What is focus?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by markbarendt, Jan 19, 2013.

  1. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Found in http://research-repository.st-andrews.ac.uk/handle/10023/505
     
  2. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    Focus is what any photographer wants it to be, as it was for her.
     
  3. Felinik

    Felinik Member

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    "Sharpness is a bourgeois concept"

    - H.C.B
     
  4. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    i like that.
     
  5. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    "Focus" has a specific definition as dictated by the physics of light. Perhaps you mean "what is it to be 'in-focus?'" That is a subjective concept.
     
  6. Prof_Pixel

    Prof_Pixel Member

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    I would say the the term 'in focus' has a specific optical definition; when 'in focus' a spot would have the smallest circle of confusion.

    The term 'focus' by itself doesn't seem to have a specific meaning.
     
  7. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    technically, a very good answer.
     
  8. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    They're not my words, they belong to Ms. Cameron, I excerpted a select few for the title.

    I think it would be quite valid to define "in focus" as "where the expected image looks right on the ground glass", essentially it can be "focussed properly for the task at hand".

    I think her point is that a common/shared/scientific definition isn't a requirement of good photography.

    In context Ms. Cameron is one of the people who helped start the soft focus era in photography.

    In the paper I referenced above they had an interesting discussion about focusing the lenses of her day, her choices, and her possible failings; seems the chromatic aberration on many lenses required a normal movement of 1/40th of the focal length to fix focus, after you focused. It was not a WYSIWYG world as it is today.
     
  9. Felinik

    Felinik Member

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    Yup, it's a great quote from a man who as far as I have seen has not really published a lot of unsharp photos....

    :D
     
  10. batwister

    batwister Member

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    In terms of pictorialism, I guess the strongest formal element would be where the 'focus' lies. That's to say, the apparition to which your eyes are led. This is something F/64 didn't get in its clinical approach - i.e. if everything is in focus, what are we looking at? The boards, the thistles, the texture of the wood? http://static2.artsy.net/additional_images/4e6783252b95000001005ba4/1/large.jpg The only answer is "everything", since F/64 was a statement of technical intent - resolving power.

    Looking at Weston's still life work aside from F/64, the statement lives in his concentration on form and sharpness becomes an incidental necessity. Where F/64 was about objective 'focus', pictorialism was about subjective 'focus' - it took a while before photographers realised both were vital in making a great image.

    Subjective 'focus' shouldn't be confused with 'focal point' since much of pictorialism, like F/64 was in essence abstract. Most great photographs or paintings have multiple focal points.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 23, 2013
  11. Curt

    Curt Subscriber

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    "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
     
  12. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    A bit of irony, eh?
     
  13. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    That's my biggest struggle with f64 type stuff.
     
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  15. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    You mean a specific meaning other than its definition?

    Focus = The point to which rays that are initially parallel to the axis of a lens or mirror are converged or from which they appear to diverge.
     
  16. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    So, how is a technical definition important to a work of art?
     
  17. Prof_Pixel

    Prof_Pixel Member

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  18. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    What if a photograph is about everything in the photograph? Why must a photographer lead a viewer's eye? That old "what are we looking at" bit always bothered me.
     
  19. Vilk

    Vilk Member

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  20. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Couldn't translate, what language.
     
  21. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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  22. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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  23. Ghostman

    Ghostman Subscriber

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    What is in focus is that which the focus is on. I prefer on focus.
     
  24. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Purely for clarity I'm going to oversimplify a bunch and it reflects my personal preferences.

    When I look at Ansel Adams' Clearing Winter storm I think "Wow, nice background!"

    When I look at Ansel Adams portrait of Georgia O'Keeffe and Orville Cox I just think "Wow!"

    Yeah, the subject matter is different. But, as truly good and really honestly special as the former is, it is still very much like looking out a window. The latter really gives me something to look at.

    Lest you think it is purely a bias toward portraits, http://www.flickr.com/photos/vishal_mathur/2802653820/ That shot gives me something to look at and keeps my attention better than Clearing Winter Storm. As does this http://www.flickr.com/photos/8703006@N05/2763181408/in/photostream

    For a photo to keep me interested, it has to give me something specific to look at or I lose interest.

    Similarly, when someone says "Wow, you really nailed the focus/exposure/made a great print." It is a compliment about my skill with my tools and I do appreciate those comments. When someone says "wow great shot" and they ignore the print quality I feel I have done much better.
     
  25. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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  26. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    This was helpful as it explains how you look at photographs, which I appreciate. I guess I just look at things differently. I think where we are most different on this is when you say a photo must have something specific to look at to maintain your interest.

    Regarding what you said about viewer impressions, I agree. I would much rather someone just liked one of my shots (or not) rather than simply complimenting me on technical quality, sharpness etc. I include compositional tools, selective focus etc. under the heading "technical" though. Perhaps some would disagree with me on that extension.