I have previously said that I needed to do some more work on the images for assignment 5, as I was not happy with their quality. So yesterday, along with Kate, I went along to our local darkroom/studio guru’s place to see if my images could be improved. Howard, who runs the place, is a long term photographer and analogue printer, who runs a darkroom and studio in Devizes, and he has been very helpful to both Kate and I over the last couple of years.
We spent the day taking photos of my A5 pieces in a little setup he had arranged with a 45 degree angled light to bring out the shadows, lumps and bumps on the albums and old photographs.I had hoped that the results could be more or less used as they came out of camera, but sadly this is not the case, and this whole exercise is proving to be much more of a technical challenge than I had anticipated. The objects themselves are not the problem – it is getting the background a uniform white that is causing the difficulty.
For my previous iteration of this series, I had made the images in natural light and then Selected and Masked the relevant bits in Photoshop, before adding a background Fill Layer of 100% white. The Selection process was not straightforward, as I wanted to keep the shadows made by the objects, and several of them contained elements of white which I had to manually remove afterwards. With the last lot, I had also shot the images on as dull a day as possible to minimise any light gradient and to cope with the relative shininess of some of the objects. I do not recall with them that light flare was much of an issue.
This time, the results also have a number of issues about which I am unhappy, but they are not the same ones as before. Firstly, with the lighting coming from the upper left quadrant, even with a reflector on the other side, there is a considerable drop-off in light across the images. Next, they all have a blue tinge and are underexposed, despite having tried various different white balances. Even having bumped up the exposure and done spot checks on white balance, they are printing with a definite blue tinge. Thirdly, and this is entirely my fault, there are a lot of spots on the images. (reminder to self – make sure you clean the lens before starting to shoot). They can be removed, but are an annoying extra which I had not anticipated. Another problem is the light flare on the shinier covers. We tried a variety of depths of diffusion, but it remains even with several layers in place, albeit not as bad as before.
Finally, having done a set of first test prints on matt A4 paper, the results are terribly flat, and show almost none of the texture I was looking for. I suspect this is possibly a result of too much contrast and wll need to have another go at editing them. I must also write up my notes from the Thames Valley Group’s workshop on printing, which may give some other solutions. And in case anyone is wondering, yes, I did calibrate my screen right before making these prints.