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Bill Pierce - Leica M photog and author

 

ďOur autobiography is written in our contact sheets,  and our opinion of the world in our selectsĒ  

"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 07-26-2016   #1
Bill Pierce
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I'd love to hear from you...

In the past Iíve posted a few comments about Fuji cameras. The bright line finder familiar to rangefinder users combined with a conventional EVF, the combination featured in the X-100 and XPro models seems to have attracted the attention of a lot of rangefinder users. But their sensor is not the conventional Bayer array and initially Lightroom (and Photoshop), one of the most popular image processors on the market didnít do such a good job. Iíve been asked about this a lot and the questions keep on coming; so, here are my thoughts.

(1) The current Lightroom programs have improved. For non critical applications, emails, websites, small prints, they are more than adequate, Even the sharpening presets are adequate, although, my tendency is to run the detail slider higher than the preset value of 25.

(2) Yes, there are programs that are better with the Fuji files. Iridient Developer, Photo Ninja and AccuRaw (both color and b&w versions) are my choice. Capture One and the SilkyPix converter provided with the camera are OK although Capture One has yet to update to take full advantage of the XPro 2 files and SilkyPix has a unique interface if you are into understatement. Certainly, if these are the programs you are used to, you should stick with them. But the Fuji fanatics that I know use the first three programs when they want to make a top drawer, large print. They process the raw file in one of those programs to produce a tif, bounce that tif into Lightroom for the final tweaking and printing.

(3) The Fuji cameras provide excellent jpegs and the ability to fine tune the color balance, sharpness and brightness range in camera. Iím a raw file fanatic, and even I like their jpegs. For a lot of folks, those jpegs are enough and should be explored by anyone who uses their cameras.

Thatís really the broadest answer I can give to the folks who have asked. As an old bright line finder person, Fuji works for me, and Iím interested in getting the best out of their files. But there are professional photo folk friends who have asked, and Iíve said, ďNo, I think Brand X is better for you.Ē for all kinds of reasons. I donít want this forum to become something that plugs specific brands. If you, however, have some comments or tips about how to work the non Bayer files, bright line finder or anything else, Iíd love to hear from you.
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Old 07-26-2016   #2
johnwolf
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I treat my X-Trans files pretty much like I would any others. I shoot an X-Pro1 for BW only and exclusively using the OVF and native lenses. I'm pleased with LR and Silver Efex. The convenience of one developer outweighs any marginal benefit of additional software. My max. print size is generally 12 x 18".

The only distinctive things about the X-Pro, I'd say, are sharpening method and the peculiarities of the OVF.

For X-Trans sharpening, I use presets based on this guy's models: http://petebridgwood.com/wp/2014/10/x-trans-sharpening/

Regarding the OVF, I mean that one may need to focus twice – first to identify the parallax-corrected focus point, and second to adjust accordingly. Personally, for this reason alone, I would not recommend this camera to a casual user.

Other than that, it's just another digital camera to me, but one with exceptionally rich raw BW rendering. (Don't think I've EVER shot a jpeg with it.)

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Old 07-26-2016   #3
Dogman
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Previously, I stated that with Fujifilm files I was using JPEGs more and using Raw less these days. But after a while those Fuji colors just seem to fatigue me. I posted elsewhere on these forums about this phenomenon. I also posted about when, in the film days, I had switched from Kodak's Kodachrome and Ektachrome to Fuji's Provia/Sensia and Velvia and eventually grew tired of the Fujichrome palette. Kodak's colors just looked cleaner and better to me. I used Kodak Kodachromes and Ektachromes right up to the time I switched over to digital cameras for color work.

Anyway, I've gone back to using the Fuji Raw files. I've never been one to get too technical and fiddle with my photos too much. I've used camera specific programs (DPP, Viewer 2, etc.) to convert Raw and I've used Picasa to make prints. Basic stuff. But a few months ago I started using Lightroom. While I'm sure other software is out there that can do some things better, for basic Raw conversion, minor adjustments and printing I'm happy with Lightroom. At least for my basic requirements and making 12x18 prints on matte watercolor inkjet papers.

I will say, for some subjects, the Fuji film simulation files look fine. But, for me in general, I dislike the overly warm tones, florescent greens and orange reds--especially the way Fuji does red...it really bothers me.
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Old 07-26-2016   #4
Ronald M
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Kodachrome 2, Ektachrome 100 Pro which was used for fashion work where color accuracy was everything, and finally Fuji Astia were the transparency films I used for 40 years. Only discontinuing made me switch.

I can not stand the over contrast, over saturated, garish colors that seem to sell.
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Old 07-27-2016   #5
willie_901
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
...
(1) The current Lightroom programs have improved. For non critical applications, emails, websites, small prints, they are more than adequate, Even the sharpening presets are adequate, although, my tendency is to run the detail slider higher than the preset value of 25.
Yes, LR CC with Fujifilm Camera Profiles has improved. There are two issues to consider.

First, the LR rendering parameters can behave quite differently with Xtrans raw than Bayer raw. For me there was a learning curve to get the most out of Xtrans raw. Once I adjusted to the different workflow, I did thoughtful comparisons with D700 raw files. I did not see any significant (X-T vs D700) in fact the Xtrans results were a bit better. I realize the D700 is not indicative of Nikon's current raw performance.

Second, the sharpening XTrans raw require more attention than any Bayer raw I've worked with. For casual display one size can fit all. But for critical work, using presets for every image is not a great strategy.

I keep cropping to a minimum and I'm not going to make huge prints. In the end LR CC works for me.

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Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
...Fuji works for me, and Iím interested in getting the best out of their files. ...
Me too. In my experience any inconvenience or extra effort required to render Xtrans raw with LR CC is well worth it because of the Fujinon lenses. I prefer every Fujinon lens to the Nikkor or third-party F mount equivalents. One exception is the Nikkor 105/2.5 prime. Yes, I realize the Fujinon's employ varying levels of post-acquaition software corrections (which work rather well by the way). In the end I find the overall results with Fujinons better in every way. I admit I never owned the exotic Nikkors such as the 58mm f/1.2 Noct-NIKKOR.
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Old 07-27-2016   #6
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I have always converted everything I do with Fuji to monochrome just because it is the medium I first fell in love with. I still use Photoshop CS6 as my weapon of choice and have never really seen most of the aberrations that were talked about in the early stages with the Fuji sensors. I do the best I can with what I have access to and have never been a big proponent of GAS. I used a pair of Nikon D2H bodies for newspaper work for a decade before retiring and deciding to go lighter. And I print using Jon Cone's Piezography system on an old Epson R2400 that is still working well. I will probably never upgrade from my current setup of a X100S and X-E1, mainly because I am just getting to know how they work and what they can do for the shooting I like to do.
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Old 07-27-2016   #7
Bill Pierce
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"I have always converted everything I do with Fuji to monochrome just because it is the medium I first fell in love with. I still use Photoshop CS6 as my weapon of choice and have never really seen most of the aberrations that were talked about in the early stages with the Fuji sensors. I will probably never upgrade from my current setup of a X100S and X-E1, mainly because I am just getting to know how they work and what they can do for the shooting I like to do."

If you were shooting landscapes on a tripod with XPro2 and making 60x90 prints, I might quibble with you. But as an ex news shooter myself, who does much the same as you, the biggest problems we have is that they way we choose to shoot, grabbing moments, takes the edge off of the full potential quality of our gear. Hate to say it, but the problems is with us. And while I couldn't shoot a good picture of a tree if I had to, the less than technically perfect pictures of human moments don't always require technical perfection. I don't mean you can be sloppy; you just don't have to be technically optimum and perfect.
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Old 07-27-2016   #8
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I have the X100T and mostly shot in-camera JPGs (fine) using STD Provia film simulation with very little image processing...

I ran across a pdf document "How to use the RAW FILE CONVERTER EX powered by Silkypix (r)" on a Fujifilm web site... I am using the six step B&W conversion, and while there might be quicker or even better ways to do B&W digital conversions, I like the explanation as a way to understand the process.

http://fujifilm-x.com/app/x-pro1/en/...enSILKYPIX.pdf

BTW, the only quibble I have with the X100T is the way the dials and buttons move at random. Most likely I will paint the on-off switch white so that I can actually see if the camera is on-or-off ; )

Casey
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Old 07-27-2016   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronald M View Post
Kodachrome 2, Ektachrome 100 Pro which was used for fashion work where color accuracy was everything, and finally Fuji Astia were the transparency films I used for 40 years. Only discontinuing made me switch.

I can not stand the over contrast, over saturated, garish colors that seem to sell.
Ronald, do you ever think digital will match these films? I just had processed a roll of Astia and they are beautiful. I pray for the day that these films come back OR digital can match them.

This is Elitechrome that is recently processed at Blue Moon, I never get digital like this roll of cheap slide film (but I live in hope):

EliteChrome 100 by John Carter, on Flickr
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Old 07-28-2016   #10
Bill Pierce
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charjohncarter View Post
Ronald, do you ever think digital will match these films? I just had processed a roll of Astia and they are beautiful. I pray for the day that these films come back OR digital can match them.

This is Elitechrome that is recently processed at Blue Moon, I never get digital like this roll of cheap slide film (but I live in hope):
Remember, most processing programs are going to let you adjust the colors in the final image. Folks automatically adjust exposure, contrast, even overall color balance, but I rarely see them take the time to adjust individual, specific colors in terms of the standard hue, lightness and saturation controls. Why? It's a time consuming, pain in the butt, tweak that doesn't mean that much to most folks. But it's worthwhile to those folks who care about specific color interpretations and might help you find those old films in the new digital files.
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Old 07-28-2016   #11
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I have a hard time distinguishing film vs digital for color, with the exception of some distinctive color films like Portra. For BW the difference is usually more obvious to me. And I think the color film emulators work better than those for BW. Not sure why, but that's been my experience.

John
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Old 07-28-2016   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnwolf View Post
I have a hard time distinguishing film vs digital for color, with the exception of some distinctive color films like Portra. For BW the difference is usually more obvious to me. And I think the color film emulators work better than those for BW. Not sure why, but that's been my experience.

John
In general, digital files can have a little more shadow detail than a silver negative printed on silver paper. But most folks, understandably, can't throw away shadow detail. Try making a print or jpg where you cut into the lowest, darkest values and throw them away. It may be painful, but it may look a little more like film.
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Old 07-29-2016   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
In general, digital files can have a little more shadow detail than a silver negative printed on silver paper. But most folks, understandably, can't throw away shadow detail. Try making a print or jpg where you cut into the lowest, darkest values and throw them away. It may be painful, but it may look a little more like film.
So, when I started to use a DSLR the ability to selectively push shadows was amazing. As the industry steadily increased digital sensors' analog signal-to-noise ratios, it became easier and easier to lift shadows.

I'm a slow learner. But after seeing and thinking about the work of others who skillfully use light in their work, eventually I realized pushing shadows gratuitously can be a mistake.
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Old 07-29-2016   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by willie_901 View Post
So, when I started to use a DSLR the ability to selectively push shadows was amazing. As the industry steadily increased digital sensors' analog signal-to-noise ratios, it became easier and easier to lift shadows.

I'm a slow learner. But after seeing and thinking about the work of others who skillfully use light in their work, eventually I realized pushing shadows gratuitously can be a mistake.
I'm on the same path. I got caught up in bringing out every detail. Now, I'm letting my photos have shadows that are pitch black with no detail. It's good to be able to have both though. there's no one size fits all option with regard to this.
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Old 07-29-2016   #15
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Fuji X100 jpegs nearly all the time. I press the Raw button for a challenging exposure shot and if time permits a JPEG as well because very often they're good enough even in demanding conditions.
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Old 08-06-2016   #16
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I've been using the X Pro2 a lot and leaving an M240 on the shelf. The viewing experience and user interface controls are what Leica should have done some time ago. I don't think the Fuji lenses measure up to the latest Summiluxes, but the differences are small and life is short... I shoot raw files and use AccuRaw or Capture One. Capture One does a finished job, AccuRaw usually needs a bit more work. C1 in release 9.2.1 finally started to offer lens profiling on lenses, such as the fast and tiny 35/2.0, which really need it. As far as I can tell, the corrected corners do not give up sharpness when compared to the images in which distortion is uncorrected, despite strong opinions around that software correction "has to cost something."

scott
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Old 08-06-2016   #17
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Bill,
I've been using Fuji gear ever since the original X100 came out. Since then I've used RAW and jpegs from X100T, X-Pro1, X-T1, X70. And now I use the X-Pro2. I've been using Apple's Aperture to process the files and I've been very happy with the results. However the biggest print I've made is 13x19 inch. Note, I'm not yet able to process the X-Pro2 RAW files with Aperture as Apple hasn't yet updated their RAW processor for this camera.
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