This particular sub-forum doesn't get the most traffic but I'm posting this here because although this has primarily to do with view camera adjustments/depth of field, the questions and principles apply to fixed geometry cameras as well, so I'd like to hear from shooters of all formats.

Note: I'm asking for feedback from people who want sharp negatives, and work with landscape/urban landscape, architecture...these kinds of subjects. This thread doesn't concern studio work, portraiture, table-top/still life and/or selective focus styles.

Some context. After a break from large format, I'm going back into 4x5 again, and I'm admitting here and now that as much as I read and practiced, I never got good at focusing the view camera. When it comes to film, darkroom work and printing, I can do whatever I want with few limitations. But when it comes to setting the camera up for the shot, for me that has always been the "drudgery" part of photography. This is probably the opposite situation of that of most photographers.

I have never been confident using tilts and swings. I understand what to do, but I'm never sure if it's right, and usually end up stopping down further than I should probably have to. Often don’t bother even trying tilts when I should. In the end I've usually settled for more diffraction rather than risk a totally screwed up picture. I'd also like to point out the uncertainty regarding depth of field made its way into my 35mm work.

There are people like Adams etc who seem to have done everything by eye and by feel. None of that ever worked for me. Then there’s all the Merklinger stuff. I sort of get it, but it is only straight forward when you have a diagram of the scene viewed from the side. When you’re actually in the field, how are you actually supposed to determine the distances and angles involved in making the decisions about tilt and aperture? It’s not like you can draw lines all over the place.

So here are some questions for people:

1.Situations where there is a lot of depth and multiple planes, and tilts and swings cannot be used:
·How do you decide where to focus?
·Do you use “conventional” depth of field rules?
·Do you focus on the near objects?
·Do you focus at a hyperfocal distance (ie focus on nothing)?
·Do you use Merklinger’s “object plane” method (usually resulting in an infinity bias)?
·Do you focus at infinity?
·How do you determine depth of field?
·Do you simply use the near-far focus method?

2.Situations where tilt can be used:
·How do you decide where to focus?
·Do you determine the tilt angle?
·If you use Merklinger’s methods and the hinge rule, how do you determine where the plane of sharp focus should be? How far below the lens should the hinge line be? How do you estimate all the distance measurements involved? How do you decide on the angle the plane of sharp focus should take from the foreground to the background? Etc etc (there are so many variables in this).
·How do you determine what lies within the depth of field? The math might work nicely on a diagram, but in the field how do you really figure out where things are in the space in front of you?