Why are we so concerned about sharpness?

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by emil_salek|2, Jan 15, 2002.

  1. After having followed several rather philosophical threads, I dare to come up with my question that has been haunting me since a long time: Why are we so concerned, if not obsessed by a perfect sharpness of our photographs?
     
  2. because it gives the illusion of reality, especially at large
    magnifications.
     
  3. If you start with a sharp lens you can always create a deliberate
    softness. A soft lens is just soft. None of us likes to be soft when
    something else is required!
     
  4. I think many photographers (in art) are just caught up in aspiring to
    the Group f/64 standard of sharpness from the foreground to
    infinity. I personally find the old pictorialist look quite
    appealing.
     
  5. What Ellis said.
     
  6. I've sometimes thought about this, because my natural view of the
    world, without glasses, is not entirely in focus... So why should I
    correct it with the camera - I don't wear my glasses all the
    time.

    <p>

    (I also don't have 3D vision/depth perception, which greatly
    influences how I envision a photograph - it is already, to some
    extend, two dimensional to me. To try and give an image depth is, in
    some way, very unnatural to
    me...)

    <p>

    Tim A
     
  7. Emil,

    I don't think that "we" are obsessed by perfect sharpness in our "photographs". But we should be obsessed by it in the parts that need perfect sharpness to deliver the right (intended) message. This does not always apply to the whole photograph. In fact, unsharpness is as good as sharpness as a Rule of Composition. It always depends on the expression.
    Sharpness might be something a Large Format Photographer is more concerned about. It could be one reason for him to use Large Format. But the opposite conclusion is not valid. The longer focal length in Large Format does also provide a better control of unsharpness.
    And there are some disciplines that traditionally have a stress on the more documentary aspects of photography. E.g. Architecture is usually not associated with fuzzy images. A sharper image has more detail/information. An unsharp image makes use of less detail/information to isolate a specific motif or to stimulate a more global perception of the whole image.
    Regards,
     
  8. Hi Emil, that's the question I put to myself! and my answer was, I'm
    not. First, to judge by many great photographs I've seen in the
    archives at George Eastman, sharpness isn't a criteria for a great
    image. Second, "sharpness" whatever it is, is perceived (it's all in
    your head), and if you put it to a test I think you'll find a lot of
    perceived sharpness is found in the individual image. You hit it,
    sharpness as criteria is the wrong approach as far as I'm concerned;
    I'm not concerned with sharpness perfect or otherwise. Best, David
     
  9. Once a viewer is pulled into an image for compositional or asthetic
    reasons, they are usually then drawn to the technical aspects of that
    image. Depending on the subject and how it's being conveyed,
    sharpness can be a dividend. I like images which show a lot of
    texture and detail, so sharpness important to me.
    But I understand that sharpness does not soley rest on the camera
    lens. Good darkroom technique and knowing your equipment is just as
    important. Having a sharp lens alone will not ensure a successful
    image. It goes way beyond that. Just my 2 cents...
     
  10. Hi Emil,

    <p>

    I was just looking through a recently published photography book, and
    there was a segment on Robert Capa's war photographs. Some of the
    images were very blurred, and according to the author, this made the
    photographs seem very real and authentic - there is Capa in the field,
    bullets and bombs whizzing by, and he is having trouble controlling
    his hand held camera because he can't control his nerves. The author
    then goes on to reveal that the reason for the blurred images was an
    assistant who developed the negatives accidentally "overheated" them,
    and made the emulsion a bit drippy, thus creating strangely unclear
    images. Yet another example of a darkroom accident creating something
    good.

    <p>

    One more thing, I was recently looking through some of Edward Weston's
    portraits, and I could not understand why my mind wanted to believe
    the images were clear and sharp, while my eye saw that they were
    anything but. Weston was able to create an illusion of sharpness, even
    though the pictures are obviously a bit out of focus. He was a good
    magician......
     
  11. Emil,

    <p>

    I agree with Thilo that one of the reasons we get into LF photography
    is a high valuation of sharp images. As I understand the optics of
    the situation, for a given size print, LF on the average gives the
    sharpest image. MF and 35mm lenses may be sharper, but enlargement
    more than undoes any advantages gained from dropping down to a
    smaller format.

    <p>

    Chad's mention of pictorialism vs. Group f.64 brings us back to the
    philosophical differences underlying that debate back in the 1930s.
    The pictorialists attempted to imitate painting, but the Group
    Manifesto made the point that "Pure photography is defined as
    possessing no qualities of technic, composition or idea, derivative
    of any other art-form." Whether these photographers actually lived
    up to this ideal is another matter. Some of Adams' more dramatic
    landscapes (called "Wagnerian" on occasion in this forum) strike me
    as more closely resembling romantic paintings than the actual scenes
    themselves under typical conditions.

    <p>

    The point about eyesight, healthy eyesight that is, applies
    particularly to landscape, exterior architecture, and other scenes
    that we see sharp from close in to horizon. But obviously not to
    other kinds of subjects, so the shallow DOF's that many of us have to
    deal with on a regular basis actually make a fuzzy background to a
    sharp subject practically as well as aesthetically attractive.
    Nick.
     
  12. Funny, what made LF appeal to me most was the ability to defocus
    using movements and the smaller depth of field (than MF or 35mm).
     
  13. xx

    xx

    group 64 didn't advocate the literal interpretation of a scene, but
    creative interpretation through the use of photography without the
    need to use another form of expression as a "crutch" to make it seem
    more accepted as an art form. of course you have to consider the
    attitudes towards photography at the time.

    <p>

    as for the question, who is the we you are talking about? the need for
    sharpness also depends on the situation, I would hope that we are less
    predictable than that.
     
  14. Hi Emil,

    <p>

    An interesting question and I think that we as photographers are more
    concerned about sharpness than our viewers are. I have seen people
    (non-photographers) commenting favourably on images which I notice are
    unsharp, but because the image has it's own impact, perhaps due to the
    subject or the composition or whatever, the viewers are not concerned that
    part of the image may be unsharp - they just like it for what it is.

    <p>

    If we try to reproduce "reality" type photographs then sharpness and detail
    certainly enhance these images as they relate closely to what we see, but if
    we are trying to create an "emotional" response to a photograph I think that
    sharpness is not so important, look how well abstract images can work and
    they are often not sharp edge to edge.

    <p>

    I believe it comes down to the subject matter - a portrait with unsharp eyes,
    whether human or animal, looks very odd, as would an architectural image if
    the building was not looking sharp and detailed. A landscape photograph on
    the other hand may look quite nice even if it is a bit soft.

    <p>

    I agree with Thilo; [snip]. . . ."we should be obsessed by it in the parts that
    need perfect sharpness to deliver the right (intended) message. This does
    not always apply to the whole photograph. In fact, unsharpness is as good
    as sharpness as a Rule of Composition. It always depends on the expression.
    . ."[snip]

    <p>

    Kind regards

    <p>

    Peter Brown

    <p>

    - Don't squat with your spurs on.
     
  15. I do many images that use bokeh, but they are planned and I control
    where and how much for the effect I'm looking for. I confess what
    drew me into large format is the lenses (a good one's) ability to make
    images far sharper over much wider areas than my eye ever could. It
    fascinates me. Our eyes (when we were younger) can only focus sharply
    on a very narrow area. When we look at a large scene they "update"
    many times as we look around and keep adding different parts of the
    seen to our memory. We think we've taken in a large sharp panorama,
    but actually we've memorized many little scenes to make up the whole.
    My camera on the other hand can capture a huge area in resolution my
    eyes never dreamed of. That kind of sharpness can draw a viewer in
    even though they're unconscious of why. It is a tool that begs to be
    used on some images, not all.
     
  16. Sharpness is in the eye of the photographer. People don't plunk down
    a few thousand for new LF gear and lenses to have unsharp images
    unless it is part of the design of the image. Look at most
    advertising work. The in thing is selective focus and depth of
    field. I would imagine most of this work is done with LF because you
    can calculate the exact placement of sharpness with in the image.

    <p>

    Most of my LF work is totally sharp because it is documentary in
    nature. I am recording a scene that needs to be sharp and do what
    needs to be done to eliminate exteraneous material from the image.
    Lf is simply the best tool for that particular aspect of my work.

    <p>

    The current trend in fine art photography is for unsharp images
    bordering on total blur, usually taken with 35mm, sometimes toy
    cameras, and pinhole cameras. I am not a sharpness freak, but some
    of the work I have seen looks the same as what my duaghter could do
    when she was 3. Check out www.photography-guide.com/index.html to
    see current Photo galleries in New York. Look for any name you are
    not familiar with and the work will be of the unsharp-blurry genre
    and not inexpensive to purchase.
     
  17. I think we may confuse sharpness with completion and unification.In
    my experience sharpness is only a tool to be used or discarded as
    the situation demands and the soul of the photographer
    permits.Sharpness is really, way smaller in scale than
    perfection....the light of the sun is perfect....only when it
    interacts with dense physical matter does it appear to sharpen.To
    imagine that sharpness equals perfection, is like someone who,
    wearing the most expensive jewlery, will somehow... become a real
    person.
     
  18. I like LF mainly because of its rich tonal range, not just because of
    sharpness. I found modern lenses sometimes even too sharp for
    portraits and I prefer the results from 40+ years old lenses.
    Sometimes even still life looks better with old lenses.
    Regards, www.janez-pelko.com
     
  19. "Most of my LF work is totally sharp because it is documentary in
    nature".

    Interesting statement? Explain why a photograph that is documentary
    in nature needs to be totally sharp? The scene or situtation itslef
    isn't totally sharp to the human eye. In fact I would suggest that by
    making documentary photograph of something that is totally sharp in
    all it's aspects may in fact take away from the "documentary" nature
    of the image, and impose upon it something of the photographer own
    view of what the scene should look like.
     
  20. I think that I concur with Ellis' response.

    <p>

    People look at an image taken with a large format camera, and they
    say, "Wow, that's a great photograph!" I think that sharpness is an
    essential ingredient for an LF photograph to achieve that effect.
     
  21. Tim,

    "documentary in nature" requires to capture as much information as possible. A sharp image contains more information than an unsharp one, whereas Information is simply an abstraction of Detail.
     
  22. I think it depends more on the subject. Some need great sharpness
    which will allow the viewer to get close and revel in the details.
    Some work just fine with a bit of softness. A previous poster
    mentioned that sharpness is needed in the catchlights of the eyes in
    a portrait. In the old days, when studios did their own lab work, the
    retoucher would sharpen up the catchlights to make the portrait look
    sharp even when it wasn't. Sharpness is just another tool to let the
    photographer get his or her message across.

    <p>

    Regards,
     
  23. Hi Emil

    <p>

    I like sharpness but I like also the controlled unsharpness many times.
    I get more a 3D feeling with the soft part (unsharp) at the right place
    in a picture.It gives more deep to a picture many times.
    Cheers.
     
  24. I like sharp photographs and I like not-so-sharp photographs. As much
    as possible, sharpness should be a matter of choice. Older
    photographers did not have it so good. Edward Weston's great
    photographs are often not as sharp as the incredibly silly and
    technically wonderful commercial photos you see everywhere. (The
    periodicals are presenting an amazing sameness to us, with sharpness at
    the core of all sorts of nonsense.) Weston couldn't enlarge many of his
    images even if he had wanted to, which, as everyone knows, he did not.
    It was a struggle for him just to be reasonably sharp, given his
    equipment. So he obsessed about sharpness a little in order to keep His
    Mind Sharp. I agree with a previous contributor that the movements of
    view cameras are what set large format photography apart.
     
  25. sharpness is mandated in my work. the HABS/HAER standards require
    that "all areas of the picture must be in sharp focus." pictorialism
    and other soft focus effects which may be desirable for you "fine
    art" practitioners certainly do not require out-of-focus negatives.
    this seems like a bogus question/issue to me...
     
  26. Hi Emil, since you asked me to give my two cents, I'll try say something sensitive. Or rather, I will relate what
    viewing experience made me think that sharpness was a plus. A friend showed me a photography book some
    years ago and in it was a picture taken with a large format camera. The picture represented a wild meadow on
    the edge of the forest, taken in mist. The background spruces were emerging from the mist, and the
    foreground was made of all sorts of plants, but predominantly wild roses. The whole athmosphere was of an
    etheral beauty but if you looked closely at the foreground, you could see the details of each bud, each leave,
    and I found it just wonderful to have that much information in the picture. Sharpness means information on
    details and details are life and intimacy. Maybe that's why some subjects are better treated blurred,
    desaturated or over contrasted, for intimacy is not always appealing. If the shot I just mentioned had not been
    taken in the mist, it may have been too crude and all the dream would have vanished from it. But when the
    subject is beautiful right into the details, then sharpness adds to the picture. In the other hand, we all (I think)
    have made pictures that were sharp and detailed, but had no content and others that were not sharp for
    some reason but were still rich and pleasing!
     
  27. "sharpness is mandated in my work. the HABS/HAER standards require
    that "all areas of the picture must be in sharp focus." pictorialism
    and other soft focus effects which may be desirable for you "fine
    art" practitioners certainly do not require out-of-focus negatives.
    this seems like a bogus question/issue to
    me..."

    <p>

    To me, Personally, I would find it very hard to describe that as
    documentary work, wher you are shooting to such specific guidlines
    for a client/organisation. You are being required to manipulate the
    image in one particualr way, but exluding others, giving a very
    specific view of whatever you are documenting. It's somewhat akin to
    shooting a brochure for the Toyota 4Runner.

    <p>

    Tim A
     
  28. Neo-Pictorialist. Don't wan't noth'n in focus. Don't care. Long live
    the soft-focus lens!!! Verito or bust!
    Dean
     
  29. LF has the biggest negative, simple as that. What people think
    should be in focus on that negative will be swayed by the passage
    of time and whim. The idea of 'bokeh', things out of focus as a means
    to draw attention to the subject in focus is a part of a particular
    technique and a valuable one.

    <p>

    I've shot some of Carnaval in Bahia and many shots were at 1/15
    of a second, I'll have some these images on my website. I picked 1/15
    of a second to record dancing, celebrating, and movement and with the
    intent that there would be blurring and degrees of focus. The results
    are varied, every shot's different, but these shots give the viewer
    more of an idea of the explosion of Carnaval than If I shot
    everything, every movement frozen at 1/500 of a second.

    <p>

    I will say what James Chinn didn't say, this kind of technique
    doesn't always work, can be overdone, isn't going to be done well by
    everybody, but it's a valuable technique on the right things.

    <p>

    I've seen shots of people sitting still and just plain out of
    focus and misframed and it looked terrible to me, the shots didn't
    work(for me), but I disagree with painting a great idea with the brush
    of some folks who can't carry it off.

    <p>

    Regarding James Chinn thread, it brings up the same recurring
    theme, when something comes up that's perceived as new or fresh or
    whatever, plenty of people attempt it, and then do it to 'death'.
    That doesn't diminish the original idea, but like the sunset shot with
    a 1000mm, after a million of 'em it gives you a headache.
     
  30. Wow, thaks to all for so many answers! However, my question was
    lazily written and therefore not clear enough. I meant that weird
    kind of satisfaction that makes us (please understand by us or we =
    some photographers including myself)happy and proud when the whole
    picture, or the part that is intended to be, is tack tack tack ....
    SHARP. I do not say that because I have problems with sharpness of my
    photographs. After nearly twenty ears of LF I know how to make sharp
    or unsharp pictures depending on the purpose. The answers posted are
    mostly wise and technically and politically correct. But where are
    all the people who compare MTF curves before changing a Schneider for
    a Rodestock in the very hope that their photographs will be even
    sharper? (Yes, I know there are also the contrast, color rendition,
    etc., but...)And all those getting so close and even closer to
    exhibited prints to control whether they are REAL sharp? I more hoped
    for some answers from the guts about that strange value that the
    sharpness represents (for some photographers including me...)than for
    perfectly correct but perhaps somewhat impersonal statements like
    that the sharpness is a tool or an element of the composition.
    Just an example from the real life, and the only one that I can give
    (sorry, Paul): Paul Schilliger answered the question in his very nice
    and poetic style but no word about the excitement that we both can
    feel when we are spending excellent moments around his or my light
    table and transparencies, using lupes with still greater magnifying
    power, and then saying: Well, this one is REAL SHARP. It is real
    EXCELLENT. Even with the Peak 10x! I could put it also in a more
    complicated way - that my intent was to discuss about sharpness as an
    introjected cultural value or driver and related gratification, but
    never mind.... Frankly, should I believe that I am the only (even if
    not always) obsessed fool on today's LF scene?
     
  31. Where would Art or Photography be without obsession?
     
  32. Hi!

    <p>

    I'd say that large format photographers have to be a little (?) bit
    crazy in order to lug around 30-40 pounds or more of equipment in
    order to be able to take a picture. If he/she wants to make a full
    day or week trip the weight picks up logarithmically. But we all do
    it and (at least) say that we love it. The obsession
    about "sharpness" is probably something that we "have to" believe in
    to justify our craziness. :) Another part of the craziness is the
    fact that these sharp photographs actually can be done. Dealing with
    shifts and tilts is difficult, but most of us master that science to
    some degree, and from time to time we have to show others that we can
    make those shots where every single grain of the film is sharp. (Will
    I be shot if I exchange the word "grain" with the word "pixel" in the
    previous sentence. :)

    <p>

    I don't know about different trends in different countries, but here
    in Sweden extremely shallow DOF has been popular in some ads for a
    long time, preferably developing E6 films in C41. Making those shots
    look good also takes skill and knowledge and mastering your camera
    and lenses.

    <p>

    Looking at facts isn't always that fun. Some of the facts in this
    case says that a good MF camera will produce originals that make it
    hard to differ those orignals from similar shots taken with LF
    cameras. But being pushed up against the wall, I recon that we mumble
    something about "other qualities ... tonality ... ".
    As someone else said, making a shot soft with a sharp lens is easy,
    but the other way around cannot be done...

    <p>

    In the 19'th century there was an english photographer, whose name
    illudes me at the moment, who was convinced that his prints was
    supposed to be sharp in the middle and softer towards the edges. He
    claimed that it had to be that way because that was the way the human
    eye worked. Towards the end of his career he revised his theory, as
    he probably used the very same eyes to view the prints. I.e. you
    don't have to make the same mistake that he did. But his pictures was
    nice anyhow.

    <p>

    And so on...
     
  33. Just got back from a Japanese dinner and a good dose of sake ...so
    in my current state of mind I'll say this...sharpness is like a
    beautiful woman or a Samurai sword...completely arresting! But we
    need sake also ...like good bokeh to give us a break from the
    intensity of the obdurate world.
     
  34. Bjorn, the English photographer you're thinking of is no doubt P.H.
    Emerson; however he didn't renounce his theories about focus and how
    the eye sees. What he renounced, after reading Hurter & Driffield's
    paper describing the characteristic curve, was the idea that one could
    alter
    the tonal values of a photograph. He didn't realize, as
    Ansel Adams did later, that "H&D offered photographers a superb
    creative
    control" (Nancy Newhall) but mistakenly thought H&D delivered a death
    blow to any
    pretense that the photographer could have any control over the tonal
    scale.
    In his renunciation of the idea that photography could be art, he
    wrote, "I thought once (Hurter and Driffield
    have taught me differently) that true values could be obtained and
    that values could be altered at will by development. They cannot;
    therefore to talk of getting values in any subject whatever as you
    wish and of getting them true to nature is to talk nonsense." and two
    years later he wrote "..for taking the picture is pure science, as for
    ever proved by Messrs Hurter & Driffield. ... the photographer does
    not make his picture, A MACHINE DOES IT ALL FOR HIM.

    <p>

    As to his ideas about naturalistic focus and vision, he continued to
    express those views in papers and in the third edition of his book
    "Naturalistic Photography" which was published in 1899, nine years
    after his renunciation of the idea that photography could be art. He
    wrote in 1893, "the methods of practice I advised in Naturalistic
    Photography I still advise, and the artists I held up for admiration I
    still hold as the best exemplars of their crafts, but my art
    philosophy is different... I do not consider photography an art but
    regard it as a mechanical process..."

    <p>

    This is probably more information than you wanted about P.H. Emerson
    but since your mistake is a common one I like to set it straight
    when I can.

    <p>

    And his pictures, they were nice anyway, as you say; I would say some
    of the most gorgeous platinum prints ever made.
     
  35. I guess even for me there is an obsession to this. I don't care about
    sharp, but I still need a big negitive. I don't want grain, and I
    want the nice tone. Good pictorial work has to be almost contact
    printed. Diana etc are nice for some people, but don't
    confuse "Pecker" work (great movie) with LF pictorial. So I guess I
    have the same ailment as the F64's in the group, but different
    symptoms. LF is the cure all, from mega-sharp-depth-of-field, to no-
    grain-fuzzies, it's only side effects seem to be strained backs,
    shoulders, and empty bank accounts.
    Dean
     
  36. a camera and lens are a tool to an end. i think it is great that
    people are able to manipulate this tool to make images the way
    they want. while i also record the built enviroment for habs/haer,
    i do not think the only purpose of a camera and lens, is to make
    images that are so sharp you can fall into them ... sometimes it
    is necessary. sometimes it is just as important to make an
    image that makes the viewer wonder what the heck it is, or what
    the photographer did to achieve such an effect. while it is
    obvious that some people are purists and feel that every square
    milimeter of a photograph needs to be in focus nd sharp as a
    tack, the folks that use blurr, motion, or other unconventional
    techniques and in general break the rules are also allowing
    photography to be pushed as an artistic medium. if rules are not
    broken, boundries are not streatched, and viewers are not forced
    to think (rather than just look), the art of photography will become
    monochromatic, dull and boring.
     
  37. I agree with Emil in general that a lot of photographers around the
    world seem to be very concerned by sharpness. This can be seen not
    ony in this LF forum but also in many other photography forums,
    including the ones mainly dealing with 35 mm. Let me try to suggest
    two explanations which are fairly different to what has been
    discussed hereabove and which are probably more trivial and less
    philosophical, although they certainly don't apply to professional
    photographers.

    <p>

    First, I think that a lot of amateurs are very fond of high end
    equipment and sharpness can be considered as a visible sign of the
    use of good equipment and sophisticated photography techniques.
    Owning a beautiful and well made camera with highly reputed lenses is
    often a rewarding feeling as such.

    <p>

    Second, in most cases (including mine), there is a strong temptation
    to call "art" what is actually "craftsmanship". Producing sharp
    images is often an objective as such, which allows us to demonstrate
    to ourselves how much we master photography. When we (I) look at
    great photographers' pictures, reproducing the level of sharpness of
    some in our own pics is more feasible than being as inspired and
    creative as others. Let's not fool ourselves (once again, I'm
    speaking only of myself and those of us who are not
    fundamentally "artists"), mastering the technique is so much easier
    than being really creative !

    <p>

    That being said, all the previous explanations are valid as well, it
    all depends on one's own situation and real talents.
     
  38. Hi Emil,

    <p>

    You are not alone in your captivation with sharpness. Barry
    Thornton, the chap who makes DiXactil is a fanatic about
    sharpness and has written a book about it: "Edge Of Darkness".

    <p>

    Details of availability are available on his site:

    <p>

    http://www.qa63.dial.pipex.com/eod.htm

    <p>

    Sharpness is not the exclusive domain of LF and in his book he
    states his case in favour of 6x6 and validates his argument with
    a number of photographs.

    <p>

    Another photographer using sharpness as a trade-mark, almost,
    is Nigel Parry whose book of portraits - "Sharp" - again illustrates
    his point.

    <p>

    Film/Developer choice, lighting, camera stability, lens design,
    shooting aperture, shutter speed, atmospherics, enlarger and
    lens, paper and developer - all these are contributing factors, as
    you know, but every now and then something magic happens
    and a picture displays an unreal sharpness that can prove highly
    seductive.

    <p>

    It happened to me once when Kodak first introduced 120
    Kodachrome. I shot a studio portrait test of a clean skinned
    English peaches and cream model. The tranny was almost 3-D
    in its acutance. I spent 12 months endeavouring to get the same
    result again without any luck at all. Yes, of course the pictures
    were sharp - 250mm Super-Achromat on a Hasselblad,
    mid-range aperture, studio flash - why wouldn't they be. But
    there was never another image that displayed the outstanding
    snap of the first test.

    <p>

    It was not an obsession - more like just a nice distraction
    chasing acuity with a cutie.

    <p>

    pardon the bad pun ... Walter
     
  39. Hi Walter,
    thank you for your nice and personal answer. I would personally
    welcome more of this kind. I visited the site and will probably buy
    the books. There are some high quality photographs there. Still to
    your answer, I wonder how you could get such a sharp picture with a
    250/5.6 Superachromat. My results with this lens and with the Tele-
    Tessar F 4.0 as well were always rather disappointing in terms of
    sharpness (I precise that I use a tripod and lock up the mirror and
    wait, and use Velvia, before somebody advises me to do so. :0))
    More generally, I thought these two days a bit more about the meaning
    of the sharpness. Once I heard that people are speeding because it
    gives them an impression to master the space. I would dare to say
    that some other people are "sharping" as it can give them access to a
    kind of magical appropriation (if not confiscation) of reality.
    Funny, the verb "to capture" is often used in connection with
    photography, and my AMHER dictionnary lists "confiscation"
    and "capture", among other words, as synonoms of appropriation. As I
    am writing these words, I am looking at some of my 16x20 prints made
    from 4x5 Velvias and there is nothing to do, I am weirdly happy and
    proud that I KNOW that they are real sharp. And I even cannot see it
    from my place as my eyes are no more what they were 15 years ago. And
    in the same time, I am not that unilateral, I made many quite
    successfull pictures using vaselines, soft focus lenses (the Fujinon
    250 SF is wonderful, I prefer it to Imagon) and center spot filters
    (the B+W breed is also wonderful, and damn expensive), some of them
    being so blurr that it was impossible to tell the subject and I liked
    them very much, as I can like blurred pictures made by other
    photographers, like Ernst Haas to name a great one. So, why am I so
    slyly happy to know that these pictures are tack sharp?! (Please do
    not worry, I am mentally sound... :eek:) )
    Some other people that would share real personal experience about
    their relation with the sharpness out there? Looking forward to read
    from you! Thanks!
     
  40. Emil,

    <p>

    With regard to synonyms there are subtle nuances of meaning
    that are idiomatic to a language. What is your native language?
    Words and language are a rather fascinating hobby for me.

    <p>

    There are a number of highly technical books I've seen along
    the lines of Clarity Of Vision. Discussion of 'acutance' vs
    'resloution' has raged for decades. I love sharp images - where
    appropriate. The same can be said for Black & White, Colour,
    Contrasty, Subdued.

    <p>

    From reading discussions on this and other forums I am coming
    to the belief that many photographers don't, perhaps, regard the
    piece of photographic paper as a blank canvas upon which to
    inscribe their statement. The process of photography somehow
    distracts them.

    <p>

    I have always deemed the concept of pre-visualisation as the oft
    over-looked cornerstone of Ansel Adams' prolific teaching. How
    do I want the scene in front of me to be rendered on the piece of
    paper in front of the viewer? The range of tools and techniques
    at our disposal to manipulate that end result is staggering. We
    have to use them all. Softness, sharpness, diffusion, the
    obscuring limbo of solid black, the radiance of glowing white, the
    lure of gentle gradation. We have to use it all.

    <p>

    Cheers, ... Walter
     
  41. OK Emil, now that the barndoors been left open I'll admit it too. I'm
    hooked! I thought that was a given. Why else would you haul this
    stuff around. Once you've looked at a good black and white contact
    print and thought to yourself "It's a bottomless pit" it seems nothing
    else will do.
     
  42. Thank you Jim, it is nice to find a sister soul. No theory can
    explain what we fell while looking at a perfectly sharp print or
    transparency... I hope more people will share that heady experience
    with us.
     
  43. Sorry, please read "what we feel", not "what we fell", of course...
    It is getting late here in Switzerland... If I had to handwrite it,
    it would be rather sloppy...
     
  44. I think what we really want is "smoothness" instead of "sharpness." A painter's stroke doesn't look sharp but it does look smooth. A grainy image looks fine but when you can see an image made up of tiny dots it often looks "rough" (sometimes even painterly), but a large format image with blurred water, for example, has a a more sensual "feel" to it. The blurred water's sensualness is also heightened by other elements in the picture that are razor sharp. That's just my take on this subject.
    EM
     

Share This Page