how can i improve manual focusing ability?
I require more depth than just saying "practice"
im not fed up. I know i need to practice, however im not acqualizing any lessons learned. I focus using the hyperfocal scale. I click the shutter, i develop the fim and it is out of focus. and by looking at the negatives i dobt remember the perceived distance, the actual distance, or the distance that was read on my camera. What ia to learn from such an absensce of information. If i waste time writing it down, the opportunity has pasted. Is there something i can do consciously actively to practice?
What shutter speeds are you shooting at when using the hyperfocal method?
"Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."
- Rob Tyner (1944 - 1991)
Your shooter info says large format, so I'm assuming you are focusing on the ground glass. If not, disregard this.
First, make sure you have a good loupe and can use it to reach fine focus. I use 8x, but many like 4x or 6x loupes. Focus the image on the ground glass by moving the focusing knob both directions from the point of sharpest focus and "zeroing in" on the best focus. Make sure you choose an object with as much contrast/detail as possible to assist in seeing the sharpest focus. Once you can do this, then it is a matter of determining what to focus on and how much to stop down.
Relating to this, I would advise you to ditch the hyperfocal distance method. I would recommend a couple of methods as better.
1) The method I use is based on this web page: http://www.largeformatphotography.info/fstop.html
It takes a bit to dig through all the info here, but the results are worth it. Basically, you determine near and far points of focus and the focus spread on the camera itself, using a scale on the camera bed or rail or measuring using a tape, etc. Then you set the focus exactly halfway between these points. You then use the distance of the focus spread to choose the optimum f-stop.
2) A less technical, but somewhat less precise method is to simply visually focus on something halfway between the points in your scene you wish to be sharp. Then, while observing these atter points through the loupe, stop down until everything is acceptably sharp. Stop down one more stop for safety and shoot.
A good thing to do would be to check if your ground glass and film plane are in the same position, as discrepancies here can lead to focus errors. One test is to lay a ruler flat on a tabletop, and focus the camera, with lens wide open, on the 6-inch mark. Shoot and develop and see if, indeed, the 6-inch mark is the sharpest. If not, your ground-glass position needs adjusting. If that's the case, there is a lot of info here about how to do that.
I apologize for the misunderstanding. I realize my profile says largeformat. however in this case, ive been experimenting with rangefinders.
Thank ypu for your detailed response though
Does your camera actually incorporate a rangefinder as a focusing aid, or are you using a camera where you have to just set the focus distance, based on estimates?
If it does incorporate a rangefinder focusing aid, is it separate or coupled to the focus of the camera?
If you have a coupled (or uncoupled) rangefinder, I'd suggest checking it's accuracy against a useful target (a long picket fence shot at an angle is a good choice - don't forget a tripod and a tape measure).
If you don't have any focus aids, and are basing your focussing on estimates:
1) consider obtaining an accessory rangefinder focussing aid; and
2) combine hyperfocal focussing with practice at estimating distances - i.e. leave the camera set at the hyperfocal distance, but adjust based on estimates at the time of exposure; and
3) make sure that you are able to work at smaller apertures, to take advantage of as much depth of field as you can.
Hope this helps
“Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”
Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2
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