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The Value of the Ten-Foot Shot
Old 02-20-2015   #1
NY_Dan
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The Value of the Ten-Foot Shot

For me, one of the most valuable concepts in street photography is the ten-foot shot. Weegee mentions this in his writings. In his case, ten feet was useful for a full-length photo at a known f/stop when using flash. And he, along with most press photographers used flashbulbs for shooting during both night and day. They would walk around with their Speed Graphics racked to 10 feet and their lens set to the correct stop, and their shutters cocked.

With time, these photographers instinctively knew when they were ten-feet from their subjects. I've been applying this on the streets of NYC. It's close enough to show facial expressions, yet far enough away to have a good ratio of candid shots.

And if I want to shoot a little tighter I'll set my focus to seven-feet, and to 12, 15, or 20 for wider shots. What's really worked for me lately is picking my spot and letting interesting subjects approach to 10 feet and shooting. This way I can be sure of getting a good background -- something without too much signage and that allows for separation between subject and background. With medium format, a 10-foot shot, even at f/11 can produce a desirably soft background.

I think this method is different from zone focusing, because the idea is to get a real feel for a specific distance with a specific format and focal length.

My point is that the value of simple concepts such as the ten-foot shot are easy to under appreciate. I only thought to share this because in another thread an RFF member asks about which MF camera is easiest to focus -- and it made me think that so often one doesn't need to, or have time to focus. It's really great when you're on.

Anyone else have any examples of photographic approaches/concepts that on the surface are really simple, under-appreciated, or overlooked?
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Old 02-20-2015   #2
C. D. Keth
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I worked for a long time as a focus puller on films. The jist of it is you're focusing the lens actively during the shot while the operator frames the shot. You don't have the benefit of being able to see whether you're sharp or soft unless you're WAY off and then you're behind the action. The way we do this is distance measuring and estimation. Anyway, sorry for the tangential tale, but I'm going somewhere with it. One game we'd play to get better at distance estimation is simply to point to something and estimate that distance- or guess it at first- and then measure it. You can get very good at it surprisingly quickly and it's a skill that has huge benefits in street photography. I'm rarely more than 5% off of shorter distances so I can prefocus and be 99% there. Try it, you may like it.
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Old 02-20-2015   #3
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I've noticed that after I got a Leica, an M4-2, that even with that very good rangefinder I mostly found myself prefocusing on a given distance and shooting for that range with a known DOF.
I don't consider myself any kind of street shooter but when I do go into a crowd I mostly employ that method.
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Old 02-20-2015   #4
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I think you've introduced us to an important idea Dan. Limitation is liberating in a way. It is interesting how many of HC-B's environmental portraits with a 50, for instance, are from roughly the same distance.
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Old 02-20-2015   #5
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I am shooting sports (roller derby) with my M8 and manual flash, and I do it almost exactly as you describe: I pick a spot, frame and set the f-stop, and then I wait for the action to come through the spot I selected.
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Old 02-20-2015   #6
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I always figure flash at ten feet. You can be off 1.5 to 2.0 and still get al good shot. If you figure it any less than 10 feet the margin for error is much smaller. Plus guide numbers are easy with the feet at 10.
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Old 02-20-2015   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charjohncarter View Post
I always figure flash at ten feet. You can be off 1.5 to 2.0 and still get al good shot. If you figure it any less than 10 feet the margin for error is much smaller. Plus guide numbers are easy with the feet at 10.
+1 Great Approach
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Old 02-21-2015   #8
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10ft/3m is my standard pre-focus setting for street photography. I've used the idea of pre-focusing on a fixed point and waiting for the subject when shooting auto racing; never thought about it for street, as I tend to move almost constantly, but it sounds interesting.
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Old 02-21-2015   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 02Pilot View Post
10ft/3m is my standard pre-focus setting for street photography. I've used the idea of pre-focusing on a fixed point and waiting for the subject when shooting auto racing; never thought about it for street, as I tend to move almost constantly, but it sounds interesting.
Yeah, not for every shot -- but if an interesting subject comes along and they're animated, then it can help get a good shot -- and if the person is "corralled" by a crowd or a gap between cars -- then you can anticipate pretty well. I like C.D. Keith's focus-pulling advice and playing the distance guessing game. One of my Rolleiflex's distance scale is way off -- I want to get it fixed in the near future.

Anyone else play the fake wave game -- where you photograph someone a few feet away and wave to an imaginary person somewhere behind them?

I attached a photo with this "technique." You can even see me waving in the reflection
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Old 02-21-2015   #10
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RFF is a fantastic place, with photographers like Dan there are so many ideas to explore to learn something new! Never tried but I'll do...
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Old 02-21-2015   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NY_Dan View Post
Anyone else play the fake wave game -- where you photograph someone a few feet away and wave to an imaginary person somewhere behind them? I attached a photo with this "technique." You can even see me waving in the reflection
Brilliant.
I haven't tried waving, but I do stare past people at some imaginary thing in the distance.
Another thing I've done is if a situation is developing, but it isn't yet ripe, to pull out my phone and start checking email until the time is right. People checking their phones tend to be so engrossed that they stand in awkward places on the sidewalk. This is considered normal behavior, so they are generally ignored.
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Old 02-21-2015   #12
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Originally Posted by B-9 View Post
+1 Great Approach
I also figure it for ISO 100. Then if I use ISO 200 or 50 I'm only move one stop. Works great for group events.
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Old 02-21-2015   #13
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So, were the lenses on those Speed Graphics the same FOV as a 50 on a 35mm camera?
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Old 02-21-2015   #14
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I think the 135 was pretty standard, and correct me if I'm wrong but that should be close to a 50 on 35 and an 80 on 6x6...
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Old 02-21-2015   #15
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Hey Dan my first real strobe was a Honeywell 610 pressmaster (potato masher). It had high and low. If I remember right full lengths normal F/L lens on high were 12 ft were 5.6 and 3/4 shots on low were F8.
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Old 02-21-2015   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NY_Dan View Post
I think the 135 was pretty standard, and correct me if I'm wrong but that should be close to a 50 on 35 and an 80 on 6x6...
127 and 135 were both standards. Of the cameras I have and have seen, 127mm was common on the earlier cameras and 135mm seems to have become more common as they moved into the Crown Graphic era.
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Old 02-21-2015   #17
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Back in 1976, Popular Photography ran an article on how to figure out what your lens will cover at what distance.

it works this way...for 35mm, you need to find what they call a "format dimension, focal length factor". 've listed those below

Lens 24mm FF for short side 36mm for long side

15mm 1.6 / 2.4
18mm 1.33/ 2
20mm 1.2/ 1.8
21mm 1.14/ 1.7
24mm 1/ 1.5
28mm 0.86/ 1.3
35mm 0.7/ 1
50mm 0.48/ 0.72
85mm 0.28/ 0.42
90mm 0.26/ 0.4
100mm 0.24/ 0.36
105mm 0.23/ 0.24

In use , it's FF x distance = field dimension. So, if you were shooting with a 35mm on your Leica, at 7 feet, you'd cover an area of 4.9 feet by 7 feet-so if your shooting a vertical image you could easily fit a average sized man into the frame.

For shooting distance it's field size=field dimension divided by FF factor. IE-if you are shooting horizontally with a 50mm at 14.5 feet, you'd cover 7 feet vertically and 20 feet horizontally

For our 2 1/4 shooting friends like Dan, the math is this: a 2 1/4 square neg is 56mm by 56 mm.

So the FF factors are:
55mm (Rolleiwide) 1.0
65mm 0.86
75mm 0.75
80mm 0.7
135mm (TeleRollei)0.4

Hope this helps !
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Guide numbers for manual mode flash - love it!
Old 02-21-2015   #18
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Guide numbers for manual mode flash - love it!

I have all white kitchen cabinetry in my home. So, it is inevitable that with any flash in "AUTO" mode, or cameras using TTL flash control (Leica M7, Nikon F3), that the flash pictures have the main subject underexposed. My subjects are usually my toddler and my first grader.

I've found that the only way to get acceptable flash exposure and focus is to set the flash on manual, and set the focus distance to the aperture that I want. On a unit such as the Vivitar 285, it is nice that you have variable power options, which gives you a selection of apertures. For example, at 1/16 power on the wide setting, using ISO 160 (Kodak Portra), a 7 feet distance gives me an aperture of about f/5.6. (The numbers may not be exact, as I don't have the unit in front of me at the moment). With the camera lens set to the 7 feet, now all I have to do is fire the shutter when the kids come into focus. Now the focus and exposure will be correct.

The Vivitar 285 also has the benefit that you can illuminate the exposure calculation dial, when working in low light.
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Old 02-24-2015   #19
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Mr Fujicaman - thanks for that table!
Cheers,
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Old 02-24-2015   #20
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I meant to add, thank you Dan for this thread!
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Old 02-24-2015   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NY_Dan View Post
For me, one of the most valuable concepts in street photography is the ten-foot shot. Weegee mentions this in his writings. In his case, ten feet was useful for a full-length photo at a known f/stop when using flash. And he, along with most press photographers used flashbulbs for shooting during both night and day. They would walk around with their Speed Graphics racked to 10 feet and their lens set to the correct stop, and their shutters cocked.
Dan, I don't do it the same way, but I get what you mean. With 28mm, 35mm, and 50mm lenses... I know where to stand to frame my shot before I even bring the camera to my eyes. It just comes with using the same focal lengths all of the time.
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Old 02-24-2015   #22
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Smile

Quote:
Originally Posted by lynnb View Post
Mr Fujicaman - thanks for that table!
Cheers,
Lynn, I made a spread sheet with this info-if you want a copy PM me and I'll email it to you.

I printed out the spread sheet and reduced it on my office copier and laminated it to carry in my camera bag-I've reached the age I can't memorize everything anymore.
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