July/August 2008

If you want to see a photographer cringe, just look at one of their images and mention the word “noise.” For most of us, noise in an image is like having rust on a restored vintage automobile. It obscures the image and distracts the viewer such that the visual content of the photograph becomes the background, and the noise is what viewers notice first. Naturally, I’m talking about excessive noise that permeates the whole photograph here.

Like any element in photography, however, noise also can be employed as an aesthetic and used selectively in an image.

Where’s the line between distraction and creativity? In this issue of DPP, we’re featuring an article by Richard LoPinto on “The Battle Between Noise And Sharpness.” Balancing these two factors is an ongoing struggle for any photographer. The oft-used metaphor of noise being akin to film grain begins to break down as we bring more sophisticated software tools to bear because, unlike grain, we can selectively add and reduce noise. We’ve said several times that in photography as in life, everything is a trade-off. Digital tools mitigate the trade-offs. Take a look at LoPinto’s article on page 40 and also check out the sidebar on noise-reduction software to get an idea of how this remarkable technology works.

In this issue, we also discuss the current state of medium format. A medium-format camera always has been an expensive piece of equipment, frequently costing three or four times as much as a good 35mm SLR. Medium-format digital cameras, on the other hand, can cost upwards of $30K, while most digital SLRs run less than $2,000. At these prices, a medium-format digital camera is unlikely to be a common purchase for most working professional photographers, but the latest and greatest medium-format cameras are purchased by rental houses on a regular basis. Even if you’re not in the market to buy one today, you still can rent one of the latest in medium-format technology when the appropriate job comes around. Hopefully, our article will give you a good idea of what to expect in the new and resurgent world of digital medium format.

The late Bruce Fraser was one of the most respected talents in imaging before his untimely passing in December of 2006. While Bruce is no longer with us, his work lives on, and thanks to a new version of his book Real World Camera Raw with Adobe Photoshop CS3, which has been updated by Jeff Schewe (Pearson Education, Inc., and Peachpit Press), you can glean new tips and techniques from Fraser’s deep knowledge of Photoshop and Adobe Camera Raw. On page 46, we have an article on some of Fraser’s and Schewe’s ACR black-and-white conversion techniques.

In my last Editor’s Note, I posited about the day when the final roll of Kodak TRI-X would come off the line in Rochester, N.Y. Although I said I was trying to illustrate a point and no one should take that as advance warning of an imminent end of TRI-X production, I received a number of concerned e-mails on the subject. A week before this issue went to press, I had a conference call with Kodak to discuss a number of things and I took the opportunity to ask about TRI-X. I was assured that there are no plans to end TRI-X production. So, like the man says, go and shoot; they’ll make more.

—Christopher Robinson, Editor

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