One of my biggest mental barriers in photography is losing shadow detail. I generally follow the maxim “expose for shadow detail, process for the highlights.” But as in the rest of my life, I find it difficult to throw things away. I mean, I HAVE that shadow detail right now! It’s in the negative! Why would I print (or publish digitally) and intentionally throw that away? Let me tell myself: 1) because I can always get it back (the negative still exists), and 2) because it looks better, stupid.

If you have the same problem as me, do yourself a favor and find a print from years ago that goes dark, like the one above. Find a photograph with nice inky blacks. Now tell yourself what exactly it is that you’re missing. Nothing, right? When I look at the photo above, I don’t say “I really wish I could remember what his shirt looked like.” I have just enough light in there to define his face and profile. The hands are wonderful, and they don’t need to be fully illuminated to express themselves.

I just remembered this photograph today and it made me remember to let it go dark.

Paul, February 2006. Canon L1 with 50mm collapsible Summicron, shot wide open, on Tri-X at EI 1600. Developed in Diafine.