Seeking chiaroscuro aesthetic

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roycross

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Hi,

I built a 4x5 pinhole camera six years ago. I've been making photographs pretty inconsistently. Lately, I've been curious about achieving a chiaroscuro look. I was looking at some of Barbara Ess's work, and some of her work exhibits this quality. My camera has a focal length of 140 mm with an aperture of 0.61 mm. I shoot mostly Ilford FP4. My images are evenly exposed (in general). I am wondering if I reduce the focal length to, say, 25 mm, if that might help drop the exposure to the edges, and create a darker circular appearance, almost like a vignetting (aside from dodging while printing).

here is a link to Barbara Ess's image: https://www.chardarr.com/single-post/2019/01/25/barbara-ess-i-am-not-this-body-excerpts-2001

some of my work: https://www.roycross.com/pinhole/

any suggestions are so greatly appreciated!!

Roy in Montreal
 

MattKing

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Welcome to Photrio Roy.
 

koraks

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(aside from dodging while printing).

Why not apply this obvious and effective technique?

In addition, I think looking for a certain aesthetic involves the equally obvious (but also challenging) choice of scene, lighting & composition.

Frankly, I wouldn't spend too much time worrying about the equivalent focal length of your pinhole, the film you use and other technicalities. Envision what you want the end result to look like and take the shortest and most valid route (which is subjective) towards that goal. Any technical decisions will follow.
 

gone

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Chiaroscuro is more of a painter's term (think of the master Carravaggio), but I know what you mean. The simplest thing is to bump up the contrast, and get your shots better exposed. Yes, that may be hard to do w/ a pinhole, but your examples are showing more of a flat tonality, w/ not much difference between the lighest parts and the darkest. Vignetting is a separate thing from tonality, that should be simple to achieve by simply putting a too-small hood on the lens.

As mentioned, lith printing would do it, but if you've ever done that, it may be a lot of trial and error to get a good print. My personal opinion is that you're using the wrong film too. Tri-X may be better, assuming it would do well on the long exposures that you need w/ a pinhole. I'm not a MF shooter anymore, but maybe someone here can recommend better films for you.

So, better exposure, switching to a more contrasty film, and maybe giving the film a lot more agitation and/or a different development protocol should get you closer to what you want.
 

baachitraka

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exposure, lighting on that day, development and printing may get you the effect that you are looking for.

as others have said before the lith printing will bring you to the ball-park...
 
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roycross

roycross

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Why not apply this obvious and effective technique?

In addition, I think looking for a certain aesthetic involves the equally obvious (but also challenging) choice of scene, lighting & composition.

Frankly, I wouldn't spend too much time worrying about the equivalent focal length of your pinhole, the film you use and other technicalities. Envision what you want the end result to look like and take the shortest and most valid route (which is subjective) towards that goal. Any technical decisions will follow.

Thanks, Koraks! I am in agreement with your advice to not spend much time worrying about technicalities. I am not a physicist, and beyond understanding the basic principles of light, exposure, b&w chemistry, framing, I leave lots to chance and the universe.
 

Helge

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Sigh.., another of these random words Joe public has latched onto because some algorithm pushed YouTube videos mentioned it at time of a sociological syzygy.
Absolutely not saying that is what OP is, but it’s just everywhere and misappropriated to no end these last few years.

If you really want to emulate the style, development and film is not the answer. Although a wee bit of pushing might help.
You lose tonality when pushing and with lith printing. And chiaroscuro is about tonality if nothing else.
It’s all in the light. There is basically no way around using flash, unless you are really lucky with the sun or filtered “available” light.
And you need a solid flash for pinhole. And many of them.
It’s basically going to be light painting.
Get creative with flagging, cookie blocking and snooting the flash.
 

Sirius Glass

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Hi,

I built a 4x5 pinhole camera six years ago. I've been making photographs pretty inconsistently. Lately, I've been curious about achieving a chiaroscuro look. I was looking at some of Barbara Ess's work, and some of her work exhibits this quality. My camera has a focal length of 140 mm with an aperture of 0.61 mm. I shoot mostly Ilford FP4. My images are evenly exposed (in general). I am wondering if I reduce the focal length to, say, 25 mm, if that might help drop the exposure to the edges, and create a darker circular appearance, almost like a vignetting (aside from dodging while printing).

here is a link to Barbara Ess's image: https://www.chardarr.com/single-post/2019/01/25/barbara-ess-i-am-not-this-body-excerpts-2001

some of my work: https://www.roycross.com/pinhole/

any suggestions are so greatly appreciated!!

Roy in Montreal












Welcome to APUG Photrio!!
 
OP
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roycross

roycross

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Sigh.., another of these random words Joe public has latched onto because some algorithm pushed YouTube videos mentioned it at time of a sociological syzygy.
Absolutely not saying that is what OP is, but it’s just everywhere and misappropriated to no end these last few years.

If you really want to emulate the style, development and film is not the answer. Although a wee bit of pushing might help.
You lose tonality when pushing and with lith printing. And chiaroscuro is about tonality if nothing else.
It’s all in the light. There is basically no way around using flash, unless you are really lucky with the sun or filtered “available” light.
And you need a solid flash for pinhole. And many of them.
It’s basically going to be light painting.
Get creative with flagging, cookie blocking and snooting the flash.

A few years ago I did a series of Polaroids where I worked in complete darkness, open the mouth on my SX70 and fired the shutter. The shutter remains open until I close the mouth again. I then used a flash and walked around my 'set' firing off the flash. I had to flag the flash head with black wrap, otherwise it scattered light everywhere. The results were pretty wonderful and very chiaroscuro. So I have some experience working with this technique.

My original question had more to do with a wondering, that perhaps a significantly shorter focal length would result in a gradual vignetting on my negative. I found some supporting, but also contradictory evidence for this hypothesis. I was hoping someone might have first-hand experience.

Thank you for your suggestions to work with a flash again. I'm looking forward to some experimentation.
 

gone

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"Lately, I've been curious about achieving a chiaroscuro look. I was looking at some of Barbara Ess's work, and some of her work exhibits this quality".

Have you been looking at her work, or at web pages displayed on your monitor? There's a huge difference. If that look is what you're after, I suggest that the only way to know what her work actually looks like is is to travel to where it is hanging on a wall.

I had to just that when I was starting out painting and etching. It was a lot of fun, as well as a real eye opener. Books will usually be more accurate than a web page due to the back lighting issue, but the book is still only a book. The actual work always appears quite different in person. I was amazed at how much nicer Weston's photos looked in person, and how small they actually were.
 
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OP
OP
roycross

roycross

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"Lately, I've been curious about achieving a chiaroscuro look. I was looking at some of Barbara Ess's work, and some of her work exhibits this quality".

Have you been looking at her work, or at web pages displayed on your monitor? There's a huge difference. If that look is what you're after, I suggest that the only way to know what her work actually looks like is is to travel to where it is hanging on a wall.

I had to just that when I was starting out painting and etching. It was a lot of fun, as well as a real eye opener. Books will usually be more accurate than a web page due to the back lighting issue, but the book is still only a book. The actual work always appears quite different in person. I was amazed at how much nicer Weston's photos looked in person, and how small they actually were.

Yes, agreed. Always better to see the work, or at least in a book with decent reproductions. I've had some success achieving the aesthetic with artificial lighting. My original question was about focal length with a 4x5 pinhole and how much it contributes to a natural vignetting, as the exposure drops off at the edges.

Thanks for the reminder about original work.
 
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