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  1. #41
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Burk View Post
    If I still sound like I'm advocating large format as "the best" then I must be using the wrong word when I say "a contact print from 8x10 looks better". Because by better, I am only describing one dimension of quality. There are so many aspects of a great photograph and resolution is only one of them. It's a "nice to have" - not a "necessary" or even "important" aspect. It happens to be one that I like. But I also like photographs which show their strengths elsewhere.

    I like your phrase "what works and feels natural to use" because that implies the photographer's choice.
    I think we generally agree, Bill, and I do understand where you're coming from. Except I am opposite of you when it comes to resolution and sharpness. I don't think it improves a photograph; it is nod a 'nice to have' in my world. In fact I'm almost entirely neutral to it, to the point where it doesn't really register.

    At the same time, I appreciate a really well printed photograph, and in my darkroom I always strive for making the very best print that I can make. But that never has anything to do with resolution. Ever.
    It's all about mood, and how the print makes me feel, if it conveys what I intended to be felt or not. Therefore 90% of my emphasis when I print is about applying tone and to strengthen the composition with the print values. Am I able to bring to the viewer what I wanted to bring when I exposed the film? The other 10% is design - does it look good or not?

    This is part why I love pinhole and Holga cameras. The way they can accentuate mood by removing sharpness and technical quality is something that is extremely appealing to me. I've been working with a Zero Image 2000 a fair amount, which is a little pinhole camera for 120 6x6 format film. When I used films like TMax 100 or Acros, the lack of grain in a 14" square print makes the print a bit sleepy. With some grain added from HP5+ for example, I get a print quality that I enjoy more, because the film itself adds some interesting texture and life to the shot that to me looks a lot better. The grain adds to the mood.

    The same is true for me if I use cameras that are inherently sharp, but not to the same degree.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that I understand there are some people who appreciate completely grain free prints, with endless detail and baby skin smooth tonal transitions from one gray tone to another. I am not one of those people.
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

    "...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh

  2. #42
    Bill Burk's Avatar
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    I know every time I listen to you Thomas, I come out ahead.

    I came down the road to sharpness through landscapes, and I've told the story of the 35mm shot with dots for Dall Sheep near the meeting of Koyukuk River and Alinement Creek... side-by-side with Dinky Creek in 4x5 where you could recognize people a quarter mile away... which led me to prefer 4x5.

    Does correct focus, or unintentional camera motion blur matter much to you? I know Holga and pinhole throws out the whole question of focus. And I love motion blur of the subject, like a branch I can tell swayed in the wind. But when a camera isn't focused correctly or if the camera moved, that starts to bother me. I remember a photography teacher's nagging about camera blur. Don't drink coffee she said, it gives you the shakes. And my internal response to that tape has always been "I'll use a tripod".

    I also have a vintage print from 35mm which is from a trip that cemented my enjoyment of black and white photography. A shot of a fairy ring encrusted with a light dust of snow which has the right mood, composition, light, weather... but it bugs me that it has either a focus or motion blur error. So I've been forever driven to "remember to use that tripod"...

  3. #43
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    Hi Bill,

    I think we should listen to everybody, and then make up our own minds about what truly matters to us and what doesn't.

    If I take my 5x7 camera out to photograph, I usually don't come back with the pictures I want. If I take the Pentax or Leica 35mm cameras out, I usually get what I want. Go figure. The Hasselblad is even better that way, because I almost always get what I want with it. It's like an extension of my mind. So I live with 35mm and 120 negatives, and I'm as happy as I've ever been photographically.
    Anybody wants to buy a decent Century #2 5x7 camera? I'll make you a good deal!

    Sharpness in focus - it depends on the picture. Some pictures are fleeting moments where motion blur adds to the composition. To give the impression of speed or extreme wind is difficult without blurring something, for example.
    My thinking relates more to the sharpness one gets from the format or camera, though. If you like shooting with 35mm, then shoot with 35mm, and just accept (or even like) that you will live with a smaller negative from which you make your prints. That there is a 'deficiency' compared to a 4x5 negative is irrelevant. Just make your prints to what size you need them and live happily ever after. If you like shooting with 8x10 cameras, and you get the results you want, just go do it.

    But then there's another dimension. We should always, to the utmost of our ability, do what we can to support our ideas and what we want to show. Focus is an important and dynamic factor, and a way to emphasize subject matter. Depth of field is another. If you work with view cameras, perspective is a third. Etc. Some pictures I think work better if the subject matter is in focus from near to infinity. Other subject matter might need less.

    I use a tripod often, but not for spontaneous stuff usually. It's too damned difficult to capture those fleeting moments when I'm on a tripod. Need to react within a split second usually to get those little glimpses that I love so much. Attached is a picture of a young woman having a drink at a local bar. She was outside for 30 seconds, and only turned so I could see her profile for about two seconds. I had spotted her early on, just looking at her wonderful attire, and how she carried herself.
    That's hand held with a 50mm lens, f/2 and 1/30th s. I relied on the slight backlighting to get her hand and the glass, and the profile of her face in focus.
    The second attachment is also 35mm, but on a tripod for about 30 seconds at f/5.6 and a 50 lens, if I remember correctly. Same kind of camera, 400 speed Kodak, totally different approach. Both equally satisfying to me.

    Just make good art, something you're proud of. And have fun.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails drink.jpg   Never Sleeps 2.jpg  
    Last edited by Thomas Bertilsson; 10-20-2013 at 02:24 PM. Click to view previous post history.
    "Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank

    "Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman

    "...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh

  4. #44

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    Quote Originally Posted by cliveh View Post
    A 10" X 8" contact or print will show wonderful detail, but if the content is boring or rubbish, it can never compete with a 35mm print of great composition, context and timing.
    hi clive

    i couldn 't agree with you more -
    you can replace 10x8 by 30x40 tintypes !

    i think it is wonderful that so many people use so many different formats
    it keeps life interesting, but in the end it isn't always about resolution and minute details
    instead it is about something else

  5. #45
    Bill Burk's Avatar
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    Thanks for chiming in jnanian,

    I was hoping you would add your take, since your style is about something else... certainly your work is exempt from criticism under this banner, because you work with freedom and experimentation all the time.

    When the camera blur is part of the mood, or part of the reason the photograph was possible AT ALL then it's important, and belongs.

    But when I intend the photograph to be sharp, and the negative is unsharp... THEN I am self-critical. I went back to look at the vintage prints. The Dall Sheep example is worse than I imagined! There's no sheep!

  6. #46

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Burk View Post
    Thanks for chiming in jnanian,

    I was hoping you would add your take, since your style is about something else... certainly your work is exempt from criticism under this banner, because you work with freedom and experimentation all the time.

    When the camera blur is part of the mood, or part of the reason the photograph was possible AT ALL then it's important, and belongs.

    But when I intend the photograph to be sharp, and the negative is unsharp... THEN I am self-critical. I went back to look at the vintage prints. The Dall Sheep example is worse than I imagined! There's no sheep!

    that's the beauty of photography,
    it can be blury or grainy or sharp and clinical ... from a minox or from a mammoth plate
    as wollensak use to put on their lens caps " let the user be the judge "
    someone else may thing your eye bleedingly sharp image is pure rubbish but if you like it,
    that's the rub ... i am sure there are more than a few people that think
    most everything soft and dreamy is crap, but if the maker likes it --

  7. #47
    Bill Burk's Avatar
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    Here's the shot that convinced me of my NEED to shoot 4x5...

    It IS a little unsharp, and I would have intended it to be sharp. Not that easy for me to go back, though literally just a quick bush pilot's trip past Bettles Field, Alaska and from Summit Lake, a short walk to this point.


    Koyukuk Valley at Alinement Creek

  8. #48
    Roger Cole's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Burk View Post
    Don't drink coffee she said, it gives you the shakes. And my internal response to that tape has always been "I'll use a tripod".
    Obviously she never saw how "unstable" some of us are before our second strong cup.

  9. #49

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Burk View Post
    I also have a vintage print from 35mm which is from a trip that cemented my enjoyment of black and white photography. A shot of a fairy ring encrusted with a light dust of snow which has the right mood, composition, light, weather... but it bugs me that it has either a focus or motion blur error. So I've been forever driven to "remember to use that tripod"...
    I can sympathise with this. I cannot look with anything but nostalgic enjoyment at the first pictures I took many years ago. They aren't sharp enough, mostly badly exposed, badly composed etc. You can fault them on any number of technical issues. What they have in common with my recent photographs is that they show something that I found interesting, important or beautiful. Something that the man (or boy) behind the camera wanted to look at again or show to someone else. We often end up making photographs for the photographs' sake. I think that is wrong. We should make photographs for all the other reasons - for the sake of WHAT we photograph, for ourselves and the other people looking at our work etc. So that fairy ring of yours was important in one way or another, and the fact that it spoke to your inner being at that moment when you made the (imperfect) photograph contributed to the photographer that you have become. Forgive it its imperfections.

  10. #50
    Arcturus's Avatar
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    The more I print 8x10's made from 4x5 negatives the more of a difference I see between 66/645 printed to 8x10. It isn't about sharpness or anything like that, it just has a look that appeals to me. The prints from 4x5 have a very real look to them, like looking through a window, much more so than the 6x6 negatives cropped to 8x10. I think so anyway...

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