Thomas, would you like to expand on that? Are you saying medium and large format made no difference to the quality of your pictures or that there were no improvements in compositions/impact/whatever? I'm not sure what what you mean by "none the better" but I'm interested, because I've just spent a day in the bush shooting 35mm and really loved the ease of it compared with lugging my Mamiya kit around. I'm beginning to wonder, too. I've just returned to the fold after some years of shooting digital and my first impulse was to go MF. But now I'm getting such a buzz out of using all my old manual prime Pentax lenses at their "proper" focal length on my sweetly simple MX and MG and the joyful simplicity of a Retina 1b I picked up recently. I've just started building my darkroom and I guess when I start printing MF and 35mm that'll be the moment of truth, but right now 35mm is giving me goose bumps.
Originally Posted by Thomas Bertilsson
Try not to feed the digi-trolls.
Originally Posted by agfarapid
Well, 'quality' is such a subjective term that I can only give my own account here, and I will try to explain so it's clear.
Originally Posted by lesm
What it boils down to is that I think most photographers spend way too much time on technical aspects of the process, and perhaps not enough time exposing film and printing it.
Over the years I have learned a thing or two about printing, and am now at a level where I can make prints that I am 99% happy with. There is always room for improvement, but I believe it's here where some people continue chasing the last percent, and others focus on developing other aspects of photography, like better use of light, gesture, framing, mood, emotion, etc. I think that I belong mostly in the group that tries to always improve how I see and perceive photographs, and have since a while back left that 1% behind. (Some will claim they do both, and if they can, more power to them. I don't have the urge, or the time to).
So, about quality. I am often commended for the print quality of my photographs. Many can't believe that they view prints from 35mm originals. This isn't an attempt to promote my skills as a printer - in the company of some of the truly great printers here at APUG, it would be foolish to. But the point it, I think my print quality is pretty good.
The argument then about using the Hasselblad instead of the Pentax or Leica takes on a different meaning. I use the Leica a lot; it's employed for portraits and for when I grab a camera that's easy to carry to take along. If I need to get really close, I use the Pentax and extension tubes. I still use my Hasselblad, but it isn't really for anything other than a square negative, exchangeable backs, and the beautiful way in which the lenses 'draw' the picture. It doesn't feel at all necessary, in terms of raw picture quality, to use the Hasselblad (or a sheet film camera) for the sake of just raw picture quality. That isn't even a consideration.
The end result is that I can make 16x20" prints from 35mm negatives that I am completely happy with, while using a camera that I can hand hold for the most part, be quick and swift with, react to moments that otherwise just flow right past me without enough time to set up a 4x5" camera on a tripod. That to me is tremendously powerful, and the freedom it allows me to just focus on the pictures I value 10,000 times more than a relatively small gain in raw picture quality, and the added benefit is that since I'm more flexible with HOW I can use the camera, I find that I record more pictures that I am happy with. That's what I want my photography to be about, getting prints that I am happy with. The rest is highly immaterial by comparison, and that's what I mean when I say that a larger negative doesn't insure better pictures or better prints. It's a combination of print quality, ease of use, and the ability to actually get the shot before it's too late.
That's how I live in my photography life, and this uncluttered existence, where I don't think so much in terms of ultimate print quality, has liberated how I work, and I am happier than ever with both my results, and the shooting itself.
"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
Thanks, Thomas, that's very clear and I agree with much of what you say, particularly the point about "ease of use and the ability to actually get the shot before it's too late." I spent this morning in a woolshed photographing a shearing gang at work. I had to move quickly, bending and stretching to keep out of their way and because the shearers were bent double I had to be on my knees to get any kind of shot of their faces. I couldn't possibly have done that with my Mamiya 645 and a hand-held meter. (I couldn't use a flash either - it might have startled the sheep and upset the shearers. Definitely not a good thing to do!). 35mm was the only way to go.
I'm encouraged by your comments about your printing experiences with 35mm. It helps give me some kind of target to aim for. Cheers for that.
Originally Posted by lesm
I too believe Thomas made great points about quality and I too enjoy 35mm's flexibility and automation on occasion, but I don't see "couldn't" and "only" as really applying here, there are very few absolutes when making photographs. I think that is part of what Thomas is getting at.
For example if I were in that shearing barn I'd have probably chosen my RB with a waist level finder, instead of 35mm. The intent is not necesarily to get a bigger negative but so that I wouldn't have to be on my knees so much and to be able to more easily get a floor level perspective.
In camera metering also isn't a big issue for me. Regardless of the camera in use manual settings are my norm, I typically meter with a handheld once for a given lighting situation, then meter once again when the light changes. I rarely let any camera decide what the exposure should be.
In the shearing barn I'd have taken four quick readings so that I'd know what to set the camera at depending on the direction I was shooting.
These choices work for me, not everybody cares about floor level perspectives and if metering every shot is important in somebody else's style/system so be it.
Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR
"We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin
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Yes I see I got the price of that film wrong but I still am going to get some. I'll post an H&D curve from a calibrated sensitometer when I get the film.
For the last few years I have been printing my 35mm work just a tad bigger than 4x6" centered on an 8x10 sheet of paper. At that size I can really concentrate on content and tonality and pretty much ignore any issue of "which lens is sharper."
Originally Posted by ic-racer
For kicks, the next time you mount one of those 4x6/8x10s don't center it vertically. Move the print up a bit. I used to do the centering thing and then one day I had an art framer mount a 16x20 for me and he weighted the bottom almost an inch compared to the top. Boy, what a difference! I don't know if there's a 'golden ratio' to follow or if you just need an eye (which I didn't have) but I think you'll be surprised by the effect.
Yes, good point about 'even borders'. I will say that in the interest of simplification, I have the easel borders set up even. This is because sometimes I print "upside down" and sometimes not. We could have a whole thread on this, but when I analyze the projected image to plan composition, dodging and burning, sometimes I like looking at it upside down on the easel. Other times I like it right-side-up.
Another somewhat subtle finding is that when holding 8x10s in the hand the even borders seem to work better (those prints in the picture are flattened umounted 8x10 sheets), and when framing a print for wall hanging, the slight upward displacement of the image can look better.
Yes. You know, after posting that I wondered if I had spoken too soon. In your 8x10s the borders might serve only to separate the image from a possibly distracting background, so being centered all around does not jar the eye a bit because the mount becomes the wall, the entirety. I dug up a couple old 11x14s on 16x20 boards that I had centered and, yes, it is not bad at all. But an old mounted and framed image that was centered definitely looked 'heavy', static, and it worked against the full-frame 1:1.5 of the image. I'm trying to think of what it is about these two environments that makes centering work in one case and up-shift work in another. I suspect it involves some artistic understanding I do not have. (Those look like nice images, by the way.)
Originally Posted by ic-racer