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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 08-31-2012   #26
Stuart John
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This one was a color JPG from my D80 forgot to shoot RAW.
Capture one was used for editing.
Simply desaturated, clarity control to 34, vignetting -1.5 EV, very small curves adjustment to lift the skin tones and unsharp mask.
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Old 08-31-2012   #27
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This one was simply desaturated in iPhoto, exposure increased to 1.1 and contrast increased to 100
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Old 08-31-2012   #28
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This one was converted to B&W using Neopan 1600 setting in DXO film effects.
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Old 08-31-2012   #29
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Here is one more from DXO film pack. This time it's the HP5 preset.


Now I don't really believe that these presets look like the films they are trying to emulate but they stand up OK on their own so I just pick the preset I like the best for a particular image. I don't really believe that digital images have to have grain added to them to make good B&W conversions. Many people shoot medium format or slow B&W films in 35mm so they can enjoy grainless prints so why not also take advantage of digital as digital is also great for grainless prints.
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Old 08-31-2012   #30
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I'm interested to hear Bill's method. My preferred method in LR2-3 was based on some suggestions of his in an earlier thread. Now I'm playing with LR4, trying to find a good balance, but working with a touch of clarity and a heap of highlight slider works nicely.

I do agree with photo smith above, and use the toning feature in LR often.

Here's one toned, for example:
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Old 08-31-2012   #31
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I can only describe the methods I've used with LR and CS, as this is the software I own. I've seen consistently good results here with SEP, so it might be a better tool.

My approach to bw conversion depends on the original file, and the (most often pre-visualised) end result I want in a print - am I working with a dark and moody landscape on PhotoRag, or light skin tones in a bright portrait on Baryta.

I mostly work with LR4.1., exporting to CS4 for further adjustments, and very occasionally I use a plug-in called PhotoLooks. Before using LR I had mostly used Channel Mixer, and layered and masked Curves in CS.

With most files I start by adjusting saturation to zero, setting highlight and black clipping points and then playing with the development sliders to get an approximation of what I want. Often that means boosting contrast quite high and then raising the shadow detail. Use the Highlights and Lights sliders to control white clipping and roll-off. I also play with the colour control sliders to approximate the effects of colour filters. Sometimes checking the b&w button improves tone, sometimes not.

I use the brush tool for local dodging, burning, and other adjustments.

Lately I've been using split tones to provide subtle highlight/shadow colour contrast to bw prints. Also to convert to sepia.

Depending on the image, I may boost Clarity, mostly not exceeding 30%, and avoiding artefacts. I've started using LR's portrait or landscape presets for input sharpening, then adjusting as necessary.

Sometimes I add grain, but often I find higher ISO sensor noise is as good or better, if I can use it when shooting. I've always liked the look of film grain - digital can look clinical by comparison. When processing I try to avoid that clinical look.

After LR I export to CS4 and check if autotone improves the tone characteristics, and do any touching up with the healing brush. After resizing in CS4 I apply output sharpening and save a print file. I print from either CS4 or LR.
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Old 08-31-2012   #32
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Old 08-31-2012   #33
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Old 08-31-2012   #34
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I think I'm going to opt out of shooting digital with the intention of converting it to black and white for personal reasons. I'm genuinely concerned with what is happening with film at the moment. The way options are being reduced and smaller manufacturers going under! (Efke)

I accept that digital has won the battle on all fronts and I don't take issue with that but I do want my favourite medium (black and white film) to survive. I'll shoot digital exclusively for colour because to be honest the range of colour film available these days is limited, pricey and dwindling at an exponential rate. E-6 will fairly obviously be totally gone very soon ... the way of Kodachrome!

I've seen some impressive results from the M9M tonality wise but they still don't have texture ... that has to be software added and it's not inherant at the point of capture. This is important to me! The new Leica Monochrom could be the beginning of the end if other manufacturers follow it even in a minor way with smaller, cheaper, dedicated mono cameras! X100M anybody ... black and white will become highly fashionable, trendy, call it what you want!

If the new Plustek is reality and can deliver what it promises that will me my next major purchase for my black and white future. Not a camera or a piece of software!
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Old 08-31-2012   #35
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I guess converting to 16 bit grayscale and flattening the layers is tantamount to treason?

Keith,
There will always be carbon printing and glass plate photos.

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Old 08-31-2012   #36
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I need some advice. I can get the Nik Complete Collection for a significant discount ($250), but I see that there is a Lightroom or Aperture only version that is $100 cheaper . Should I opt for the LR version, or spend more for the version that works in PS as well as LR? I use LR 4 and CS Prod Premium 6. Will I limit myself with the LR version?
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Old 09-01-2012   #37
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Keith View Post
X100M anybody ...
You know, I shoot mostly color, but I would buy this camera in a heartbeat!
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Old 09-01-2012   #38
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This is a great thread. I have been fooling around in LR3 and Aperture, but dont really have a "method." I have been thinking about getting SEP. I think I'll wait and see where this thread goes...

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Old 09-01-2012   #39
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Interesting discussion. I am not settled on a method, myself. I am still shooting B&W film (sometimes chromogenic, like T400CN and sometimes traditional silver) and scanning. But the majority of my BW images these days are converted RGB files. Here is a scanned film portrait from last week.



This particular scan was made by the photo shop in town when they developed the film. Viewing it on my uncalibrated laptop rather than on the monitor where I did the scanning, I see that I could have bumped up the blacks a little. The key line comes from SFex 2.

Later today I will add a picture of tghe same subject but with a Silver Efex 2 conversion of a Sony RGB file.

[Watch this space.]

Edit: here is the SEFex 2 file:



I am amazed when I see my own film scans. I was so much more into the grain of my 400 speed film in my film-only days.

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Old 09-01-2012   #40
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gdi View Post
I need some advice. I can get the Nik Complete Collection for a significant discount ($250), but I see that there is a Lightroom or Aperture only version that is $100 cheaper . Should I opt for the LR version, or spend more for the version that works in PS as well as LR? I use LR 4 and CS Prod Premium 6. Will I limit myself with the LR version?
Buy a Leica Monochrom and Silver Efex 2 comes free with it...

But seriously, save your money and watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLvfweHBhLM
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Old 09-01-2012   #41
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Swmbo has insisted on colour photos from family holidays for years so I use scans of the Fuji superia 400 negatives and process in photoshop.

Scan as 16 bit tiff, but from then on processing is dependant on the actual negative, if one works in layers it's easy to preserve the original scan as a master and still waste countless hours faffing around with the print just like I did in the darkroom





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Old 09-01-2012   #42
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gdi View Post
I need some advice. I can get the Nik Complete Collection for a significant discount ($250), but I see that there is a Lightroom or Aperture only version that is $100 cheaper . Should I opt for the LR version, or spend more for the version that works in PS as well as LR? I use LR 4 and CS Prod Premium 6. Will I limit myself with the LR version?
If you use PS, the Nik plugins for PS allow you to save the completed PS file in layers allowing you to go back and re-edit if you need to.

The LR & Aperture versions do not save the final edit in layers and once saved you can't go back to the saved image and make changes to the different filters you may have used. In other words, you would have to start again with the original from scratch.
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Old 09-01-2012   #43
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I I tried and liked Silver Efex, but did not like having to go outside Lightroom and foregoing the many advantages gained by staying inside Lightroom, so use Lightroom for my b&w conversions.

The following gives me a basic b&w conversion with nice tonality, which I use for evaluation purposes and making workprints. For final images, I will most likely learn and persevere with Photoshop to squeeze out the best possible b&w I can, using my Lightroom b&w as the baseline for further work like dodging/ burning/ masking, et al.

Lightroom 3 processing steps:

Import images into Lightroom
Apply auto b&w conversion
Apply reverse-S curve (light curve)
Boost Brightness (moderate to decent bump)
Boost Contrast (small bump)
Boost Clarity (moderate to decent bump)
Boost Blacks (small bump)
Apply grain (very light; removes the overly smooth/ clean digital look)

All the above, along with capture sharpening and a light vignette, are applied via a preset I have saved, to virtual copies of the original 14 bit raw files I feed to Lightroom. For legacy jpeg images I never converted to b&w, the above steps are too heavy handed, and have a seperate set of steps saved as a preset for jpeg files, which have a stronger reverse-S curve applied, as well as a negative contrast value adjustment, to rein back in the baked in contrast of my jpegs.
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Old 09-01-2012   #44
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fstops View Post
Buy a Leica Monochrom and Silver Efex 2 comes free with it...

But seriously, save your money and watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLvfweHBhLM

Thanks, but I would hope that Silver Efx would give better conversions that the video linked; it seems pretty heavy handed to just add contrast and vignetting. I think I'll go for the trial to see if I am correct.
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Old 09-01-2012   #45
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Originally Posted by Duane Pandorf View Post
If you use PS, the Nik plugins for PS allow you to save the completed PS file in layers allowing you to go back and re-edit if you need to.

The LR & Aperture versions do not save the final edit in layers and once saved you can't go back to the saved image and make changes to the different filters you may have used. In other words, you would have to start again with the original from scratch.
Thanks, I see now. I usually shoot B&W film, so for BW conversions I may be able to live with LR only, but I may use the other tools enough to justify the PS version...
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Old 09-01-2012   #46
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gdi View Post
Thanks, but I would hope that Silver Efx would give better conversions that the video linked; it seems pretty heavy handed to just add contrast and vignetting. I think I'll go for the trial to see if I am correct.
You should not make your photos look like the image in the video, the point is to copy the techniques used in the video, which is basically dodge and burn.
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Old 09-01-2012   #47
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You should not make your photos look like the image in the video, the point is to copy the techniques used in the video, which is basically dodge and burn.

Thanks - that makes sense...
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Nostalgia Film Simulation Plugin
Old 09-01-2012   #48
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Nostalgia Film Simulation Plugin

This is a very interesting topic, I just recently purchased (Donation Ware) a Plugin called Nostalgia Film Simulation by Sean M Puckett, at http://nexi.com/afplugs , It has a ton of film presets, and a ton of Paper Presets with all the appropriate tools to adjust DR, exposure, contrast for each. Even a simple RBG color sliders. It also has Color Neg and Slide simulations with a color paper selection also.... Not related... just an unknown Plugin for Aftershot Pro and LR (separate plugins) Being on a nonexistent budget, this is really a decent plugin.

I usually pick Fuji or Ilford films. but it has Foma, Agfa, Kodak, and a bunch of others also.

It does have a nice Film Grain effect, and does really good with a long gray-scale also...

Here are a few from today with my Olympus OMD E-M5, and 14mm shot in RAW only, and developed and converted in Aftershot Pro, tweaked in CS5


Candid: Monument Circle: Indianapolis, IN 9-1-2012 by Peter Arbib, on Flickr


Candid: Monument Circle: Indianapolis, IN 9-1-2012 by Peter Arbib, on Flickr


Candid: Monument Circle: Indianapolis, IN 9-1-2012 by Peter Arbib, on Flickr


Candid: Monument Circle: Indianapolis, IN 9-1-2012 by Peter Arbib, on Flickr
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Old 09-01-2012   #49
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When I first investigated digital(about 2006), I figured that there'd be a simple way to add film grain to any image. A bit later, I saw that there were programs like DXO and Nik SE that had film simulations based on well known monochrome films. Great idea, I thought.
I was dismayed and disappointed when I saw that these "black and white film simulation" programs were mostly about applying gimmicky contrast effects and not about grain-matrix image structure.
Pick any black and white film:
IT DOESN'T HAVE JUST ONE CONTRAST RENDERING...all the conventional silver films are variable contrast (dependent on developing of course)...and highly variable at that.
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Old 09-01-2012   #50
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I think you're missing the point, it is not to look JUST like film, Just to take the digital edge off, and try to have a less "sterile" look, in terms of ruffing up the noise (or lack there of).

No film simulation software can duplicate film grain or texture. But, they can hide the digital stamp a bit. And many film users, are accepting the digital image a bit better if they can ruff up the smoothness of the digital image, and still have a good image.
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