Want to look behind the curtain?

Now you've gone and done it!
Here you'll find out more than you probably bargained for!

General Information

My photographic background

The Tools
Film Preferences

The Digital Darkroom

Cross Platform usage

The Digital Workflow

Media Asset Management

The Future

All the images on this site were taken on 35mm film, both positive and negative, and then scanned using the Kodak Photo CD system. The images were then opened in Adobe Photoshop, enhanced, or not, then saved in the JPEG file format, at a setting of 3 (high compression), to make the site more user-friendly.
Over the years, I have used Nikon and Canon camera systems, as well as many makes of medium and large format cameras. I prefer to use 35mm, and lately have been using mostly Canon EOS cameras and lenses, which I find to be superb, even though I'll never part with my trusty Nikon FM2's. As for my computer system, I am currently using an Apple Power Macintosh 7100/66av running MacOs 8.5.1, with 72 megs of Ram and a 512K Level 2 cache, a Power Spigot video card, a 17" Lapis Monitor and a 14" Apple monitor, A Wacom Artz graphics tablet, one 1-Gig hard-drives, two 3-Gig hard-drive, a Syquest 88 MB cartridge drive, a Zip drive, a HyperTape backup system, and a Global Village 28.8 modem. Hey, you're the one who wanted to get technical!

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I became interested in photography as a child, and began taking photos and developing my first rolls of black and white when I was around 11 years old. Since then, my technique has changed quite a bit. As a graduate of The Brooks Institute, I spent many years shooting only color reversal film (slides), and black and white utilizing in-depth sensitometry techniques, as these were the highest professional standards. Several years ago, as I was making the transition to pre-press proficiency,
I began testing color negative film stocks, and immediately abandoned all the rolls of Fuji Velvia and Kodachrome I had in my refrigerator (If anyone wants to buy some, let me know!) I found that color print films, when digitally printed correctly within any image-editing program, far surpass slides for tonal range capabilities, and offer just as much apparent sharpness in the final image. For most applications, I use Fujicolor Super HG II (which they keep re-naming, so who knows what it's called now!) ASA 100, exposed with an EI of around 64-80. The slight overexposure is key to getting enhanced saturation and shadow detail, but too much can lead to blocked-up highlights. For some applications, mostly portraiture, I use Kodak VPS, which handles skin tones better than Fuji. Recently, I shot some of Kodak's new Portra series, for some nudes I was doing, and found both the normal saturation and higher saturation version to be exceptional, in color rendition of fleshtones and everything else. E-mail me if you want to see some samples.

This school of thought is gaining acceptance in some areas of professional photography, but is still scoffed at by others. Photojournalists adopted this workflow years ago, in many cases bypassing film and scanners for digital cameras. Some photographers are unwilling to utilize negatives, as they may not always have the ability to make a final printing decision on the image, or the client, who wants to work with film, like he's used to, may not know how to correctly prepare the image for their usage needs.

Three or four years ago, I remember trying to tell Gilles Bensimmon about what I'd found in working with negatives while I was assisting him on a job for Elle magazine, and he looked at me like he didn't understand English. In the summer of '97 I was working with him again, and he showed up from New York with - guess what - bulk packs of color neg stocks! He said that the magazine had finally decided to use mainly negatives now, and he didn't want to hear "I told you so!" from me. Even National Geographic has now given in, and has accepted the first submissions by a photographer in (gasp) negative form! For the progenitor of the world's fascination with photography to make a switch of this magnitude definitely signifies a major trend in imaging. I could go into more arcane technical detail, but in the end, photography is about the final result, and to that end, all I can say is that many of my current images would have been impossible to create using slide films and optical photo-finishing methods. Enough said!

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The key to maximizing the potential of not only the scene and the negative, but your vision, lies in making printing decisions while in the digital darkroom. It is here that the negative shows its strengths over chromes, as detail from both ends of the spectrum can be brought back into play, while never sacrificing the overall contrast and tonality of the image.
And none of this even begins to touch on the manipulative possibilities of the computer. I don't think I've scanned an image in years that doesn't have at least one or two dust spots that need to be quickly cloned out of existence.

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Aside from all the advantages in actually creating the image, going digital has allowed for tremendous flexibility in the types of ways we can now use the image. I now regularly prepare each image for use in CMYK reproduction, photographic output, and internet usage.

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I believe the ideal workflow (for now!) is to first process your film and then do a rough edit on a lightbox with a good loupe. Then, scan the desired images onto Photo CD, which you can then browse through on your monitor with Kodak's Access software, to do a more detailed edit. Once you've decided on the final contenders for your needs, you may want to involve others in the editing process. It is very easy to format all the Photo CD files into web-friendly JPEG's, to be posted on a web server which all parties can refer to to make editing, or other, decisions. Then once everyone is decided on which images should have what done to them (cropping, retouching, compositing, stripping, etc.), the images can then be finalized for whatever the media requirements are, with as many iterations as necessary being posted on the web site for everyone's input and approval. This system is scary to many who have yet to embrace the new media paradigms it is based on, mainly vertical media integration, but once it is adopted, the benefits are tremendous!

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With the all-digital workflow becoming more of a reality, some systems must be put into place to control several aspects of what has now become known as Media Asset Management. There are now several turn-key programs on the market designed to catalog and store multiple types of media content depending on your organizations' needs. BullDog is one such program that looks promising. Some type of standardization and file management system must be implemented to make sure that content is easy to locate for every person in the imaging loop, but that it is available in optimized formats for each usage. This can mean that one user may need to view an image on-line, while another may need to place a file of the same image in a page-layout program to be printed at a high resolution. Careful re-purposing of the image is needed to get the most out of each usage, and usually this means that a human being must actually make visual judgements when preparing an image for different colorspaces and imaging methods. Some color management systems attempt to tackle one or more of these issues., but I've yet to see the program that does it all. I'm hoping that FlashPix gains wider acceptance, and that color management tools like ColorTron become integrated into every aspect of imaging production. Until this all gets ironed out, analyzing your needs and deciding what works best for you is the only real solution.

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As for the future, I'm extremely excited and optimistic about where photography, imaging, and communications in general are going. From a philosphical point of view, I see the unlimited ability to share and access knowledge with all peoples to be the greatest goal we can accomplish with these new-fangled tools we're making. I think the systems we are establishing now are only transitory phases to newer forms of media delivery which more fully integrate all the media we currently have access to, as well as spawning their own offshoots. Knowledge is power, and when we are all equally empowered, we can begin to understand each other, our backgrounds, our beliefs. Or, there'll be a massive solar flare that will wipe all magnetic data into oblivion, world chaos will ensue from the economic panic/collapse that follows, and you'd better hope you stocked up on food and water!

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Ray Moss is a photography, media, and imaging specialist, based in Petaluma, California.
Ray has worked in almost every aspect of photography, imaging, and design for first print, and now the internet, since receiving a BA from The Brooks Institute of Photographic Arts and Sciences, Santa Barbara, CA, 1989. Ray's comprehensive understanding of photography and imaging allows him to utilize the best production and delivery methods for each project.

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All content copyright 1999 Ray Moss