Huntington Witherill

Huntington Witherill

Member, Freestyle Advisory Board of Photographic Professionals


Huntington Witherill was born in Syracuse, New York, in 1949. He moved to California in 1953 and began training in classical music. Upon entering college as a music major, Witherill become interested in the study of two-dimensional design. This shift in artistic medium eventually led to a career in fine art photography beginning in 1970. He studied under such notables as Ansel Adams, Wynn Bullock, Steve Crouch, and Al Weber.

Witherill's photographs have been exhibited in more than seventy-five individual and group exhibitions in museums and galleries throughout the world. His photographs represent a remarkably varied approach to the medium including landscapes, studies of pop-art, botanical studies, urban architecture and digital imaging.

"For more than thirty years I have used a camera and lens to chronicle my intense fascination with the symbolic and often transient visual relationships of line, form, and space," says Mr. Witherill. " I have always endeavored to approach each subject before my camera - not simply to record an object in and of itself, but rather to create images that symbolize and celebrate those inherent visual qualities that are by nature universal to all matter."

Huntington Witherill

In 2000, an international acclaimed hard bound monograph featuring Witherill's black and white landscape images, entitled: "Orchestrating Icons", was published followed by a second award winning hard bound monographs featuring his black and white botanical photographs, entitled "Botanical Dances", in 2001.

Witherill likens his thirty-year career as a fine art photographer to a creative odyssey, a journey of limitless artistic discovery in which the artist seeks no final destination and draws upon the past as a guide toward the future. .

"The only way I can see where I'm going is to look at what I've done in the past," he explains. "It is like driving down the road using only the rear view mirror as a point of reference to give a hint where I'm headed. One of the greatest things about all art is that one will never quite figure out how to do it. It's a lifelong thing." .

Since having been the recipient of the Artist of the Year award presented by the Center for Photographic Art, in 1999, Witherill continues the expand his photographic vision. Beginning in 2002, he produced a remarkable series of botanical images using color materials and the digital imaging realm. With these new tools, Witherill has produced a body of work representing a creative and new approach to the medium.

Huntington Witherill

For Witherill, working with computer imaging technologies has given him greater creative control and freedom, while staying faithful to the high standards of the "fine print" espoused by Ansel Adams.

"What the computer gives you is unlimited control of the contrast and tonal range," notes Witherill. "The process allows me to get a more refined resolution to the image."

Since 1975, Witherill has continued to teach photography for a variety of institutions and workshops programs throughout the United States, including the University of California, Friends of Photography, and The Ansel Adams Gallery. He and his wife make their home in Monterey, CA.


The Importance of the Darkroom In Photographic Education

Ask The Experts

Dear Francis: Thanks for your very kind comments. I'm glad you enjoyed the article. If you are just starting with digital, I think you will find that the new tools can open up an entirely new world in your photography, and they can do so in such a way so as not to tread on the tried and true darkroom techniques you've developed for so many years. I too, maintain my darkroom and although I use it far less than I used to, it is still a very important part of my photography. Sincerely,
Dear Mr. Witherill... First I want to tell you how much I enjoyed your photos and article in the PSA Journal for August. You make so many valid points about the 'digital age'. I am one of the old dinosaurs that is slowly being put out of business by all the technology, but at the same time I am jumping up and down as well over what Photoshop can do. We have a small (Mom & Pops) studio in a remote location known as the Kern River Valley in the high desert near Bakersfield, Calif. and I do a lot of restoration of old photos many over 100 years old. I see these and how well they have withstood the ravages of time and wonder if there will be any 'heritage' to share that far into the future with all the digital stuff. Even the CDs will probably become obsolete soon as they are already working on the next generation. How will the precious family portraits be preserved and viewed?? To what cost must we go to keep transferring this to the newest and latest gadget. You really hit the nail on the head when you said they need to standardize the digital stuff like the old 35mm... which I will hold on to 'til they pry my cold dead fingers off it!! I was out last night doing time shots of the meteor shower... Can they even do stuff like star trails and all with the digitals??? The really creative and fun stuff does not seem the same with digitals...the slow long shutter speeds...maybe some of the high end? I've plundered on here but mostly I just wanted to say thank you for writing such a great article and I really love your floral pics, they are just beautiful with an ethereal quality. Most sincerely, Trudy P.
Dear Trudy P.: Thank you very much for your kind comments regarding my recent article in PSA Journal. You make some valid points regarding whether or not there will actually be a "heritage" to share in the future with respect to digital images. I continue to think that there surely will be, by nature of the fact that digital images nearly always end up as "hard copy" (a physically reproducible print) which one can then reproduce, restore, and display, etc., using the then current technology. Of course, so many digital images will remain as nothing more than pixels, and perhaps that's a good thing. I am herein reminded of a blistering comment my past mentor Steve Crouch once opined... He said: "The nicest thing about most photographs is... if you give them enough time, they WILL fade." I tend to agree with this adage. Preserving digital images will continue to be an important aspect of the digital age. But, of course just like in real life, nothing comes for free. The costs for this preservation (in terms of both time and money) will continue to a factor. Finally, I too would hang on to my 35mm film camera. Nevertheless, the writing is on the wall. I just got a notice from a colleague yesterday that Kodak will soon be discontinuing Tech Pan film. Whether or not this is true, it serves to remind me that the only true constant in life... is change. Eventually, the 35mm film camera will itself be a relic worthy only of display on the mantelpiece. Under the old axe: "If you can't beat 'em... join 'em", I am choosing to enthusiastically embrace all of this change because it serves to keep me on my toes, and prevents me from getting into an artistic "rut". At the same time and as practicing photographers, we must continue to work toward creative excellence... while lobbying tirelessly for digital standardization. Thanks again for taking the time to contact me. PS- By the way, I have used neutral density filters with my digital cameras to achieve timed exposures and find that the technique works quite well. The only caveat here would be that many of the current digital cameras (digital "snapshot" cameras in particular) do not have the facility for what we used to call a "bulb" exposure and are limited to a maximum 15 sec. to 30 sec. exposure. Sincerely,
Dear Joe, Happy New Year to you and thanks for your question, which is a good one. I have often used a scanner and inkjet printer to proof negatives in the past. Admittedly, I don't do it nearly as often as I used to because I shoot mostly digital cameras now, and haven't used film for some time. And, while the process of making digital proof sheets is not quite as quick as the old darkroom method of producing 8x10 contact sheets, it nevertheless works quite well and the resulting files can be used in a variety of ways that regular darkroom generated contact sheets can not. (For example, a digital contact sheet can be used to quickly separate individual images for distribution over the internet, etc.). I have personally used the following procedure... I place the negs to be proofed on a flatbed scanner. Any reasonable quality flatbed scanner with a bed size of at least 8"x10" will do, provided it has what's called a "transparency adapter" either built-in, or available as on "add-on". (The transparency adapter allows the scanner to read light passing through films). I normally arrange the negatives to be scanned in a group to equal an area of roughly 8" x 10" on the scanner bed, and then scan the whole group to be proofed at one time, at 300ppi resolution. Once you have the digital file (the digital proof sheet) and have "inverted" the proof sheet image in Photoshop (or from within your scanner software) so that you are viewing the images as positives, rather than negatives, and if you have over or under exposures within the group of negatives (which we all get from time to time) you can easily adjust the exposures for errant individual images within the proof sheet, using the "curves" adjustment in Photoshop (so that the exposures throughout the entire proof sheet will then appear consistent). For example if you have one frame that is over-exposed, simply select that frame in Photoshop and use the "curves" adjustment to correct that one frame, etc. After making any adjustments, I then save the file and simply print it out using my Epson 7600 printer. Also, one of the nice things about using this digital proofing method is that you can add text layers to your digital file which can be used to record information about individual (or grouped) images on the proof sheet. If you later want to print the proof sheet with, or without printing the written information, simply turn the text layer(s) on or off, and the sheet will print the images with or without the text. Hope the above will be of help to you. With best regards,
Dear Hiag, Thanks for contacting me regarding a digital camera recommendation. Your questions are good ones, potentially quite involved, and in the end, subject to a fair amount of personal preference and even (dare I say) personal prejudice. Nevertheless, I'll try to answer to the best of my ability and please remember that one will nearly always recommend that which they themselves use, owing to the fact that they are naturally most familiar with their own tools. Also keep in mind that any recommendations made could just as easily be revised in short order as digital technology is constantly changing and evolving. As an overall recommendation I would suggest you visit the web site at DPReview is an excellent source for information and useful reviews of virtually every digital camera in existence. I refer to this site fairly often. With respect to my own equipment, I am currently using an EOS Canon 5D camera with two specific lenses. I have the Canon EF 24-105mm 1:4 L IS USM lens, and the Canon EF 70-300mm 1:4.5-5.6 DO IS USM lens. I find this particular combination to be the very best digital camera equipment I've used to date. Now, with respect to your specific question regarding MP resolution (pixel resolution) I have found that (generally) the higher the pixel resolution, the better. However, there is a point at which higher pixel resolutions can actually serve to deteriorate a digital image. A good example of this is the newer Leica Digilux II (and it's sister camera) the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX1. Both of these cameras (which are essentially point-and-shoot cameras) have very high pixel resolutions (8MP+) for the relatively small chip size (pixel array) that each camera contains. However, because the pixels are in such high numbers on such an extremely small chip, each individual pixel is by nature extremely minute, and the array as a whole can exhibit specific problems associated with having so many (too many?) inherently tiny individual pixels on such a small array. One of the major problems with these two cameras is that they both exhibit unacceptably high levels of noise when any ISO above 80 is employed. They make wonderfully sharp, but horribly noisy pictures. The noise can be somewhat mitigated with use of a noise reduction filter in Photoshop (such as "Digital Gem") but that's a whole other treatise. I've found a similar disparity to be true of the Canon 5D (13MP+) by comparison to the Canon 1DS Mark II (16MP+). The 5D actually produces a sharper and better looking picture then does the Canon 1DS Mark II. (This opinion is based upon my own observations and the observations of a couple of other photographers I know who have each used both the 5D and the 1DS MarkII). Again, the larger individual pixel employed in the 5D seems to outperform the smaller but higher number of pixels employed by the higher resolution 1DS Mark II. Both cameras have essentially the same sized pixel array. (full chip) So, here's my personal formula for finding the optimal resolution of a digital camera, and it's based upon the overall size of the pixel array (not just the total number of pixels). I would (as of the time of this writing) not recommend a camera that exceeded the maximum resolutions given below, for each camera type.
  1. Point and shoot cameras (which have the smallest pixel array)- Examples: Nikon Coolpix series, etc. - Maximum usable resolution- 5-6MP
  2. 35mm type cameras with a 1.5x-1.6X multiplier (in terms of actual focal length)- Examples: Canon 20D, Canon Rebel, etc. -Maximum usable resolution- 8MP
  3. 35mm "full chip" model cameras. Examples: Canon 5D, Canon IDS series, etc. -Maximum usable resolution- 13MP.
  4. Medium format and larger pixel array cameras. Examples: Hasselblad, etc. -Maximum usable resolution- 22-30MP. (This is an area that I have no personal direct experience as I've never used a camera of this type and am going on hearsay from what others have advised).
Now, you mentioned you wanted to make 16"x20" prints. I would specifically recommend the Canon 20D (or equivalent) as being the absolute minimum camera you would want. And I would personally (and highly) recommend you investigate the Canon 5D. And yes, the image stabilization inherent in some lenses is of great value when hand holding. The current crop of stabilization schemes will gain you approx. 2-3 stops in terms of "effective" shutter speed. By the way, the "depth of field" issues you asked about might be addressed as follows... The smaller the pixel array you have, the greater apparent depth of field you will be afforded. This is because the smaller pixel arrays require a shorter focal length lens to be used as a "standard" field of view lens. (This would tend to favor the 20D over the 5D, as the 20D has a smaller array and thus a smaller focal length "normal" lens). However, keep in mind that if you photograph the exact same field of view with three different focal length "normal" lenses, your depth of field for all three should be exactly the same (in terms of actual linear distance of "in focus" depth). Hope the above information addresses your inquiry and will be of help to you. With best regards,
Hiag, In answer to your specific question regarding the green cast in your BW inkjet prints: It sounds like you're attempting to make BW prints (with color inks) using an older Epson printer (7600, or older) This is a feat that unfortunately can not be accomplished without the aid of the ImagePrint RIP (or QTR RIP). The problem you are experiencing is called: metachromatism. It is an effect that causes the print to look different colors, depending upon the type of light which is illuminating the print. If you have the most recent versions of the Epson printers (4800, 7800, 9800, etc.) the ImagePrint RIP is no longer necessary and you should be able to print BW prints without the metachromatism problem. If your printer is older (pre-4800, 7800, 9800) you'll need either the ImagePrint RIP, or the QTR (Quad Tone RIP). Either can be found on the web. The problem is that the yellow ink fluoresces and produces a color cast (usually green) when the prints are viewed under daylight conditions (window light for example). The yellow ink must be turned off (not used) and with the older Epson printers and there's simply no other way to do so than with a RIP. Either RIP should take care of your problem. By the way, if you are attempting to print color prints and you have a green cast, simply add magenta to your overall color balance. Hope all goes well. With best regards,