Rumination: bokeh is not the purpose of photography

DeeJayK

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once again this nice vid comes up:

Thanks for sharing this. I hadn't seen it before. His methodology is interesting. And I agree with most of his conclusions.

But it grates on me that he uses the term "bokeh" as synonymous with "shallow depth of field", in at least one case using the maddening term "more bokeh". Maybe that makes me a pedant, but it makes it a bit harder for me to take him seriously on the topic.

- K
 
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On re-reading my characterization that the sea stack image is "crying out for" more DoF was a bit harsher sounding than I meant it. It's certainly not a bad image; I was limiting my critique to DoF on all of these. I guess that my reaction to that particular shot is based more on my expectation that landscape images should be in focus front to back. That expectation is likely the result of internalizing thousands of landscape images from the likes of Ansel Adams and his f/64 club. But if you hadn't presented the seastack image as being an example of shallow DoF, I may not have really noticed the OoF foreground.

- K
Yes, Ansel Adams definitely established a look for B&W landscapes that has endured to this day. If you browse through older photos, however, like those from the late 1800s and early 1900s, they are less contrasty, less DoF, and more grainy. I live on the PNW as well, and a lot of the environs in Oregon got photographed extensively around those times as both photography was rising in use and the areas were being more industrialized. My small town has a collection of photographs from really old days that the mayor often posts on her blog. I find a lot of these technically inferior but less "doctored" B&W images to be more interesting than the heavily worked masterpieces by Adams and his club. There's a place for both, but the more imperfect but highly documentary type of images have a lot of soul.
 

L0n3Gr3yW0lf

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Thanks for sharing this. I hadn't seen it before. His methodology is interesting. And I agree with most of his conclusions.

But it grates on me that he uses the term "bokeh" as synonymous with "shallow depth of field", in at least one case using the maddening term "more bokeh". Maybe that makes me a pedant, but it makes it a bit harder for me to take him seriously on the topic.

- K
I know the feeling ... I turn greener that a portion of spinach made by Gordon Ramsey when I have seen people saying: I take pictures ... instead of I make pictures ... one of these days I'm going to call the cops on them for stealing ... I NEED TO KNOW WHERE DO PEOPLE TAKE THOSE PICTURES FROM?
 
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I know the feeling ... I turn greener that a portion of spinach made by Gordon Ramsey when I have seen people saying: I take pictures ... instead of I make pictures ... one of these days I'm going to call the cops of them for stealing ... I NEED TO KNOW HWERE DO PEOPLE TAKE THOSE PICTURES FROM?
Little bits of the soul get stolen every time you snap the shutter. The internet will turn into an AI hivemind once enough soul-material gets uploaded in the form of shallow-DoF hipster portraits.
 

DeeJayK

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Yes, Ansel Adams definitely established a look for B&W landscapes that has endured to this day. If you browse through older photos, however, like those from the late 1800s and early 1900s, they are less contrasty, less DoF, and more grainy. I live on the PNW as well, and a lot of the environs in Oregon got photographed extensively around those times as both photography was rising in use and the areas were being more industrialized. My small town has a collection of photographs from really old days that the mayor often posts on her blog. I find a lot of these technically inferior but less "doctored" B&W images to be more interesting than the heavily worked masterpieces by Adams and his club. There's a place for both, but the more imperfect but highly documentary type of images have a lot of soul.
I didn't mean to imply that Ansel's way is the only way, or even the best way, but only that I realized it has completely colored my expectations of landscape images. I suspect that I'm not alone in this.

I think it's awesome that you're trying to do something different and even hearkening back to a pre-Ansel time. Keep shooting and keep sharing.

- K
 

DeeJayK

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I know the feeling ... I turn greener that a portion of spinach made by Gordon Ramsey when I have seen people saying: I take pictures ... instead of I make pictures ... one of these days I'm going to call the cops of them for stealing ... I NEED TO KNOW HWERE DO PEOPLE TAKE THOSE PICTURES FROM?
I think this one may be as much cultural as anything. Brits "make" pictures and Yanks "take" pictures.

Oddly enough, we Americans make decisions while you lot take them. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

- K
 

bassman

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For portraits, I might like high quality bokeh with a shallow-ish DOF.
For landscape, I definitely want deep DOF. Sometimes I need to focus stack.
For cityscape, I mostly want deep DOF.
For street, I mostly want deep-ish DOF with very unobtrusive bokeh.
For still life and product photograph, I struggle to get deep enough DOF even with m43.

DOF just a tool to be used when appropriate.
 

L0n3Gr3yW0lf

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Yes, Ansel Adams definitely established a look for B&W landscapes that has endured to this day. If you browse through older photos, however, like those from the late 1800s and early 1900s, they are less contrasty, less DoF, and more grainy. I live on the PNW as well, and a lot of the environs in Oregon got photographed extensively around those times as both photography was rising in use and the areas were being more industrialized. My small town has a collection of photographs from really old days that the mayor often posts on her blog. I find a lot of these technically inferior but less "doctored" B&W images to be more interesting than the heavily worked masterpieces by Adams and his club. There's a place for both, but the more imperfect but highly documentary type of images have a lot of soul.
The difficulty I find in people who use the Ansel Adams argument is that his pictures, no matter what time they were taken, are slices of unique time that can be only used and understood within their own context of time. The technicality of how they were made can be argued ... and has been for such a long time ... but depth of field, the aperture used, grannies of the film are all products of their technical limitations.

The late 1800s and the start of the 1900s had limited film speed ... it took hours at worst and minutes at best to expose the image correctly.
Even in the 1900s the film speed was still what would one consider ISO 8 and ISO 400 was rarely used in the 1920s for sports.

Large aperture lenses were slow to develop at first, in the late 1800s you had f 6 at the brightest and f 8 on most lenses, f 3.5 become more common only in the late 1930s and f 1.9 arrived in the 1940s, pushed by the development of WWII. Very large DoF could be achieved mostly on large formats and even then it was more of a sacrifice to get faster development of the film itself

Film formats were pretty limited as well, "35 mm film was created when William Kennedy Laurie Dickson sliced in half 70 mm Kodak film then spliced the ends together. It became most popular between the years of 1905-1913 and was starting to be used for still photography." While later in his life he was using 35mm more and more a lot of his work was on more dependable large format cameras for documentary purposes.

Even the subject that Ansel shot had such a unique effect on the people, most American never seen the West Coast, even within the government, rich people with power were mesmerized by Ansel's landscapes ... Where today it's so easy to search pictures and places, books and the freedom of information, just Google anything, has given people eyes to see the world beyond anyone could afford.
Photography has become so accessable and cheap that anyone can try to be a photographer but it's so much more work to be recognized for your work.
Here's a question for anyone: if you would take Ansel Adams through time, to today and put in his hand any camera he wants do you think he would rise above all the other landscape photographers of today?
 

John King

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I prefer to think in terms of focus transitions, rather than bokeh per se.

e.g. the 12-100 has beautifully smooth focus transitions, and a smooth rather than busy or harsh or 'jittery'/fussy bokeh (using the original Japanese meaning of the word 'bokeh', being the quality or nature of the rendering of the OoF areas).
 

ralf-11

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Ansel Adams' pictures, no matter what time they were taken, are permanent examples of art that transcends any given time in history.
 
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Ansel Adams' pictures, no matter what time they were taken, are permanent examples of art that transcends any given time in history.
He pushed landscape photography past where it had been before, into fine art. If you fast forwarded him to today, where most landscape photography has followed that example, I doubt he would stand out. We work in his shadow now anyway.
 

wimg

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Probably not... I don't consider Adams to be that level of creative genius, though. Einstein was a bit of an anomaly.
Can't argue about Einstein. Actually, at teh time, he was WAY ahead of anybody else, so IMO that does certainly not diminish his genius.

As to Adams: from a photography and creativity PoV, he took alndscapes to a completely new level. And he invented the Zone system to help himn do that. From that PoV, and placed in his time, he certainly was a creative genius. If you have ever worked in a darkroom, and followed the principles he laid out, I think you do realize he was a photographic genius.
 

ac12

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Can't argue about Einstein. Actually, at teh time, he was WAY ahead of anybody else, so IMO that does certainly not diminish his genius.

As to Adams: from a photography and creativity PoV, he took alndscapes to a completely new level. And he invented the Zone system to help himn do that. From that PoV, and placed in his time, he certainly was a creative genius. If you have ever worked in a darkroom, and followed the principles he laid out, I think you do realize he was a photographic genius.

Did AA invent the zone system, or just use it.
Been a long time since I read the history of the zone system.
 

wimg

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As someone who predominantly shoots city/landscapes bokeh is actually not my friend and it could be lumped together in a basket with CAs, distortion and flare etc.
Ansell Adams and some mates showed what they thought of blurred backgrounds when they created the F/64 club! :laugh:
But I do like the idea of 'contextual bokeh' where there can be subject separation but where the out of focus background still provides something more than a mono chromatic blur or pretty balls of light.
Funnily enough, if you work it out, F/64 based on the 8x10 plates they were using back then, that that is approximately equivalent to F/11 on FF, or F/5.6 on MFT.
IOW, there still is some background blur, depending on what you are focusing on.
Also, F/64 gives you a diffraction limit of 11 lp/mm, and that is with a optically perfect lens, which I am sure they did not have back then.
Assuming a near-perfect lens, which resolves, say 400 lp/mm, gives you an equivalent of approximately 7.3 Mp at MTF-50 for the 10x8 film system, provided you can extract all resolution from your best film (which they did not have back then, and which you can't anyway), while a 20 Mp MFT sensor will give you, at equivalent f-stop values and lenses, about 11.09 Mp.
I used a resolution of 100 lp/mm, while it likely is much closer to a maximum of 30 lp/mm, which really goes down because of diffraction to a maximum of 11 lp/mm.

So, even with all that, we have evolved since then, with our smaller camera's.

BTW, this is also why it is such a fallacy that you can extract more by scanning film: the only reason to scan at the highest resolution possible is to keep as close as possible to the actual recorded film resolution. However, scanning at high resolution does not add detail, even if those very high Mp images sound impressive. Those scanning resolutions only serve to diminish the actual (low) resolution as little as possible.

🙂
 
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oldracer

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If you have ever worked in a darkroom, and followed the principles he laid out, I think you do realize he was a photographic genius.
In 2015 we traveled with a National Geographic tour to Ethiopia. An NG photographer named Chris Ranier accompanied. In the early 1980s, Chris was Ansel Adams' last photographic assistant and assisted his widow after Adams' death. Chris was a fount of AA quotations. One I liked was "The negative is the score. The print is the performance.".
 

wimg

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In 2015 we traveled with a National Geographic tour to Ethiopia. An NG photographer named Chris Ranier accompanied. In the early 1980s, Chris was Ansel Adams' last photographic assistant and assisted his widow after Adams' death. Chris was a fount of AA quotations. One I liked was "The negative is the score. The print is the performance.".
Very true, love that quote.

BTW, that is true for digital too ... whether the print is a paper print, or an image on screen ...
 

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