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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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Enhancement
Old 02-13-2019   #1
Bill Pierce
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Enhancement

I recently started experimenting with the new “enhance details” feature in Lightroom. It promises, as its name implies, to improve fine details. And it does this by using machine learning, although the results vary from image to image and are often visible only at high magnifications. While this is a process that will take a minute or two for each image, that seems a small price to pay, especially with the Fuji files conversions that were often though of as less than optimal. So the question comes, “Does enhance details really work/“

I’ve been spending spare time playing with the feature in Lightroom processing Fuji files, DNG files from Leica gear and assorted raw file formats from a miscellany of older gear. Real testing would take a lot longer. For now I would say its results are subtle and best seen at high magnification. Whether it does better with certain types of scene or certain specific raw files is hard to say at this stage. But Iridient Developer seems to give just as good results with Fuji files in less time. It seems a better choice, less time consuming when handling a large number of files. For a long time now I have used Iridient Developer to convert all my raw files to tifs which were then cataloged in Lightroom and tonally tweaked when prints were made. I use Iridient Developer, not just my Fuji files, for which Iridient has a good reputation, but all my raw files ever since a friendly Leica expert said it was his preferred choice for his Leica DNG’s. It’s nice to be able to concentrate on learning just one processing program. In turn, Lightroom makes a great catalog and delivers a little fine tuning when making prints and online jpgs. I think “enhance details” is a welcome Lightroom feature, but especially in the case of the Fuji files, an attempt to make up for short comings that are not as obvious in other processing programs. Any thoughts about “Light vs ???” much appreciated.
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Old 02-13-2019   #2
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I'm locked out of the Lightroom upgrades because I refuse to go "subscription base" with Adobe. But that Iridient Developer sounds interesting. When I go to their web site, I see the standard developer, and then a C-Transformer for Canon files, an N-Transformer for Nikon files, etc. If one purchases the standard Iridient Developer, can you process all RAW files, Canon, Nikon, Leica, Fuji, Sony, etc.? Or does one need the specific Transformer for the camera you own (and I notice there is no L-Transformer for Leica)?

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Old 02-13-2019   #3
Bill Pierce
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Timmyjoe View Post
I'm locked out of the Lightroom upgrades because I refuse to go "subscription base" with Adobe. But that Iridient Developer sounds interesting. When I go to their web site, I see the standard developer, and then a C-Transformer for Canon files, an N-Transformer for Nikon files, etc. If one purchases the standard Iridient Developer, can you process all RAW files, Canon, Nikon, Leica, Fuji, Sony, etc.? Or does one need the specific Transformer for the camera you own (and I notice there is no L-Transformer for Leica)?

Best,
-Tim
Iridient has a number of programs that convert specific camera files to DNG with or without a variety of sharpening settings. Those sharpened DNG files can then be processed in a variety of imaging programs. Iridient Developer is a broad based conversion program that takes the raw files from many cameras and gives you a variety of tonal, color and sharpness setting you can apply to the production of a tif file which can be further adjusted, printed, cataloged, e.t.c. in a number of programs. I sometimes use the Iridient program that converts Fuji files to DNG's, but for the most part I process all my raw files into tifs in Iridient Developer and then use Lightroom for cataloging and minor tweaking. Hope that makes sense.
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Old 02-13-2019   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Timmyjoe View Post
I'm locked out of the Lightroom upgrades because I refuse to go "subscription base" with Adobe. But that Iridient Developer sounds interesting. When I go to their web site, I see the standard developer, and then a C-Transformer for Canon files, an N-Transformer for Nikon files, etc. If one purchases the standard Iridient Developer, can you process all RAW files, Canon, Nikon, Leica, Fuji, Sony, etc.? Or does one need the specific Transformer for the camera you own (and I notice there is no L-Transformer for Leica)?

Best,
-Tim
Iridient Developer is a full fledged raw developer that process many many RAW files. It lets you tweak loads of settings. Its output is TIFF or JPEG.

The various Transformers programs are a different program. They basically demosaic the files and use Iridients excellent sharpening to convert from raw to linear DNG files. Those DNGs can then be tweaked/processed in LR or whatever. With Fuji files I usually will use Fast Raw Viewer to cull my RAW files, then use X-Transformer to convert to DNG and import the DNGs into Lightroom.

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Old 02-13-2019   #5
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It does Bill, thanks.

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Old 02-13-2019   #6
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I'm still using the standalone Lightroom but I also use Iridient X-Transformer for Fuji RAF files I intend to print. It's made a great deal of difference in the sharpness and detail in the image when compared to Lightroom alone.

In truth, the increased sharpness and detail is probably overkill for most of my photos. I generally don't print big. Actually, I print a lot of 6x9 images on 8.5x11 paper (work prints) and only a few up to 12x18. The kick in detail is not really apparent in the 6x9 images and not in all the larger prints. It can easily be seen with pixel peeping on screen with 3:1 enlargements. Even so, I like having the extra horsepower in the images.
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Old 02-13-2019   #7
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What's the difference between Iridient and this: https://rawpedia.rawtherapee.com/Demosaicing (?)

This program also has a very complete sharpening feature.
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Old 02-13-2019   #8
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Originally Posted by charjohncarter View Post
What's the difference between Iridient and this: https://rawpedia.rawtherapee.com/Demosaicing (?)

This program also has a very complete sharpening feature.

Raw Therapy is a free image processing program that is constantly being updated and expanded by a team of incredibly enthusiastic developers. It's a very good program, but the sheer enthusiasm in its development means it has so many features and options that it's overwhelming to a lot of people. Fortunately, there is very good manual. It's sort of the Photoshop of freebies, so many features that no one understands all it can do, but it can probably do whatever you want it to do.
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Old 02-13-2019   #9
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Bill, you are right I downloaded it years ago, and even then I was overwhelmed. Now I just use what I understand. I recently bought an FF digital with pixel shift. And I won't go into it all, but you have to have a demosaicing feature just for pixel shift. RAW Therapee does so I've had some fun with that but I will probably never use it much. Just like I'll never use 10% of what is on the FF digital.

EDIT: the above article I linked has 15 different demosaicing types for Bayer sensors. It seems to recommend going through them and choosing one that is best for you (too much work). It also has 6 algorithms for the X-trans sensor. So I guess Adobe picks one for you.
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Old 02-14-2019   #10
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In my view, the most significant aspect of Enhanced Details is we no longer need to use a single demosaicking model to render images with different demosaicking challenges.

While some will dismiss and ignore this article as Adobe marketing propaganda. A less skeptical view would find it useful to understand what Enhanced Details is and isn't. The article also briefly describes general issues and challenges for raw file demosaicking.

Here are some interesting aspects of Enhanced Details.

o The AI neural networks were trained using a billion images (hard to conceive).

o Two different AI models were created - one for Bayer and one For XTrans CFAs.

o Improvements will be most obvious for large prints; highly cropped renderings; images with obvious demosaicking artifacts and images with detailed subject matter.

Enhanced Details cannot make blurry images sharper. It can't create something out of nothing.

In general, demosaicking algorithms is difficult to optimize[1]. We know different software vendors use different demosaicking models and camera brands also develop demosaicking solutions that are body and, or sensor assembly specific.

What Enhanced Details does is estimate the demosaicking algorithm parameters (that are usually fixed for all images) to best match the raw data from different types of images. This is a universal, fundamental goal for all data analyses – use a model for the data that best represents the data. Every image is different. Sometimes those differences generate significant errors (artifacts) in the modeled (demosaicked) image. Sometimes the model matches the data and the errors are negligible.


1/ Two general articles of about the challenges for demosaicking optimization are found here: Link 1, Link 2
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Old 02-14-2019   #11
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Thanks for pointing me to Iridient Developer. Solves a big problem I've had with my travel MacBook Air which is stuck running MacOS 10.7. Most new cameras made after 2013 can't have their RAW files processed by any software that still runs on OS 10.7. But Iridient Developer runs on OS 10.7 and can handle RAW files from them all. Yippee!!!

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Old 02-14-2019   #12
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I only rarely use any sharpening. In fact, I find that LR's default raw sharpening for cameras like the Leica M and CL (and certain Olympus models) which have either very weak or no antialiasing filter is too much sharpening, so I set the defaults to back off the sharpening a bit.

Can't really imagine that Enhance is much different from what I do by adjusting tonal curves carefully in certain specific zones, depending on the photo. Most of these controls are "all in one" conveniences rather than anything new.
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Old 02-15-2019   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Godfrey View Post
...

Can't really imagine that Enhance is much different from what I do by adjusting tonal curves carefully in certain specific zones, depending on the photo. ...
It's profoundly different.
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Basically, I mean, ah—well, let’s say that for me anyway when a photograph is interesting, it’s interesting because of the kind of photographic problem it states—which has to do with the . . . contest between content and form.
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Old 02-15-2019   #14
Peter Wijninga
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I'm still waiting for your pictures.
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Old 02-15-2019   #15
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Seemed to me that sometime last year LR figured out the Fuji Xtrans files. I suddenly noticed that they were much clearer. I have the subscription version so I get the latest and greatest from Adobe. Even so, on the pixel level I can see a little improvement.
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Old 02-15-2019   #16
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Tried Iridient Developer's RAW sharpening tools on a DNG file from a first generation Leica M Monochrom. I've always thought the files from that camera were very sharp and detailed right out of the camera.

The shot was a test of a 1950's Kodak Wratten "A" filter on a Canon 35mm f1.8 LTM lens.



100% crop right out of the camera, with only level adjustments:



100% crop after detail enhancement in Iridient Developer:



It is subtle, but I think it would make a noticeable difference in a large print. The detail in the bark on the thicker limbs is more pronounced, as is some of the detail in the intermixing of tiny branches.

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Old 02-15-2019   #17
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Another option to consider as an alternative to adobe products.

Snapseed app. Available for both ios and andriod devices.

It’s free and a good article on it is in the PSA February 2019 magazine.

Review another source on www:

https://www.colesclassroom.com/google-snapseed-review/
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Old 02-15-2019   #18
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And yet another option is https://topazlabs.com/ai-clear/ . I started using the trial version and I believe I'm going to buy it. I'll be using it as an 'edit in' adjunct to Lightroom.

I hear (well, read) it is a fair bit better than the new Adobe 'Enhance'.

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Old 02-15-2019   #19
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I have a version of topaz labs that works with photoshop. Maybe mine is old but it is an enhancer tool.

I use photoshop on my iMac (cs4) and I really like to work on my raw files which I do with ACR which is really bridge/photoshop.

The snapseed is interesting and I can use it with my iPad. I guess it would work on my iPhone but the screen on the phone is small.

And it looks like it will work with raw files and, as I understand, about 150 cameras capable.

Can’t beat the price as it’s free.
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Old 02-15-2019   #20
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I installed the LR 8.2 update and Enhance Details made a significant improvement in the first Fuji file I tried. I am using a late 2011 Mac Mini with a 2.5MHz i5. I don't know what the preview magnification is, but jaggies were clearly reduced in the preview. The time to render the full enhanced image is 6 minutes. Perhaps it is finally time to upgrade my computer.


Edit: When I tried to enhance the full image, only parts of it were rendered, so the late 2011 Mac Mini has insufficient processing power to enable this feature.
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Old 02-15-2019   #21
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Gosh that’s strange with your computer.

My iMac is from 2006 and it works just fine with CS4.

When I had my business, I made wedding albums using a service that mounted seamless pages. Easy to make panos and the lab I used printed them for me then I would ship the pages to Pictobooks. I did my layouts with layers and would have a fair amount of layers, one for each photo, plus backgrounds and it still works just fine.

The reason I bring this up is are there programs running in background eating up your ram?

It doesn’t seem like your computer is that old. Just trying to help and have you save some bucks!
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Old 02-15-2019   #22
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It's profoundly different.
Show me.
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Old 02-15-2019   #23
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Show me.
I'm not sure how you are going to enhance resolution with the tone curve, but I'm open to learning.
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Old 02-16-2019   #24
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I'm still waiting for your pictures.
Don't bother.

I could choose pictures made at F 11 of subjects low levels amounts of detail and you would see no difference.

Or I could choose pictures from lenses set at their sharpest aperture with highly detailed subject matter and you would see a difference.

Ad-hoc testing based on pictures would not be very useful.

Here are some initial results from controlled experiments.

These experiments show the FUJIFILM GFX 50S and GF 110/2 lens' MTF 50 is not improved by Enhanced Details.

A different set of experiments with the same camera/lens using a Siemens star test image show a significant reduction in false color artifacts.

These initial results indicate Enhanced Details minimizes false color artifacts in subject matter with high detail levels.

Note: The GFX 50S has a Bayer color filter array.
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Basically, I mean, ah—well, let’s say that for me anyway when a photograph is interesting, it’s interesting because of the kind of photographic problem it states—which has to do with the . . . contest between content and form.
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Old 02-16-2019   #25
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Show me.
Read the Adobe Blog post.
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Basically, I mean, ah—well, let’s say that for me anyway when a photograph is interesting, it’s interesting because of the kind of photographic problem it states—which has to do with the . . . contest between content and form.
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Old 02-16-2019   #26
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I'm not sure how you are going to enhance resolution with the tone curve, but I'm open to learning.
Or, reduce false-color artifacts in high-resolution images due to demosaicking errors.
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Basically, I mean, ah—well, let’s say that for me anyway when a photograph is interesting, it’s interesting because of the kind of photographic problem it states—which has to do with the . . . contest between content and form.
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williamchuttonjr.com
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Old 02-16-2019   #27
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Is there a simple tutorial that explains enhancement? The RAW therapee has 15 choices for Demosicing an image (Bayer). Adobe has one (I think) so what is really going on.
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Old 02-17-2019   #28
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Is there a simple tutorial that explains enhancement? The RAW therapee has 15 choices for Demosicing an image (Bayer). Adobe has one (I think) so what is really going on.

You don't choose the model. The AI CNN chooses. When Enhanced Detail rendering is used, Adobe computes a demosaicking algorithm optimized for each image. So the number is of demosaicking models is unlimited.

This is from an Adobe blog post I linked earlier in this thread. "Enhance Details uses an extensively trained convolutional neural net (CNN) to optimize for maximum image quality. We trained a neural network to demosaic raw images using problematic examples, then leveraged a new machine learning frameworks built into the latest Mac OS and Win10 operating systems to run this network. The deep neural network for Enhance Details was trained with over a billion examples."

So, before the raw data is demosaicked, the data is analyzed for potential artifacts. Then a demosaicking algorithm is computed to minimize demosaicking artifacts.

These artifacts are caused by edge interpolation errors.

"False colors—When a demosaicing algorithm mis-interpolates across, rather than along, a sharp edge, you can see abrupt or unnatural shifts in color.

Zippering—At the edges of an image, where you lose half the pixels you would normally use to interpolate your color data, you can see edge blurring.
"

Images without regions with high amounts of detail or repeating patterns cannot benefit from Enhanced Details. The subject matter itself may not have detail. Or, mis-focus, flare, aperture diffraction, subject and, or camera motion may degrade object detail. Many raw files will not benefit from Enhanced Details.
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Basically, I mean, ah—well, let’s say that for me anyway when a photograph is interesting, it’s interesting because of the kind of photographic problem it states—which has to do with the . . . contest between content and form.
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Old 02-17-2019   #29
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William thank you for that interesting explanation. I guess I'm wrong by a factor of infinity. I thought one solution when it is really infinite. I wonder if Adobe will have a different solution or a variation of there AI model for Pixel Shift or if their choice will also work for PS.

EDIT: I liked your Survivors of Mid-Century America.
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Old 02-18-2019   #30
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charjohncarter

Thanks. Most of that work was done in St. Louis. In some ways the region peaked in the late mid-century. There is ample material.

Here in Charlotte there seems to be much less mid-century subject matter. The region has grown at a rapid rate over the past 20 years. So it's more of a before/after story.
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Old 02-18-2019   #31
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More Test Results

Here's an example where there is significant improvement in detail rendering.

These images were made with a Nikon Z7 and the 50 mm f/1.8 Nikkor S at f/4.

False color artifact levels were significantly reduced.

Then, to minimize the effect of false color rendering on perceived sharpness, images were made with blue and red lens filters. The blue image had increased perceived sharpness.

Again, Enhanced Detail improvements are image dependent. This level of demosaicking artifacts will not be present in most images and will not be apparent in typical crops or print sizes.
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Basically, I mean, ah—well, let’s say that for me anyway when a photograph is interesting, it’s interesting because of the kind of photographic problem it states—which has to do with the . . . contest between content and form.
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Old 02-18-2019   #32
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charjohncarter

Thanks. Most of that work was done in St. Louis. In some ways the region peaked in the late mid-century. There is ample material.

Here in Charlotte there seems to be much less mid-century subject matter. The region has grown at a rapid rate over the past 20 years. So it's more of a before/after story.
William, the mid-century wasn't the only series I liked, it just hit home with me. Here in California we are lucky to have last decade survivors. Even though my town isn't that old, we still have a few spots of interest, and of course the central valley is rich.

I might try your printed paper test and use it with normal and AMaZE on RAW Therapee.
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