Steve Sampliner  

Short distance; long ride by Steve Sampliner

October 2020 - Short distance; long ride

About the Image(s)

Pentax MX w/ 50mm lens. Kodak 35mm Tri-X 400 B/W film. Manual w/ manual focus. F/stop and shutter speed; don’t recall. Hand-held. Negative scan. No post-processing done.
This photo was taken in 2014 in the back of a Beijing taxi. I don’t have much experience in portrait work, but it is something I would like to do more of. That is why I am submitting this photography for this month.

10 comments posted

Jim Horn   Jim Horn
Steve, thank you for submitting a photo from the past that you want to use to get you started in portrait work. I know others who are brilliant at portraits and I envy them. One thing that all of them say must be there in a good or great portrait is eyes/eye. I wish you had another photo that did not have her hand covering her eye. Without any post-processing, your photos have blown-out whites (reflection on the seat above her head). Her head and facial are so dark that you can't see details. The one feature that stands out is her hand, and that is slightly out of focus.
I used Photoshop Camera Raw Filter to reduce whites, reduce blacks, reduce highlights and reduce shadows. Let me know if this is a better likeness of what you saw in 2014 in the taxi. Jim   Posted: 10/02/2020 08:40:00
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Thorro Jones   Thorro Jones
Steve I agree with Jim that there is a lack of detail in the whites and blacks. I am not into portrait photography very much but when I do I like to capture the subject's expressions through their eyes and mouth. I do like the placement of the subject in the photo. Did you have to crop the original to get this placement?   Posted: 10/02/2020 13:41:22
Steve Sampliner   Steve Sampliner
Now that you ask, maybe that camera had a 35mm prime not a 50. I gave that camera to an artist buddy years ago. But to answer your question, no crop. What you see is the negative.
Outside of eyes and facial expressions, there is a entire realm of gesture that constitutes its own language.   Posted: 10/10/2020 08:27:41
Steve Sampliner   Steve Sampliner
Sorry, got pulled away so sent half a message there. So, I do appreciate the technical side of the feedback so far, and I am aware that I posted a photo without visible eyes and mouth. This was done with intention. I was hoping that we could discuss what is seen in the image and how the image communicates an emotional state, what narrative do you see existing around this one brief moment, or if you don't see a narrative at all.
Understanding that part would better inform editing decisions in terms of either strengthening a certain emotional impact or trying to soften that a bit.   Posted: 10/10/2020 23:13:06

Laura Lee Bartholomew   Laura Lee Bartholomew
I agree with what both Jim and Thorro have said. I have not yet tried portrait photography, but I do a lot of black and white.

I like how Jim opened up the shadows and darkened the highlights. I would love to see more detail in her hair. I really liked the highlight strands of hair near the back of her head.

However, Jim's version, to my eye, has some color tinges that I don't see in the original. Most noticeable to me is a slight yellow tinge on the hand and a slight reddish tinge on the face. Is there a way to create better tonal balance without affecting the monochrome color tones?

  Posted: 10/10/2020 18:10:35
Steve Sampliner   Steve Sampliner
Hi Laura, I also noticed that. Best guess is that the settings weren't changed for B&W. Color edit is the general default. Greyscale gets hints of purple / yellow / orange depending on how the program "sees" the image. I'm not familiar with the software Jim used, but in Lightroom you can choose between color and B&W to alleviate this problem.   Posted: 10/10/2020 23:03:01
Jim Horn   Jim Horn
Laura, I used Photoshop Camera Raw Filter to adjust shadows, highlights, whites and blacks. I didn't see the distortions, but ran this through Silver Effects Pro 2 - filter 16, maximize dynamic range. Is this all B&W and better for you?
Jim   Posted: 10/11/2020 09:51:41
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Laura Lee Bartholomew   Laura Lee Bartholomew
Yes, the color tinge is no longer apparent.   Posted: 10/14/2020 10:44:21

Sam Fernando   Sam Fernando
Steve - I agree with others that eye/s is important in portrait photography. However, I am more concerned about the feelings that a photo would convey. Sometimes it is possible to convey strong feelings even without showing eye/s.

When I saw this photo for the first time, I had a vague idea that this lady is brushing off tears indicating that she is either sad or worried. The dark patches seen through the car window also helped my thoughts, but the white patch at the left top was not helpful to maintain those thoughts. In my opinion, removing this white patch could prompt viewers to form their own thoughts about the photo.   Posted: 10/15/2020 05:35:34

John Tabaczynski   John Tabaczynski
My first impression on viewing the image is that this is a "slice of life" (in my terms) not a portrait. Others may term it photojournalistic. In the image as you initially present it there are three major compositional elements, an in focus hand, a HOT not focussed outside the car scene, and a region somewhat hot containing sharp hair and perhaps a very hot sunlit car seat. The HOT is extremely attracting/distracting, the hand is the subject (I cannot tell if the individual under the hand is male, female, young or old so cannot be the subject this image (therefore not a portrait). Sam's thoughts resonate some with my thinking. We are seeing either sadness, worry, or "it is so damn bright in this place my eyes hurt." All the other comments in this thread are technical in nature and do address image problems, and so I do not disagree with them. However, the story here (and that is the FIRST thing of importance to the "slice of life", or PJ genre) is unclear to me and so I lose interest. At the first level I think we need to bring the face into the image to make it as important as the hand. Jim made a valiant effort, but it seems there is not enough info in the pixels to make it happen. If one could have used some kind of reflector during capture that night have given enough light to preserve detail to the face. If we could bring the face alive then the big Q is the outside crowd, are they important in any way. If not, the tone/heat has to be diminished so as to not distract from the person. Sam is right about the hot spot above the hair line, total distraction zero contribution.   Posted: 10/15/2020 20:05:44


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