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enter image description here

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These photos are from the photo book "Genesis".

The area I am curious about is in the dunes. I was having a tough time even coming up with adjectives to describe this photo. It almost looks like a painting to me. The dunes have this "brushed" quality to them.

I am curious if it is due to the graininess of the film. I am pretty sure he shot on 35mm for this project. Or is it a function of the high-quality paper he is printing on? Is it due to the softness of the lens he is using?

Would there be a way to recreate this digitally? Or can this look only be achieved with film?

Would love to hear the community's thoughts!

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi and welcome to Photo.SE! I wanted to thank you for writing a clear "how to achieve this look" question with an example image and mentioning what aspect of the look you're trying to recreate. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 27 at 20:48

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The softness of the lens, combined with the lack of medium size textures in the sand, causes the watercolor type of effect (brushed look). The graininess of the film causes the false texture in the sand.

It's not too hard to replicate in Photoshop.

I took this public domain image

enter image description here

And with a few quick adjustments; convert to B&W, blur, add gaussian noise, I got this result

enter image description here

With more care/time/edits I'm sure I could have gotten even closer. Of course, the scene and lighting itself makes a big difference as well.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You nailed it!! The edits that you made - could you have made them in a localized area of the photo? I.e. just the background, or just the foreground? I have never used PS before, only LR. \$\endgroup\$
    – Brandon
    Jan 27 at 20:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ It is quite easy to limit the edits to only certain areas in photoshop \$\endgroup\$ Jan 27 at 21:22
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While it's not really an answer – certainly not in terms of recreating his effects digitally – I think the following could be informative...

Sebastião Salgado used to have an official web presence at www.amazonasimages.com. This URL seems to have been taken over by someone entirely different now, but, through the Internet Archive, you can still access some of Sebastião Salgado's content. There were several articles made available there on the Genesis project, and at least some of this content can be accessed now here.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I always like to suggest that people consider a donation to such invaluable projects as the Internet Archive. \$\endgroup\$
    – osullic
    Jan 27 at 21:48
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Film grain, high contrast papers, and lots of time in a darkroom.

Edit: Check out the books Negative, the Print, and the Camera. The Negative and Print will be most helpful for understanding the techniques, although without a wet lab experience you might find some concepts hard unless you've seen it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I did a ton of research on this and wanted to share it with you. Apparently, he didn't develop his negatives or do his own printing. He used Dominique Granier for printing and Philippe Bachelier to develop his negatives! \$\endgroup\$
    – Brandon
    Jan 28 at 14:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ I took a darkroom class in 2019 in Boston. It was heavily focused on the zone system! The things you can do with BnW film are incredible. Another favorite photographer, Bruce Barnbaum, has an incredible command of the negative and the print. As far as I know, he does his development and printing, haha. \$\endgroup\$
    – Brandon
    Jan 28 at 14:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Brandon that surprises me, and yet it doesn't. The level of mastery to do the work needed to make these images, the sheer time it takes- I can recall spending a week working on 1 print- water bathing papers, etc. So I'm not surprised- and just hope it was collaborated on, but ultimately what matters is that the artist and others enjoyed the art. \$\endgroup\$
    – J.Hirsch
    Jan 28 at 15:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ absolutely! I completely agree with you. A guy like Sebastio has a vision for how he wants his prints to come out - I'm sure it was a collaborative effort. \$\endgroup\$
    – Brandon
    Jan 28 at 15:49

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