Thursday, June 27, 2013

Polaroid Film, Part 2

As a followup to my last post on the discontinuance of Polaroid films, here are two examples of the alternative uses to which those films can be put.

The photos above are SX-70 manipulations in which the non-hardened emulsion was stressed with a sharp edge.

The photos below are image transfers in which the dye from a not fully developed Polaroid negative has been transferred to a piece of moistened watercolor paper.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Polaroid SX-70 Manipulations

Recently, while cleaning out a storage area, I came across the images shown here. They were probably created sometime in the mid-1990's. It's important to understand that these images are not Photoshopped; they are straight scans of the actual Polaroid images.

Polaroid SX-70 manipulations were among the most fun of the alternative Polaroid film uses. It was based on the film's property of not immediately drying and hardening after exposure. Instead, the Polaroid could be held up to sunlight or an electric light bulb until the emulsion had softened even further, at which point an etching tool could be rubbed against it so that both the surface and the underlying image would appear distorted. The exposure itself could be made either by shooting the film on an SX-70 camera or, alternatively, by exposing a color film slide in a Daylab with a specially adapted base. I found that the latter method provided the most consistent results.

Although the original Polaroid film has gone the way of the dodo, the Impossible Project has once again begun producing SX-70 film according to the Wikipedia SX-70 article. I myself have not had an opportunity to experiment with this new film and cannot comment on how it compares to the original Polaroid film. It should be noted, though, that the new Impossible Project film cannot be used for alternative processes such as the SX-70 manipulations shown here or for image transfers.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Classic Film Emulsions

This article was originally published on July 17, 2012

There was an interesting article in the current (July/August 2012) issue of Photo Technique Magazine by Tillman Crane that presented an overview of traditional black & white films still available to photographers.

I had expected the article to be no more than a (necessarily) brief inventory of those b&w films not yet discontinued by their manufacturers. Instead, the analysis presented by Crane identified three different panchromatic film emulsions: classic, traditional and flat grained. I had already known of the classic (e.g., Kodak Tri X) and flat grained (e.g., Kodak T-Max) emulsions, but I had not realized that traditional emulsions, which date back to the 1940's, were still in production. These were films made with a single layer of emulsion and were reportedly more rich in silver content than modern films.

One of the traditional films mentioned by Crane, and still available, is Adox CHS 25 Art which is sold by Freestyle in California at a reasonable price. At some point, I intend to experiment with this film in order to explore what differences exist between it and those films that use the more conventional multi-layer emulsions.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Adobe Releases Lightroom 5

Adobe announced last week the release of Lightroom 5, its RAW processing engine and photo editing software.  According to the announcement, the software contains a number of new features, some of which will undoubtedly be more important to photographers than others.  At first glance, the most essential innovation seems to me the Advanced Healing Brush.  Dpreview had previously reviewed these features while the software was still in beta mode.

The new Lightroom update is receiving considerably more attention from photographers than it might otherwise have after Adobe's announcement that, following CS6, its flagship photo editing software Photoshop will be available only by subscription to the Creative Cloud.  This move has set off a firestorm among photographers seeking alternatives to a paid monthly subscription.  Photographers who had not previously used Lightroom will now no doubt purchase it for the first time.  Others (such as myself), who currently use both programs, will be testing the new version of Lightroom to see if all editing can be done in that program alone.  My own feeling is that RAW images can in almost every case be fully edited in Lightroom without recourse to Photoshop.

In addition to Lightroom, Adobe has also announced updates to other software.  An article in dpreview details the new features contained in Camera Raw 8.1 and DNG Converter 8.1.  Although ACR 8.1 is designed to work with Photoshop CS6 as well as Photoshop CC and contains support for seven additional cameras and sixteen lenses, it is important to note that it does not contain any of the new features as advertised by Adobe for CC.  The Adobe press release states:
"However, when ACR8 is hosted by Photoshop CS6, it will not offer any of the new features described in Photoshop CC marketing materials for ACR8."
While DNG Converter 8.1 can be downloaded independently, Adobe advises that Camera Raw 8.1 should be installed using "the update mechanism in Photoshop CS6."

Friday, June 7, 2013

Review: Photographer's Survival Manual

The Photographer's Survival Manual by Edward C. Greenberg and Jack Reznicki is worth the purchase price simply for its walkthrough of the U.S. Copyright Office's online submission procedure. The procedure can be somewhat confusing to a first time user, but the book steers the reader through the various options until it becomes fairly routine.

This is not the only advantage the books offers. First of all, it's clearly designed for photographers, a group not known for reading long winded dissertations. The writing style is casual and maintains a sense of humor while still managing to stress the underlying importance of the material presented. In addition, the layout is clean and crisp and easy to navigate. There are a number of interesting anecdotes supplied to keep even the reader with the shortest attention span from becoming bogged down while reading explanations of legal rights.

On the technical side, the Photoshop action described by Jack Reznicki does work and is extremely useful in resizing photos, thus allowing a greater number of images to be submitted in a shorter amount of time during an online session with the Copyright Office.

Many photographers who would not hesitate to pick up a guide to the latest photo editing software are reluctant to buy a book that deals with legal issues, primarily because they believe they are already familiar with the information contained therein. That's simply not true. I learned many points of law from reading this book. Very often, the authors' debunking of common copyright myths and fallacies hit too close to home for comfort.

Finally, this book is not a textbook nor should it be used in place of consulting a qualified attorney when the need arises. It is instead a highly readable outline of major legal points that every photographer needs to know if he or she does not want to end up in court. Considering the high cost of litigation and attorney fees, the cost of the book is negligible.

NOTE: I am not an attorney myself and am not qualified to give any legal opinions. The review above is presented for informational purposes only.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Lucis Pro 6.0 Photoshop Filter

This article was originally published on my Typepad blog on February 6, 2010 but has been extensively edited below.  I still use the filter regularly, although I have moved away from any obvious faux HDR. 

I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical when I first read about Lucis Pro 6.0.  Could any Photoshop filter convincingly simulate HDR when working with only one exposure?  (Traditional HDR requires multiple "bracketed" exposures.)  Now that I've gotten the filter and experimented with it, I have to admit I'm a believer.  The filter is extremely easy to use, allows full control of the extent to which it is to be applied and produces amazing results in bringing out the detail in any photo.   

One caution -- check system requirements carefully before purchasing the filter.  The default is 64 bit, but there is a 32 bit version included which can be installed manually.  Software authentication requires installing the enclosed dongle on a USB port ("it may or may not work on a hub," I was informed).

The filter is very pricey but I consider the money well spent for my own purposes.

There are more detailed reviews of Lucis Pro 6.0 at these two links: Digital Pro Photographer -- Lucis Review and Shutterbug -- Lucis Review.