The way in which we see

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Donald Miller, Feb 19, 2003.

  1. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    I have another matter of interest, to me. I hope that it will be of interest to you as well. I just recently finished another portfolio of my work. I was not aware until I had printed, mounted, and matted the individual prints (12 of them) that every single one was in a vertical orientation. Since these were from 4X5 negatives, I had to make a decision at the time of exposure to rotate the camera back. I had not become aware of this way in which I was seeing the world until then.

    I had long been aware that I tend to view the world from a slightly telephoto prespective. Most of my images are taken with the 210 mm lens in 4X5 at one time. Since my awareness of my tendency to see things at that focal length, I have worked at using different focal lengths now I can use the slight wide angle of a 120 mm and the more wide angle 90mm.

    As I view the work of other photographers, such as Muench, I see their predisposition to using extreme wide angles and very effectively I might add.

    It seems that if I am to engage the world about me in new, different, and exciting ways, that I must become aware of the limited way in which I now engage it. From that awareness change can occur.

    I would like to hear others experiences in this regard. Perhaps through your sharing I can become aware of other limitations that I may have. Thank you for your input.
     
  2. LFGuy

    LFGuy Member

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    My first 4x5 was a Speed Graphic with a 127 mm Ektar. So, as a result, all of my first LF pictures used this focal length only. While a fine lens, I didn't exactly care for the composition of my photos given the lens and my typical subjects (B&W landscapes).

    Eventually, I added a new 4x5, with 90 mm and 210 mm lenses, along with an 8x10 with 159 mm and 355 mm lenses, as well as some various paper weights that never get used. Only the 210 mm could be considered "modern".

    In 4x5, I find that most of my images are taken with the 210 mm. I think the reason for doing this (besides the fact that it is of higher quality than my other lenses) is that I feel that with a wide angle, everything will appear too small on the film and just get lost in things like the mountains in the background, the sky, etc. When I do use a wide angle, I typically use it as a close up of something interesting, where I can go right next to the subject, where nothing in the background or sides really dominates or takes away from the subject.

    With 8x10, on the other hand, I use the 159 mm a lot more than the 355 mm. This is partly due to the sizes of the lenses the 159 is very small, but slow, and I like to hike around with it, while the 355 mm is big, fast and coated. With the 8x10, in comparison to the 4x5, the image size seems so much bigger, that I feel I can get away with my concerns in 4x5. I probably include a lot more background in 8x10 than 4x5, but my subjects are a lot bigger on the 8x10 film and easier for me to see on the ground glass.

    While film size shouldn't be that much of an issue if you're enlarging, I only do contact printing in LF, and to me the negative size makes a big difference. I too am truly impressed by what photographers such as Muench have done with wide angle lenses, but to me I am often trying to worry about one or two particular subjects or points in the scene while keeping everything else in focus using the cameras movements. I find that this is easier for me to do in 4x5 with a somewhat longer lens, and with a bigger image in 8x10, it is easier for me to fit the subject with a wide lens and setting up the tripod close to the subject. I seem to be at home using both of these lenses in both of these formats in both close quarters and distant shots, however.

    If I had more lenses, this might change things, but even with only one or two lenses in my pack when I go out to take pictures, I never really say to myself "if only I had a wider/longer lens for this scene." I can usually make due, and always walk up a little closer or farther away if necessary.
     
  3. Eric Rose

    Eric Rose Subscriber

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    It's funny you mention you see in a certain way such as tele or wideangle. I too have found this and go thru different phases when one lenses seems to be favored over theres. Right now my fav 4x5 lens is a 150 closely followed by a 90. I am currently on the hunt for a 65mm as this is the widest I can use on my field camera. If I could I would get a 40 something, but alas will not work.

    I think it also depends on where you are too. Certain locals lend themselves to a certain vision more than another. I try and give myself little projects to do that will break me out of whatever rut I am currently in. This insures I use a full gamut of lens over a 1 year span. Each takes it's own little bit of technique so I don't want to get rusty with any of them.
     
  4. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    Years ago I saw a documentary in which they returned to places where old masters painted landscapes and attempted to match the scenes as closely as possible with a camera. Interestingly, in order to match the size relationships between near and far objects in the paintings, they found that they had to use a focal length of about 135mm. I don't remember if they mentioned what format film they would have had to use to match the field of view.

    -Neal
     
  5. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    What format would use a 135mm as a "normal" lens? About 6x9?

    -Neal
     
  6. Robert Kennedy

    Robert Kennedy Member

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    I have a photo in critique which I had this type of experience with.

    It is a photo that I personally love. But in the past I could never seem to get the right crop and right contrast with it. The crop was the biggest problem. I never really felt good about it.

    Then I realized something very important - I was literally thinking inside the box.

    Right now I can only work digitally and have the results printed on a Frontier (this will hopefully change this summer by the way). To do this cheaply I get a bunch of images together and save them as 300dpi 4x5s or 8x10s. If I put them all in the same directory, the Frontier machine will just read them all and print them off. That way I get the "reprint" discount on every image after the first one. It saves me a bundle.

    Thing is, I kept cropping for the 4x5/8x10 aspect ratio! I had gotten so used to the concept of working within those parameters that I never thought to leave them! Then I was playing around and came up with the rather long crop that I have posted on APUG. I think it looks much better and serves the image well. I have also learned to stop thinking inside the 4x5 box and to expand my horizons a bit!

    The other thing I try to keep in mind is the fact we don't see the same way a camera does. The fact is, our brains do a ton of processing with every "image" we see.

    Peripheral vision is a good example. When you look at a scene, only the center of your field of vision is really viewable. Anything towards the edges of you FOV is sort of indistinct. You can sense motion there well enough, and you know generally that something is there and what color it is, but you can't see any detail. A good example is the fact that you can't read with peripheral vision.

    But if you took a picture of the same scene with a lens that exactly matched the focal length of your eyes, you could see things on the edges of the image perfectly well. The lens captures it all (assuming a decent lens). The lens sees more than we do.

    With that in mind, I think it is a mistake to even try to equate a lens with the human eye. They are two very different things. And we must be aware of this because as we all know, what we see with our eyes may not be what the camera sees.
     
  7. LFGuy

    LFGuy Member

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    </span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (Flotsam @ Feb 19 2003, 09:48 AM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'>What format would use a 135mm as a "normal" lens?&nbsp; About 6x9?</td></tr></table><span class='postcolor'>
    I think about 115 mm lens in 6x9 format would be equivalent to a 50 mm "normal" in 35 mm format.

    135 mm as a "normal" (50 mm equivalent in a 35 mm camera) would probably be somewhere between 6x9 and 6x12.

    Of course, the definition of "normal" varies.... I call my 210 mm lens in 4x5 slightly long, while others might call it normal. I'd call it normal for 5x7 myself.
     
  8. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    First of all: A 135mm lens is considered "normal" for 9x12cm, which is the European (read: German) equivalent of 4x5". Having said that, I have a (German) Voigtländer 9x12cm plate camera with a 150mm Voigtländer Heliar on it...

    Back to the way we see: I also find that I prefer a 210mm on 4x5" - or 300mm on 5x7. I tend to use the "normal" lenses less often, and wide angles even less. I hope to "rectify" this using my new old 121mm SA on the 5x7 for a while, at least I can't blame lack of coverage when I decide on a longer lens!

    Most of the photos I've taken with wide(ish) lense look like they should be enlarged to 4x5 meters or so to look right. It's something about the perspective, perhaps?
     
  9. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    I find I initially look at the scene with a wide angle eye, about 135mm in 4x5.
    After I study things a while and use composing cards for various focal lengths I find I usually either go longer or try to move in closer to the subject. When I first shot 4x5 my first lens was a 135mm but I was forced to move the camera closer or enlarge just a portion of some images.

    Now that I have a more extensive lens selection I can let the subject matter determine focal length and ultimate composition. To think in terms of different focal lengths in LF, I find it helpful to shoot the same subjects on 35mm and use several different comparable focal lengths to 4x5 and then study them later.
     
  10. Robert

    Robert Member

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    </span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (dnmilikan @ Feb 19 2003, 09:53 AM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'>I have another matter of interest, to me. I hope that it will be of interest to you as well. I just recently finished another portfolio of my work. I was not aware until I had printed, mounted, and matted the individual prints (12 of them) that every single one was in a vertical orientation. Since these were from 4X5 negatives, I had to make a decision at the time of exposure to rotate the camera back. </td></tr></table><span class='postcolor'>
    You made a choice with the first one but after that? It's not like you rotated back and then said to yourself no I really want this one vertical. I don't find the difference between 4x5 portrait and landscape that great. 6x9 sort of screams out landscape to me.

    On the lens issue I took somebody's advice and made one of those cardboard cutouts with a string attached. Looks goofy but it seems to help me visualize better. 210 to 240 seems to be right most of the time but then a 50mm seemed just fine on 35mm to.
     
  11. lee

    lee Member

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    I tend to shoot most things in a vertical format. Because most of this is 8x10 I mount on a 16x20 board as a vertical...the 16" side across and the 20" side vertical. As for lenses that I use, the Fujinon 150 probably gets more use than any of the other. It really depends on the perspective I want to achieve. If I have room, a nice composition with a 305 G-Claron on a 4x5 back is a nice effect. On 8x10, that same 305 is a long as I can go. So, I tend to be a little wider on 8x10. It is a problem that is solved by limitations. The late John Hartford once said that Art is based on limitations and Music is based on repetitions. In art, that statement is you can do what you do because that is what you can do. If I look back on my images from when I first was in Art School, I can see that I still see about the same now as then. I am just better at it. Maybe I have muddied the waters some trying to clear it up.

    lee\c
     
  12. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Something else occured to me since my initial post.

    As I study photographs of others and also those that I have taken, the one thing that has become apparent to me is that with the slight telephoto view that I am isolating componants of a scene.

    That in a wide angle view that I am photographing more on a basis of componants relating to each other. It seems almost as if the wide angle view in photography is more about relationships then the telephoto view is. Does anyone else have thoughts on this?
     
  13. LFGuy

    LFGuy Member

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    Yes, as mentioned in one of my previous posts, I like to use the slightly long lens to isolate something. And I agree about the wide angle relating things to one another.

    Isolating something seems to be a little easier for me (I get more comments on good composition from these kinds of pics than in wide angle shots).

    Perhaps I tend to prefer the longer shots (in 4x5, at least) as kind of a reaction to the average Joe's point and shoot, digital or whatever wide angle shots.... the kind you see all the time from family vacations, where they simply zoom out to as wide as possible, and take the picture without thinking about anything else. These kinds of shots (mostly panoramas) simply bore me to death, with few exceptions. These are usually so common, there has to be interesting light or weather in order to make it stand out from the others.

    On the other hand, when I look at a book or something from some famous photog who uses wide angle lenses a lot, the composition and relationships in the scene make them much superior to the previously mentioned "average Joe" photos taken from the scenic turnoff on the highway or at the edge of a cliff or mountain or something. To go back to example of Muench, I love some of his photos of southern Utah with all those weird rock formations; they seem to draw me in, and the objects lead my eyes in a way most panorama shots don't. I really respect what he and other good photographers can do with a wide angle lens.

    Also, another thing I thought of is that some scenes seem (to me, anyways) like they need to be compressed or expanded a little bit, by using a longer or wider lens (just like a someone making portraits will use something a little longer). It all depends on what I'm looking at, and how I want to express it as a print.
     
  14. Robert Kennedy

    Robert Kennedy Member

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    Interesting points.

    One challenge of photography is that we are limited by what is there when we take the picture. If we want to change the scene we either have to go to digital editing or traditional methods. Which consume a large amount of time and energy. And some things just can't be done easily.

    I say this with other art forms in mind. My grandfather is a painter. Quite good if I do say so myself. He has much more freedom to change a scene. Often he takes a picture of a scene and then ammends it as needed to create the final piece. This can be quite drastic in some cases. As in removing whole buildings or changing the expression of someone.

    Photography does not lend itself to readily to this kind of major overhaul of an image. The painter has much more freedom in that respect than the photographer.

    So in the end we must do what we can with our tools. And as we do this, I think we all tend to favor a certain method and a certain vision. LFGuy has his preference. What works for him doesn't work the same for say Muench. Both can produce great pictures, but each image will reflect an individual vision which has been influenced by their own individual use of the tools they have at hand.

    Which is just amazing when you think about it.
     
  15. LFGuy

    LFGuy Member

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    I'm not sure about the part of me being able to make great prints (I'm not quitting my job!), but I do agree that everyone has their own vision of how something should be.

    Next trip, though, I'm going to force myself to bring only a wide angle lens in 4x5 and a long lens in 8x10, and see what happens..... force myself out of my comfort zone, so to speak.
     
  16. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    The criteria for a "Normal" lens is an arbitray value (equal to the diagonal of the format) chosen for the lens designers more than to duplicate the perception of vision.

    Somewhere, early in my photography, I read a comprehensive article about a study of human perception, and the conclusion was that human visual perception was equivalent to a 90mm - 100mm lens in 35mm format. The classical choice for that focal length in portraiture is easily understood. That would be equal to - what - something like 150mm in 6cm x 6 cm.