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Focal length that seems like memories?
Old 01-31-2018   #1
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Focal length that seems like memories?

Not sure if this is the right subforum, but here goes.

Over in this thread here, @andrew00 makes this interesting comment regarding the Contax T3:

"A P+S like the Contax T3 seemed ideal. It's small but, in it's usage, really high quality, with a great lens and a nice compact and portable body. I also really like the 35mm focal length for feeling a lot like a memory."

This got me thinking, and I looked back through my Contax T3 images, as well as other 35mm images I've taken with the Canon 35L, Voigtlander 35/1.4 and 35/1.2, and a handful of Zeiss 35/2.8 images. While I've never associated the 35mm focal length with a memory, I get where andrew00 is coming from. It's wide enough that you can see context, but not so wide that the context detracts from the subject.

Having said that, I prefer 28mm and wider to capture what my eye sees in the moment. In fact, if I were to think of a lens which matches my visual perception, it would be like a 25mm anamorphic lens with 2x desqueeze, or like a Hasselblad X Pan with its two frames width of image, if that makes sense. But this is different from the internal sense of a 'memory'.

What focal length would you associate with memories?
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Old 01-31-2018   #2
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Interesting topic. For me, that focal length is around the 28-35 angle of view, but most importantly needs some vignetting to be most memory-like. I suspect this is a big reason why Holga camera images often have such strong emotional impact, it's the vignetting of the meniscus lens - and the off-axis blurriness that renders these images more like how we see, with a sharp central zone surrounded by a blurry periphery.
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Old 01-31-2018   #3
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I don't like anything other than 'normal' length lenses myself. I prefer to shoot scenes as they appear through the eye, even if that means what you actually saw is cropped. I would hope my memory of a scene wouldn't exaggerate the angle of view of a remembered scene...

Only a tiny section of what your eyes see is actually in full definition/colour at one time. Most of it's approximated by your brain afterwards. So capturing the blurry periphery of your vision in sharp definition with a wide angle lens is probably the opposite of an accurate recall of a scene.

Edit: What JoeV said makes sense though. Good theory about Holgas and emotional connection.
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Old 01-31-2018   #4
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None. The "field of view" changes with every image, and the sense of space is warped! If eyesight is distinct from the camera image, memory is also distinct from eyesight.

Maybe he was talking about photos in a family album, which are probably 50mm, 38mm, or 35mm.
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Old 01-31-2018   #5
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Memory-like probably means avoiding strong artifacts of the photographic process that are not apparent in human vision. That's easiest with 35-50. Too compressed a perspective won't work, and with wide angles avoiding too obvious perspective distortion is harder, but possible. And I think the main subject would have to be central in the frame with not too many distracting details in the periphery, to approach human vision. Check out the thread somewhere here with Leica pictures from Vietnam, that guy knows his 21! To me, they look very natural although well-composed and have a memory-like quality (but I've never been in Vietnam).
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Old 01-31-2018   #6
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I have memories which are 180 degree fisheye-like, complete with looming faces, and other memories which are catdiotropic telephoto-like, magnified but with completely indistinct background, but mostly my memories are indeterminate semi-wideangle 28 to 35 fov. Or maybe that's just the way I see.
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Old 01-31-2018   #7
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My photorepo professor was an old-school photog, quite well known here, and he always insisted on using 35mm lens because of the "impression of participation" it gives.
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Old 01-31-2018   #8
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I don't want to make too much of this, since I got it from a post that was either on RFF or else on photo.net a few years back; but someone claimed that the focal length of the human eye was 42mm. I think the writer was arguing that this would therefore be the "natural" focal length. This does appear consistent with comments above that estimate the "memory" focal length to be 35-50mm: 42mm falls right at the center of that range.

But is it focal length that matters, or angle of view? I don't imagine the retina measures 24 x 36mm, after all! I think the angle of view with binocular vision is quite wide, although, as noted above, only a tiny central area is sharp. Fred Waller developed Cinema with an "eye" to approximating human vision, and the Cinema screen is in a 146 degree arc. I think I will try to remember to ask one of my clients, who is an ophthalmologist, about the focal length/angle of view of the eye.

For me, personally, the 35mm lens on 24 x 36mm format captures about what I experience as close to what my vision takes in. I would say 40mm is in that ball park as well. And I suspect that my "visual memory" is a little tighter than that, maybe about like my 45mm Nikkor-P, or even a 50mm on the Nikon. It's as if the mind does a little "cropping" compared to what the eye saw (for me, at least).
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Old 01-31-2018   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pyeh View Post
I have memories which are 180 degree fisheye-like, complete with looming faces, and other memories which are catdiotropic telephoto-like, magnified but with completely indistinct background..
Pete, was this after the RFF Sydney meet at the Baxter Inn?
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Old 01-31-2018   #10
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I'll go with the focal length and lens that approximates a Box Brownie. The Holga Theory sounds good!

What I'm curious about, is whether the iPhone generation will remember in 31mm, which I believe is the equivalent focal length.
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Old 01-31-2018   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lynnb View Post
Pete, was this after the RFF Sydney meet at the Baxter Inn?
Baxter Inn? What Baxter Inn? I was never there. No memory whatsoever!
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Old 01-31-2018   #12
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To me memory is associated with old photos. If I look at what was available in fifties to nineties where my memories are from it is 135 film format cameras made in many millions and sold with 50mm or very close to it lens.

And G-thing is for short memories, IMO.
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Old 01-31-2018   #13
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My memories come in many different focal lengths. Blurry too. Seems my faculty of memory came with a cheap kit zoom.

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Old 01-31-2018   #14
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Kudos to the OP for this one.... cool topic.
Im always feeling the square.
Is it my memories.. not sure.
Normal focal length and square

Magnet by Adnan, on Flickr

steering. by Adnan, on Flickr
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Old 01-31-2018   #15
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Since this isn't posted in an RF sub-forum, I would say I have no preference other than what I decide will give me the best photo at the time. That said:

I took a ton of photos with a 50mm f/1.7 Yashinon lens and was happy. That was before I learned that there was a reason for interchangeable lenses.

So I bought an 18mm Spiratone (remember them?) f/3.5 lens and got a lot of shots I really liked, and couldn't have gotten with any other focal length. Spiratone had a 35mm lens to give away for a certain amount spent on the order, and I got it. Sun lens as I recall. I have never been able to like 35mm. I have some good 35mm lenses that sit on the shelf and cry with each other. It isn't the quality of the lens, just that focal length. But the 18mm? I am still in love with it.
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Old 01-31-2018   #16
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I tend to the view that an image which speaks directly to the emotions is one that most evokes memories. This is not reliant on focal length per se. It depends on framing, composition and most especially on light and shadow. I try for this in many of my shots and I have been blunt in saying that I will also post process for this very often if I otherwise like the image but feel it is lacking something. This processing can involve such things as cropping, creating a slight vignette, adding some blur in some parts of the image etc. All of which are intended to direct the viewer's attention to a specific subject or image component. And sometimes I will decide the photo works better in black and white than in color and act accordingly. I said in one of my articles on my approach (linked in my signature) that it's about creating mood and that I often tend towards a hypnotic and dreamy style where I can. In saying this I am taking words from an article about a photographer (now passed) whom I admire greatly - Saul Leiter where it was said:
"The content of Saul Leiter’s photographs arrives on a sort of delay: it takes a moment after the first glance to know what the picture is about. You don’t so much see the image as let it dissolve into your consciousness, like a tablet in a glass of water. One of the difficulties of photography is that it is much better at being explicit than at being reticent. Precisely how the hypnotic and dreamlike feeling is achieved in Leiter’s work is a mystery, even to their creator.”

In summary it is not so much about the focal length of the lens it is about the approach of the photographer.

Examples of a few of my shots that I think have worked (and in none of these do I know or care which focal length I used):










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Old 01-31-2018   #17
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These response are great, thanks everyone!

Thinking about it some more, memories are subjective and dependent on the individual, and the memory itself. For me, a memory is often a clear detail or set of actions in a fairly fuzzy context, so the suggestion of Holga and similar images with vignetting and blur makes a lot of sense.

A fast 35 would capture this; I find that a fast 50 captures these kinds of images as well. The Zeiss C Sonnar lends itself well to the sense of 'a memory', although I look back at a lot of my 24-25mm images and find they give me a good sense of a memory, too.

Shooting from the eye also helps give the sense of memory to an image, as we see through our eyes, not the hip!

A style of cinematography and editing which is very memory-like is demonstrated in this TVC for Samsonite luggage in Hong Kong. It employs a lot of movement and selective focus, shooting through obstacles, lens flare, and even a Fuji X100!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbOmrUygTEU
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Old 01-31-2018   #18
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If I may ask a question: how do you measure the focal length of a memory?
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Old 01-31-2018   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ptpdprinter View Post
If I may ask a question: how do you measure the focal length of a memory?
"Wery, wery carefulwy. Hehehehehe" E.Fudd

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Old 01-31-2018   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rob-F View Post
I don't want to make too much of this, since I got it from a post that was either on RFF or else on photo.net a few years back; but someone claimed that the focal length of the human eye was 42mm. I think the writer was arguing that this would therefore be the "natural" focal length. This does appear consistent with comments above that estimate the "memory" focal length to be 35-50mm: 42mm falls right at the center of that range.

But is it focal length that matters, or angle of view? I don't imagine the retina measures 24 x 36mm, after all! I think the angle of view with binocular vision is quite wide, although, as noted above, only a tiny central area is sharp. Fred Waller developed Cinema with an "eye" to approximating human vision, and the Cinema screen is in a 146 degree arc. I think I will try to remember to ask one of my clients, who is an ophthalmologist, about the focal length/angle of view of the eye.

For me, personally, the 35mm lens on 24 x 36mm format captures about what I experience as close to what my vision takes in. I would say 40mm is in that ball park as well. And I suspect that my "visual memory" is a little tighter than that, maybe about like my 45mm Nikkor-P, or even a 50mm on the Nikon. It's as if the mind does a little "cropping" compared to what the eye saw (for me, at least).
I believe that is 42mm per eye, but because we see in binocular, the central part of our vision approximates a 35mm FOV.

I wish I had bird eyes, so I could see telescopically like the eagles, or at night like the owls. But right now I'm just glad I can see at all, and my glasses can correct the faults. I do find myself using my 35mm lenses more than anything else, but I'm not adverse to going wider or narrower if the situation calls for it.

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Old 01-31-2018   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by farlymac View Post
I believe that is 42mm per eye, but because we see in binocular, the central part of our vision approximates a 35mm FOV.

I wish I had bird eyes, so I could see telescopically like the eagles, or at night like the owls. But right now I'm just glad I can see at all, and my glasses can correct the faults. I do find myself using my 35mm lenses more than anything else, but I'm not adverse to going wider or narrower if the situation calls for it.

PF
But because you're constantly scanning and filling in important bits and removing the excess human vision is extremely versatile. You can take in a whole landscape without it feeling constrained or focus on the moon without it feeling tiny.

I've heard that while walking around the vision equates to wider than 28mm while focusing on details get you very narrow perceived vision (~200+mm)
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Old 02-02-2018   #22
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I thought instantly of 90mm especially my 90 Elmarit M. My photographs with that have a bite of emotion. Then, perhaps along similar lines, there’s medium format 75 or 80mm and also 50 Sonnar for 35mm. And my own dreams might indeed be 28mm fov. The photographs I took and my wife took of our children were mostly 35mm focal length, but I just don’t think of that FL as the one of memory. My own childhood was recorded by my father with a 45mm Zeiss Anastigmat. Some would go beyond lens type or focal length or film format and just say anything in black and white.....
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Old 02-02-2018   #23
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Summer, in grandmother' living room, watching sunshine and wind going through the dense leaves outside the window. (50mm)

Playing toys in a cool temperatured room. (28-35mm)

On a cool breezing day, climbing over the yard's wall to see the field of high grass behind it. (28mm)

On the way to the shop which sells ice-creams. (50mm)

Watching the horde of dragonflies flying by on an autumn afternoon. (28mm and wider)

Standing on the balcony, watching dark clouds quickly accumulating right before a storm. (28mm and wider)

Watching big piece of white clouds under the blue sky, which look like huge space ships. (28mm and wider)

Climbing on to the wall to see weathered bird skeletons. (28mm macro)

At junior-high school’s fourth floor, watching the skyline which did not have too many buildings. (28-35mm)

Sitting in a corner of the yard with various abandoned construction tools with childhood mates, imaging we are in a sci-fi war movie. (28-35mm)

Grilling potatoes on a stove made of bricks. (50mm)

Sitting in back of my parents' car, watching the lights in the city flows at night while heading home. (50mm and longer)
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Old 02-02-2018   #24
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28 and 35.
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Old 02-02-2018   #25
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I tend to to see at about a 35mm FoV on FF. That is the F/L that I usr about 90% of the time for my personal work. Don't know if that has anything to d with memories though. It's more in line with just the way I see.
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Old 02-02-2018   #26
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Memories? Mine are associated with 24/25mm focal lengths. Probably because my first serious camera was a Nikon F, bought used, that came with a 50/1.4 and an off brand Miida 25mm lens. I fell in love with looking through the 25mm as well as photographing with it. It eventually decentered and I bought a Nikkor 24mm. I used those lenses for so much of my early photography the focal length was almost a trademark. When I recall those early photos, they were almost always done with the 24 or 25mm lenses.

Interestingly, I don't even own one today. I mainly shoot with 50mm and 35mm equivalent focal lengths and then jump to the equivalent of a 21mm.
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Old 02-02-2018   #27
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Memories look like whatever Rick is shooting with.

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Old 02-02-2018   #28
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Hi,

What we have to do is position the print so that the angle from the edge of the print to our eye and back to the other edge is the same as the horizontal FoV of the lens...

Then compare with the real view.

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Old 02-02-2018   #29
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"someone claimed that the focal length of the human eye was 42mm".

That means that the back of our eye is about an inch and two thirds back in our heads. I guess about 23mm focal length.

42mm is sometimes quoted as the old diagonal of the negative (only it isn't but there's nice 42mm lenses out there). But, OTOH, 42mm is more or less the diagonal of a slide and once upon a time all colour film was for slides...

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Old 02-02-2018   #30
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My memories are not static. They play out like motion pictures shot as a series of close-up and medium shots with a lot of panning and cuts. My mind focuses on details much more than the overall scene.
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Old 02-02-2018   #31
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Quote:
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42mm is sometimes quoted as the old diagonal of the negative (only it isn't but there's nice 42mm lenses out there). But, OTOH, 42mm is more or less the diagonal of a slide and once upon a time all colour film was for slides.
The diagonal of a 35mm negative (24mm x 36mm) is 43.27mm.
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Old 02-03-2018   #32
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Quote:
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"someone claimed that the focal length of the human eye was 42mm".

That means that the back of our eye is about an inch and two thirds back in our heads. I guess about 23mm focal length.
Yes and no.... The optical depth of focus for our eyeball is in that range, keeping in mind that large men can have eyes twice the size of small women or children, but vision isn't objective like a camera. Our vision is a perception that is subjective.

Keep in mind that our brains assemble a perception of the world with a field of view like a wide fish-eye lens, but only at very low resolution and with only gray-scale perception at the sides of our field of view. Most of our color vision is in the middle 45 of our field of view, with highest acuity and the greatest concentration of color perception in the center of our vision, in the fovea centralis, which is most acute in the center 4-5 of vision, and maximum acuity within less than 1 of our visual field.

So, our brains can automatically zoom from seeing motion in our peripheral vision (like a 8mm fish-eye lens) to a general take of our surroundings (like a 40mm general purpose lens) to a very close examination of a 4-5 segment (like a 400mm telephoto), all seamlessly blended and updated even without our realizing what's going on.

The way our eyes work is so very different from cameras that the comparison makes you wonder how we came to see anything at all, compared to the logic and simplicity of how cameras work. If you'd like a quick, approachable trip down the rabbit hole, check out this paper: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=...QQL-ztwFbUiD_A

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Old 02-03-2018   #33
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Quote:
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What focal length would you associate with memories?

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Old 02-03-2018   #34
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Could the depth of field of focus be more applicable than the actual field of view?
I once read that the depth of field of a 35mm lens at f2.8 was closest to
the depth perception of the human eye.

Don't know about that but lately I have been using that as my guide with the 35mm lens and 50mm at f5.6 also - which has the same depth of field. For a 75mm lens on a 6x6 format that equates to somewhere around f/8 - 11.
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Old 02-03-2018   #35
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Memories circling.

Guys, it is not about the lens (or the camera, for that matter). It is about the concept and the vision. Really. Think of painters and paint brushes. And although having the right paint brush is essential for the painter to realize his vision, the final painting is not about the paintbrush. It is about what is in the painter's head. The lenses are like our paint brushes and the argument is the same.

That's how I see it anyway.

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Old 02-03-2018   #36
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I kind of strayed in my first response to the OP's question, so I'd like to clarify things a bit.

My first photo memories were taken with a borrowed Kodak faux TLR, and consisted of some of the most cliched images in photography, but then I was just experimenting with composition and lighting at the time. Focal length was then around 65 to 70mm.

Then I bought my first camera, a Polaroid Swinger, and who knows what the focal length of that was (and I'm not going to bother looking it up). But my memories of using that camera were of constantly wishing I could get copies of the images to share.

I then bought my first 35mm SLR, and mostly used the 55mm lens because it was a 1:1.4. I had a 28mm for it also, plus a zoom of 70-230mm which came in handy at times, but the 55 got the bulk of the work because hey, it was the "normal" lens for the camera, and you were supposed to use it that way, right?


The next three cameras had fixed focal length lenses of 45 to 50mm, and again I considered that normal, so was quite pleased with them.

Its only in my latter years that I finally realize 35mm is the focal length for me, so that is what I use for a starting point on any of my photographic jaunts. I may go wider or longer as the jaunt progresses, or never change lenses for the whole roll. Or I might cheat and mount a zoom if it's an SLR or DSLR.

So you can see, my Focal Length memory has drifted over the years, with a long period of 50mm dominating the rest.

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Old 02-06-2018   #37
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@nukecoke - that is a beautiful list of memories and thoughts. Thank you for sharing that.

@peterm1 - your images play with selective focus, shooting through obstructions, selective blur and shallow depth of field. They do indeed seem like memories, in that they focus on details in a sea of ambiguity.

@Peter Jennings - my memories could be described much like yours, constantly moving, cutting and panning with focus on details. If I were to think of a lens type which approximates this, it would be a 24-70mm or 24-105mm at 16:9 or flatter aspect ratio.

I once stood at the bottom of Blues Point Road in Sydney, looking out at the water with Sydney Harbour Bridge in the middle. A young woman was nearby, leaning against a bright red Volkswagen, watching the same scene as the wind tousled her equally red hair. We started talking, and she said she often wished that her eyes were big enough to take it all in.

As we stood together, the sun playing on the water and the clean sea air moving through us, I wished mine were, too.

DP1 - My Eyes Are Not Big Enough by Archiver, on Flickr
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Old 02-06-2018   #38
peterm1
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"@peterm1 - your images play with selective focus, shooting through obstructions, selective blur and shallow depth of field. They do indeed seem like memories, in that they focus on details in a sea of ambiguity."

Thank you very much. You get it - that's exactly what I aim to do.

Of course almost any photo that captures something we have experienced personally, will no doubt produce memories for us, personally. But photos that have that extra "something" can produce memories that evoke something more in the nature of nostalgia. BTW I love this sequence from the "Madmen" series in which the key protagonist, Don Draper talks about using photography for evoking memories and nostalgia. It involves a meeting in the mid 1960's with the Kodak company, which is looking for Draper's ad company, Sterling Cooper & Partners, to help make an advert about their new product - the first carousel slide projector. And boy, does it nail how to use images to create memories - and evoke them later. Such images "take us to a place where we ache to go again" in Draper's words - "to a place where we know we are loved." YES,YES,YES!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suRDUFpsHus

But as for me, I am just a dilettante. This link below will take you to the work of Fan Ho, a wonderful Chinese photographer of the 1950s who worked in Hong Kong. His work makes me feel I was there at that time - but of course I never was. Now that is skill. The article is called " Hong Kong 1950's Memory Photography". And not without good reason...........

http://www.fubiz.net/en/2014/09/11/h...y-photography/

And of course, my favourite, Saul Leiter who did the same for New York in the 1950s.

http://erickimphotography.com/blog/2...t-photography/

They are not my memories. But they are memories never the less.

Someone wrote this about Leiter's work which I think to be accurate in general about memory-making and memory capturing using photography as a tool:

"The content of Saul Leiter’s photographs arrives on a sort of delay: it takes a moment after the first glance to know what the picture is about. You don’t so much see the image as let it dissolve into your consciousness, like a tablet in a glass of water. One of the difficulties of photography is that it is much better at being explicit than at being reticent. Precisely how the hypnotic and dreamlike feeling is achieved in Leiter’s work is a mystery, even to their creator.”

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Old 02-06-2018   #39
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What a great thread, thank you all.

Last summer I was gifted with two antique cameras that a family member bought almost a hundred years ago, so of course I had to play with them. I ended up making contact prints with the 6x9 negatives to approximate the snapshots that would have been made back in the day, and then for extra credit I toned them with sepia sulfide, like they used to do.

The result was shocking to me, but only after the toning step, which shot me into the distant future and turned me into an elderly man, looking back at my current day 15 year old.


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Old 02-06-2018   #40
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jawarden View Post
What a great thread, thank you all.

Last summer I was gifted with two antique cameras that a family member bought almost a hundred years ago, so of course I had to play with them. I ended up making contact prints with the 6x9 negatives to approximate the snapshots that would have been made back in the day, and then for extra credit I toned them with sepia sulfide, like they used to do.

The result was shocking to me, but only after the toning step, which shot me into the distant future and turned me into an elderly man, looking back at my current day 15 year old.
That's a cool photo. I like it and it works as a repro of an old type of image that is nostalgic. I think it also speaks to why I have no qualms about post processing my digital images (though you have done it "old school" and that is fine). My aim is to produce a result not necessarily an image that is "true" in the sense that it is exactly the image that came out of the camera. If that's all photographers and movie makers ever did Hollywood would go out of business.
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