Sharpness, IQ, Etc. Continued

All the world’s a stage, and the all the men and women merely players <cite>William Shakespeare</cite>

A severely twisted follow-up to the post comparing image quality of ancient Nikkor glass to far more modern equivalents. I thought a slightly misused Shakespeare quote might illustrate what that post was really about. At the very least I want to put that post into a context that’s not arbitrary.

I have one long term project that’s not even close to being complete that may serve to illustrate an appropriate context. Approximately the same time last year I had the opportunity to work on that project for a day. That was not my plan. I had a completely different set of goals and photographs I wanted to make when I boarded a train Friday evening about a year ago. A hurricane or tropical storm, however officially classified, literally rained on my parade. There’s no way to prove it turned out for the best. It certainly didn’t feel that way at the time. I’m still not enamored with the light I was forced to work with. The quantity, the quality, and the color were all challenging — an understatement.

The picture at the top of the post should serve to illustrate a point in a dramatic way. Let’s talk about sharpness. I don’t think any person, even those that debate nits would argue any particular better lens would somehow improve this image. There’s a possiblility a lens capable of higher ultimate resolution might harm a lot of the qualities as a whole. It’s out of focus so sharpness and resolution and MTF all don’t count for anything.

I’m not enamored with out of focus pictures just because they are out of focus. Sure, I take a few on purpose here and there. Reserved for when it feels right and suits the mood and overall gestalt. This particular one has made it though several rounds of “I might use this” editing. The question is why.

People are my favorite subject matter when it comes to photography. Over a very long time the pictures I gravitate to, the ones that excite me, and the ones I find interesting fall into two closely related categories. First, when the world is no longer a stage — when that goes away even if only for a brief moment. You can feel it when it happens. It happens with great photojournalism and documentary photography. Occasionally it happens with commercial, portrait, or other more session oriented circumstances. When it does happen that’s not an assurance you have a photograph that communicates that characteristic well.

The other kind of thing that floats my boat are when pretense and the world disappears but theres a reaction, a provocation, and a “real” moment between photographer and subject — an intimacy. From my perspective they are similar having one nuance of differentiation. The photographer either disappears or not. In both cases minor theoretical optical differences are irrelevant. Gear and glass choices have everything to do with what you are trying to accomplish.


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