Techniques for extreme near / far shots : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

David Meunch, John Fielder, and other photographers of their cut have occation to display photos where the foreground is only a few inches away, with a background of distant mountains. No doubt some of the basic rules for focus and camera movements apply to these. But I have to wonder if there is a complicated nature to these. I believe Fielder mentions of a photo with columbines fiiling the lower left of his frame and a mountain backdrop, that he nearly tied his bellows into a pretzel. Muench has at least a couple of shots that seem to almost exceed the limits of DOF as I have come to understand them. (An example is here I would like to give a try at some of these perspectives and would wonder if there might be some helpful advice that might save me some time and film as I learn? Thanks for the help.

-- Roger Rouch (, February 03, 2001


Roger, this is a nice photo and the DOF is simply amazing. As far as I am aware, no movements could be used for this particular shot. The DOF was a matter of using a very wide lens, setting the focus and opening properly and that's about all he could do. Any attempt to encrease DOF by tilting the lens would have put the top of the flowers out of focus.

-- Paul Schilliger (, February 03, 2001.

Very wide angle lens and most of the focus is in the foreground. It is when you enlarge to 8x10 or larger that you have trouble. If you looked at the background with a loupe you would see the fuzziness from the lack of DoF in the background but your eye will see everything as sharp as long as the foreground is tack sharp and the enlargement isn't too great. James

-- lumberjack (, February 03, 2001.


The lens is probably 75 mm or shorter, and the place is Glacier National Park in Montana. The background is a bit fuzzy, as indicated by James, so David probably used a little tilt (maybe not at all depending on the lens he employed). Did you email him for technical details?

-- Geoffrey Chen (DB45TEK@AOL.COM), February 03, 2001.

Thanks for the opinions. Yes, in the Muench photo I referenced it does appear few movements were used. I would guess a 75mm lens as it seems to be one his favorites. Although I have been curious of this specific photo, I have been as interested in the type of perspective that I mentioned regarding Fielder tying "his bellows into a pretzel". Perhaps a similar representation of this is here ( Again, it looks like David has sacrificed some sharpness of the background, but I would guess some serious movements could be involved??? Yes, I can see that a wide lens is part of this. I wonder if my 90mm Super Angulon could get close to something like this? Was the lens stopped down greatly, say f64, or is there just an assumed sacrifice of background sharpness at a more normal f stop? I know that I just need to get out and try a few things, but some discussion always helps.

-- Roger Rouch (, February 03, 2001.

Meunch has some technical information (lens, film, aperture, shutter speed but not camera movements) in the back of his book American Portfolios (and maybe others) for most of the photographs, so you could get an idea there. I don't believe that he is any less subject to the laws of optics than any other photographer, and it looks to me that in many of his more extreme near/far photos there is noticeable softness somewhere. What he seems to be very good at is knowing where to sacrifice sharpness without compromising the image. But doesn't the near/far formula get to be a little cliched after a few hundred examples?

-- Chris Patti (, February 04, 2001.

I saw a review of a photographic essay book a few weeks back. It showed a couple of example pictures, which were absolutely amazing. They, too, were of flowers against a lanscape background, but the angle of view appeared to be wider, and the depth-of-field seemed almost infinite. the overall effect was certainly stunning.
The text went on to explain that the photographer used a home-made concoction, consisting of a combination of macro and wide-angle lenses. I believe the wide angle lens was used reversed. It looked as if the macro lens was being used to focus the aerial image from the wide angle in some way.
Although this set-up was for 35mm, I don't see why it couldn't be adapted to LF. In fact the wide-angle could still be a miniature format one. Anyone any thoughts along these lines?

-- Pete Andrews (, February 06, 2001.

Don't forget you are viewing a relatively small image at 72dpi on a computer monitor! This might have quite an effect on what you are accepting as a sharp background. And since the image has been digitized I'll bet it has been run through Photoshop to correct the scan and maybe had some degree of unsharp masking applied. (I don't know this to be the case, just merely want to point out the possibility.)

Muench might also be shooting with one of the new short focal length lenses like a 55mm APO Grandagon or a 58mm or 47mm Super Angulon XL. Factor in some skillful hyperfocal technique and even at f/16 this would result in more apparent background sharpness than you might think is possible.

-- Ellis Vener (, February 06, 2001.

As a point of interest we have a cropped version of the second photo I referenced where I work. (I'd guess it to be 18X12 or so.) The flowers in the upper left are pretty fuzzy. The back ground mountains are only moderately sharp, but not too bad considering the lighting.

-- Roger Rouch (, February 06, 2001.

I saw the print. It is pretty sharp till you get to the horizon. But all in all pretty good. Subject movement is the biggest problem. James

-- lumberjack (, February 06, 2001.

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