Nick Brandt: lens selection?

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by david_carson, Dec 8, 2005.

  1. Recently I have been intrigued by Nick Brandt's photo portraits of animals in Africa (link). The depth of field is very shallow on some, almost with a creamy signature of a Noctilux or maybe a Canon 85mm f/1.2.
    Does anyone know what lenses he uses for his images? I know he uses the Pentax 67 system and "normal" lenses, according the Dec issue of Lenswork. I just don't see how he could make a 105mm f/2.4 or similar look like that, but I have never used the Pentax 67 system.
    Below is an example from his site...I would link to it but his site is in Flash and doesn't support deep linking. The way I am using this image in an educational context should be considered "fair use," I would think.
  2. I've been wondering the same thing. In the Lenswork magazine interview he said that all effects were done in camera, and not in Adobe PS. Some of the photos appear to have some wild DOF like I've only ever been able to achieve using a view camera. I shoot a lot of shallow DOF portraits with my Pentax 67II, and typical lenses, and I can't get effects like he's getting.
  3. My guess is he used P67 120mm soft focus lens. See one shot of mine using the soft focus lens.
  4. Hmmmm...Dave, can you show shots with the 120mm soft-focus with a lion sized subject 10-20-30 ft. away? I don't think Nick Brandt can get as close as you did with your flower without being eaten/gored.
  5. With a 2x telconverter you don't need to be very close. He might have shot from a car/SUV which could bring him much closer to the animals. I won't think he was on foot to take these shots. The reason I guessed 120mm soft focus is because of the bokeh pattern shown in his photos. His images showed a softer trend and bokeh of that of soft focus lenses. If he used regular telephoto lens you probably would not have asked the question. I could be wrong. There are only a handful of P67 lenses longer than 200mm. Which one do you think he has used? I am familar to the kind of softness of the elephant image you posted. Images produced by my 120mm were all like that except I do not shoot animals. Invest in one or rent one to shoot some images you will see what I mean.
  6. He might have used a soft focus filter (adapter) for a similar result. B&W Carl Zeiss Softar is made for this soft focus effect.
  7. Interesting...However, the reason I know Nick was on foot and used a so-called "normal" lens is because, in the Lenswork article, that's what he said how he works. Thanks for the info anyway, Dave.

    As a side note, I hope Nick has some sort of protection (gun? posse?) so he doesn't get gored like Peter Beard did (by an elephant). Ouch.
  8. In the photo of the elephants above it looks like the plane of focus starts at the top of the front elephant's trunk, and extends back and downwards. I know how to do that with a view camera, but I am baffled at how he does it with a P67. Possibly it would be clearer if I saw an actual print instead of low res web photos, and small magazine photos.
  9. David:

    Thanks for calling attention to Brandt�s photography; I find them quite remarkable, in particular the arrangement of the subjects in many of the shots is perfect, e.g. Cheetah and Cubs, Sitting Lionesses, Elephant Herd, etc., etc. It�s as if they were carefully arranged and posed. The perspectives in many of his photographs have a slight compression (to my eye) and so my own nominee for a lens used might be the 300mm ED(IF) or the 200mm. Both are excellent portrait lenses and not really far from �normal� in the 67 format. The 300 in particular is very sharp wide open, but with a very shallow depth-of-field (especially with close focus) and a beautiful bokeh. There appears to be more than just a lens involved however. If the vignetting in his work is not added, then certainly some filter is used which has an irregular soft focus around the cirumference. Vaseline perhaps? However he does it, they are beautiful.

  10. With the Elephants, it's almost as if he is hand holding a soft edge filter in front of the lens and moving it to sharpen what he wants, so your eye is directed toward the mother and small baby. My guess.
  11. The flower shot I posted isn't one that resembles any of the animal shots of Nick's. I just want to show the bokeh that's typical from soft focus lenses. Again because I have the 120mm myself the lion shot (the first in Nick's Photography page) makes me recognize the bokeh immediately. I wasn't aware Nick was on foot. But many of this shots looked very close to the animals. So I guessed that he might be in a car. I don't think his used very long telephotos. Either he used the 120mm with a 2x or 1.4x or he used a 200 or 300 with a softar filter.
    What else he could have used?
  12. I'm glad my 67 photos don't look like those, but how about one of the Zoerk adapters, perhaps not with a 67 lens, as a possible cause of the phenomenon?
  13. Update: I just received the latest issue of Amercian Photo, and in it Nick Brandt answers my question. He used a 105mm f2.4. And he also notes he sometimes shoots from a car (which the Lenswork article seemed to not mention, btw).

    No mention of 300mm lenses, Zorki stuff, 2x/1.4x converters, etc. Hard to believe, but I guess true.

    Does anyone have close of shot of, say, a person's face with the 105mm, or any 105mm shots that exhibit some of the "Brandt" bokeh/dof effects?

    And heck, Dave Cheng, the 120mm soft focus looks interesting. If you have them, please post some less macro shots, perhaps people portraits, with that lens.
  14. I should add that the article in AP didn't specifically exclude anything either.
  15. Addendum to an addendum: after a re-read, the AP article DID rule out telephotos, I guess. And the Lenswork article ruled out photoshop blurring. But vaseline, soft-focus filters, and if one reads closely, other non-telephoto lenses were not excluded from Mr. Brandt's discussion of his technique.
  16. This link is interesting. Appears Photoshop plays a role.
  17. In the Lenswork interview he specifically says that the blurring is not PS, and done in camera.
  18. The darkening/burning around the edges of the images seems to follow the shape of the animals in some cases, indicating to me that it was done with controlled intention, after the image was captured. In the interview, Mr. Brandt states, "The level of control I have with dodging and burning the image, through curves and levels manipulation of localized areas - is wonderful."
  19. 75, 105 and 150mm according to the interview in this month's Black and White Photography.
  20. Correction: make that 55, 105 and 200mm.
  21. About a year ago I was talking with one of his reps in S.F. and she mentioned something about him taking the lens off its mount very slightly and moving it either up/down/left/right to achieve the selective DOF he wants. I don't get how he controls light leaks and gets the shutter to fire, but it makes some sense.
  22. > taking the lens off its mount very slightly and moving it either up/down/left/right to achieve the selective DOF he wants.

    OMG that's a great idea, and it totally works (I just whipped out the P67 to try it). I've been doing stuff like that with homemade lenses but for some reason never thought to try it that way...

    For the record, this technique doesn't work with my Nikons because the mount is too narrow and you have to move the lens too far out to tilt it at all so you can no longer focus.


    PS Hi David. Hope the Noct is working out.
  23. Hey Jonas,

    I'm glad we are all getting a bit closer in figuring out Mr. Brandt's technique.

    And I absolutely love that Noct you sold me!
  24. None of you are close because Brandt has not been forthcoming in these various interviews. Think about it: You're on the ground, close to the animals. Do you really believe you have time to bobble your lens around and focus and meter AND get a great shot all at the same time? He modified these images digitally, but because of the taint that is on digital manipulation, he states only that he adjusts curves and the like. No "manipulation." Ya...right. It's PhotoShop pure and simple.
  25. So thats it ? PS ? Sure ?
    Is it not possible that there are still photographers around who use the good old wet darkroom ? ;-)
  26. A friend told me about this thread. Reading through it, I felt compelled to address some of
    the questions and many innacuracies!

    Firstly, 90% of my photos are taken from the safety of a vehicle. Only the chimps and one
    special herd of giraffes are photographed on foot. Neither I nor anyone else could ever get
    this close to wild animals any other way. Forget about safety - most of the animals would
    run away (and a few would attack).

    Secondly, the depth of field issue. I'll say it categorically - NONE of the depth of field thing
    is done in Photoshop - it is all done in camera. You could not get those focal planes
    shifting in focus in the same plane in the way that they do in Photoshop and expect it to
    look like this. Don Satalic is soooo wrong. Oh, and I don't use soft focus lenses. Don't even
    know what they are. The longest lens I own and use is a 200mm. Great lens. Tried the
    300 once and hated it. Too conventional. So yes, I am close, but safe.

    All anyone really needs to know is that I work in a very very impractical way - very
    manually - and lose a crazy number of potentially great shots with all the faffing around I
    do. But I do it because occasionally something great comes out of such impractical
    methods. My friend Rocky Schenck taught me not to reveal my trade secrets some time
    ago. As for my EX-SF dealer's comments, I don't know where that came from.

    Grading - I nearly always use a heavy ND grad for the sky, and often a red filter, to get the
    sky dark. But there is significant grading done in Photoshop - the vignetting is invariably
    photoshop - I'm a sucker for it.

    Okay, so if anyone is still reading this thread, there you go.

    PS What is a 'bokeh'?
  27. Thanks for weighing in. I think the whole question was initially raised precisely because of the unsual planes of focus which did not jive with what people know of the Pentax 67 system (i.e. no tilt lenses). So naturally some people automatically skip to "Photoshopped".... I get the same comments about my images made with homemade lenses which have an unusual quality to them (and therefore must be created with a photoshop filter!)
    Bokeh is essentially the quality of the out-of-focus areas of an image. There's a lot of info about it on the web, but here's one link:
    BTW, was admiring the large prints of the Africa pics at photoLA... very rich and luminous quality to them. I'd ask, but I know... "no trade secrets" ;)
    Actually, Rocky Schenck's large prints have a similar luminousness to them which I very much like...
  28. Hi Jonas

    Thanks for the compliments. And the explanation of 'bokeh'. Go ahead and ask whatever
    you want. I'm glad you thought the prints looked 'rich and luminous'. Good. With matte
    paper you always sacrifice some richness and luminosity, but I still much prefer it to
    glossy paper.

  29. Well, I'd love ask a couple questions specifically surrounding the "rich and luminous" issue (i.e. my matte prints are neither, and it's buggin' me), but this probably isn't the right place for that, nor is it the right place for you to answer. Perhaps off forum...
  30. Hey Nick, I thought you would eventually show up! Thanks for the info. For the record, I never thought you used photoshop; I got all my info from (obviously incorrect) print pieces about you. Love your work...

    btw, click on the 'notify me of responses' link to get an email notification. Handiest thing about this site, in my opinion.
  31. Absolutely magnificent photographs Nick. One term that comes to mind when I look at your
    images is expert, precise craftsmanship. The photos are just perfectly processed. Congrats
    on your success, and the photos in this month's Conde Nast Traveller look awesome.

    -Timothy Hughes
  32. I just revisited this thread. Nick Brandt says I'm "soo wrong." Well, methinks he protests too much about no PS manipulation. I'm still spot on: Those images were PSed. Brandt does not cop to it because then NOBODY would be asking all these "How did he do it?" questions. Take one of your own images and play with the guassian blurs et al in various layers. Erase some areas. Then flatten it. You'll be surprised. Now, would anyone pay his prices if they thought he PSed them? There's your answer.
  33. lb-


    I'm still spot on: Those images were PSed.
    ah yes, the opinion as fact approach. A hallmark of these forums.
    either provide proof that his images are in fact the result of photoshop manipulation or be a stand up fellow and present your opinion as such.
  34. Does anybody really care anymore if an image is photoshopped anyway? I guess some do....
  35. Oh yeah: "Brandt does not cop to it because then NOBODY would be asking all these "How did he do it?" questions."
    I think people are (or were) asking "How did he do it?" because they know what camera he shoots with (P67), yet know of no tilt-shift lenses in that system which allow for the manipulation in the plane of focus that is present in the images.
    However, that does not automatically mean that PS is the only other option. Here's a pic taken with a P67 and the 90/2.8 that has strange focus effects, but involved no PS. I know, because I took it just to try one of the techniques suggested earlier in the thread (later rejected by Nick Brandt):
    Point is, just because you can do something in PS doesn't mean you do. Anyway, in the end I think it's just another tool on the way to making the image you want to make.
  36. LOL, he's using a Lens Baby :)! Just kidding!

    Either way, PS or not, the images are just amazing. I just got the 'On This Earth' book today and of course led to a google search to see what kind of cam and lenses he was using. If anything I learned from reading this thread (and others) is that photography can be an artform if you just use your imagination.

    Lastly, the fact that Nick doesn't know what 'bokeh' is means he's out there doing it and not spending his time on a thread like this wondering how someone else did. I don't know about you, but that gets me inspired!
  37. I wouldn't generalize this for all of his photographs, but just looking through his book 'On This Earth', I can easily tell there's at least been a sort of scratchy texture applied to two or more of his images in the book (I don't have them off the top of my head, but I can point them out if anybody asks), and the texture is identical. This proves that Mr. Brandt is at least not below using Photoshop filters.

    I've never seen a higher-resolution version of 'Lion in the Storm', but on a close examination of the copies I've seen floating around on the internet, it looks like there's some pretty generous application of gaussian blur and the smudge brush. I've done it myself enough times to kind of know what it looks like, at least. I can't think of any situation where that would be possible without post-processing.

    Not to say that they're not stunning photos in every way; I love them to death, I just wouldn't doubt that they've been digitally manipulated at all. And not to say there's anything wrong with artful use of digital manipulation, either. It's just as valid a medium as anything else.
  38. Please stop asking, "How did he do it?" Please find you own voice, folks. Jimi Hendrix & Mark Knopfler both use(d) Stratocasters with quite different results. We don't need Jimi, Mark, or Nick copies - be inspired by them and then take it in whatever direction you are capable (& Lord willing, even further).
  39. Please stop asking, "How did he do it?" Please find you own voice, folks. Jimi Hendrix & Mark Knopfler both use(d) Stratocasters with quite different results. We don't need Jimi, Mark, or Nick copies - be inspired by them and then take it in whatever direction you are capable (& Lord wiiling, even further).
  40. Yes, excellent advice Robert! Derivative work is boring and unnecessary no matter how technically good it is.
  41. For most part these are printing techniques, either he printed them himself or directed a print maker to do so. That, just adds to his vision and art. If you read his book he talks about some of it.
  42. Nick Brandt and Peter Beard are the real deal.
  43. I just wanted to note that there is, in fact, one tilt-shift lens that was designed specifically for the P67 system:
    Now, I know my Hartbleis, and Nick's photos don't quite have the same look IMHO.
    I thought that the "free-lensing" suggestion made the most sense, but got the denial from the horse's mouth so that's that.
    Whatever technique was involved, I'm inspired as hell. Need to go out and shoot some more with my P67II :)
  44. [double post deleted]
  45. Nick Brandt uses lenses, 105 f2.5, and 200 f4.
  46. I had two 55mm's, one shimmed with a 1mm spacer and one with a 3mm the tilt/swing look, but not the swirly, soft-focus/petzval/single meniscus look out to the corners. The corners were nice and soft and creamy, but straight out of focus, not distorted. Adding tilt to a few of the lenses in the 67 lineup is actually fairly straight-forward.
  47. Old thread I know, but I've just been looking through Nick's photos lately. Somebody mentioned how there must absolutely be blurring done on photoshop on the lion looking into the storm photo because just his face and nose area is in focus. To me it's very obvious that there's a narrow depth of field with the focus bang on his nose and the reason his mane is out of focus is because it's a slow shutter speed with a strong wind blowing it out of focus.
  48. Another latecomer to the party- Satoru, Nick didn't deny that he used a free lensing technique at all. He states that the focal plane effects were done in-camera, and that:
    "All anyone really needs to know is that I work in a very very impractical way - very manually - and lose a crazy number of potentially great shots with all the faffing around I do."
    Understandably he doesn't want to give away his secrets, but free lensing (to get the focal plane effects) hasn't been ruled out.

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