo i didn’t had that negative, it was missing… but i did have the “same” photo without the fire.. so photohop saved my photo 🙂

    • I agree with most 🙂
      One thing is for sure, right from the start, photography is manipulation. Using a camera is the beginning of that manipulation. No camera can really “see” like our eyes do. Our eyes have perfect, and always shallow, depth of field for example. The world is not black and white and even in color, every film brand “manipulates” reality in a specific way…

      It’s a never ending debate but the bottom line is, let’s use what we like, do what we like, and let’s keep an open mind for other visual approaches.

      Em bom português “Não negue à partida uma ciência que desconhece” 😉

  4. Son of Sharecroppers said:

    Amen, brother. I keep trying to improve my basic skills. But we’re trying to express our artistic vision. Why not use every tool available to us?

    As they say: the proof is in the pudding . . .

  5. jezzafox said:

    I like what you say here, and more so because of how well you say it. Not dogmatic, just pure and simple sense.
    I have said some of the things you quote, though more out of showing that one can make perfectly good photographs without the need to go mad with PS.
    I think there is a snobbery attached to many forums of that nature, and some people take pride in wearing a hair shirt as it were. I don’t like plastic lenses, but if that horrible look floats someone’s boat then so be it. At least they are buying film, which is good for us all.
    I love your blog Paolo, thanks for yet another excellent post

    • Thank you very much Jeremy.

      I also believe that one can make good photography without going mad or even without using PS at all.
      By using PS daily for over 20 years, for me, shooting film is also a way to “escape” PS as much as I can.

      We both know how great it feels to make a good photograph, well composed and exposed, well developed and printed on “premium paper”. Ilford multigrade pearl finishing for me please 🙂

      That might be the way we love to make photography, that’s what floats our boat, but there are also many other kinds of boats floating along. Some people try to sink them even before taking a closer look. You called it snobbery and I would add aggressiveness.

      Thank you again for taking the time and for the great and honest comment Jeremy.

  6. There are definitely some who are interested in equipment more than the actual picture it delivers.

    • If the picture is good enough we forget everything else.
      The questions that might come into our mind like: what camera, lens, etc… where and how, etc.. are questions we don’t want to be answered because they belong to the tangible part of photography.

      Ultimately it’s not even about the actual picture itself but about the range of emotions it unlocks in us.

      I love cameras but in no way they are the most important part of this ride. 🙂

  7. serialphotographer said:

    I completely agree with your summation, there are folk on the web whose whole purpose is to discuss the minutiae whether that be film

  8. serialphotographer said:

    Sorry pressed the wrong key… or digital the size of their sensor moire and a whole host of issues they often spend so much time doing this so rarely make images.

    When they do it’s generally just a copy of something they will have seen ..a lot of times the image will lack narrative and a clear and discernible focus. That was particularly prevalent with pin hole cameras. They had seen shots so rushed out bought the necessary kit and invariably end up selling it all after producing yet more mediocrity.

    As for your images today I like them especially the cropped portraits.

    • Thank you so much for commenting my friend.
      I agree that it’s hard to take seriously the opinion of someone that indeed spends more time talking about those issues than going out to take pictures.

      The desire to create some magic of my own is still the main reason for taking a camera with me every day.

  9. eXo said:

    I’m curious about the way you edit the magenta cast. Did you adjust the hue/color or adding color filter? Same goes to the yellow cast.

    I ask this as I encounter certain cast on my image as well, especially from Agfa’s film.

    • My friend, it’s almost impossible to answer you by writing.
      I will make a post soon about the way I remove color casts and make an overall adjustment.

      The basic principle is to keep the original layer and then duplicate it, adjust the part that you want regardless of other parts of the image and then you erase the parts of the image you don’t want adjusted in that way.

      You keep on doing this for every part of the image. The green on the trees, the ground, her skin, the shirt and skirt, the sky. Every single part of the image was adjusted separately.

      And yes a mix of Hue and Saturation and also layer modes, Softlight and Multiply.

      Please excuse my terrible English. Hope I made any sense.

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