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Author Topic: Pin sharp and the perfect image.  (Read 1585 times)

Offline hevans

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Pin sharp and the perfect image.
« on: October 18, 2009, 08:26:57 PM »

I went to the Sally Mann exhibit at the Photomuseum of Den Haag today.

While the gallery on death and decomposition wasn't exactly to my more genteel tastes, the landscapes were very inspiring. They made me wonder about the current trend for "pin sharp" technical precision, this need for getting the photo perfectly in focus and to get the exposure, etc. spot on so the final image is a perfect reproduction of the subject. But looking at some of the landscapes the focus was quite soft, but the final image was more reminiscent of some Turners, e.g. http://istuganov.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/11_sally-mann.jpg. Almost like the difference between the Impressionists and the Classicists.

So, do we try too hard to get technical perfection at the expense of atmosphere? Or are the modern cameras more set up for getting the image perfect and then us relying on digital editing to add the atmosphere?

H.



picsfor

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Re: Pin sharp and the perfect image.
« Reply #1 on: October 18, 2009, 09:52:43 PM »
OK, i'll do this back to front.

Personally i think modern digital cameras are designed to capture with as much pin sharp focusing and correct exposure as possible.
And they are being developed in a way to futher that goal. I think the manufacturers are well aware of the abilities of software and post processing and work with that as an aid to amending the captured picture into a processed and presented picture.

However, i think the photographer can still create the same levels of dof and soft focusing as ever - just a case of knowing your kit.
High key and Low key exposure is still as achievable as ever.

I think you just have more choice on how to achieve that desired picture. Hardware (camera) and software (Photoshop and PSP etc) providing the options.

Where as dark room skills were just that 'dark room skills', because not every one had the opportunity to create their own dark room, i think the modern software has made those skills available to all as you only need a home computer to create those same effects on a digital image. Dodging and burning used to be an art form that defined a photographers ability - but now they are just another tool in the digital photographers arsenal - along with many other tools.

I think your average snapper is more than happy with the pin sharp correctly exposed shots taken with a modern digital camera, where as you amateur and pro togs enjoy the abilities to manipulate the captured image and make more of it.

Offline Oldboy

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Re: Pin sharp and the perfect image.
« Reply #2 on: October 18, 2009, 10:02:57 PM »
I think it's most likely Photo mags and judges in competitions who reject most images that aren't sharp. I've see images in adverts and newspapers which aren't sharp, and would be rejected by these Judges and photo mags, unless it's from a known pro photographer.  :-\

Offline Jonathan

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Re: Pin sharp and the perfect image.
« Reply #3 on: October 19, 2009, 07:50:10 AM »
I think it's most likely Photo mags and judges in competitions who reject most images that aren't sharp. I've see images in adverts and newspapers which aren't sharp, and would be rejected by these Judges and photo mags, unless it's from a known pro photographer.  :-\

Absolutely.  It's very easy to impose a set of arbitrary rules.  You see this all the time on critique sites "closest eye must be in focus" " you should have used the rule of thirds" "landscapes have to use a 20mm lens and be horizontal".

I got a pic rejected by the MPA once.  They said they would have accepted it for an FMPA panel but not an LMPA one.  Because they weren't sure I'd intended to do it.  I left shortly afterwards.

But then I have some experimental stuff I shot at a wedding last week.  1/2s exposures of people moving lit by sodium light.  Blurry and grainy.  Hmm, shall I show them or not.........?
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Offline nickt

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Re: Pin sharp and the perfect image.
« Reply #4 on: October 19, 2009, 09:07:03 AM »
Looks like it was done with a pinhole camera.
Nick

Offline hevans

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Re: Pin sharp and the perfect image.
« Reply #5 on: October 19, 2009, 09:31:21 AM »
Looks like it was done with a pinhole camera.
Nick

The online version doesn't do justice to the print in the gallery, which was ~ A2 sized.

The main point, though, is that the photo is blurry, dark, doesn't have a main subject. If published on a photography forum, it'd probably be criticised for all the above. But in particular, because it's not sharp or technically perfect. So, at what point can you produce something in a similar vein, and have it appreciated for what it is, rather than what it's expected to be.

H

Offline Oly Paul

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Re: Pin sharp and the perfect image.
« Reply #6 on: October 19, 2009, 10:19:51 AM »
If your well known or better still well known and dead its art, if your not then its a mistake, or is that to simple thinking.  :)
Regards Paul
One day I hope to be the person my dog thinks I am.

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Offline ABERS

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Re: Pin sharp and the perfect image.
« Reply #7 on: October 19, 2009, 10:47:27 AM »
Are we not back to the question of who are the arbiters of what's good and what's not? The image in question looks like one of the "what you can do in the darkroom with some bits and bobs of everday items' articles that used to appear in the magazines of the day. Just get some crinkly cellophane with a hole in the middle and move it over the paper on the baseboard whilst exposing the image.

I wonder how much paper was wasted because when you finished it? you looked at it decided that it was all a waste of time. I wonder how many works of art were thrown away? ::)

Hybridphotog

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Re: Pin sharp and the perfect image.
« Reply #8 on: October 19, 2009, 12:08:08 PM »
Yay, back to a topic I mentioned some time ago in the DCM Flickr group, and one I've randomly babbled about on my weblog.

Nowadays, there's allegedly no desire to have imperfections in photos. The industry has made sure that every camera passes a "QC" check, and so can produce sterile images. The mere existence of the "lensbaby" goes to show that people don't want pin-sharp images every single time.

Technical perfection can kill a photo, but only if the subject is of poor quality. Image imperfections can kill a photo, but only if the subject requires text-book exposure/focussing/etc. Exhibit A, two photos of mine, and of nearly the same viewpoint..:

Taken with a Leica Standard, loaded with Ilford SFX film (developed in Rodinal), and with a crappy red filter on a pre-war uncoated Elmar 3.5cm lens. The focussing is hyperfocal...


Taken with a Canon 350D and either a Sigma 18-125 or a Canon "kit" 18-55 lens. The focussing is hyperfocal (A-dep)...


Which is the apprently "perfect image"?

Offline hevans

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Re: Pin sharp and the perfect image.
« Reply #9 on: October 19, 2009, 01:12:16 PM »
Dave,

I prefer the composition of the first. But the medium lets it down (the sky looks a bit manky on the right side of the tree); it probably looks excellent in print.

H.

Offline Graham

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Re: Pin sharp and the perfect image.
« Reply #10 on: October 19, 2009, 05:34:26 PM »
    There was a pic in the paper today which had won some landscape award or other.
    It was a mighty fine image for sure and very atmospheric, but I'm certain it was a lot less atmospheric than being there in person. So it had no more impact on me than, say, a dramatic road accident picture in the same paper, they both relied on the photographer being in the right place at the right time (I know this is a skill in it's self you landscapers!) and having the abbility to react accordingly.
    If all I wanted to see was perfectly exposed and  composed images I'd spend all my time in WH Smiths looking at the jigsaws and chocolate boxes.
                      Graham. :)
   
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Offline chris@seary.com

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Re: Pin sharp and the perfect image.
« Reply #11 on: October 20, 2009, 09:51:00 AM »
Back in the days of film, there never seemed to be a problem with grain. If a shot was taken in low light, we kind of expected it, knowing that otherwise the shot could not have been taken.

There is no such tolerance of noise. The new Nikon D3s allows fairly good shots at ISO 100,000, which will certainly allow us to take photographs that we've not been able to take before. However, I think the raising of the quality bar will also lead to rejection of many shots that were taken a couple of years ago at 1600 ISO.

The demands for larger file sizes by camera magazines and agencies reflect a desire for more detail in the shots. However, a copy of DC mag from 3 years ago demonstrates that everyting, even double page spreads, was taken at 6 MP.

Maybe some of this is a reflection of the marketing to push us to acquire more megapixels?

My very large calendar with pictures taken by Robert Doisneau does not reflect perfect sharpness, and there's plenty of grain, but that doesn't bother me due to the power of the pictures.

Hybridphotog

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Re: Pin sharp and the perfect image.
« Reply #12 on: October 20, 2009, 10:37:40 AM »
There's always the drive for bigger numbers... higher ISO's, faster shutter speeds, more photos per second, bigger LCD panels on the rear.There's no such interest in slower things, like lower ISOs, for example.

Shame really. Mind you, I suspect sales in ND filters might drop if ISOs go lower. Hmm...

Offline chris@seary.com

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Re: Pin sharp and the perfect image.
« Reply #13 on: October 20, 2009, 11:36:34 AM »
Yes, certainly a number thing. Mainly megapixels. Maybe I'm missing something, but each release of a new Canon just ups the number of pixels, to the stage now where the lens' resolving power will soon not keep up.

For the Fuji bridge cameras, this is particularly strange. One of the big sellers for these type of cameras is the MP thing. However, with a sensor that small, it actually lowers the quality of the shots with higher ISO, especially as it's very rare for users of these to enlarge further than 10x8.

It's true that newer sensors give advantages with higher ISO, but there's nothing wrong with shots taken with older gear at the lower ISOs. My D60 shots at 1600 ISO are comparable to the D90 at 6400 ISO.

Also, the use of sharpening tools can get a little annoying. Lots of tools for upping contrast etc.

And the push by manufacturers to get us to go 'full frame' quite annoys me.

Many art photographers use 5x4 film cameras (then scan into for Photoshopping). Now that's reasonably sharp! There's even a Magnum photographer who uses 10x8 for his portraits!

 

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