Quote Originally Posted by Michael R 1974 View Post
Thank you everyone who responded so far. Iím essentially in agreement with all the comments. Iím just curious about how other people approach this. Even without tilt complications, depth of field is a judgement call. Depending on the picture, Iím not always able to decide between having some element definitely in focus at the expense of some sharpness elsewhere, or having everything ďacceptablyĒ sharp. Sometimes it also seems best in to focus at infinity since distant objects require more definition to appear sharp. Often I will simply expose multiple sheets/frames focused differently, and then make the decision in the darkroom. It might seem odd to bracket exposures for focus rather than exposure/development, but I guess in the end who cares how you get to the final print, as long as you get there.

To clarify one thing, Iím referring tilt/swing movements in the context of the plane of sharp focus and depth of field. I have no issues with rise/fall/shift, and use those movements very often.

Poisson du jour: I agree in principle with pretty much everything you wrote. The problem I run into with tilts is I find the results difficult to judge on the groundglass Ė even after doing this for years. If Iím focusing on say a wall, with the standards parallel, I can see when it is in proper focus. It is either in focus or not. Once tilts are applied however, if is difficult to know exactly where the plane of sharp focus ďcutsĒ the various objects in front of the camera, and where the depth of field limits are. So the reference point for judging focus is ambiguous. Looking at any given part of the scene on the ground glass, as I move the rear standard back and forth, yes I can it get sharper and fuzzier, but even where it is sharpest, is it actually sharp or just sharper than when it is clearly out of focus? Has the tilt made anything better or worse? (Iím probably just not explaining this properly). So I looked to Merklinger and other sources for some tools that would hopefully eliminate some of the uncertainty. Some of these things looked promising, but only on paper where the distances etc are easy to assess. In the field they seemed very difficult to apply.

Focusing on the ground glass and assessing tilt/swing etc is a challenge for everybody, as is estimting distance. I've watched as friends battled over a long period of time to correct focus, adjust tilt, refocus and readjust, all in the dim, wet surrounds of a cold rainforest. And here we've got people saying "it's easy!" Rubbish! I would not bother with LF now with so much fiddling necessary when I can do the same thing, faster and with better eyesight facilitation with 35mm. So really, the focusing it is certainly not something that lends itself to speed or for that matter, accuracy, with any doubt left to be covered by depth of field. Only the mathematical part is accurate (to a point). Everything else is done visually to the best of your perrsonal capacity. This deep technical and mathematical stuff is so totally unnecessary and anal that anybody concentrating just on those things will certainly get a picture (eventually!) but viewers are not going to be any more the wiser (or better informed) at picking up what was done. Of all my images made with applied tilt, not even my old uni Professor picked up the introduction of tilt and extensible DofF/focus peg until it was discussed what I found wrong with the scene and how it was corrected. That is to say that none of the effects will be visible and their merits will be open to judgement irrespective of what the photographer was trying to achieve.

I will point out that depth of field "rules" (or standard placement marks) do not apply when tilt or swing is introduced. The other thing that I learnt in the early 1990s was that ultrawide angle LF lenses e.g. 65mm, will not benefit from any tilt or swing because of inherent great depth of field. Even if you wished to, following with accuracy the movement(s) would see the vast majority of people give it up. In a nutshell, just go out and play with the camera, introducing whatever movements you want to, record notes of what you are doing, shoot and inspect the prints or trannies (not negatives).