Daily Inspiration #434 by James Marsh

Steve

As a Leica man, I have been a big fan of your site from its beginning. What I am also a fan of is your no-nonsense real world evaluations of other quality cameras as well.  For example, your recent peak at the new Sony R1x and its ground breaking raw capabilities have me intrigued and I find myself imagining one in my life.  Then, I quickly fall back to reality and realize although I am a creative type that likes to experiment with the new wonders coming out every day with today’s technology, when it comes down to it, I am just an old dog that prefers his old tricks.

Back in the analog days when I was pulling film out of an M6 instead of SD cards out of an M9, and printing from a Focomat V35 in a darkroom instead of a Mac in Lightroom, I was what you would call a lazy printer.  No dodging, no burning and just 2 minutes in the soup, because my general philosophy was to create the image in camera.  If it needed more or less time in developer, it was a wrong exposure.  If it need dodging or burning, it wasn’t a well conceived frame.  Printing for me was just a formality, all the work was done at the exposure, not the other way around.

I find I am the same way in the digital age, especially in the digital age, because now it is easier than ever to get lost in the raging sea of post processing software.  So, I prefer to simply post/print my M9 images straight out of camera no differently than my M6 days.

I’m curious to hear what your readers might think on this attitude.

Below are some images from the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, Japan.  I spent many early a.m. days there with my M9.  Tsukiji Market is dark, crowded and active, and if you can find a way in there when tourists are not allowed, you will be living the discreet rangefinder shooter’s dream, for a rangefinder such as a Leica is just what you will need to capture an up close still life or quiet moment of a worker resting or in action.

All images are straight out of camera from a Leica M9 w 50mm Summicron at 640-800 iso and probably wide open at f2.

Cheers

JD Marsh

jdmarshphotography.com

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26 Comments

  1. Fellows,
    I think you make a lot of fuss about nothing. There is no meaning talking about post processing. In the film days there was the relevant post processing as well. Interviews and stories by master photographers addressing the subject have been published since years and famous photos like the mourning over the old man in Eugene W. Smith’s series “Spanish Village” is one of the most known photos with a week of post processing behind it. To wish or pretend to be a “purist” in the digital age sounds a little bit awkward. To use JPEGs out of the camera is the worst thing you can do to your photos. There are many that they prefer it like that. It is a matter of personal taste and opinion. Therefore what is the meaning of the rest to argue about the matter. The fact is that digital gives the real photographer nearly total control over her/his photos. If she/he wishes to use it, it is another story. A certain know-how and infra structure is needed. If the photographer is going to invest time and money in order to get it, is another story.
    Last but not least. I read names for lenses like Cron and Lux for Summicron and Summilux or expressions like “top glass” etc. Please refrain from using those. The heritage of optical design is a heritage of a special culture. It is not proper to discount the lenses’ names just to show-off.
    You can call your friend anyway you want but your lenses and cameras not. A Planar is a Planar, a Tessar is a Tessar, a Cooke Triplet is a Cooke, a Hasselblad is a Hasselblad, it bears the name of a top designer and inventor, it can be neither a “Hassy” nor a “Blad”. A Leica is a LEItz CAmera and the Laika was a dog that went around the earth on he Sputnik Russian Space Craft of that time.
    We must call things with their real names. Optical glass is a material that very often costs tenfold its weight in gold. There has been a tremendous effort of human innovation behind it. It is not proper to be called “glass”. Otherwise please do not seek to find and live with the quality of a top lens. A plastic zoom will suffice.
    Then for sure the post processing will be completely irrlevant as well.
    Best regards,
    Dimitris V. Georgopoulos, Athens, Greece

    P.S: The expression pp is used for post processing. For those who probably do not know “pp” in French means to get a piss. I think that at the end of the day we are going to get ourselves to be “lost in the translation”.

  2. I limit my PP to increasing/decreasing exposure in LR. Every time I see extensive PP, and it is usually obvious, I think of postcards or ads. I understand the idea of jpegs and automatic PP; however, I view the jpeg characteristics as being essentially the same thing as film characteristics. As a photographer, you understand the characteristics and frame, adjust in expectation of what will be rendered. It is entirely different from PP in PS or one of the other software products.

  3. That fish pic reminds me one of The Godfather’s movie scene xD
    In an other hand I guess this fish is a red Thuna. Too bad japanese people cannot stop fishing this type of Thuna which is about to instinct. This fish is not allowed to be fish and sold in my country.

  4. Are you shooting jpegs or raw? If jpegs, you are letting your camera do the post for you and with a m9 i don’t think that’s the best idea (at least mine doesn’t knock out very strong ones except in b&w where they rock…) and if you are shooting raw, then those files aren’t really designed for end use. Raw m9 files are inherently flat inorder to preserve as much information for you as possible so you can use it to finish the image. Personally, if you are going to use this mantra I would suggest you go back to shooting film which is much more complete out of the camera. Just my thoughts.

    You images are strong and I really enjoyed them! Thanks for sharing and putting yourself out there.

  5. I like your images and do not feel they need any additional post processing. However, I feel that I’m trying to CREATE images that communicate and that I (and hopefully others) enjoy viewing. While the HDR look is definitely not my style, lightening a face in shadow or making other adjustments to make the image conform to my memory or vision is something I embrace. In fact, putting a lot of time into improving my post processing software and skills has had a huge impact on being able achieve my vision and style. I’m perfectly comfortable letting others pursue their art in any fashion they choose.

  6. Your basic tenant to “get right at exposure” would make Ansel Adams proud! But you look at what he “created” in the darkroom and you see his genius. He always had a vision of what he wanted the final product to look like. I remember seeing the back of a test print of “Clearing Winter Storm” that had notations of dodging and burning to get the print that showed what his mind’s eye saw that day. As a former newspaper pj, I definitely understand your desire to not make minimal changes to an image but for each person it is different. What one does with an image (digital or film) after the capture is a very personal one. One is not better than the other, just different. I shoot both digital and film and, like you, always want to get right in the camera. But sometimes I don’t see it the way the camera captures it so post processing is necessary. At work, it was only some changes to color (because I forgot to change from incandescent to flourescent or vice versa), cropping (because of geographic restrictions, wrong lens), etc. But today I look at some of these old images and I see something different that makes me want to “create” an image for greater impact.

    But, with all that rambling, still one viewpoint is not better than another, just different. Keep shooting the way that your vision inspires you, James, and I will do the same.

  7. We don’t have to be dogmatic about any of these positions, do we? I’m fairly minimalist about PP and to my taste get pleasing results with jpegs and iPhoto. And that goes for all my limited gear – Digilux 1, V-lux 1, D-lux 4 and NEX C3. Some day I’ll learn more advanced things, but it’s not urgent.

    Nor am I bothered about whether I’m a photographer or an image maker: there is always more than one picture, photo, image in one shutter activation all the way from realistic to abstract.

    I must say I liked your photos better, James, after som gentle iPhoto treatment.

  8. I asked this question recently after watching Steve’s tutorials. When I was young photography was about your eye, being in the right place at the right time – photography demanded a lot from the photographer and a knowledge of his equipment.

    Today, it seems to me that you can just walk around taking shot after shot after shot and “fix it in post”. Take the sky from this shot, change the angle on another, remove trees, houses, telephone poles, even people from shots. At what point does it not become real any more? If you take out a tree in your shot, or block out an “imperfection” to fix a mistake or saturate a sunset to make it seem more spectacular – is it still photography?

    I’ve seen the label SOOC – Straight Out Of Camera – perhaps it is time to be proud of our SOOC shots and publish them as such.

    – Roger

    • Roger,

      You seem to be conflating all forms of image manipulation with post processing and I don’t think that’s fair to do. Adding or removing significant compositional elements isn’t – in my view – the same as modifying an image’s contrast, white balance, saturation, etc.
      ……
      Phil

  9. Agree with you Don. There’s an amount of vanity in saying “I get it right in the camera” and technically it’s nonsense.

    JD : You cannot view a digital image without processing any more than you can a film image.

    By saying SOOC you mean that you accept the compromise processing settings, designed to make nearly all shots look OK rather than settings that are ideal for that particular shop. (much like getting your pics printed in a minilab). I’d much rather be able to adjust these parameters myself.

    • Quote: “all that matters is if the end result is what u were looking for. how u get there is up to you.”

      Suppose the question might be regarded as what we do is a hobby (profession for some) with a description as Photography or is it Image Making? The problem from my vantage point is one of limits. We all learned very early to not trust digital images as necessarily real or truthful. There are quite a few famous images that many trusted, which turned out to be phony. When do we stop manipulation with computer editing software? Can we change contrast? Focus? Trade a yellow sunset to red-purple one? Even black and white isn’t really truthful. Yes, I love it, yes B&W is beautiful, elegant and striking…but is it actually honest photography? Yes. I know this is blasphemy.

      I have been lucky enough to have traveled and have seen so much of the world. So much of our planet’s cultures are color rich and even color dependent. Because of this, when I went to buy my camera device that captures only black to white shade values, I changed my purchase to an order for a camera device that does color…I felt it was a more truthful machine.

      I feel the closer the final photograph is to what came from my work in the field is, I am enjoying the art of photography. The farther away with computer-software manipulation I go, things seem to morph into image maker.

      Pick your path…

      David

  10. I recently starting shooting film again, and so it forces me to try to get it as good as possible in-camera. I don’t do much in Lightroom with my digital for these reasons: 1). I’m lazy, 2). I don’t always have much time to devote to it, and 3). I need some education on how to do post processing effectively.

  11. I do agree, although I was not as lazy as you describe yourself. From 1975 until 2008, when I dismantled my darkroom, I have gone through all the necessary processing from straight out printing to all that chemistry as reducers, intencifiers and toners. In colour I experimented with Agfaspeed, Ektaflex and a little of Cibachrome. The dark room process was the second creative part in getting my image on paper the way more or less I thought of it when I triggered the shutter.
    But as a matter of principle you are absolutely right. The first thing is to get it right out of the camera. The only advantage that digital offers me is the greater control of the post processing over the lab and the continuation of my “old darkroom tricks” in a quicker and more efficient way in the lightroom using the Lightroom, along with Photoshop and some other software for film rendering.
    I still find though that film foundamentally remains superior to digital although it is getting more difficult to find your favourite film or to have it processed and printed in a proper way. Thus the scanner takes over with nearly the same results as the analogue printing. In Greece things are getting tougher with film and labs. If i had for example, the pro lab services I have when I am in London, I should have shot at least the triple quanity of film, which means spending much lesser time in front of the screen.
    I find your photos interesting, especially the first one.
    Best regards,
    Dimitris V. Georgopoulos
    Photographer at Large,
    Athens, Greece.

    P.S. Although all that new stuff is tempting, I do not think that somebody must be bothered if she/he has found the proper equipment to fit her/his style of photography. I find that both Monochrom and M9 are two exceptional cameras, probably the filmiest digital cameras. So what Sony or something else can offer in the RF front?.

  12. I think you let down your work if you ignore the development side. It has always been part of the photographic process and top photographers have often handed their work over to others to do the printing. Take a look at what happens in the Magnum darkroom:

    http://theliteratelens.com/2012/02/17/magnum-and-the-dying-art-of-darkroom-printing/

    Any notion that “straight out of camera” adds purity is a baseless one. You’re simply stopping halfway with an unfinished job. What you do with photoshop is a matter of aesthetics and taste, but all those fish market images could be brought more to life with some careful work in post. You may be masking failings in this area by calling it your “general philosophy”. If you lack the interest or skill to do the post processing yourself, why not select a few favorites and pay someone to do that for you and see if you appreciate the difference. You may then decide it’s worth improving your skills in this area, or always paying someone to print up your best work..

    • I agree with you here! Even war photorapher James Nachtwey will put a lot of time in post when preparing a book or exhibition. With all respect for the OP.

  13. Great photos James!

    I do agree with you in principle , however practicality sometimes dictates otherwise – for me, in some situations.

    Even in my commercial work sometimes I find that 15 minutes in post makes more sense than 45 minutes on-site.

    By the way, I think Tsukiji is an excellent testing ground for cameras/lenses! Last year it was with my (former) OMD E-M5 system… this year was with my (current) Fuji X-Trans system. What a visually stimulating place.

  14. Fine pictures. I like your attitude. I try to work like that and try to do most of the work before pressing the release button, but sometimes a little bit of post processing improves the picture. One should not be too rigid.

    • Hi JD,

      Thanks for the images and words.

      Even though I made my living with a computer, photography to me is with a camera. I love being outside with my camera (not my phone) making images of the world. Can’t stand the idea that I have to balance that time OUTSIDE with computer software time INSIDE!

      Grins,
      JDD

  15. Dear James,

    I fully agree with every single word. I went through the very same process over the years and have now a similar attitude towards digital.

    BTW, I like your pics. I remember taking a few shots in the same Fish Market about 15 years ago with a Minox … Which I never managed to process since the camera literally fell apart when rewinding the film.

    Ernesto

  16. I’m exactly the same. No post-pro at all. The only internal philosophical conflict I resolve is that I will (often, not always) crop and rotate to correct aim, often changing the aspect ratio to what I think works better (I haven’t got time to change that while I’m shooting). All other options are out of the window, almost no time at all spent on ‘massaging’ images. It’s a rare pic that causes me to stop and do something significant to it in Lightroom.

  17. I work along similar lines. Keep the processing to a minimum, and try to get the shot straight from the camera. I find Lightroom useful, but I’d rather not spend hours in front of a computer when I could be spending hours behind a viewfinder.

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