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Thread: What is focus?

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    markbarendt's Avatar
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    What is focus?

    Her son, H. H. H. Cameron, a photographer himself, recalled that “when focussing and she came to that which was beautiful to her, she stopped there, instead of screwing the lens to the more clearly defined focus which at that time all photographers aimed to secure. (Julia Margaret) Cameron herself, in a letter to Sir John Herschel [England 1782-1871], asked “What is focus- & who has a right to say what focus is the legitimate focus? It is, therefore, not surprising that her images were unsharp; what is more amazing is that some are sharp
    Found in http://research-repository.st-andrew...ndle/10023/505
    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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    cliveh's Avatar
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    Focus is what any photographer wants it to be, as it was for her.

    “The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”

    Francis Bacon

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    "Sharpness is a bourgeois concept"

    - H.C.B
    http://street-photos.net/ | http://felinik.com/ | http://www.facebook.com/jf.felinik

    "The one with the most stuff when he dies wins"

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    markbarendt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Felinik View Post
    "Sharpness is a bourgeois concept"

    - H.C.B
    i like that.
    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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    ic-racer's Avatar
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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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ic-racer View Post
    "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.
    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.

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    RalphLambrecht's Avatar
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    technically, a very good answer.
    Regards

    Ralph W. Lambrecht
    www.darkroomagic.comrorrlambrec@ymail.com[/URL]
    www.waybeyondmonochrome.com

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    markbarendt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ic-racer View Post
    "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.
    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.
    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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    Quote Originally Posted by markbarendt View Post
    i like that.
    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....

    http://street-photos.net/ | http://felinik.com/ | http://www.facebook.com/jf.felinik

    "The one with the most stuff when he dies wins"

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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_...a4/1/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 batwister; 01-23-2013 at 04:29 PM. Click to view previous post history.

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