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Roger Hicks -- Author of The Rangefinder Book

Roger Hicks is a well known photographic writer, author of The Rangefinder Book, over three dozen other photographic books, and a frequent contributor to Shutterbug and Amateur Photographer. Unusually in today's photographic world, most of his camera reviews are film cameras, especially rangefinders. See www.rogerandfrances.com for further background (Frances is his wife Frances Schultz, acknowledged darkroom addict and fellow Shutterbug contributor) .


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Old 09-05-2011   #41
Juan Valdenebro
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There's a huge difference between seeing our own images on a PC and saying wow I love my gear, and making great photographs. This thread is about the latter concept, and about how important very high IQ is for that. It isn't at all. We can check which great photographs in photography history have more IQ than that of any M8 or M9...

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Old 09-05-2011   #42
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Cameras are like guns, most of them shoot better than I.

However, some do not. If the camera/lens at hand produces a handsome decent size print, it may well be good enough.

As having been caught with the wrong or no equipment, by all means carry what you will.

As to P&S, there are some that will catch an image I would not otherwise catch as I just cannot, or will not, carry my proper camera kit everywhere at all times. At one time, that meant MF, several bodies loaded with color and B&W.

Question has been, how many do I have to buy to find one that produces images, "good enough".

Some seem to have some awful sensors/lenses.


I find the Canon G9 or 10 good enough often, with the result of some good prints.

I also try to have a newer Sony with a decent hunk of glass, as total pocket camera, I really like a viewfinder though, but at this point it is what it is.

In a few years, the P&S's will all be in cell phones, are there any with Leitz or Zeiss glass? Must be by now. ;-)

Regards, John
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Old 09-05-2011   #43
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Quote:
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Cameras are like guns, most of them shoot better than I.
Dear John,

An intriguing analogy, as I have a 1930s Colt National Match. I can shoot a lot straighter with that than I can with a 'cooking' Colt .45, but how much is that (a) expectation/'comfort'/sentimental value (we inherited it from my late father-in-law) and (b) the fact that it's factory blueprinted?

Perhaps still more relevantly, how close is the analogy between 'shooting straight' (which is pretty much all there is with a gun) and technical/ aesthetic qualities in photography?

Cheers,

R.
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Old 09-05-2011   #44
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To loosely quote one Roger Hicks (as I remember it from a magazine article): while a truly great image would shine through even with mediocre technical quality, good quality would never hurt
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Old 09-05-2011   #45
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A lot of the time, I suggest, the answer is "Not very". Only very, very rarely do I need the kind of quality I can get from (say) my 75 Summicron on my M9.

To me, it's a lot more important that my Leicas are (relatively) small and light and (for me) extremely easy and pleasant to use. Conversely, I get no pleasure at all from trying to use a camera the size of a cigarette packet with a screen on the back.

It comes back yet again to the 'quality threshold'. Once a camera delivers results that are 'good enough', then they're, well, good enough. My old Pentax SV with its 50/1.4 is 'good enough'. After that, for me, it's usually down to how happy I am using the camera: to how easily I can use it to get the pictures I want. If I want the ultimate in quality, after all, I can always switch to a bigger format. All the stuff about 'Leica glass' is usually irrelevant.

Who else feels the same way?

Cheers,

R.
Roger

I realized that I get 'better' photos (not necessariy in terms of just IQ) with cameras I enjoy using.

I have a couple of cameras - Nikon SLRs, Hasselblad 6x6 and Pentax 67II - and pick one depending on my mood for that day. On some days, I can pick up the same camera and shoot roll after roll. On some days, I get sick of it and won't even want to see or touch it (to be honest, to the extent of wanting to sell it for something else).

No matter which one ended up in my hands I had always gotten the shots I like. Who cares what others think since I do not shoot for them but for myself. Yet my family enjoyed my photos tremendously even for shots I thought were crap.
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Old 09-05-2011   #46
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Dear John,

An intriguing analogy, as I have a 1930s Colt National Match. I can shoot a lot straighter with that than I can with a 'cooking' Colt .45, but how much is that (a) expectation/'comfort'/sentimental value (we inherited it from my late father-in-law) and (b) the fact that it's factory blueprinted?

Perhaps still more relevantly, how close is the analogy between 'shooting straight' (which is pretty much all there is with a gun) and technical/ aesthetic qualities in photography?

Cheers,

R.
Roger,
I believe it is having an expectation that you, when you do your part, will not be disappointed in the results by the performance of your equipment. It is also in how well you know your tools.

I would like to concentrate with the composition, expression of the subject, and the light with the tools appropriately following my lead.

I have pictures in my mind that I failed to capture due to the wrong equipment, and often, just timing-- you cannot stop the car, the subject is gone, expression, and perhaps the worse is some technical difficulty.

As to Colt's Factory standards, I can tell you have not toured them, as my late gunsmith had, there were some surprises. My 1873 shot much better when they changed the barrel from one marked 44 to one was was 44. Glad they got it that way around, would not care to try to force a 45 down a 44 barrel.

Regards, John
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Old 09-05-2011   #47
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Image quality is not the same as technical quality or quality of technique.
Even a Leica photo can sometimes be improved with a tripod and a bit of patience.
I you argue that it's not what the machine was made for, That's a very limited viewpoint.
Many use a Graphic for both street and tripod use. So. Image or technical quality?
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Old 09-05-2011   #48
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I agree with you, and it's there, precisely, where the problem is: image quality is not what most people call image quality: that should be (and is by some people) called technical quality.

Image quality, as its name includes image, talks about the image and its qualities as image, and that includes several fields... Those things that make an image valuable: ALL of them decided by the photographer, not by the lens... Real IQ indeed includes the quality (skills) of the technical use of materials and gear by the photographer, and the way the photographer composes and handles a given situation... And some concepts or personal comments we can perceive while seeing that image... And beauty, art... That's what IQ means... It's "technical quality of an image" what talks just about how much of what the lens could have done, was finally done -again by the photographer- while hitting the shutter... By the way, that optimal, resolution tests (& others) quality, present in a great lens, isn't on real photographs most of the times, even if we talk about great photographers...

If we can't put that optimal, top technical quality in our images while handholding, and we say Leica lenses are far better than other brands, but we don't place a tripod and close our lenses 4 stops, why do some people prefer to own Leica lenses no matter if their photographs are crap? Because marketing is there, telling people about IQ: the great quality you'll see in your images... A delicate lie... They don't say the great technical design of the expensive lens you pay but can't use as well as others use cheaper lenses... It's what a previous member wrote: "I love to see on my screen the great technical capabilities of the gear I own"... Sometimes I wonder if people buying expensive gear only, really believe that gear can help for better photographs, or if what's happened is that they do know it can't help a single bit, but they're sure they can't get great photographs and then accept to play the great lenses game... Criticizing them for being great lenses collectors would be as absurd as if they decided to criticize great photographs done with cheaper equipment or decided to say those photographs would have been better with a more expensive lens...

And if we talk about a Leica symbol as HCB (or most others), very few of his photographs shot with Leica have superb technical quality: they are clearly below what his lenses could have done, and below ANY present day Voigtländer lens, and most of his images have wonderful IQ no matter if they're way below his lenses' technical capabilities... Yet people dream of "a better lens in my hands"... I guess photography is not what most gear buyers like or want or care about... Why do people confuse sharp with good that much?

As Roger said, small size of RFs are what counts out there... And low sound. Honestly if I could buy a line of smaller, half frame Bessas just as wonderful as the full frame ones I use, I'd go that way without hesitation... A sharper image is not better, as a bigger painting isn't either... The value of creation is in other place. ALL OF ITS VALUE.

Cheers,

Juan
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Old 09-05-2011   #49
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I think the term 'image quality' is a bit misleading. I prefer to speak/think of the 'technical quality' of an image.

[EDIT: please see Juan's lines above, posted 6 minutes before mine -- he also distinguishes between image quality and technical quality.]

That aside, I agree with apparently most of you that some photographs are very good despite being of mediocre or even poor technical quality. I still want my own images to be as sharp as possible (under the circumstances), have a contrast as nice as possible, etc... I'm pleased with my own stuff only in those rather rare occurrences when I manage to make a photograph strong in content and well done technically.

My good but technically poor images I consider failures. I didn't make it right. Even if it's good anyway.
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Old 09-05-2011   #50
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Quote:
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I think the term 'image quality' is a bit misleading. I prefer to speak/think of the 'technical quality' of an image.

That aside, I agree with apparently most of you that some photographs are very good despite being of mediocre or even poor technical quality. I still want my own images to be as sharp as possible (under the circumstances), have a contrast as nice as possible, etc... I'm pleased with my own stuff only in those rather rare occurences when I manage to make a photograph strong in content and well done technically.

My good but technically poor images I consider failures. I didn't make it right. Even if it's good anyway.
Most great photographers don't.

Maybe some of them you've done and just talked about, are good, and nothing else. No failure, and no poorness.

Cheers,

Juan
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Old 09-05-2011   #51
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Lack of technical quality is for the most part, unintentional, albeit there are many ways to fail in the aesthetics. There is a line where lack of technical quality can interfere with an image, perhaps not the same line in every case.

Handsome images are rarely unintentional or accidental.

The HCB image of the man jumping is often cited, but there are elements in focus and unblurred in the frame, making the blurring of the man seem intentional.

I have to say, yet again I am sure, that a display of three floors of his work in Paris years ago was most impressive and the technical quality was much more than good enough. All were framed alike, all were 11x14. I have rarely seen an exhibit in which I admired equally almost all of the images.


Regards, John
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Old 09-05-2011   #52
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
Dear John,

An intriguing analogy, as I have a 1930s Colt National Match. I can shoot a lot straighter with that than I can with a 'cooking' Colt .45, but how much is that (a) expectation/'comfort'/sentimental value (we inherited it from my late father-in-law) and (b) the fact that it's factory blueprinted?

Perhaps still more relevantly, how close is the analogy between 'shooting straight' (which is pretty much all there is with a gun) and technical/ aesthetic qualities in photography?

Cheers,

R.
A Colt National Match is a factory tuned target pistol and should not be compared to standard production line models for the potential to shoot accurately. Similar to comparing a Sweenifed Jupiter lens to a bog standard version.

Bob
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Old 09-05-2011   #53
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The more I think about this issue of image "quality" the less well defined it seems to become for me. I suspect that quality isn't easily defined through the typical Boolean judgements of sharp/blurry, grainy/smooth, tonally smooth/high contrast, one/zero, yes/no, good/bad, acceptable/unacceptable.

Although we can discuss images in terms of their technical merit (like image sharpness, granularity, tonal quality, etc.), I doubt the validity of any conclusion that presumes sharp, grain-free, tonally smooth images are intrinsically "better quality" images than otherwise.

My experience has shown that, just as often as not, those images most likely to appeal to my emotions (that being a strong personal decider in my judgement of an image's overall effectiveness) are often replete with artifacts such as granularity, camera/subject movement or severe tonal range, especially street/documentary photography where the subject of people, or the built environment, is central to the theme.

I also think that there are other issues of quality besides the adequacy of one's technical proficiency with, and choice of, gear. What about the quality of one's photographic vision, or ability to see past the minutia of the viewfinder's perspective and into the heart of what the image is trying to convey to the viewer? I see the issue of the quality of the photographer's intent to be at least as important as the quality of his lens' MTF charts or film's H&D curves.

~Joe
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Old 09-05-2011   #54
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It depends on the usage of the image. If the image is journalistic for example content trumps technical perfection. If it's advertising, commercial or art then technical perfection is number one. The final use dictates where priorities fall. When I started my career in 1968 as a pj I shot 99% of my work with my Leicas but when I started transitioning into advertising photography in 1972 I went to mostly 8x10 and 4x5 and occasionally 11x14.

Edit: I started to say i wouldn't use 35mm / film or digital if I wanted ultimate quality but then I thought about what would be the correct choice to shoot sports. If I were shooting football MF digital would not be the correct choice vs a 35mm DSLR. The quality from a 35DSLR would exceed what you could do with MF digital just because of the speed and optics available for the 35 format. I can't imagine how difficult it would be to shoot sports with a Hasselblad with a 500mm lens or a Speed Graphic with a 10" tele.

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Old 09-05-2011   #55
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Before I add anything to this conversation, I'll say that this is a place where there are no hard-and-fast rules. A lot depends on the photographer, the subject, the intent, and the uses to which the images will be put.

It's easy to come up with technically mediocre pictures that nevertheless are important images. But it is even easier to come up with technically mediocre pictures that are not important images.

All that said, many of the most significant photographs are pictures of very dynamic and fluid situations where, despite all odds, the photographer puts everything together: subject, lighting, composition... and also nails focus, exposure, and walks away with a sharp and easily printable image.

It's the whole package.

Raghubir Singh has many extraordinary examples of this. So does Salgado.

Let's get real: many of Salgado's signature images would have nowhere near the visual impact that they do if they were not sharp enough to be printed big. That in turn requires good glass employed with exacting technique, both in the field and in the darkroom.

The smaller the film or sensor, the more enlargement is required. And the greater the enlargement, the better your glass, film (or sensor), and technique must be.

Bruce Davidson is another one -- his body of work is chock-full of technically meritorious images that have all the great artistic properties mentioned on this thread — and they have even more impact because they are, in the purely technical sense, good pictures. See his work in Subway, and consider the skill that it took to get underground images of that technical quality with the equipment and (especially) the color films available in the late 1970s and early 80s.

Bill Allard is another: often working in near darkness at the edge of what was possible with K64 or 200, hand holding at a half a second and walking away with a truly great image. If you told Allard that technical chops weren't important he'd just laugh at you. Not all of the pictures are sharp but when they are not sharp everything else is there: movement, composition, emotional content, color balance, tonality, exposure.

Photography is a technical medium. Serious photographers use technique to obtain the most expressive and powerful images possible. Period.
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Old 09-05-2011   #56
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Those things that make an image valuable: ALL of them decided by the photographer, not by the lens...
Indeed, it's widely understood that Cartier-Bresson never cleaned his lenses, as doing so was bourgeois.
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Old 09-05-2011   #57
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Photography is a technical medium. Serious photographers use technique to obtain the most expressive and powerful images possible. Period.
What about...?: "Photography is an expression field, and technique is not the most relevant part of it, but the results, considering the degree of success of that personal expression... Best photographers can communicate and create their most expressive and powerful images even without the use of impressive "technique" in the most academic style... Basically, as in other arts... Technique lovers armies are once and again crushed by the weight of freedom and originality... In the same way, painting is a technical medium, but that doesn't mean only paintings that reproduce reality almost perfectly can be considered paintings, or good ones..."

Or what about... ?: "Great photographs can be made by people with little knowledge of technique and using cheap equipment"...

Or maybe defining technique would help...

Cheers,

Juan
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Old 09-05-2011   #58
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Just as Bach did not require technical mastery of his medium, neither did Michelangelo. Right, Juan?

...and Jimi Hendrix didn't have serious technical chops, either. Or if he did, he didn't need them. Amiright?
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Old 09-05-2011   #59
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By the way, I am not suggesting that technique has any value by itself. Technique is useful only as a means to an artistic or narrative end. But to deprecate the importance of technique is to deprecate the tremendous skill – the virtuosity – of the very best artists – musicians, composers, writers, sculptors, and, yes, photographers – who have ever lived.

Cartier-Bresson is actually a poster child for this. He placed less emphasis on sharpness, but spent thousands upon thousands of hours improving his ability to know what the camera would see and to control the camera – to tame the mechanical beast – to capture the exact instant and framing that he wanted. That is a consummate technique game. Make no mistake, HC-B wanted the most technically proficient image he could get under the conditions he was shooting in!

Indeed, one might reasonably say that HC-B's extraordinarily honed fast-twitch hand-eye skill set was closer to the skill set of a really accomplished video game player than to that of the average studio photographer – but in reality it reflects merely a different technical emphasisnot a lack of technique.

Different photographers wish to communicate different things, and they therefore emphasize the development and use of different technical skills. But I would submit that nearly all truly great photographers have deep, if divergent, technical skill sets.
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Old 09-05-2011   #60
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Just as Bach did not require technical mastery of his medium, neither did Michelangelo. Right, Juan?

...and Jimi Hendrix didn't have serious technical chops, either. Or if he did, he didn't need them. Amiright?
If you really knew about Bach, you'd know he was one of the less orthodox composers of his time, baroque, and you'd also know on his motets he has technical extravaganzas as wild as four continuous semitones on different voices sounding at the same time... Anyway I doubt you know in an auditive way what that means... And obviously you don't know what Bach meant in the development of the well tempered keyboards music... It will be enough telling you that the most "technical" masters of counterpoint in Bach's days, considered him a young crazy guy who should care more about technique. The names of those critics of his freedom, have been forgotten... And the masses, like you, consider him a newer example of academic technique.

I see you didn't understand why I told you technique should be defined first... For some people technique is the same as technical quality in an image... Not to me... To me, there are complex things required for great photography, and as in any art, great masters know about them... But those required things are not in general the ones most people consider...

If you imagine Winogrand or HCB shooting with a lens stopped down for as fast shooting as possible, knowing about the light surrounding them, and trying to be there in the best possible ways, that's technique to me. But never being worried about sharper images... Recognizable subjects are more than enough. So maybe we agree...

But all great masters of the past had respect for what meant technique only in their minds, but they didn't respect parts of what was considered "a technical requirement" to be part of their academic disciplines...

In other words, to me photography requires the technique most great street photographers talk about, but not the technique aperture64 group talked about... To me photography is a more visceral, moving thing, instead of a delicate labour of painters based on negatives... I have never considered how sharp a Salgado image is... His best shots are not the best because of sharpness... They're the best because of his technique, but only when that word is not related to technical/gear/tripod/format/printing quality... His technique before hitting the shutter only, and technique there includes subjective decisions a lot more important than the equipment.

Maybe we agree...

Cheers,

Juan
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Old 09-05-2011   #61
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I'm a musician and I can't tell you how many times I've heard this argument as it relates to music. In one camp you have those who favor technique and the attempted mastering of the instrument in order to get there music across (thats me). Those in the other camp claim that the technicians music and playing lack "feel", "passion", and sounds "sterile". Now we as technically minded musicians claim that the other camp use the words "feel" as an excuse to not have to learn play well, or more technical. In the end the fact is that if it's good...then it's good. That applies to music, photography and just about anything else in life.

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Old 09-05-2011   #62
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Anyway I doubt you know in an auditive way what that means...
When I was a child my mother paid our household's rent largely by teaching classical piano, and the French baroque style harpsichord that my father designed and built from scratch – not from a kit – is still used in the practice rooms and occasionally in performance at Stanford University.



So, you know, at least try to avoid making stupid assumptions, Juan.

By the way, my dad took the picture with an M3 and a DR-Summicron 50. And yes, that was probably overkill for a snapshot of the harpsichord.
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Old 09-05-2011   #63
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I'm a musician and I can't tell you how many times I've heard this argument as it relates to music. In one camp you have those who favor technique and the attempted mastering of the instrument in order to get there music across (thats me). Those in the other camp claim that the technicians music and playing lack "feel", "passion", and sounds "sterile". Now we as technically minded musicians claim that the other camp use the words "feel" as an excuse to not have to learn play well, or more technical. In the end the fact is that if it's good...then it's good. That applies to music, photography and just about anything else in life.
Well said. In music as in photography, it depends on what you're trying to convey. Some messages can be conveyed in a (relatively) artless way. Many, many others demand technique. If someone wants to be the John Lydon of street photography, who am I to stop him?
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Old 09-05-2011   #64
Juan Valdenebro
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Obviously there's no other way to play an instrument than learning its technique... Same with photography... But if you hear Kempff and Menuhin playing a Beethoven sonata, they sound better than other players could while playing with better -technically speaking- instruments: you could even give Wilhelm and Yehudi cheap instruments and bad mics and yet they'd be the best ones... Even in baroque interpretation, if you hear Bylsma playing a Bach solo partita for cello, his romantic playing could be defined as lack of square baroque technique, but he doesn't care at all... What he listens to, isn't precisely words ... As you say, results shine... I never meant no technique is better, or makes us better... Only said real technique in a photographer is -for results- a lot better than technical qualities on lenses or images... HCB would make the same ouvre with any camera or lens, even with a $10 disposable one, and some of those images could be sharper than others he made with his Summicron...

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Old 09-05-2011   #65
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Maybe we agree...
I'd like it if we did agree. I don't think that we do. I don't think we agree about Salgado, and I don't think we agree about Bach, who was perhaps the greatest technical genius in all of musical history.

It seems as though you think "technique" means "orthodoxy." Strange interpretation, that.
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Old 09-05-2011   #66
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When I was a child my mother paid our household's rent largely by teaching classical piano, and the French baroque style harpsichord that my father designed and built from scratch – not from a kit – is still used in the practice rooms and occasionally in performance at Stanford University.



So, you know, at least try to avoid making stupid assumptions, Juan.

By the way, my dad took the picture with an M3 and a DR-Summicron 50. And yes, that was probably overkill for a snapshot of the harpsichord.
My first career was music, and I know lots of musicians from all over the world who cared about technique a lot, and had the same technique Bach had, and became nothing... You may have had music around your home and your parents, but yet I consider correct what I said, because Michelangelo and Bach and Hendrix were not special because of their technique... Indeed they became special to their worlds because they went against what was considered traditional technique in their days, in one way or another... They were creators, even of their own languages... I did no stupid assumptions: you're clearly giving technique more relevance than I consider appropriate... That has no relation with your father building an instrument, or your mother giving classes... Or maybe it has... I'm glad I hear Hendrix instead of 10,000 guitar players with more technique than Jimi... Technique is not a media to get anywhere interesting. Great gear either. It's heart and concept what matters.

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Old 09-05-2011   #67
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HCB would make the same ouvre with any camera or lens, even with a $10 disposable one, and some of those images could be sharper than others he made with his Summicron...
Yet HC-B didn't use another lens or camera. He used Leicas. Why? Because he wanted to give himself every possible advantage, every chance to come home with the best possible image. The technical aspects of the camera – the fast lens, the accurate rangefinder, the quiet shutter, and the optical excellence of the system that allowed him to use a tiny 35mm negative and get acceptable quality – made his work possible in the first place.
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Old 09-05-2011   #68
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I'd like it if we did agree. I don't think that we do. I don't think we agree about Salgado, and I don't think we agree about Bach, who was perhaps the greatest technical genius in all of musical history.

It seems as though you think "technique" means "orthodoxy." Strange interpretation, that.
No he wasn't: it was Mozart. Since he was a child and until he died.

And yet you haven't defined what you mean with technique in photography... Contrary to what you insist on saying, I guess if you do, you'll see how much we agree...

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Old 09-05-2011   #69
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Yet HC-B didn't use another lens or camera. He used Leicas. Why? Because he wanted to give himself every possible advantage, every chance to come home with the best possible image. The technical aspects of the camera – the fast lens, the accurate rangefinder, the quiet shutter, and the optical excellence of the system that allowed him to use a tiny 35mm negative and get acceptable quality – made his work possible in the first place.
Wrong. HCB used cameras that were no Leicas too...

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Old 09-05-2011   #70
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Wrong. HCB used cameras that were no Leicas too...
Sure. But seldom. As you know quite well, he mainly used Leicas throughout his career. Not Dianas, not Holgas, not pinhole cameras.
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Old 09-05-2011   #71
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Do you really think that brand was relevant to his photographs?

I think he & his photographs have been SERIOUSLY relevant to that brand, which is a totally different story...

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Old 09-05-2011   #72
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Yet HC-B didn't use another lens or camera. He used Leicas. Why? Because he wanted to give himself every possible advantage, every chance to come home with the best possible image. The technical aspects of the camera – the fast lens, the accurate rangefinder, the quiet shutter, and the optical excellence of the system that allowed him to use a tiny 35mm negative and get acceptable quality – made his work possible in the first place.
My guess is that he used Leicas because because everybody among his photojournalist friends used them, being one of the better compact cameras of the day, and because he could afford them.

It's normal for you to assign great importance to the technical aspects, given that you are a technically-minded person working in a technical profession, but we shouldn't project that onto HCB.
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Old 09-05-2011   #73
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could all members who don't like each other please avoid each...please.

this constant bickering back and forth is annoying and soon all of you will be given a temporary ban...if this continues.
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Old 09-05-2011   #74
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My guess is that he used Leicas because because everybody among his photojournalist friends used them, being one of the better compact cameras of the day, and because he could afford them.

It's normal for you to assign great importance to the technical aspects, given that you are a technically-minded person working in a technical profession, but we shouldn't project that onto HCB.

That's not quite what I'm saying.

I don't think it matters particularly that it was a (brand-name) Leica, but I DO think it matters that HC-B used a camera with specific technical characteristics that were well suited to what he was trying to accomplish in an expressive sense. Yes, there were a few other comparable cameras that he could have used in the same way.

The point is that he was not using a Holga or a Speed Graphic. As I wrote above:
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Technique is useful only as a means to an artistic or narrative end. But to deprecate the importance of technique is to deprecate the tremendous skill – the virtuosity – of the very best artists – musicians, composers, writers, sculptors, and, yes, photographers – who have ever lived.

Cartier-Bresson is actually a poster child for this. He placed less emphasis on sharpness, but spent thousands upon thousands of hours improving his ability to know what the camera would see and to control the camera – to tame the mechanical beast – to capture the exact instant and framing that he wanted. That is a consummate technique game. Make no mistake, HC-B wanted the most technically proficient image he could get under the conditions he was shooting in!

Indeed, one might reasonably say that HC-B's extraordinarily honed fast-twitch hand-eye skill set was closer to the skill set of a really accomplished video game player than to that of the average studio photographer – but in reality it reflects merely a different technical emphasis – not a lack of technique.
That is of course not all that HC-B was doing, but it was a prerequisite for what he was doing. He could not have implemented the (unique, unprecedented) vision that led to his life's work without the right gear and an unsurpassed ability, acquired through years of training, to use it instinctively.
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Old 09-05-2011   #75
Juan Valdenebro
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could all members who don't like each other please avoid each...please.

this constant bickering back and forth is annoying and soon all of you will be given a temporary ban...if this continues.
Hi Joe,

I remember some of semilog's posts as some of the ones I've liked a lot, the most, here on RFF, and I respect him deeply, and his passion, and both of us know we like to discuss in a good sense of that word... We're just discussing: I don't even care he said stupid: he might have felt I offended him, but I guess later he understood that wasn't my intention... I guess it's people without interest on the subject who don't have to read, or read posts by those hated by them... But banning?

Cheers,

Juan
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Old 09-05-2011   #76
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No he wasn't: it was Mozart. Since he was a child and until he died.
An absolutely reasonable opinion. But one that raises a question at the core of this conversation: could Mozart have been Mozart, if he had been less technically adept?
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Old 09-05-2011   #77
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Hi Joe,

I remember some of semilog's posts as some of the ones I've liked a lot, the most, here on RFF, and I respect him deeply, and his passion, and both of us know we like to discuss in a good sense of that word... We're just discussing: I don't even care he said stupid: he might have felt I offended him, but I guess later he understood that wasn't my intention... I guess it's people without interest on the subject who don't have to read, or read posts by those hated by them... But banning?
Thanks for the kind words, Juan. I get a lot from many of your posts as well, and I think we agree here more than we disagree. But on the points where we disagree, we really disagree!
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Old 09-05-2011   #78
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An absolutely reasonable opinion. But one that raises a question at the core of this conversation: could Mozart have been Mozart, if he had been less technically adept?


The same: it depends on what you mean with "technically". Bach was better at conducting voices (counterpoint) both with groups or solo instruments in arpeggios, and Mozart better from his ear and for melody and harmony IMO... As I told you before, they had their technique, but for some of their surrounding musical world, their technique should have been improved with the practice of more scales, cleaner counterpoint rules (like Buxtehude) or any other raw technical exercise, which in their case was not necessary, obviously... In the same way a photographer doesn't need a sharper lens. Any lens does it... So, what are you referring to when you say -in photography- technique?

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Old 09-05-2011   #79
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That's not quite what I'm saying.

I don't think it matters particularly that it was a (brand-name) Leica, but I DO think it matters that HC-B used a camera with specific technical characteristics that were well suited to what he was trying to accomplish in an expressive sense. Yes, there were a few other comparable cameras that he could have used in the same way.
I agree that he probably had good reasons for making his gear choices. It probably was about the camera being compact and well-suited to immersive photography (which made it popular with photojournalists in general).

But this is, after all, a thread about image quality, not about camera properties. I don't think it makes much sense to discuss HCB's photography in terms of image quality (at least if we discuss image quality in terms of technical parameters like light falloff, spherical aberrations or curvature of field, which was, I think, the kind of discussion Roger had in mind when he started the thread).
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Old 09-05-2011   #80
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So, what are you referring to when you say -in photography- technique?
Technique is any body of knowledge that can be applied in a systematic and reproducible way to alter the outcome of a process.

Technique includes sharpness or tonal range or MTF. It includes understanding lens distortion and classical perspective. It includes understanding diffraction, and how to obtain or suppress shadow detail, and having at least a good intuitive idea of your film's or sensor's dynamic range.

Technique also encompasses knowing how to hand-hold the camera steadily at slow shutter speeds, knowing in advance how much flare your lens is going to give you when you point it into the sun, and knowing without thinking how to meter for that situation. Technique includes being able to estimate distances by eye, setting focus by touch, and knowing what a 65° field of view encompasses without looking through the finder.

Technique includes training your finger to compensate for shutter lag, if your camera has a long lag. Technique includes knowing what your own finger's lag time is, and being able to compensate. Technique includes knowing when a yellow filter would be useful. Technique includes being able to follow-focus on a moving person on the street, using an SLR or a rangefinder or a mirrorless camera. Technique includes knowing when your meter is lying to you, and it includes looking for lint in your camera's film gate.

Technique includes understanding the relationship between exposure and development, and (if you shoot color) a tremendous amount about film and sensor responses, white balance, and color spaces. Technique is using motion blur. Technique is learning to walk through the street and point the camera straight into someone's face without him even noticing or reacting.

Again: Technique is any body of knowledge that can be applied in a systematic and reproducible way to alter the outcome of a process. Technique is not orthodoxy. Rather, it's any reliable and re-usable information about process that can help you get where you're trying to go.

Generally, what technique cannot do is tell you where you're trying to go.

Any given photographer need not know all aspects of photographic technique. But (almost) every really good photographer relies on a tremendous amount of practical knowledge (technique) to get from what they see in the world to what's on display.
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