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Pictures, most often, a little on the blurry side
Old 01-26-2017   #1
Captain Kidd
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Pictures, most often, a little on the blurry side

Ive noticed that the majority of my pictures, are ever so slightly blurry, maybe a better way of putting it is that they are not as sharp as I would expect. That said, im not looking for super sharp, I just expected my pictures to be a little sharper.

Generally the way I take a picture is to use hyperfocal distance, I pick the aperture and then using the dial on my lens, I set the aperture number (on the right) to infinity. Could it be this approach? I like everything being reasonably in focus so thought this is the best way.

Im using a Leica M6 with a summarit 50mm 2.5.

Here are three examples that I would just expect to be a little bit sharper:

pic 1
https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/...2017.09.58.png

pic 2
https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/...2016.57.43.png

pic 3
https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/...2017.23.32.png

This is an example that i feel is sharper
https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/...2018.22.05.png

Also, a novice question, does f8 generally give the sharpest results, is that right?

Would really appreciate your thoughts, my scanner is a plustek 8200

Thanks for any help,

David
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Old 01-26-2017   #2
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and just to note, there is a sharpen button in vuescan which i havent clicked, and these images are screengrabs from the vuescan preview window.

Thanks
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Old 01-26-2017   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Captain Kidd View Post

Here are three examples that I would just expect to be a little bit sharper:

Also, a novice question, does f8 generally give the sharpest results, is that right?

Would really appreciate your thoughts, my scanner is a plustek 8200

Thanks for any help,

David
F8 will give you more depth of field, but is seldom the sharpest, but it depends on the lens. F5.6 is usually the sharpest, but that is totally subjective on my part, and can vary wildly lens to lens.

Hyperfocal distance is tricky to use, when taking photos like yours I still focus.
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Old 01-26-2017   #4
andybrown
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Try one on a tripod, with a delay and then see if that's any better. At least then you would know if it's the lens or some shake from you. To me the 4th one doesn't look any better. Sorry about that!
You would certainly think the pictures would be sharper
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Old 01-26-2017   #5
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Hyperfocal isn't going to give you critically sharp images except at or near the point the focus is set.

Plustek scanners are good but they aren't top of the line so there is probably some degradation there.

Your film may not be flat in the film holder which would cause softness.

All three can contribute to soft images.

You have a great camera and lens with a very accurate RF. Focus your camera. It's not like your subject is going to get away.
If you want to use it as a point and shoot why not buy a cheap point and shoot camera. Use your camera as it was designed, focus it.
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Old 01-26-2017   #6
ferider
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Shoot as high speed as you can. Buffer your hyperfocal window with an additional stop. Say, you shoot at f8, put infinity on f5.6.

Could also be the scanner - compare the scanning results with a slide under a loupe.
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Old 01-26-2017   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nikonhswebmaster View Post
Hyperfocal distance is tricky to use, when taking photos like yours I still focus.
Thanks, considering the pictures i posted, where would you focus to try achieve the largest depth of field, from the nearest object to the furthest. Basically id like my images all in focus.

Ive read to focus a third of the way into your scene, would this be a better approach?
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Old 01-26-2017   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by x-ray View Post
If you want to use it as a point and shoot why not buy a cheap point and shoot camera. Use your camera as it was designed, focus it.
Im just learning, but if you wanted the entire scene in focus, in those images, what area would you think best to focus on.

I just came across this picture from Alex Webb
http://trinelibre.tumblr.com/image/40160239019

if he focused on the foreground wall in any aperture the background would be blurred and vice versa, is he focusing a third of the way in or using hyperfocal settings?

Id love to know a technique to get focus results similar to this (a technique to take pictures like him would be great too
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Old 01-26-2017   #9
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another example of foreground and background in reasonable focus, rather than using hyfocal settings, if you wanted this result what would you be focusing on?

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com...e3c8b6da66.jpg
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Old 01-26-2017   #10
Richard G
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Interesting questions. A lot of parameters. What film? And what shutter speed? That pink building in overcast couldn't have given you much more than 1/30 at f8 with Ektar (ISO 100) for instance. I'm 56 and have always had a mild tremor which miraculously I control very well when taking photographs. F5.6 is the sharpest aperture, balancing diffraction effects of smaller lens apertures against spherical aberrations of larger apertures. But shutter speed is just as important. With digital this all becomes more apparent.

You tolerate mild out of focus of unimportant foreground detail and any out of focus of important, smaller distant detail is unacceptable. I always focus on the subject or scale focus to be on the subject. In the gallery I have a recent shot with a sharp lens of 28mm focal length and I focussed on the central tree with the rock beside it. F8 and 1/125s. The agapanthus tops in the foreground look acceptable.

A 35mm Summarit will give you more depth of field. Alex Webb probably used his Summaron f5.6 28, with even more depth of field.

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Old 01-26-2017   #11
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Thanks Richard G, this is very interesting, the film for those was either fuji pro or kodak portra, both at 400. The shutter speed I don't know, maybe 125 but thats a guess. I really like your picture and im surprised that you focused so far into the image and still got the flower tops in the foreground in focus.

With my approach using hyperfocal, I would have set f8 to infinity using the depth of field dial, in which case the focus would be set to around 9 metres. The tree with the rock looks alot further than that. I think im more confused now.

Could I ask, looking at my pictures, for the largest depth of field, what areas would you instinctively focus on.

Thanks for getting back to me, I really appreciate it.
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Old 01-26-2017   #12
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Andy, Roland and Richard have all touched on technique to avoid camera movement at the instant of exposure - make sure you have the camera braced against eyebrow/forehead, breathe smoothly or hold breath, squeeze shutter gently with fleshy part of finger and use a high enough shutter speed, to avoid camera movement which can result in the softness shown. Stance also helps - feet apart, elbows close to body. The higher resolution the camera/lens is capable of recording, the more important this becomes.
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Old 01-26-2017   #13
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Thanks lynnb, i have actually noticed on occasion a little over excitement and I press the shutter with a little too much enthusiasm, Ill try be more conscious of your tips in future.
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Old 01-26-2017   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by faberryman View Post
If you are using a 50mm lens at f8 and have set your hyperfocal distance for infinity, then everything from roughly 15 feet to infinity will be reasonably sharp, but will only be really sharp at roughly 30 feet. Looking at your photos, I would say you would be better served have things closer in better focus rather than things at infinity. Why not actually focus? None of your photos are of action, where setting a hyperfocal distance is handy when you don't have time to focus.


Focusing at the hyperfocal distance isn't solely, or even mostly -- especially in this age of fast autofocus, a technique for dealing with developing action. People who want the maximum possible depth of field also use it. But anyone who uses it needs to recognize that there is always a*plane* of best focus and progressive defocus on either side. How important that defocus is depends on how much the recorded image is magnified for display or how close you look at it. If you zoom in to examine your image at the pixel level you will see soft focus everywhere but a breadthless plane. If you make a small print and look at it without further magnification you will have a deep range of things that look sharp. In between you will have in between.
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Old 01-26-2017   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by faberryman View Post
Why not actually focus? None of your photos are of action, where setting a hyperfocal distance is handy when you don't have time to focus.
Alot of my pictures have something in the foreground that i would like in focus too, along with the background. Its that reason i set the camera to infinity. To try and achieve a reasonable sharpness across the image.

Someone else has said why dont i just focus, I would if I knew where to focus. What area would keep the foreground and background in reasonable focus?
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Old 01-26-2017   #16
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Thanks J Hutchins, I think as far as focusing, for my approach, is concerned will be to learn better that plain you mention, and notice when infinity is not necessarily needed, for instance the pink house. Thanks again
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Old 01-26-2017   #17
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This is a picture by Martin Parr, would you think he's using hyperfocal distance settings or is he focusing on a certain area, if so what area? The flowers are very sharp

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com...522f528294.jpg
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Old 01-26-2017   #18
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I don't think your problem is with the hyperfocal technique, though if the smaller f-stops are forcing you to use slow shutter speeds, that could be an issue. At least some of the elements in your pictures should be in really sharp focus, but the frames all seem equally soft (though only slightly, to my eye).

I think the "issue" is mostly with the scans. I see the same on my scans from the Coolscan. They are sharp but not bleeding-eyeball sharp even with lenses that re quite good. I know because I checked a few frames on my lightbox with a good loupe and I saw sharper lines along high-contrast edges than I would see on screen. Post-scan sharpening ameliorated the situation.

If you don't have a lightbox and loupe, you could try have a photo printed by a good lab (one that prints from the negative) and see what they get out of it.
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Old 01-26-2017   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by faberryman View Post
I would focus on whatever is most important to be in focus, and then rely on depth of field from closing down the aperture to get as much else in focus as possible. For example, in the pink house photo, you could focus on the gate in front of the house. Since the house isn't at infinity, that would give you a little extra depth of field for the wall in the foreground to the left.
Thanks, I think for me, I prefer the entire image in focus, when im taking a picture all the elements have equal importance, foreground and background, so its why i rely on the hyperfocal. But you're right, when something isnt at infinity ill try to gauge better where to focus.
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Old 01-26-2017   #20
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Thanks Froyd, im definitely going to pay alot more attention to my shutter speeds, and possibly camera shake. And printing some is a good idea, the holder for my plustek scanner does possibly leave room for a slight bend in the negatives. They always come back from the developers quite concaved, this could add to the proble.

I really appreciate everyone help with this.
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Old 01-26-2017   #21
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As a matter of interest, i know it depends on preference but what shutter speed would you be most comfortable at, 125th ? as long as nothing is moving too fast. Or is that even too low?

Thanks
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Old 01-26-2017   #22
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A few thoughts to add.

1. If you want everything from near to far to be in focus, then maybe f/8 just isn't enough? Like fabberyman says, f/8 at 50mm and infinity will only get you from 15ft. I would generally buffer another stop, so at f/8 I would use the f/5.6 makings as "sharp", and f/8 markings as "okay". I suggest you think a bit more about what you want in focus and what aperture would be best suited. For instance, you could actually focus on the nearest and furthest subjects you want in focus, note their distances on the lens, and then see what aperture you would theoretically need to cover the range (Again I'd add a stop to buffer). Now, the lens probably has its sweet spot at about f/5.6, so going smaller will start to degrade sharpness and it's now an artistic decision over a smaller sharper plane of focus, or a wider less sharp plane of focus.

2. Do a tripod test at f/5.6 at both 2m and 5m focus distance to check the best case scenario. Use these negatives for #3. Keep in mind that exposure will influence sharpness (there was an article on rogerandfrances.com on the topic that I can't find, but basically overexposing gives you better shadow detail, but robs you of critical sharpness - another artistic decision).

3. Scanner. What resolution are you scanning at? I found with my Plustek 8100 that 3600 dpi is the best, going higher introduces artifacts that degrade sharpness. Use the negatives from #2 to find your sweet spot.

If after all that the sharpness is not acceptable (assuming the focus point is spot on) then try a slower film and see if that works. If not, try a different scanner.

By the way, I think the photos look fine. Did you actually scan them and then load them into an editing program and play with the sharpness?
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Old 01-26-2017   #23
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Thanks Michael, I really appreciate that and ill start those tests. To be honest I think they're close enough to fine too, Im not one to demand razor sharpness but they do seem a little less sharp than i would expect so thought id ask here. Some great feedback so I have a lot to consider.

I have actually began focusing on a few things in the foreground to get an idea of how close they are and then set the focus tab accordingly to keep it and the background in focus but I was probably keeping it too close to the actual distance as opposed to buffering a little as you mention.

Generally I find myself attracted to a scene with a layer of foreground so I am forced to use something like f11 or f16 if the foregound is 2-3 metres away, which is a difficult aperture in Ireland in January.

I think the scanner too is a slight issue, when apply a tiny bit of sharpness Im happy with them, so I think Ill get one or two printed to see how they come out.

Thanks again, and ill use that buffering tip and see how that goes,

David
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Old 01-26-2017   #24
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While on the subject, these examples, do you think the photographers took them using hyperfocal settings, or actually focused on a particular part of the photo, would that not just give the same result?

Harry Gruyaert
https://www.magnumphotos.com/wp-cont...70-overlay.jpg

Harry Gruyaert
https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com...63e02aaa7a.jpg

Gueorgui Pinkhassov
https://i1.wp.com/www.pavelkosenko.com/lj/0101/018.jpg

David Alan Harvey
https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com...14fa69282e.jpg

Thanks
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Old 01-26-2017   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by michaelwj View Post
Did you actually scan them and then load them into an editing program and play with the sharpness?
The examples I gave earlier, no, no sharpness was applied at all.
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Old 01-26-2017   #26
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Right, applying a little digital sharpening will help a bit, your second picture for example is really sharp in the grass around the tree in the middle, but doesn't have a lot of micro contrast. That can be because of the lens, film, scanning, and notably lighting of the scene as well as the scene itself.
As has been mentioned, for more sharpness over a deep scene you might need to stop down further than f/8, but that depends on how large you want to display the image.

1 and 3 require a decision what you want in focus or stopping down more than would be good regarding diffraction I think. In 3, the plane of best sharpness might be behind the wall, where there isnt anything in the picture. Focus on the foreground wall or the horizon and live with the other being fuzzy?

I also struggle this in some with some scenes, especially foliage and grass (lots of fine detail) in scenes with "continous" depth rather than discrete planes, are problematic like that. Trying a different, less cluttered composition might be the best way at times (solution for picture 2?).

A while ago some article was discussed on this forum that essentially said that you need sharpness relative to the size of the objects/details in the scene, which tend to be larger in the foreground, and therefor one should focus to infinity rather than hyperfocal (which, as has been pointed out, brings only a certain degree of sharpness at the far distances). In other words, because the foreground subject tends to be large, we can live with less sharpness and still recognize it well.
There was a heated debate, and I think it really still depends on which details are important to you and what look you prefer. The take-away for me was that I consider focusing on the background if it has important fine detail and the foreground doesn't. Could work for your pictures.

Last edited by retinax : 01-26-2017 at 16:29. Reason: adited for clarity-I'm afraid it didn't help
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Old 01-26-2017   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Captain Kidd View Post
While on the subject, these examples, do you think the photographers took them using hyperfocal settings, or actually focused on a particular part of the photo, would that not just give the same result?

Harry Gruyaert
https://www.magnumphotos.com/wp-cont...70-overlay.jpg

Harry Gruyaert
https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com...63e02aaa7a.jpg

Gueorgui Pinkhassov
https://i1.wp.com/www.pavelkosenko.com/lj/0101/018.jpg

David Alan Harvey
https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com...14fa69282e.jpg

Thanks
How they did it is not really important, you will find what works for you. But they are not dissimilar to your photos, They are not sharp from front to back, but they are sharp enough. I'm sure if you blew them up to 100% then you would see how unsharp they actually are.

Take the first example for example. The seated lady is not sharp, neither is the photographer on the hay. The "sharp enough" zone extends just a bit wider than the road, which looks to be a single lane so not that wide. The lady kneeling with the camera is probably sharp enough, and the front of the hay looks sharp, but nothing beyond that. If I were to guess, he focused on the nearest rider at f/8 or so.

I hate to say it, but you might be suffering from the disease known as "pixel-peeping". Try printing an 8x10 and see what you think, you'll be surprised happy you are with it.

One other thing, in the photos you point to by other photographers, they all have a strong subject/story which is in focus. If they were photos with nothing, you would see the unsharp areas much easier, but because they are good photos, and the subject is in focus, you don't notice the rest. You talk of shots by Parr and Webb, but if you look at their work you will find a main subject (despite the layers) which is always in focus, and then many supporting layers, some are more in focus than others. But the main layer is in sharpest focus. Also, there was a video on the web of Webb shooting, and he focused every shot. I'll try and dig it out.
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Old 01-26-2017   #28
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Interesting discussion with excellent points... It seems to me that it's more disturbing to the viewer when nearby objects with detail are fuzzy. One doesn't expect things at a distance to be sharp... eyesight, atmospheric haze, sheer scale. So for landscapes I'll tend to try to bias focus to keep nearby items a bit sharper at the expense of being a bit off at distance.

Suggest you examine your negatives on a light table with magnification and compare with the scans as seen on the screen. You'll see where they're sharp or not... What you're seeing may or may not be a focus issue. You can use your 50mm lens reversed as a handy loupe!

And... isn't it normal practice and necessity to add moderate sharpening on scanner output files? Just in the nature of scanners?
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Old 01-26-2017   #29
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See here for a starting video of Alex Webb, the same group have more with him.
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Old 01-26-2017   #30
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I would take a roll of 36 of your favorite film, a note book, a pen, and shoot some test shots. Take shots of the same scene critically focusing on a repeatable spot that you can see. Bracket your shutter speed and vary the aperture. Take good notes of each frame. Shoot as you normally would (hand-held, prone, tripod, whatever). Take your time and really think about the shot. Watch your shutter release, balance, breathing, bracing of the camera, stance, blah, blah, blah.

Then check out the results and see what you get.

Oh, and you might want to look into digitizing with a DSLR if you happen to have one with a macro lens handy. You can get superior results over cheap scanners.
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Old 01-26-2017   #31
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Captain, have a look at this site which quotes H Merklinger who has formula for doing something different to hyperlocal focussing.

http://www.northlight-images.co.uk/w...ng-is-no-good/

This site shows hover composites of the difference between HFD and infinity focus.

You can find a site to download Marklinger's book, but you certainly don't need to do that. You don't need to use the formulae or even strictly follow his rules, but the principle is that hyperlocal focussing may let you down and there are other ways to think about this as a lot of us have alluded to.

Hyperlocal focussing would the logical thing to use if you were in a sculpture park, with smaller sculptures near you and large ones further away and you wanted equivalent detail of most of them. That would be a very unusual photographic scenario. In my photograph above I didn't want a 'bokeh' shot, sharp flowers and blurry trees. And I knew that the effect of the flowers in the foreground would be good enough, whereas any blur of that central tree would have been unacceptable. On the run I'd have taken this at infinity. The older leica lenses with infinity locks were useful for this, and for rotating the lens just short of infinity, before the engagement of the lock, for far distant but not quite infinity focus. Hyperlocal might be the best thing for scale focus presets for street photography, but for many situations infinity focus or near infinity focus is better, because of the small size of the detail in the distance.
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Old 01-26-2017   #32
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I didn't read all the posts, but I find that I have to really try hard to get what I want in focus to be in focus. Sometimes, I'm all set the push the shutter button and I'm still not 100% sure I'm in focus. My best results for my old eye is with a traditional RF. SLRs are hopeless for me with non bright subjects; especially when it is a 28mm or wider lens. I bought a couple of AF boxes to help out with SLR lenses but even those are fooled at times.
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Old 01-27-2017   #33
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The piece by Merklinger that Richard G mentioned was what I also referred to earlier. also excellent application in the image you posted, Richard G!
One more thought on the subject: At times, opening up the aperture can also be a solution for these situations where dof isn't quite sufficient for the whole scene. Not what you want to hear I think. But especially small detail can look less silly if it's more than just very slightly defocused.
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Old 01-27-2017   #34
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Thank you for all the great tips and for giving me some very interesting things to research. I've actually watched that Alex Webb video in the past and noticed that too. I did notice though that he had a habit of raising the camera to his eye, focused while facing one direction and then quickly changed his direction to face the actual scene he wanted to shoot. He was doing this because he didn't want the people that he wanted to shoot to pay any attention to him so he raised the camera focused while facing a different direction and then turned to them and shot in the last second. I'd imagine with him he can see a scene and focus without even looking through the viewfinder, he knows where 2m is by the placement of the tab on his lens.

I think my issue is that let's say I have a scene with mountains in the distance and lots of cows and in the foreground and 2.5 meters away from me is a cow which I want in focus (roughly), the only way I know how to take this picture is to look at the markings on the lens, which tell me f16, when setting the 16 indicator on the right to infinity the 16 marker on the left tells me that around 2m will give me reasonable focus. Basically it's what in the foreground that dictates what setting, if I was to focus on a cow 5metres into the picture that foreground cow would be too blurry.

So I'm just intrigued with the examples above because the foreground to me indicates that they didn't focus on what might be considered the main subject. The David alan harvey image I see now that if he focused on the man in the foreground then the background would be in reasonable focus too because of his distance to the subject. But the Harry Gruyaert shot of the flowers and the lady, there now way he focused on either the lady or the flowers to get that shot.

I think I have to learn when the nearest subject is at a safe distance to focus on, like the David alan Harvey, and when the nearest subject is too close to then resort to hyperfocal.

Sorry for rambling but a lot to consider, thanks again everyone.
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Old 01-27-2017   #35
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And thanks Richard for that link, very interesting and I'm going o have to do some tests as buzzy one recommends.
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Old 01-27-2017   #36
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I'm with you, it's a never ending issue. It occurs to me that both the Harvey and the Gruyaers shots are sharp almost to infinity. A quick approach for this type of scene might be to prefocus to near hyperfocal if one doesn't expect the far background to be important, and stop down as far as one can and shoot away. Maybe that's what they did.
We should also try to judge our own images at the same display size/resolution as those examples, then the issue gets a lot less dramatic. I need to remind myself sometimes that if it's a strong image, sharpness doesn't matter too much, and if it isn't, it doesn't matter either :-D
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Old 01-27-2017   #37
Steve M.
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If you want everything in the shot to be sharp and in focus, then you're going to have to stop the lens down all the way, which means you may have to use a tripod for the slow shutter speeds you'll incur.
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Old 01-27-2017   #38
David Hughes
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Hi,

A simple way of finding out how to get what you want is to expose at, say, f/8 and take three shots with the infinity mark at f/11 then f/8 and finally at f/5.6

The alternative is to wonder why we think we can get to infinity in a landscape when the background in focus won't be anything like an infinite distance away, even the moon isn't. And murk in the atmosphere means there's little to be seen at infinity. So why not use a setting short of infinity for the extreme mark? The edge of the infinity mark, f'instance or halfway between it and the next distance marked on the scale...

Have fun experimenting and don't forget the notebook.

Regards, David
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Old 01-27-2017   #39
Captain Kidd
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Thanks David, thats a good way of testing, ill certainly try that.
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Old 01-27-2017   #40
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Radical Solution: Fight the laws of physics and you lose, use the laws of physics and you win. Get an SLR with a tilt lens and use the scheimphlug principal. Take it or leave it.
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