Process Determines the Outcome

December 18, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

_RBK1774-HDR-2Lower Manhattan16x24 print on Baryta paper


Lower Manhattan - 16x24 print on Baryta paper

The lower Manhattan skyline appears to rise out of the East River to touch the sky and I wanted this photograph to emphasize this dramatic feature by using three distinct areas in this photograph: the texture of the piers in the foreground, the sharpened outline of the buildings and the texture and contrast in the overcast sky.

Following the lead of Ansel Adams, who worked for hours in the darkroom making test prints and then dodging and burning more test prints until he had achieved the look and the feel that he wanted to convey, I made selected adjustments in each area of this image and used the Tone Curve in Lightroom to nudge up the shadow and dark values within a specific range.



Before & After - subtle changesLightroom Develop - Tone Curve screen shot


Baryta paper has a barium sulphate coating that is traditionally applied to a darkroom photographic paper base prior to coating with the emulsion layers. The Baryta layer provides great detail and definition, extended tonal range and excellent archival properties. Similarly, Baryta inkjet paper can create incredibly rich blacks with great contrast and sharpness and smooth tonal transitions. The challenge is to get the highlights, lights, darks and shadow detail defined in post production before printing on this paper.

I used five bracketed raw images (-2 to +2 EV) to make a composite image file in Lightroom, converted it to black and white with Google/Nik Silver Efex and soft proofed in Lightroom before making final adjustments. A test print was made before committing a 17x25 inch sheet of Baryta paper to the printer. It is the process that determines the outcome; a little like making German Apelkoken (apple cakes also called apple balls) as recalled by my editor...

Every New Year's Eve or "Sylvester," Oma Hildegard would get out the small, but hefty "Ochsenaugenpfanne" [ox eye pan]. She'd measure cups of flour into a huge ceramic bowl, make a well and break up a pack of strong smelling yeast with her fingers. I loved to watch her bake. Not one unsure or wasted movement. The yeast was mixed with a bit of sugar and a cup of milk that had been warming on the stove, incorporating some flour from the rim of the well. She'd leave the pre-batter to rise on the radiator, the bowl covered with a clean kitchen towel. The raisins would be placed into a cup with measured spoonfuls of rum so they could plump up. My job was to go downstairs into the cellar where Opa Theo had stored apples from the garden in a wooden crate, next to the big potato bin. By now, the apples weren't that smooth anymore, they had wrinkles and required a good peeling, after which they were cut in small pieces.

After the batter had risen a bit, Oma Hilde would get out her biggest wooden spoon (the same used for applying discipline, in fact) and slowly stir in the rest of the sugar, a small packet of Dr. Oetker's vanilla sugar, a hunk of softened butter, and two eggs. If one of the chickens had been on the menu recently, she'd use some extra yolks that had been in the chicken and that she kept for baking in a little bowl in the fridge. She'd hold the bowl in the crock of one arm, stirring the heavy batter with her other. Then the bowl went back on the radiator until it pushed up the kitchen towel.

After that, the raisins (now plump and lightly dusted with flour), the apple bits, and a bit of lemon juice and zest were incorporated. After the batter had made a final trip to the radiator, the little cast iron pan would be put on the stove. Each little indentation would receive a small piece of shortening from the tip of a knife. Once the pan was deemed hot enough, the lumpy batter was carefully ladled into the pan, one indentation at a time. After a while, Oma would turn the semi-orbs one by one, using a pair of knitting needles. A bit later, she'd use the needles to remove the now perfectly rounded confections from the pan and transfer them to another bowl, where I was allowed to dust them with powdered sugar floating down from a small sieve. To keep the appleballs warm for the expected guests, they were placed, you guessed it, back on the radiator. The process was then repeated until all the batter was gone and at least two bowls were filled with all that goodness. Being the baker's helper always paid off because they had to be taste tested, of course. They were always perfect.


Happy Holidays!


See ya soon,

Bob & Susanne



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