<<< o >>>a question of scale 14 comments + add yours

First of all, thanks for all the thoughtful comments on my previous image – they're much appreciated – but there are a couple of points I'd like to pick up on one of them.

Garry and YETi both commented to the effect that they don't feel they should comment unless it will have some constructive impact. And clearly, from my perspective, constructive criticism is great – it helps me to move on – but I wouldn't want people to feel that that's all they should offer. Chromasia has been around for a long time, and as I write this there are 39722 comments containing over 1.3 million words – some of these are constructive, some are not, but all of them carry the various conversations forward.

There were also a number of interesting comments regarding the future of blogs, images on the web, and so on, but I need to think about these before I reply.

Anyway, on with the show :-)

The last few images I've posted were taken on a trip last week and, what with one thing and another I haven't been out since. So, I'm posting this one, a) because I don't have anything else worth putting up, and b) because I think it raises an interesting point. Personally, I really like this one – for reasons I'll come to in a minute – but I have to say that I don't think it works all that well at this resolution.

The things I like are the feathery detail of the structures on the pier, the couple walking arm-in-arm atop the new sea wall, the lone woman taking her dog for a walk, and a whole host of other small details – most of which are barely visible at this resolution. But what's the point in posting it if you can't see the things that make the shot?

My main reason (other than having nothing else to post) is that I wonder how acclimatized we have become to expecting an image to be eye-catching at the resolution we typically see on the web? Clearly, most photographs will look better when printed rather than previewed at a fraction of their original resolution, but does the fact that we spend most of our time looking at photographs on the web mean we have changed the way we see a photograph? I'm not sure I know the answer, but I do know that I very rarely post anything that doesn't work at this size.

Anyway, if you're interested, I posted another version of this image here:


As you can see, there's a lot more detail in the original image, and while you might not agree that "it makes the image", it does make for more interesting viewing.

focal length
shutter speed
shooting mode
exposure bias
metering mode
image quality
RAW converter
11.25am on 1/4/08
Canon 1Ds Mark II
EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM
aperture priority
RAW Developer
piers [South pier] + fylde coast [scenic] + non standard
comment by csj@id7.co.uk at 08:39 PM (GMT) on 7 April, 2008

And here lies the problem, and the reason why we are loosing so many labs around the country. I've recently been talking on ID7 about friends of mine Jane and Peter who run a lab, a good family run business 14yrs old, and last week, they had to make the decision to close down, or change their business entirely because people have given in to the Flickr generation, and no-one prints anything anymore.

I used to love (still do) holding a print, looking at it closely, realising its quality and feel, and I still make the effort to get my work printed. Dave you are right nothing beats looking at the 'feathery' details up close, and maybe just maybe, blogs don't and never will represent our work the right way!.... who knows....csj.........love the plugin on the link though!!!

comment by djn1 at 08:57 PM (GMT) on 7 April, 2008

I'm as guilty as everyone else, as the vast majority of the images on chromasia will never be seen as anything other than the web-ready graphics you see here. That said, who knows what technology is around the corner – it might not be too many years until we have computer monitors with much higher resolutions, at which point things would change again.

comment by Chris Johnson at 09:05 PM (GMT) on 7 April, 2008

High resolution monitors are something that I'd love to see, but there seems to be sufficiently little demand for them to make them worthwhile. The highest resolution I've seen is in some Dell laptops, which manage to fit something like 1600x1200 in a 15in diagonal. They've been around a good few years and are not particularly expensive, which makes me think that the technology to increase resolution by 50% or so is not particularly advanced.

comment by djn1 at 09:13 PM (GMT) on 7 April, 2008

Chris: the latest Macbook Pro has an option for a 1920 by 1200 17" screen, so they're getting there - just not quite just yet.

comment by Lucifer II at 09:57 PM (GMT) on 7 April, 2008

Devil's advocate.

Resolution, like sharpness and technical proficiency is so overrated, What counts is whether an images conveys some universal truth; is created from the heart, and moves you emotionally or spiritually.

Discuss ?

comment by djn1 at 10:02 PM (GMT) on 7 April, 2008

Universal truth? How quaintly 20th century ;-)

comment by Sharla at 10:09 PM (GMT) on 7 April, 2008

Methinks you chose this shot to play around with some other technology! In all seriousness, the detail is thrilling, although zooming in segments is not the ultimate experience. Love the many textures of the water! The distant detail is quite impressive. As you indicate, there are several storylines playing throughout the whole shot. Great crop.

On the bigger subject of printing, there are tons and tons of terabytes captured that will never be seen more than once, if that many times, thanks to digital cameras. Previously, virtually all of those shots wouldn't have even been taken, of which both never-to-be-seen-by-the-world scenarios are probably best. That so many captures are being made today and that so many are electronically available is great.

But looking closer, figuratively, the detail in the shot you display today would not have been appreciated prior the digital-capture age because the shot would have been printed in a hand-sized format from a negative developed in exhausted chemicals by a pimply twenty-something, who was distracted reading a magazine on celebrities, produced on a machine with a low-grade enlarging lens, the image auto-marginalized by a compensation algorithm guaranteed to make everything 18% gray, with dust and lint marks common but not optional. Don't even dream about getting a copy that precisely matched.

While not optimal, I don't know that we're all that terribly worse-off today.

comment by Garry at 10:47 PM (GMT) on 7 April, 2008

I enjoy printing my pics but at the resolution most compacts can produce, let alone slr's unless you're printing at more than A3 size it really doesn't make an appreciable difference (to my eyes anyway!)

comment by csj @ id7.co.uk at 09:08 AM (GMT) on 8 April, 2008

Sharla: Yes but whilst the digital format has enabled us to improve our quality, and be more selective in what we print, I really dont see that today I am any less selective over what I get printed or indeed where. I compare every local lab before selecting the one that handles my work with care and attention, and produces work that I am more than pleased with. If I were you I'd take your printing elsewhere, but never stop printing. Generations of image makers will look back and the FlickR phenominon will be long dead, but paper prints will be there hidden away for young eyes to fall upon, images will get lost on harddrives, and never seen again. Agreed a lot should never be seen, but those that should and don't get recorded will never be found and rescued, saved, and archived for the future. Sounds like you've had some bad lab experiences in the past....shame, prints are good, and with the right lens, the right care, photographic quality in the past was very very good, easily capable of displaying the detail that Dave is showing us here in this shot. Find yourself a good lab, and get yourself some proper prints done, you won't regret it.

comment by moonhead at 09:50 AM (GMT) on 8 April, 2008

Its great to see some constructive and interesting comments again. With regards the labs, like Kodak, Ilford and Polaroid, most have failed to convert, thinking that digital would never take off. Bad mistake!

My post yesterday seemed to spark a small debate - this is just what's needed to keep blogs alive. Too many bogs (including this one) are starting to have the same commenter’s saying the same old thing (nice, great, wonderful etc) that are not constructive at all. – More like a Fan Club.

I don’t wish to join the chromasia fan club although I do like to pop by and look at the work of a fellow photographer.

As to where the future is going with photography (and photoblogs) who knows? We all may wake up one morning and realize that we’ve spent far too much of our short lives sat behind a computer with the only beneficiary being the local optician :-)

Some photobloggers are spending 5 minutes taking a photo and then 5 hours at the computer trying to produce an eye catching image. IS THIS PHOTOGRAPHY I wonder??

I can honestly say that I have never spent more than 10 minutes working on any of my images in PS and when I worked in a darkroom (back in the 1980's) the longest I spent dodging and burning an image was about an hour - It was of Margret Thatcher though!!

comment by rhys at 11:00 AM (GMT) on 8 April, 2008

Yesterday’s and today’s posts/comments seem to be opening all kinds of ‘worm cans’. The problem is that the digital age now means that anyone can be a photographer. There are now millions of photoblogs out there, some run by novice amateurs, some by ‘professional amateurs’ and other by professionals. Some are awe inspiring, others not so inspiring. The world is flooded with people snapping away and posting their visual snippets on the latest www fad (flikr, blogger, myspace etc etc). But, there will always be good photographers; they will just be rather thin on the ground. It’s like painting, I know lots of people who call themselves ‘painters’ or ‘artists’ and some of its good and some are fairly mediocre. But they will always paint and draw or make sculptures or write poetry or do something over and over again, it’s just nowadays they have more ways of showing it to us all. The good virtuous ‘stuff’ will rise to the top once it’s been sifted out from the rest. It’s the same with photography and photoblogs, eventually the digital wheat will get separated from the pixelated chaff. People will eventually decide what is important. As for printing, I guess I’m as guilty as others, I probably do 4 or maybe 5 print runs per year. I have a great local lab that makes a sterling effort to ensure they produce only the best. I agree with Craig when he says there is no substitute for a top-notch print- it really does get your heart fluttering.
But I think the biggest problem is getting people to UNDERSTAND and THINK about what they are doing. It’s not necessarily about technical expertise, the clarity, the latest kit bag edition, the megapixel count (I posted and a week-long series of 35mm film work last week which was curiously liberating), its about getting people to realise the POWER of that little box that they hold in their hand and point at the world. Personally, I think photoblogs will live forever, most people’s interests will wane and the best ones will survive. The perception of photography as a valid art form has become exceedingly diluted probably due to the ubiquitous networking sites, readily available blogs-for-all etc. Most of photography’s power has been striped away due to the mediocrity of so much of the work that we see on our screens: banal postings like ‘my dog (or cat)’, ‘sunrise over our back garden’, ‘my lunch yesterday’ etc. etc. So many images appear to lack any coherent meaning or intention. But I firmly believe that photography will fight back.
There is a great quote by Maholy-Nagy who said :

“The illiterate of the future will be the man who does not understand photography”

Quite prophetic considering that he must have said that about 70 or 80 years ago.
Anyhow, I’ve rambled on far too much and probably haven’t made much sense.

ps. I dont class your blog in the banal category!

comment by Lin B at 12:08 PM (GMT) on 8 April, 2008

Just curious: your images here on chromasia are jpgs; are they 72 dpi? 96 dpi? Do you use some kind of optimize-for-web technology on them? What's the file size of this photo? I'm always trying to figure out how to get the best photo reproduction online while not making the load-time too long.

comment by djn1 at 07:40 PM (GMT) on 8 April, 2008

Sharla: on this occasion I'm not sure I agree with you insofar as the likes of us (by which I mean photobloggers) would previously have been the camera-club members - and we would have appreciated a good print, that we would probably have printed ourselves. So no, the general public may well be in much the same boat as they ever were, but the serious hobbyists and professionals are partially worse off. Well, possibly, but it's certainly something that's worth bearing in mind.

moonhead: you're quite right, and that's as much my fault as anyone else's; i.e. I probably need to make more of an effort.

rhys: it made perfect sense to me, and thanks for the quote, it wasn't one that I'd heard before.

Lin: I use Save for Web, 75% quality. As for dpi - it doesn't make any difference as any image on the web assumes the resolution of the monitor on which its displayed. In other words, its the dimensions of the image that are important - the number of pixels.

comment by Lee at 07:49 AM (GMT) on 12 April, 2008

Your work never ceases to amaze me. I love your use of tones (HDR?). Your blog is inspirational.