So the horse is alive and kicking! : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Thanks for your contribution to the previous post. They have been most helpful.

So how much sharpness or depth of field is enough? I assume f64 means sharpness throughout the whole photograph. Supposing I made a photograph with most of the main subjects tack sharp and had left the background just out of the depth of field (bokeh, I suppose). Would that be acceptable by your definition of sharpness (I'm not talking soft focus here)? Also, with the Ansel's style of cold/neutral toned, deep black prints that many of us had stayed on as a "tradition", how would it matter to you to make a switch to slightly or extremely warm-tone paper? How about semi-matt as oppose to glossy surface (surely we don't see a gloss in front of the image that we see in real life)? And there are non-traditional processes, that by nature of the process and paper stock used, sharpness is compromised to some extend. Can we find a balance between truth (defined as f64) and taste (defined as artistic judgement)?

Many Thanks,


-- Aaron (, February 09, 2002


Alive and kicking horses I stay away from, toooo dangerous. Dead horses are safer to beat.

I spent a few hours on a personal project this afternoon, shooting around Asbury Park, NJ, clear, crisp setting sun light. One shot was done as sharp as I could get it, front to back. However, all the lines are diverging, nothing on the camera was level, as much distortion as I could get. A passer by crossed infront of my lens and commented, "Paris at the Shore."

The subject was the tarnished copper, green outside of the old carrousel. Great old piece of architecture. I had fun with it.

One approach, have fun with your camera, throw all rules out the window! I have been working with my 65 and 90mm super angulons that just cover a 4x5, all controls at neutral, and aiming the camera to frame the shot I wanted instead of using camera movements, not caring about distortion.

Something to try.

-- Rob Pietri (, February 09, 2002.

The balance between truth and taste is what ever the subject calls for. Selective focus is simply a compositional tool used for emphasis and to help isolate the subject and direct the viewers attention. You could ask a corollary question: is it important that every print contain detail in the deepest shadows and brightest highlights? Shoul every print have a Zone III value or below and a Zone VIII or above? The answer should always be it depends on the subject matter and how you want to present it in the print.

You ask if leaving a portion of the image out of focus would be acceptable. It is not a question of what is acceptable but what is REQUIRED to make the image you visualize possible. If selective focus is needed then use it. If you are not sure then burn more film and experiment.

People who want to become more serious about their photography and darkroom skills or are moving up to LF probably think people on these sites are insane because of all the time they seem to spend discussing the use of dozens of developers and papers and film and and lenses etc. For many, these things are tools to get a job done and make an image. The more tools you have available, the greater your knowledge base the greater your creativity and ability to take the image you saw in your mind and put it on paper.

You can ask all kinds of questions about how would a sharp cold toned (traditional?)print look on warm toned paper, matt vs. glossy etc. Buy some different papers and experiment. Same with film and developers, toners etc. Learn some new tools.

I would now like to ask some questions. Do you feel guilty about something? Are you now or have you ever used selective focus techniques with your view camera? Do you fear the sound of hobnail boots and the knock in the middle of the night from the F64 gestapo?

-- James Chinn (, February 10, 2002.

"The /64" designation was more of a philosophical statement , rebelling against pictrialism (both Adams & weston came from heavily pictorialist backrounds. Adams from landscape work and Weston had been a very succesful commercial portrait photographer) and not an actual practice according to Adams' biographer (and ghostwriter of Adams' Auobiography) Mary Street Alinder. They were aware of the problems of diffraction at small apertures. The group almost called themselves U.S. 256 (the former name for what we call f/64) but either Adamsor weston said that sounded too much like the name of a highway. The switch in nomenclature to -stops had just occured a year or so previous to the formation ofthe group.

None of the /64 group founders ever claimed there approach was truth but that it was a more Modernist approach to the true mechanical nature of photography as opposed to painting.

There is abundant proof that what Ansel Adams thought of as the best way to make a print from a given negative changed radically over the years before ending up as what you think of as his style.

"Taste" never favors artistic judgement. the /64 group was at the time as much about being "in your face" as Robert Mapplethorpe was twenty five years ago or Andreas Gursky is today. You need to spend some more time reading and going to museums before you embark innocently but wrongheadedly into these waters.

There can be truths revealed by photography, as there can be by any art, but the thing itself -- the art produced-- is purel a fabrication, a fiction.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, February 10, 2002.

Nothing of that sort, James. Really. But I'll be guilty five years from now if I don't ask now. Aaron

-- Aaron (, February 10, 2002.

Hi Aaron

Don`t be a little Adams or Weston just be yourself and have your on visions! Find YOUR on stile! And work on it! Don`t worry be happy ;-)))

-- Armin Seeholzer (, February 10, 2002.

The horse may be alive and kicking although the rider seems to have fallen off somewheres back. What goes round comes round. So be prepared you may be able to hop back on, though it may not be the same horse. :-)

-- John Powers (, February 11, 2002.

Aaron, You already know the answer but it's fun to bat it around. Enough is enough.

I've got a favorite picture of the grille of a rusting '38 Chevy truck. It's sharp maybe 6" either side of center of the grille then slips into a dream. Looks like the truck is floating in water looking out at you. Or a dreamscape with only the current part sharply focused. It works. Best with a VERY warm tone.

A second favorite; Redwoods, early AM, light streaming in, perfect morning in perfect place, f45 1/2, perhaps 7 minutes exposure on Plus X aerial film in the Deardorff. It has that stinging sharpness that's like lace. You want to get a magnifying glass. Prints VERY cold. It works.

It is the artist that makes the decision ahead of time how to do this so it will work. If I was married to correct formulae, I'd have missed at least one of those 2 favorites.

-- Jim Galli (, February 11, 2002.

Pinhole, Aaron, is the answer. For infinite DOF, no distortion, purity of a perfect optic, perfect Bokeh. Pinhole will release your concerns of sharpness, abandon your thoughts of focus. If you still want them sharp, contact print.

-- Gary Frost (, February 11, 2002.

Thanks to all. I promise. No more questions on sharpness, DOF, etc. etc.. I have the answer.


-- Aaron (, February 14, 2002.

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