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Applied Photographic Theory
P. Kowaliski (1908-1977)
(John Wiley & Sons, London, 1972; 533pp.
The author of this book was on the staff of the former French Kodak-Pathé company, and his own field appears to be mainly the theoretical aspects of colour reproduction. As he points out (page 35), “For a very long time photography was either a craft or considered as a hobby for amateurs, which together with the very great tolerance of the black-and-white materials towards exposure errors is the origin of a traditionally empirical approach to photographic techniques, even when employed for professional or scientific purposes”. Any forensic scientist using photography will find in this book the means oi ensuring that that statement is no longer reproachfully true. The book contains a staggering wealth of back ground material covering every aspect of photography from the washing, drying and glazing of prints to the most recondite applications of information theory to image quality. He will find in it the answers to such questions as (among innumerable others) : What is the distinction between granularity and graininess ? Why does a colour photograph look better as an enlargement than as a print having identical colours? What parameters can be used to define and measure image quality? What are the data for the dimensional stability of various types of film base? How does colour masking work? Why is a mixed metol-quinol developer better than either developing agent by itself? What condition must be observed to ensure the best recording of very faint spectrum lines ? What methods can be used to obtain useful pictures from seemingly hopeless radiographs or photographs taken on the moon?
The arrangement of the material is highly original. Instead of the straight- forward sequence (exposure- processing image evaluation) which might have been expected, the author deals first in great detail with the relationship of the photographic record to the original in respect of tone, detail, colour and information content, and only then goes on to discuss the mechanics, physics and chemistry of the sensitive material, its exposure and processing. The reader should perhaps be warned that the author makes no concessions to readers for whom mathematics is a language in which they are less at home than he clearly is; he is liable at the click of a shutter to take off into page-filling equations full of double integrals. However, mathematical cripples such as the reviewer need not be deterred ; the information is all there even if one baulks at the equations. The text was first written in French and then translated into English by the author himself. It is on the whole a highly competent translation. The worst that can be said is that the author is (like some scientists writing in English!) apt to overload the text with abstract nouns, and seems occasionally to have been more industrious in consulting the dictionary than familiar with current English usage. In nearly every such case, admittedly, the results are merely unidiomatic rather than wrong. On the whole, however, the reviewer’s attempts to make a case for the Devil’s Advocate to present were pretty unrewarding.
These minor defects cannot, however, conceal the impressive excellence of this book. The author, publisher, proof-reader and printer may all be proud of it. It is a pleasure to handle, only one printer’s error was detected during a pretty thorough browse, and plate 3, illustrating some subtleties of colour reproduction, is just about the finest example of skilled colour printing which the reviewer has ever seen. The book ought to be in the library of every laboratory which uses photography as a tool. (Adapted from H. J. Walls)