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Bill Pierce - Leica M photog and author

 

“Our autobiography is written in our contact sheets,  and our opinion of the world in our selects”  

"Never ever confuse sharp with good, or you will end up shaving with an ice cream cone and licking a razor blade."  

 

Bill Pierce is one of the most successful Leica photographers and authors ever. I initially "met" Bill in the wonderful 1973 15th edition Leica Manual (the one with the M5 on the cover). I kept reading and re-reading his four chapters, continually amazed at his knoweldge and ability, thinking "if I only knew a small part of what this guy knows... wow."  I looked foward to his monthly columns in Camera 35 and devoured them like a starving man.  Bill has worked as a photojournalist  for 25 years, keyword: WORK.  Many photogs dream of the professional photographer's  life that Bill has earned and enjoyed.  Probably Bill's most famous pic is Nixon departing the White House for the last time, victory signs still waving. 

 

Bill  has been published in many major magazines, including  Time, Life, Newsweek, U.S. News, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, New York Magazine, Stern, L'Express and Paris Match.  :His published books include  The Leica Manual,  War Torn, Survivors and Victims in the Late 20th Century, Homeless in America,  Human Rights in China,  Children of War.  Add to that numerous exhibitions at major galleries and museums.  Magazine contributions include  Popular Photography,  Camera 35, Leica Manual,  Photo District News, the Encyclopedia of Brittanica, the Digital Journalist, and now RFF.  Major awards include Leica Medal of Excellence, Overseas Press Club's Oliver Rebbot Award for Best Photojournalism from Abroad,  and the World Press Photo's Budapest Award. Perhaps an ever bigger award is Tom Abrahamsson's comment: "If you want to know Rodinal, ask Bill."

 

I met Bill in person through our mutual friend Tom Abrahamsson.  In person his insight and comments are every bit as interesting and engaging as his writing.  He is a great guy who really KNOWS photography.  I am happy to say he has generously agreed to host this forum at RFF  From time to time Bill will bring up topics, but you are also invited to ask questions.  Sit down and enjoy the ride!

 


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Old 5 Days Ago   #41
Nowhereman
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Quote:
Originally Posted by airfrogusmc View Post
...a 135 negative does not have the range and the detail of an 8X10 zone system negative that was shot and processed by an accomplished zone system photographer.
Of course not. But we're talking about at which sensor size a digital camera can start comparing with the 8x10 negative, aren't we?

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Old 5 Days Ago   #42
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The winner? It depends on the specific criteria. There are times where film "wins" there are times where digital does.

4x5 is great, but less so if you are shooting a soccer match. DSLRs are great, but limited if you are shooting architecture. What is the timeframe? What is the budget? What is the end use? What are the goals of the artist, client... etc. etc.

It depends.™
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Old 4 Days Ago   #43
airfrogusmc
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Originally Posted by Nowhereman View Post
Of course not. But we're talking about at which sensor size a digital camera can start comparing with the 8x10 negative, aren't we?
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From the OP...

It’s impossible to make direct comparisons between pixels and grain or even two different ways of interpreting color and brightness range, but most folks accept that current full frame and APS-C sensors at somewhere between 10 and 16 megapixels outperform 35mm film in sharpness and brightness range.

Is there a way for film to outperform these popular digitals? Go by an old 4x5 sheet film camera and some holders. Mount it on a tripod and stop the lens down until its performance peaks. An economical Epson 750 scanner working at 2400 dpi produces a color scan my Mac tells me is 591 mg. And with film of that size and proper sharpening in your imaging program, it is essentially impossible to tell the difference between that scan and a scan from my much more expensive Imacon. Once again, just counting megapixels from a scanned negative and comparing them to the megapixels of a digital camera is not really meaningful. But, believe me, when properly used, 4x5 film kicks butt and equals or perhaps even surpasses the 6 x 4.5 cm digital sensors.

My first “professional” camera was a 4x5 Speed Graphic. Washed cars and mowed lawn for one summer in high school to afford it. One just a bit newer along with some lenses that rarely find their way onto a Graphic sit in my studio and sometimes make it out into the daylight. Someday I’ll buy myself one of those medium format digitals, but for now I’m going with the old fashioned, but infinitely more affordable, solution. Your thoughts?


I don't think digital is to a point where it outperforms either in sharpness or in DR when compared to an 8X10 properly executed zone system negative and print. That has been my point and to what the OP is about concerning the question "is there a way for film to out perform these popular digitalis."
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Old 4 Days Ago   #44
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How practical this comparison is going to be? I have Yousuf Karsh portraits book (8x10 negatives) and I have Jane Bown portraits book (135 and little bit of 120 negative).
She is the winner, IMO.

For those who needs to generate income by selling of huge prints it might be the argument.
For me who is looking at photos in the book, 8x10 is not the argument at all. It is IMO weak point, which limiting is photographer creativity.

Bown was able to walk around the sitter, observe and take it at the right moment. Karsh was limited by the tripod and heavy light set. It is very obvious after looking at their both portrait books. Bown portraits are much more creative and different.
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Old 4 Days Ago   #45
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But to the point that has nothing to do with usability or aesthetics or whats right for the job but to the question in the OP "is there a way for film to out perform these popular digitalis." and I stand by the point that I don't think digital is to a point where it outperforms either in sharpness or in DR when compared to an 8X10 properly executed zone system negative and print.
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Old 4 Days Ago   #46
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To find the winner I look on it with wider, but with less technical PoV. "DR, zone system" is relevant at 1% to the vibrancy and the art value of the final print, IMO.
To me Ansel Adams prints are looking extremely beautiful as quality prints, but they have less art aspect like in the impressions paintings and less paradoxical meaning like in landscape photography from Gary Winogrand.

"Digital is good, only 8x10 is better". To me it is not so obvious. For commercial photography digital is great. Bang-bang-bang, get the money. For less depending on the profit making photography, IMO, where is more with bw film and darkroom printing or at some very rare by now color enlargements in the darkroom. And 135 negative proved to be sufficient if it is in the creative hands and mind.
I don't need the print to be analog to see if photographer is great. I enjoyed Bruce Gilden photogaphy from Detroit taken digitally and with Leica by looking at same Leica Blog where I enjoyed yours digital Monochrome photography. But I don't see inkjet prints as 100% art item. It is same as print of the painting (reproduction) or inkjet print of the negative scan or painting done in computer and printed, or digital photos printed on canvas to look like paintings. I don't want to have it as the art in our home. Pictures, yes, art - no.
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Old 4 Days Ago   #47
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But again my comments were about the question that I answered as a technical objective question with a technical and objective answer.

I only shoot digital now so the question of what works best for me or what i prefer for the work I do now is not really relevant to the question asked in the OP. I love both film and digital and I see advantages and disadvantages in all formats with film and digital. But still the question I read as a technical one, not about aesthetics or proper tool for job only is there a way film can out perform digital and my answer was to the technical point of sharpness and DR. And again it that respect within those parameters I stand by my statement.

Now do I like Gildens work or Gibsons digital work I do. Do I see inkjet prints as art? They can be just like other mediums. But I don't see any of this being relevant to the question.
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Old 4 Days Ago   #48
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Digital doesn't even beat 35mm. I don't know why people don't just use an iphone 6 or an ipad. GAS?
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Old 4 Days Ago   #49
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OK. We have art aspect completely covered for just in case.
Now I'm switching my winner meter to technical things.... I work in the broadcasting industry, where IQ is bread and butter for internal use and never gets to the end user

DR and sharpness? It was illustrated to me by one Canadian and very local to me photographer who took digital Phase One and Fuji X100(something) cameras to take pictures of remote Norway.
http://jrbernstein.com/

I went to see his exhibition. Here is no question what his landscape photography is art. He is great photographer. But we are in 100% technical mode now....

So, he made neat copies of his photos as gift post cards. Looking at his landscapes on small cards was not pleasing. Dark and no details. Looking at his huge inkjet carbon prints from the distance was impressive. But every time I took closer look it was the failure. Not only sharpness wasn't here, but at the big prints size the digital rendering of busy patterns was typical smudge even by not very close inspection. It was not pleasing, it was obviously weak. It was not something as I want on the wall.

Would it be better on less oversized prints? I really don't know. What I know is how I like to look at darkroom large prints in the galleries. I like to look at them (we are in technical mode) because I can't print it this big. It is overwhelming for gearhead plaisir. First, I look at the prints from the distance. Then, I put my glasses on and stuck my face very close to the print. No smudge as from digital on busy patterns, but smooth and sharp by same time. Similar to my M-E files on 100% zoom at the screen.
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Old 4 Days Ago   #50
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Hi Bill;

My studio mate is a still life photographer. He worked with 8x10 for years. When his clients began demanding digital images, he invested big money in a Phase One back for his 4x5 Sinar P. The files from the Phase were pretty impressive until he began to compare them to scans of 8x10 Ektchromes made on an Epson 750. If the scans had been wet mounts made on a Creo (what I have made for my Kodachromes), he may have gone back to using film and the 8x10. I should add that I don't know if anyone is still making color positive 8x10 film.
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Old 4 Days Ago   #51
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Digital doesn't even beat 35mm. I don't know why people don't just use an iphone 6 or an ipad. GAS?
Because using an iPhone or iPad involves the ergonomics of a chunk of drywall.
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Old 4 Days Ago   #52
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Because using an iPhone or iPad involves the ergonomics of a chunk of drywall.
It reminds me of someone taking a photo with a piece of toast.
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Old 4 Days Ago   #53
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Because using an iPhone or iPad involves the ergonomics of a chunk of drywall.


Perfect description of using iphone camera... and I do use mine.


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