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  1. #41
    polyglot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MattKing View Post
    Those lenses are an example of where a specific, special purpose tool serves the interests of the photographer's vision, because it increases the likelihood it will be brought to fruition.

    Those lenses help good bird photographers succeed - they do not make mediocre bird photographers better.

    The problem is that many people confuse the two situations.
    I think it's basically the same situation: masters using a specific tool to achieve a specific result, followed by a herd of unoriginal tryhards who see only the tool and not the other skills that go into successful art or craft. There are excellent wildlife shooters using 300/2.8s as well as a bunch of cheaper lenses, you get incompetents seeing that some of the best shots are made on $6000 lenses, so that's what they buy.

    By the same token, you get some masterful portraits being made on interesting lenses and they just wouldn't look the same without those lenses - the portraits are masterful largely because of technique and the addition of a Petzval or Verito or whatever adds a crowning touch of something special. Take the same photographer and a modern lens, you'll get a different yet excellent portrait. Give the fancy lens to someone who doesn't know how to compose and light a great portrait, and of course the result is a flat, static portrait with blurry bits in it; the blurry bits no longer add anything.

    I think the whole attitude of "that's easy, I (or "my five-year-old" for bonus insult-points) could do that" is responsible for some of this effect. People can recognize a beautiful result without knowing anything about how it was achieved other than the presence of certain tools and the signature tool-marks they leave, then they get stumped when the special tool doesn't give the same performance in their hands.

    As an example, I'll cite SergeiR from LFPF with this portrait. 8x10" and a Gundlach Radar, which leaves very distinct 'toolmarks' on the image with that glow; the glow is arguably an improvement to the feel of the image but really it succeeds because of composition, posing, lighting, makeup and a great model. I could take his lens and not produce that image in a blue fit.

  2. #42
    Poisson Du Jour's Avatar
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    There are a number of strikingly — no, breathtakingly beautiful portraits in Sergei's collection. Game of Chess is one such, the other being the blandly-named scan0124www.
    Besides excellence in composition, he has mastery of the lens.
    .::Gary Rowan Higgins

    A comfort zone is a wonderful place. But nothing ever grows there.
    —Anon.






  3. #43
    markbarendt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poisson Du Jour View Post
    Besides excellence in composition, he has mastery of the lens.
    Mastery of not just the lens and composition, but the whole system.

    I don't know Sergei but whether it was Adams, or HCB, or Karsh, or Erwitt, or Hurrel, or ...; all our saints seem to have mastered the tools and techniques needed for getting the specific look they wanted.

    Once they found their style (business model including the manufacturing process) they were loathe to change any part of it.

    That is not a critisism, it is a compliment.

    Defining a recognizable individual style within photography is tough, the medium lends itself to copy cats.

    Style is important for pros because it is a quality that galleries, clients, and agents look for and expect, it makes an artist's work salable in practical terms.
    Mark Barendt, Ignacio, CO

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin

  4. #44
    AndreasT's Avatar
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    Having the equipment, finding it , getting it, and affording it is great. Whatever one may photograph. However as stated before, usually those overly concerned what they use, if it be new lenses and stuff or old stuff make inferior photographs. At least in my oppinion.
    People who make great photos and have their own style usually went a long road to get there. Too often people buy equipment, developer films etc. to that "special look". Often not knowing why they want that look.
    I used to work in a professional darkroom where we had many people coming and going doing an internship.
    The guys where always overly intressted in equipment and had little emotion for their photos and the girls did not have a clue about their equipment but in my opinion had the better ideas. There technique was lacking though. I always said the guys should worry less about stuff and girls a bit more , and both would make better photos.
    Too often the equipment is the motiv.

  5. #45
    AndreasT's Avatar
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    ...oh Thomas I do fancy your photos.

  6. #46

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    Quote Originally Posted by polyglot View Post
    I think it's basically the same situation: masters using a specific tool to achieve a specific result, followed by a herd of unoriginal tryhards who see only the tool and not the other skills that go into successful art or craft.
    ...

    As an example, I'll cite SergeiR from LFPF with this portrait. 8x10" and a Gundlach Radar, which leaves very distinct 'toolmarks' on the image with that glow; the glow is arguably an improvement to the feel of the image but really it succeeds because of composition, posing, lighting, makeup and a great model. I could take his lens and not produce that image in a blue fit.
    This unoriginal tryhard has pulled his Gundlach Radar out of the closet to try the same thing. I don't think it will be easy, though. Sergei's portraits are stunning indeed.

  7. #47
    Bill Burk's Avatar
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    If I have a choice between a lens reputed to "have" it over one reputedly ugly. I'll choose the supposedly better one.

    The only time I will find out for sure is when I'm spotting the print.

    By that time it's too late to do anything about it.

  8. #48

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    Why is it cool though, the lens effect thing? Is there a psychological explanation? I mean, we know why James Dean was cool (sexual undercurrents) and why the yo-yo was cool (spectacle = sexual undercurrents), but... why are analog lens effects cool? And why isn't the real thing? This needs to be tackled.

  9. #49
    Brian C. Miller's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Bertilsson View Post
    Do you think that people obsess over lens signatures and bokeh mostly because their photography in general is lacking? Basically substituting technique or lens artifacts for content.

    For example, look at how a lot of over 100 year old portrait lenses are used with wet plate and large format. If you look at many old portraits, the sitter is always centered, and the background is out of focus so that the fall-off imperfections of the lens aren't apparent (or minimized) in the photograph. They tried to work around the shortcomings of the lens. But today all that funky stuff at the edge of the lens' image circle is embraced as 'cool' and 'interesting'... Why? Does it really make the photograph better?
    Imagine this: your photosensitive material is really not that sensitive at all. These days we would rate it as ISO 1 or lower. Besides that, you have about 1-1/2 stops, maybe even two stops at most, of dynamic range. Artificial light consists of a kerosene lantern or a candle. So what do you do?

    You build a studio which has a skylight and a north-light window. Lots of glass so lots of light can get in. Basically, open shade to stay within the dynamic range. Then you have a sitter's chair with a head brace in the back, so the subject can keep still for a minute or two of exposure. You need a monster lens, like f/4, and you have to shoot it nearly wide open just to get enough light for the exposure, yet stopped down enough so the sitter is completely in focus.

    So of course the background is going to be out of focus. So of course the sitter is going to be still and not have much of an expression. This isn't artistic intent, it's just the limits of the available material and equipment. A decade or two later, the materials are still "slow." Tri-X came out in 1940, what, how many decades after the Daguerreotype and how long after wet plate collodion process?

    As for the intent of the modern photographer, maybe the photographer wants it to look that way, and that's all there is to it. Pictorialism started in the late 1800s, and it's still going strong. Instagram is half-based on Pictorialism. Why shoudn't someone want to still do the same thing with opto-chemical photography? There's only so many ways to make a scene dreamy. Adox is introducing its "colour implosion" film. So now we have a run of 35mm film which is marketed specifically at the Pictorialist photographer market.

    I don't think that Pictorialism is a desire to cover up poor talent, any more than Cajun cooking is a desire to cover up bad food.

  10. #50
    markbarendt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by batwister View Post
    Why is it cool though, the lens effect thing? Is there a psychological explanation? I mean, we know why James Dean was cool (sexual undercurrents) and why the yo-yo was cool (spectacle = sexual undercurrents), but... why are analog lens effects cool? And why isn't the real thing? This needs to be tackled.
    Sharpness is a lens effect as much as softness and swirl. Each is "real".

    Each effect is cool because funky lenses, sharp lenses, lens modifications, & Vaseline, can all help me get the effects I want on the negative.

    Each effect is real, which means printing is easier.

    The effect I choose for a given shot is emotional/psychological. It is driven by mood, inspiration, whim, or money.

    My reasons need not be fixed.
    Mark Barendt, Ignacio, CO

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin

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