Brief

Find a scene that has depth. From a fixed position, take a sequence of five or six shots at different focal lengths without changing your viewpoint. Taking inspiration from the examples or from your own research, create a final image for your sequence. In EYV the important thing is to present your work in context, so make it clear in your notes what you’ve been looking at and reading. The focus here is on imagination and research skills rather than the technical aspects of zoom.

Initial Thoughts

My initial thoughts were immediately towards the digital zoom. Especially the reference in the course on the movie Blade Runner, hence the movie was made before the digital camera era. However, the remark in the course about the Esper machine, and how zooming in resulted not in pixels but in grain from analogue, also made me think about the old Wet Plate/Collodium photography. Pixels, grain, resolution, digital zoom, optical zoom, crop, stitch, an endless toolbox is available in modern photography in an attempt to frame a subject. All with their characteristics and visual result. Commercial Camera’s are now equipped with megapixel sensors (20-60 Megapixel Sensors are the default in 2019), delivering of course megapixel images. However, the recent years there is a race going on, creating the biggest image, based on pixel-count. The so-called Gigapixel images (1 GigaPixel = 1000 MegaPixel) are almost common. There are projects known that even use Terrapixel (1000 GigaPixels ), e.g. the Full dome project by Microsoft. Mostly these images are made up by stitching a mosaic of digital photos into one big image. Although it is not comparable, a default (e.g. 100ISO) analogue film has about the resolution of 20 to 50 Megapixel digital image. In the end, the “grain” in the analogue film is the cause of this maximum. However, when photography started in the 19th century, the Wet Plate/Collodium technique used glass or metal plates, sensitised with silver. Where modern 35mm film used light-sensitive chrystals (causing the grain), the wet-plate was based on light-sensitive chemical reactions on a molecule level. Creating stunning, almost grainless images. Of course, the colour was absent, and the lens-technology was no match to present lenses, but estimates (if possible to begin with) state that a 4×5 wet-plate has at least the same resolution as a 200 Megapixel image, still far more then the highest pixel commercial camera today can produce in 1 shot.  If we look at present use of photographs, where almost everything is viewed online on relatively small screens, and low resolution, everything above a few megapixels is visually not noticed by the human eye/observer. Only when zooming in (digitally) the use of all that hidden resolution becomes of use. On the other hand, using digital zoom, the image does not change, only sides are “cut-off” actually, wherewith optical zoom the angles from (change focal-distance) changes and therefor the complete image changes.

Research

Fascinated by the wet-plate techniques, I looked at various YouTube movies and other online material. Curious about the technique used and some exiting experiments even made with this technique today. What surprised me was these sensitised plates are also sensitive for ultraviolet light but not for the colour “red”. Providing that special look that is (almost?) not replicable with post-processing of a digital image.

<iframe title=”vimeo-player” src=”https://player.vimeo.com/video/39578584″ width=”640″ height=”360″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

Wet-collodion process, also called collodion process, early photographic technique invented by Englishman Frederick Scott Archer in 1851. The process involved adding a soluble iodide to a solution of collodion (cellulose nitrate) and coating a glass plate with the mixture. In the darkroom the plate was immersed in a solution of silver nitrate to form silver iodide. The plate, still wet, was exposed in the camera. It was then developed by pouring a solution of pyrogallic acid over it and was fixed with a strong solution of sodium thiosulfate, for which potassium cyanide was later substituted. Immediate developing and fixing were necessary because, after the collodion film had dried, it became waterproof and the reagent solutions could not penetrate it. The process was valued for the level of detail and clarity it allowed. A modification of the process, in which an underexposed negative was backed with black paper or velvet to form what was called an ambrotype, became very popular from the mid- to late 19th century, as did a version on black lacquered metal known as a tintype, or ferrotype.

Wet-collodion process | photography. (2019). In: Encyclopædia Britannica. [online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/technology/wet-collodion-process [Accessed 17 Sep. 2019].

When thinking of digital (and Blade runner) and zooming, a completely new genre emerges “Game Photography”. Walking through the game landscape, even using a virtual camera and compose and shoot scenes in the game. Is this different then we do in real life? Zooming is now virtual, but is that digital as we know it? Is the scene itself now zooming towards the virtual camera or is the virtual camera zooming?  Do the angles change, is the focal-distance emulated in the digital scene? How do you measure focal distance in a digital/virtual environment? For now this seems an endless new research direction, far beyond the scope and goal of this exercise, but definitely made me think.

Game Photograpy: Photography in a Virtual World

http://deadendthrills.com/

 

The scene from Blade runner. We’ve come a long way indeed. Voice command is almost outdated (at least I turn it off on my mobile; it only slows me down). Combining this with on-screen navigation is something anybody can do today.

Execution

Following the suggested route from the brief seemed to me a bit casual. Already seen how other students made some great shots with their zoom-lens of tunnels, roads, pavement etc. The difficulty to me was to create a surprising final image in a zoom-sequence, not being the obvious “pixelated” one. Combining digital and optical zoom, but in a strange setting.  I also was slightly inspired by the research at Thomas Ruff, who create JPEG “art”, based on “found” images.

I made “photographs” from one of the biggest (in pixels)  images from Bigpixel (Bigpixel.cn, 2016). They made a stunning 48 Gigapixel image of the city of Shanghai. For hours I looked around in this strange, high-resolution city scenery. Looking for special things, nice compositions, moments even, almost real life. I found an Asian woman making an image with her mobile; it is as if she makes a photograph of me, just as happens on the streets sometimes. The “zooming distance” however is spectacular. Ending image is a shot where the viewer of the zoom sequence is suddenly pulled out of the virtual zoom-world, into reality, or not?

Strange enough, the only true focal length used by me is 18mm (on M3/4 = 36mm FF equivalent) on my 12-35 Zoomlens.

 

Bibliography

Bigpixel.cn. (2016). Photographer — Webflow CMS Template. [online] Available at: http://en.bigpixel.cn/ [Accessed 17 Sep. 2019].

‌“SILVER & LIGHT de Ian Ruhter : Alchemist on Vimeo.” Vimeo.Com, 2019, player.vimeo.com/video/39578584. Accessed 17 Sept. 2019.

‌Wet-collodion process | photography. (2019). In: Encyclopædia Britannica. [online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/technology/wet-collodion-process [Accessed 17 Sep. 2019].

O’Hagan, S. (2019). What next for photography in the age of Instagram? [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/oct/14/future-photography-in-the-age-of-instagram-essay-sean-o-hagan [Accessed 17 Sep. 2019].

‌Hofstätter, M. (2019). YouTube. YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7_NueIGtCw [Accessed 17 Sep. 2019].

Framed Show (2019). YouTubeYouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6c7RT7BsIbc [Accessed 17 Sep. 2019].

RuhterIan, I. (2018). Ian Ruhter. [online] Ian Ruhter. Available at: https://www.ianruhter.com/ [Accessed 17 Sep. 2019].