Bridger Mountains, Montana (Leica M6, Zeiss Biogon 28/2.8, Fuji Velvia 50)

Ross-Sac Massif, Bridger Mountains, Montana

Leica M6, Zeiss Biogon 28/2.8, Fuji Velvia 50

This is a photo that prints beautifully on a finished size of 28″ x 16″ because it’s a composite stitched from four vertical frames of 35mm Velvia 50, then scanned to 60 MP, so it’s sharp. And, it has texture. The printed photo has a three dimensional feel that makes you think the mountains are somewhere beyond the plane of the wall on which the photo hangs. You can’t see that in digital photos.

“But I never print anymore, I just post photos online” is the response by most people who scoff at film, or digital sensors that produce images with film like character, like the Foveon sensor.

I like to invite these scoffers to browse my Lightroom Library, which houses about 3000 scanned slides and 10,000 digital images. I have another 250 or so off in their own folder which I consider quality photos that I’ve taken in the past 20 years. When they pick the best, out of those 250, they invariably come from photos shot on Velvia 50, or with a Leica lens, or with a Foveon sensor. The images taken with MFT (Micro Four Thirds) or Four Thirds or Canon or Nikon digital cameras – they sort of gloss over them. Without post processing (other than contrast and white balance correction) images from most of the digital cameras I’ve used just sort of look like, well digital images, and they lack character – texture (dimensionality) and color depth (richness). When I see an image that has these characteristics, I like to say that it has a bit of zeal.

When I shot the image above, it was in the early hours of a winter morning. Velvia 50 can do things no digital camera can without artificial color manipulation during post processing, and it’s the singular reason why I like Velvia 50: it renders both rich blues and warmth, which makes shooting at dawn and dusk so much more rewarding with Velvia 50 than with any digital camera I’ve used. Add to Velvia the simplicity of the Leica M6 and the incredible sharpness and color rendering of the Zeiss Biogon 28/2.8, and the fact that you don’t have to sit in front of a computer to get the image above (I had it scanned by my lab) and you have the perfect recipe that keeps you outdoors looking for beautiful scenery to shoot rather than fooling around with another computer.

How this image was shot and processed: I shot about one roll of film during this 15 minute shoot. When the light started to hit, I shot four vertically oriented shots, overlapping each other, knowing that I’d want to stich a pan so the scene could be printed bigger and sharper. All shots were handheld. Fuji Velvia 50 was developed and scanned by North Coast Photo Services. I imported the scans into Lightroom, looked at them on the “digital light table”, was immediately drawn to these (mountains were correctly exposed), exported them to Photoshop CS4, stitched them together using PS’s Photomerge function, cropped them, corrected contrast with curves, and then (for online distribution) resized, exported, and sharpened for the Web, and (for print) adjusted brightness, contrast, and gamma for the printer, and sent it away.