Friday, August 16, 2013

Sepia Saturday 190 : The Anaglypta Of Photography

It is wrong to look back to your youth and identify your mistakes with the highlighting pen of regret. What is done is done. As the divine Edith Piaf sang "Non, je ne regrette rien" I can stand here, face the world, and shout out loud : "I regret nothing"  ..... except perhaps that bulk order of stipple photographic paper. Let me explain.


I went looking for an old photograph of a picnic: searching through my archives, flicking through my prints, holding strip after strip of negatives up to the August sunlight. You would think that there would be loads. Picnics have all the ingredients of fine photographic fayre : people, pleasure, summer days, and aluminium teapots. But us Burnett's are a miserable lot : we spend smiles as if they were currency. The best I could come up with was an old print of my parents, Albert and Gladys, in a state of near exhaustion after attempting to enjoy a picnic. I checked to see if I still had the negative but all the squinting in the world revealed nothing. No problem, I popped the print in the scanner and pressed the magic button. 

Moments later I shouted out "Sodding Stipple" with a vehemence that brought my Good Lady Wife rushing in from her afternoon nap. When I was but a lad, I bought a bulk supply of stipple photographic paper which, for a year or two, I used for all the home printing of my photographs. It was cheap, and as long as you looked at it from a distance, it was reasonably acceptable if you weren't too concerned with detail. It was the Anaglypta of photography, the Artex of imaging. The problem with it is, that when you attempt to scan a stipple photograph you get something that looks as if it has been baked on a cellophane bag. Everything - skin, seas, fields and aluminium teapots - is transformed into little ridges of deflected light. Everything is robbed of detail. 

My Sepia Saturday post this week is therefore living proof that the mistakes of one's youth will eventually come back to haunt you. If you would like to see some clearer photographs of picnics, you can go to the Sepia Saturday Website and follow all the links you will find there.

36 comments:

  1. I can relate to your mom and dad's demeanor. It requires a lot of work to prepare and pack the food, and physical labor to lug the stuff from the car and set up the tent. For what? For a relaxing and carefree afternoon. Yeah, right. SOME people got to relax, I'm sure, but probably not the parents.

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  2. I laughed aloud at your wonderfully written portrayal of shouting out "Sodding Stipple" & your Good Lady Wife rushing in from her afternoon nap. Great expression! I had a chaise lounge like those pictured, but when, at a thrift shop, I found a chaise in a 1940's style in perfect condition with yellow wheels, I tossed the other - which was slowly unraveling anyway.

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    1. oh, what a great find, Gail!

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  3. Some of my old black and whites from the 60s and 70s were printed on 'matte' paper which I'm guessing is very similar, and you're right, scanning them produces a snow-like effect which makes one shout rude words out loud.

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  4. I believe your mother looks somewhat amused by the kid with the camera. She's only pretending not to look.

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  5. That looks quite a fancy picnic to me. Tent, table... (we used to have ours in a paper bag...!) I recall once we were so late setting off, it having taken so long to pack up the car, that dad pulled into a lay-by about ten miles from home and we ate it there.

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  6. Oh, Jenny's experience sounds like mine! Except perhaps my father's irritation and impatience that set the tone for the day! Sounds like a picnic was not such a picnic for some of us!

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  7. We forgive you, Alan! :)

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  8. Okay, stipple paper is a new one on me. Gloss, semi-gloss, and matte I know about, but stipple? Hmmmm...

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  9. The stipple and silk finishes, both of which I put in the "what were they thinking" category. I've tried many different techniques to get rid of, or even reduce, the effects of both on the scanning process - even using a polarising filter - to no avail. An irretrievable silk purse-sow's ear situation, I'm afraid. It's like Spike Milligan said (or perhaps it was Peter Sellers, my paraphrasing anyway): once you've referred to a fine painting as a "Fred Rembrandt," there's no rescuing it from oblivion, is there?

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  10. You probably find more luck finding pictures of your parents/family motorcycling than picnics. Perhaps your parents had been cycling for a long stretch before arriving at their "picnic" destination! Hope you don't come across too many more stipples or else your wife won't be able to enjoy her "naps"...

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  11. A brilliant essay on the perils of hindsight, Alan. Now Albert and Gladys have wandered from the realism of photography into the pointillism of art. However it does seem like an awful lot of work to set up a tent, chairs, and table just to enjoy a nice cuppa.

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  12. And in one of Willie Nelson's songs he says, "I've got a lot of real good reasons for all the things I've said and done." And Frank Sinatra, "Regrets I've had a few." so why worry about some dumb paper you bought. Interesting to see these people covered in blankets.

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  13. My aunt took many of her mother's photos out of her album before giving it to my mum (her sister). She had (kindly she thinks) photocopied the photos she took and carefully replacing them in the album.
    Mum and I still can't manage to get her to hand the originals over for scanning.
    Similar feeling I imagine to the stipple paper.

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  14. And here was I thinking that you had a very special fabric for your tent - I think fabric because I am a quilting nut. Thanks for a very entertaining post. And on the subject of picnics - especially beach ones with kids. Mever again!! I hate them!! Sand, flies, screaming kids, hot drinks, sunburn and so on.

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  15. Oh I think I've come across that paper when scanning without knowing what it was! It's a lovely photo, I think picnics must've been exhausting, all that paraphenalia.

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  16. I rather like the effect, Alan. Actually, your parents look as though they might be on the set of an open air production of a play penned by Mike Leigh.

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  17. That looks like a comfortable picnic. It is annoying when you find you made the wrong choice. My printer scanner died and has gone to the hospital. Luckily my clever other half resurrected an old one so that I could join in SS this week.

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  18. I join you in your disapproval of textured photo paper. silks, canvas and stipple. On some I have found the "descreen" option on the scanner to be helpful. Good post.

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  19. Had to show that to my daughter. ha! They believe you can take it with you!

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  20. I love that picture and your description of it. If you sharpen the image in Photoshop, the stipples will be more apparent, but the details will show better too.

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  21. I'd not heard of stipple paper either; rather I associate stippling with painting. Even though I think none of my vintage photos used that kind of paper, it still can be difficult to edit them to a suitable image. But, I think...better an image not quite up to snuff than none.

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  22. I had to laugh at your post and your evocative descriptions - great fun1

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  24. After a three month trip around the world, I printed 1000s of photos and made a collage of photos and memorabilia on a board. It was a terrific memory of our holiday and was to be framed to take pride of place on our wall.

    However, I left it in a sunny room and as I had used cheap paper and ink, the whole thing faded.

    I have never used cheap ink or paper since! But still haven't fixed my original masterpiece!

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  25. If you hadn't told us I wouldn't have known. Lovely photo It still looks better than the scans I make of some of the old photos which I think were taken on a folding Kodak camera. No matter how I huff and puff I cannot get them to sharpen up. Picnics bring up such mixed memories for people from idyllic right through to the other end of the scale !

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  26. Stipple... One could console oneself with the thought that Photoshop Elements probably has an "effect" that'll do exactly that to your photographs if you ask it!

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  27. I just know she's loving every moment of her life! This is just a fabulous photo, what a wonderful picnic adventure!

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  28. Once I finished my giggling at you, your surprised good lady wife, and your sodding stippling paper, I really looked at the photo. Quite charming. A well set table, sheltered from the sun and wind. And then the contented couple, once the eating is done. Very charming. Thanks for the charm and giggles..

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  29. We had some of those chaise lounge which featured regularly in the garden, on trips to the beach, and on holiday - always amusing when the fabric finally gave way and some unsuspecting lounger sat through the fabric.

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  30. They say hindsight is 20/20, Alan ...

    Nonetheless, your photo is truly charming, even if it isn't as perfect as you might like. Such a great image of your folks stretched out in their loungers for an afternoon siesta. Makes me a bit envious ...

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  31. I had to look up Anaglypta, Alan...sounds like dreadful stuff! But I know what you mean about bad paper -- there are also screens that produce a moire effect (swirling in two directions); it's enough to make you seasick!

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  32. I hear your anguish. The only two wedding photos I have of my folks are on that damnable paper. As you say, there's no hope when scanning them.

    But then we get to the subject of your shot and it's too wonderful no matter the paper. That is quite a setup for a picnic! I thought my family was doing well if we even brought a table cloth.

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  33. ...looks lovely to me! Relaxing outside, perhaps a nice breeze, coffee (or tea) under the tent... looks like maybe a kid running in the background (left).

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  34. S scanner will do that to you, revealing the flaws of the past.
    I am currently facing such a situation for one of my future posts,
    Not only the camera didn't produce a sharp image
    and the printing has started to fade/discolor,
    but scanning the photo was rather disappointing.
    Ah, a cup of tea and let's forget about it for now!!
    I may yet come up with another idea...
    :D~
    HUGZ

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  35. Analglypta was a new word to me. I looked it up and I like that wallpaper but it wouldn't be good for printing photos!
    Boy, am I late commenting this week. It's already time for a new Sepia Saturday.
    Barbara

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