Chris Jordan, use of filters?? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread


I was browsing Chris Jordan's site ( I was truly amazed by the color saturation in his pictures (especially "Seattle Alley Studies" and "The Ancient Forrest"). I was thinking that maybe this Chris Jordan is the same Chris Jordan as the one who is quite active in this group. Maybe he would be kind enough to reveal some of his secrets regarding these great photographs...

Here goes my question: What kind of film was used to make these super-saturated pictures? Did you use a color intensifier of some kind? Is this an effect of using a larger format (I can't seem to get anything similar with 35mm nor 645)??.



-- Tom Christiansen (, May 02, 2002


Tom: Chris Jordan may be the best to answer, now let me guess: In the "ancient Forest" there is no mystery here, only Velvia. Second guess, these may be digitally processed. The only series with high saturation, to my way of seeing is the Seattle Alley studies. Too subtle to be Kodak, not sure what else. Thanks for raising the issue. Some quite nice photographs.

-- Julio Fernandez (, May 02, 2002.

Tom: Correction: had missed seeing the other series. The Urban Tree series and others are indeed supersaturated. My guess here is digital editing.

-- Julio Fernandez (, May 02, 2002.

Julio: I did indeed think of Velvia and E100VS (that I have yet to try). I just don't ever remember seeing such vivid colors -- even on Velvia.

But I'm looking forward to Chris' response.


-- Tom Christiansen (, May 02, 2002.

hey guys, i just returned to internet access from having a down server for a week-- how nice to come back to a thread about my work!

the posts so far were right: my forest work is all on 4x5 velvia, exposed on dark overcast days during the winter, usually in the rain, and frequently at dusk when the ultraviolet component of the light is highest. most of the forest exposures are long, in the 10-20 minute range, which also puts reciprocity failure in my favor in the forest because velvia shifts towards the green end of the scale in long exposures.

my alley work is done under similar conditions-- heavy overcast and rain, frequently at dusk, all long exposures. i wait until i see that glow in the colors that you see right at dusk-- when everything looks like it's under a black light. for years i thought that was an optical effect of our pupils opening up (and thus didn't "really" exist) but it turns out that it actually is photographable. now i think it has to do with ultraviolet light.

my nighttime work is all done with neon lighting as the light source, which produces all the wild colors. so far those images have all been un-printable because the color gamut on my film cannot be reproduced by any color printing method. hopefully that's changing with the new generation of epson printers.

the scans on my website are all as close as i could get to the look of the originals, with the exception of the blue dumpster that's the first image in the "alley" series-- that one is a bad scan that resulted in blown out blues that are way overdone. i'm just about to replace all of the scans on my site with new ones-- rezzed-down versions of my Tango scans instead of the el-cheapo flatbed homemade scans that are on there now. so, the new set of images will be even more true to my originals.

so, check back soon, and thanks for your interest,

warm regards to all,

~cj (Seattle)

-- chris jordan (, May 08, 2002.

Tom, by the way, if you're interested, feel free to contact me privately and we can chat about whatever details you want to discuss. All my contact info is on the "contact" page of my site.

~chris jordan

-- chris jordan (, May 08, 2002.


" dusk when the ultraviolet component of the light is highest."

I suspect UV is greatest at local solar noon, not dusk. Would you explain, please?


-- Sal Santamaura (, May 08, 2002.

Chris: Thanks for your explanation. I find it comforting to hear that no filters or photoshopping was used to create the vivid colors in these images. Now I just need to get "out there" and shoot some film. There are some great pictures to be taken of the walls in Post Alley and those places.

Sal: Regarding UV content. You're probably right that the overall UV intensity is highest at noon (or 1PM daylight savings time) -- but so is the intensity of visible light. At dusk colors shift towards the blue/violet, thus, indicating that the relative intensity of the UV part of the spectrum is higher than the intensity of the visible range of colors. So it's a matter of RELATIVE intensity rather than absolute intensity. Does this make sense?

-- Tom Christiansen (, May 08, 2002.

re. UV light: Tom, that's exactly right, as far as i understand the issue. at noon the UV intensity is highest, but exposures are shortest too because of the brightness of the visible light. at dusk the UV light is lower overally, but is proportionally higher when compared to visible light, and thus during the long exposures (which are based on visible light), more UV gets to the film, punching up some color hues a bit.


-- chris jordan (, May 08, 2002.

That seems intuitively reasonable, but it's often easy to be seduced into incorrect conclusions by taking such an approach. Any atmospheric scientists out there (with a *lot* more knowledge than me!) who can tell us if Chris' film is simply responding to the abundance of blue at dusk, or is there really an actinic quantity of UV present?

-- Sal Santamaura (, May 08, 2002.


If you can see the glow, it isn't UV unless you're aphakic or have some other unsual eye condition. Retinal linked to rhodopsin responds out into UV-A (315-400nm), but the cones (just barely down to 390nm min with a normal lens in the eye) and rods (425nm min) don't. I suspect the glow you're seeing comes from changes in rhodopsin levels, but you haven't described how long you have to wait or what you look at while waiting.

Also, if it was UV, there'd have to be a way for UV (<400nm) to change color intensities in the 400 to 670nm range. According to Fuji's data sheet, the blue band for Velvia is roughly 400 to 500nm, green 500 to 580, and red 580 to 670. As with most recent emulsions, Velvia has a very hard stop at 400nm, and most lenses are also pretty good UV rejectors (see, for example, http://www.naturfoto I don't have the right references handy, but as I recall clouds (e.g. water) are considerably better at absorbing UV than they are at absorbing red or green; I'd be pretty surprised if there's anything significant happening in the UV part of the spectrum under cloud, even at dusk.

An explanation that's simpler, though not necessarily correct, is Velvia gets even more saturated with long exposures. I don't know enough about silver halides and dye chemistry to speculate on a mechanism, however.

Besides, if it really is some sort of UV effect you should see what happens with E100VS, as it has a softer UV cut off than Velvia. Try a couple sheets and let us know.

-- Todd West (, May 08, 2002.

wow, Todd, that's interesting stuff; you know this subject at a much more sophisticated level than i do. I've talked with the people at Fuji about Velvia's sensitivity to UV, and what they said about the cutoff is consistent with what you say. when i've tried to capture violet neon lights on velvia, they always come out blue because of velvia's cutoff, which actually is closer to blue than the cutoff of other films. so, i may be all wrong on the dusk-UV concept.

but, there IS an effect that i see almost every dusk, which is a glow in the colors that's hard to explain. on overcast days, for about half an hour right before dark it looks like everything is being lit by a black light-- yellows turn into "dayglow" yellow; greens pop into amazing emerald glow as if lit from inside; other colors take off too (reds do it less). it happens more here in the pacific northwest than other places, i've noticed. for the last few years i've thought it had to do with UV light, but maybe it's something else. it also happens during the day on the most heavily overcast days when the cloud layer is 10,000 feet thick and cars are driving around with their lights on all day (yep, we get a lot of those here in Seattle).

anyway, THAT's the light i photograph in, to get the colors in my alley and forest work. i know it's not an effect of Velvia alone, because i can also see it with my eyes. the first time i tried to photograph it, i was quite surprised to find that it came out in film; i had thought it was just an effect of our pupils opening up wider and being dazzled by things that are still bright-- an enhanced contrast effect.


-- chris jordan (, May 09, 2002.

Every so often, being a geek comes in handy. I'm going to have to dig into this some more.

Now that I really think about it, I have noticed the saturation you're describing in dim light. Despite ample opportunity—20 odd years in Portland, plus a couple in Seattle—I've always registered the saturation as "gee, it's really dark", rather than thinking about what it would do on film. At least for me, the effect is particularly obvious out on Lake Washington or the sound. The yellow whatzamajiggers at Magnussen ought to be going pretty strong by now; I'll go over there the next front comes through and see what happens with Agfa Precisa.

-- Todd West (, May 09, 2002.

Chris: Now that you mention it. I've seen that color saturation in the Seattle rain as well. I don't know if it has to do with the rain itself, the heavy clouds, or if it's an effect of subdued light. But it definitely is visible.

It could also be psychological. In this grey/black mess any dab of color is treasured and thus becomes more pronounced. But I doubt that film has any psyche to speak of... :-)

-- Tom Christiansen (, May 09, 2002.

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