The Photographic Historical Society of Canada

Visual Bandwidth and the Art of Photography
Larry Frank
Program date: November 18, 2009

Larry Frank by Bob Lansdale
Frank by Lansdale

Rhythm jazz Dance
Rhythm Jazz Dance

Hooters from Rhythm Jazz Dance show
Hooters from RJD

Vincent - Bulb fields
Bulb Fields

Vincent Starry Night
Starry Night

Larry at the screen
Using Photoshop

vignetting before
Vignetting before

Vignetting after
Vignetting after

Pinball Panz
Pinball Panz

lens baby composer
Lens Baby Composer

Larry Frank is a well known and popular photographer, traveller, writer, presenter, Photoshop instructor, and digital retouch artist. He pioneered the Nikon School of Photography, Silver to Silicon, and the School of Travel Photography and Travel Techniques seminars in Canada. You can visit his web site at

Larry established an immediate rapport with the audience, acknowledging old friends and acquaintances including well known Toronto Star photographer Boris Spremo.

He opened and closed his talk with slideshows. Before beginning, he reminded us of the complexities of the old film-based slide shows with the multiple projectors, slide trays, and audio tapes. The manual synchronization was a potential nightmare. Today, his shows need only one digital projector and a computer to accomplish even more elaborate multi-image effects including video snippets, with no need for manual sync during the presentation.

He opened with the slide show Rhythm Jazz Dance which can be seen on his website under Slide Shows. It was created entirely on an Apple Mac, including the music - a fast action piece composed by Larry. He feels that the greatest tool for a photographer after the digital camera is the Mac computer as it allows the photographer incredible freedom to embellish his images and bring them to life. Note: The Hooters shot from the slide show is part of a series on Larry's Flickr! page.

He quoted columnist Jennifer Wells in the Toronto Star, “I have a theory that digital cameras kill thinking. There’s so much clicking going on that I suspect we don’t see what we’re seeing until we play back the photos on the camera. It’s madness.”. At first Larry took exception to this view, then suggested it might be right. He describes pictures viewed in the camera and the left as raw files as being in digital limbo - “every digital image needs some loving care in Photoshop” to bring out the photographer’s impression (or in Apple’s Aperture, or Adobe’s Lightroom). Over the years he has met people who had the same roll of film in their camera for a few years, and more recently those who have six months worth of shots on the card in their digital camera neither downloaded nor touched.

The name of his talk came from a discussion over dinner with a doctor friend who shared some work ideas regarding, “human perception and the mind’s ability to ingest and interpret certain quantities of information gleaned from sight, sound, smell and touch”. The doctor coined the term bandwidth to quantify the incoming stimuli. These ideas prompted Larry to think about, “how the visual bandwidth relates to ... photography”. You can read more about this on his website under Articles.

During his talk, he defined unaltered images as low bandwidth - like snap shots taken to the dollar store for mass printing. Working on the images to bring them closer to the photographer’s vision adds bandwidth, providing more information for the viewer and moving the raw file/raw image out of digital limbo.

He noted in the days of film, “we photographers were handicapped. Only on rare occasions could we show in the print what we felt when we snapped the button”. With digital photography and the Mac, photographers are emancipated. They can get more information across to the viewer, and are now in league with some of the world’s greatest artists.

He demonstrated this idea using some famous paintings, beginning with Vincent Van Gogh’s Bulb Fields of 1883. He showed how the artist could choose the hue and intensity of colours and add or remove picture elements (buildings, people, trees) to create what he felt, not necessarily what he saw. He followed this very literal painting with Van Gogh’s famous Starry Night c1889 with its strange shapes and unusual sky.

Examples of digital images followed, clearly showing the artist’s power is now in the hands of the digital photographer - intensifying selected bits of colour, removing distractions from an image, using vignetting and selective sharpening, adding and removing colour, converting to Black and White, etc.

Larry gave some detailed instruction on how to vignette in Photoshop and the effect on the image. He posted the image of the Japanese girl after he finished tuning it. One viewer suggested the girl's bright shoulders detracted from the theme. Larry used a vignette to darken the shoulders and bring the viewer's eye into the image.

Selective saturation. In the picture of the woman walking in the rain, Larry saturated the red columns and their reflections. He also made the original dull beige umbrella a matching red. The image is included in the Rhythm Jazz Dance slide show where his Mac software allowed him to add the sound and motion of falling rain. Cereal Bus is a tongue in cheek picture impossible to make with film. In the spirit of the ubiquitous USB, Larry shot a bus named "Universal Bus Company" and added motion blur to give it a sense of motion. separately photographed boxes of cereal were carefully sized, aligned and inserted to show through the windows.

Selective colour shows how an image can be converted to black & white then an area can be selected and restored to colour and saturated if desired for more emphasis. The two family shots show the need to free images from digital limbo. as shot, the family scene is soft and a bit unsaturated. In Photoshop Larry was able to sharpen and add colour saturation to give the scene more sparkle. Vignetting pulls the eye to the group. The darkening of the edges to focus the eye is an old trick used by the oil on canvas painters of years ago. Shooting any group with an animal, it is important that the animal is paying attention even if some of the people wander or the result will be unacceptable. To succeed, Larry barked at the dog, getting its attention and that of the humans too.

Visit his web site and look under Tutorials for more information on using the tools of digital photography to increase the visual bandwidth of your own photographs.

Selective saturation
Cereal Bus
gray colour
Selective colour
nowhere to go
family before
Family before
family after
and after

He discussed conversations with another artist, Joy Gerow whose work "Pinball Panz" is shown here. Joy's work blossomed when she embraced the digital medium. In her Pinball Panz you can see what look like glass balls reflecting the flowers. These are called Amazing Circles and are created with a few steps in Photoshop as explained by Oyvind Solstad.

New gadgets can give an epiphany to the photographer. Larry gave a Lens Baby to reknown dance photographer Cylla von Tiedemann to try. This device allows the photographer to change the plane of sharp focus in a digital camera. Various drop-in lenses change the images from sharp to very soft with blended colours - like a Monet painting. Cylla took to it like a duck to water, taking an ethereal and dreamy series of shots of dancers.

Larry closed his presentation with a second Mac created slide show prepared for the Lowepro company. He mentioned during the show that the addition of music accurately keyed to the images is another means of increasing visual bandwidth. The sound track was amazing, created by Larry using Garage Band, a program that comes with every Mac, and accurately synchronized to his images with other Mac programs. As an encore, he showed a humorous photograph of conflicting road signs that seem to leave the poor driver with nowhere to go. He explained that the two “no turn” signs referred to two different roads, one hidden by the low angle he used for the shot.

We all had a great evening with this enthusiastic photographic artist who has embraced the digital age for its ability to liberate us from the confines of silver and chemistry.

This page was designed in Dreamweaver CS4 on an iMac running OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard). Many of the images on this page were taken with a Sony F828 digital still camera. Others are from the web. All were adjusted in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom V2.3 and Photoshop CS4. Presentation images are ©2009 by Larry Frank and may not be used with out his permission. Mr Frank's portrait is ©2009 by Robert Lansdale. Contents and all other images are ©2009 by the Photographic Historical Society of Canada and may be used freely provided the source is clearly indicated. Copies of photographs displayed during this presentation may not be used without the copyright holder's permission. Contact PHSC at if you would like more information on the items discussed on this page.

Bob Carter

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