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Thread: Why Shoot Wide Open????

  1. #1
    Workshop Member glenerrolrd's Avatar
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    Why Shoot Wide Open????

    Certainly it is great fun to use the fast Leica M glass. Its really nice to know that your widest aperture is completely usable . Without a doubt being able to control DOF as a part of your composition can add to the interest in your photographs. But....to use your fast glass wide open all the time doesn t make sense(IMHO).

    There are plenty of examples on this and other forums of the creative use of limited DOF(and some great photographs) ...but it shouldn t be an end in itself. Recently I have seen several posts that recommend(?) using fast glass wide open all the time.

    I shoot quite a lot of street and controlling DOF is one of the greatest challenges. Subjects often have depth that needs to be sharp and darn it people keep moving (maybe its just me?) If believe that getting closer is generally advisable ..you have to move as well . But this isn t unique to street as I have an example that could have been shot on a tripod where DOF is important.

    The following 3 examples can be used to support my position.

    In image one ..the older women in the coffee house. This was wide open even though my exposure was 1/4000 so I had my choice. The intent was to soften the background and create an image of solitude during a very busy time (Semana Santa Seville). The hands I believe are the plane of focus..the face is good ..the coffee cup as well..but thats about it.

    The 2nd image of the boy and girl near the church was shot with a 28/2 at 5.6 .. If this was shot at f2 ...first I probably would have missed and second I would have lost all the depth in the photograph.

    The 3rd image taken with the 21/2.8 asph at f5.6 shows DOF from the foreground to the back . You could choose to isolate the boy in the front ..but I wanted the flow to go thru the other participants and up to the people on the balcony of the hotel. Again a choice in the composition as well as a recognition that "these guys are often moving so I need some latitude ".

    These are all situations where I had a choice and tried to use DOF to get the image I was looking for. So I don t get the idea of always shooting wide open?

  2. #2
    Member JimBuchanan's Avatar
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    Re: Why Shoot Wide Open????

    Yes, I agree with the creative use of DOF with fast lens f/stops. The wider the lens, the harder it is to have the DOF control, unless one has the 24 Summilux, etc.

    On the Fred Miranda alternate gear forum, its a contest to display the shallowest DOF photos as possible. Forget about image quality, lets see blury bokeh. I think its an effort to achieve 3D qualities, but when just a part of an object is in focus, it really isn't an object anymore, let alone separate from the other objects that maybe out of focus.

    So, I concur. In fact, I am trading my 28/2.8 for a 35/2.0, for use on my M8 to get a slightly more shallow DOF at the expense of the wider angle of view, just to have the capability of isolating subjects as these photos illustrate.

  3. #3
    Senior Member thrice's Avatar
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    Re: Why Shoot Wide Open????

    I used to constantly search for faster and faster glass, but in all honesty, it's about the best tool for the purpose. I don't shoot my ultra wides at large apertures, and I don't need ultra-large apertures on my tele's. So I only really need a fast 35 and 50. I'm not above stopping down those lenses to give context to the subject though. I think using a lens exclusively at it's maximum aperture may work from some people, but I cannot imagine shooting landscape, studio portraiture or street without varying the aperture.

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    Re: Why Shoot Wide Open????

    I think your images prove your point, especially the third one that gains much from deep DOF. I was quite puzzled by the Overgaard Method of shooting wide open. It might work as his personal style, but it's an odd recommendation for general practice.

    IMO selective control over DOF is part of the 'job description' for fine photography. Always isolating the subject in a blur of bokeh would feel lazy to me. All images would focus the viewer's eye on one main area of focus. And that's often not my intention.

    Go tell Lee Friedlander to shoot wide open??

    Kirk
    Last edited by thompsonkirk; 15th April 2010 at 22:34.

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    Re: Why Shoot Wide Open????

    1) IMO it does not make sense (for me) to allways shoot wide open.
    But there are certainly subjects where I prefer shallow DOF. Sometimes to blur the background because it draws too much attention from the subject, and sometimes because shallow DOF generates a certain look which I like.
    It allows to focus (the head) on a certain area in the image and (maybe) allows us to leave some more room for our phantasy and imagination about what is going on in the blurred area.

    2) the other "problem" is the correct focus when using shallow DOF. And for anything not static it is quite difficult with a Leica M.
    First one has to make sure lens is 100% calibrated and doesnt suffer from focus shift. Second its a challenge specially with a 21/24/1.4 because you cant frame precise with the internal finder , but you cant focus precise with the internal and changing between internal and external takes a little time and can lead to faulty focus (for nonstatic subjects).
    Therefore I sometimes just use the internal finder and guess the rest when shooting the 24/1.4 people or nonstatic things.

    And thats also the reason why I am considering the 24/1.4 Nikon even though I own the Leica one. If I nail the focus I really like what I get, but the rate where I hit focus is not satisfying for me.

    Lately I have maden an experiment and often shot the same subject with f1.4 and f5.6 to see which image I would like better.
    And guess what - sometimes I prefer the shallow DOF, and sometimesmore DOF.
    Another thing is that there are certain things one needs to keep in mind when shooting shallow DOF. One would be when I shoot images of people I try to position mself in a way that I have both eyes of a fac in focus-meaning more from frontal look and not so much from the side.

    The nice thing about fast lenses is you do not need to use the fast f-stop all the time, but you can use it, a) for shallow DOF look or not to forget, if there is not much light.

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    Workshop Member glenerrolrd's Avatar
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    Re: Why Shoot Wide Open????

    For sure I am not against fast lenses. But I felt the isolated DOF recommendations were getting overdone. Sometimes it can make a photograph really work but as a standard practice ..I can think of better starting points.

    For example with the both the 21 and 24 summiluxes...I rarely use f1.4 to limit DOF but rather to get that last bit of light I need to keep the ISO at its sweet range below 640. Here I think the faster glass makes a much bigger difference. Or to get images that would otherwise be impossible for a digital M. From a character standpoint I like the 2.8 asph versions of the 21 and 24 better than the faster summiluxes. But when the light starts to go two EV is the difference between 1/15 and 1/60 and for street that can be getting photographs and looking for creative blur. Or shooting at ISO 400 verse 1600. For me those are meaningful differences .

    And as mentioned above try focusing on something moving at those light levels.

    I am awaiting the new Nikon 24/1.4 as well. Nikon will eventually transfer the new D3S sensor technology to a smaller D700 size body then clean 3200-6400 will open up night shooting. It will be interesting to see if you can really AF at those light levels.

    Shallow DOF has a place and I am glad to have it now even with the wide angles...but its only one option in making a composition decision.

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    Super Duper
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    Re: Why Shoot Wide Open????

    Quote Originally Posted by glenerrolrd View Post
    For sure I am not against fast lenses. But I felt the isolated DOF recommendations were getting overdone. Sometimes it can make a photograph really work but as a standard practice ..I can think of better starting points.

    For example with the both the 21 and 24 summiluxes...I rarely use f1.4 to limit DOF but rather to get that last bit of light I need to keep the ISO at its sweet range below 640. Here I think the faster glass makes a much bigger difference. Or to get images that would otherwise be impossible for a digital M. From a character standpoint I like the 2.8 asph versions of the 21 and 24 better than the faster summiluxes. But when the light starts to go two EV is the difference between 1/15 and 1/60 and for street that can be getting photographs and looking for creative blur. Or shooting at ISO 400 verse 1600. For me those are meaningful differences .

    And as mentioned above try focusing on something moving at those light levels.

    I am awaiting the new Nikon 24/1.4 as well. Nikon will eventually transfer the new D3S sensor technology to a smaller D700 size body then clean 3200-6400 will open up night shooting. It will be interesting to see if you can really AF at those light levels.

    Shallow DOF has a place and I am glad to have it now even with the wide angles...but its only one option in making a composition decision.
    The low light capability of the D700 are allready great and the AF works well for shallow DOF.

  8. #8
    Member markowich's Avatar
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    Re: Why Shoot Wide Open????

    Quote Originally Posted by glenerrolrd View Post
    Certainly it is great fun to use the fast Leica M glass. Its really nice to know that your widest aperture is completely usable . Without a doubt being able to control DOF as a part of your composition can add to the interest in your photographs. But....to use your fast glass wide open all the time doesn t make sense(IMHO).

    There are plenty of examples on this and other forums of the creative use of limited DOF(and some great photographs) ...but it shouldn t be an end in itself. Recently I have seen several posts that recommend(?) using fast glass wide open all the time.

    I shoot quite a lot of street and controlling DOF is one of the greatest challenges. Subjects often have depth that needs to be sharp and darn it people keep moving (maybe its just me?) If believe that getting closer is generally advisable ..you have to move as well . But this isn t unique to street as I have an example that could have been shot on a tripod where DOF is important.

    The following 3 examples can be used to support my position.

    In image one ..the older women in the coffee house. This was wide open even though my exposure was 1/4000 so I had my choice. The intent was to soften the background and create an image of solitude during a very busy time (Semana Santa Seville). The hands I believe are the plane of focus..the face is good ..the coffee cup as well..but thats about it.

    The 2nd image of the boy and girl near the church was shot with a 28/2 at 5.6 .. If this was shot at f2 ...first I probably would have missed and second I would have lost all the depth in the photograph.

    The 3rd image taken with the 21/2.8 asph at f5.6 shows DOF from the foreground to the back . You could choose to isolate the boy in the front ..but I wanted the flow to go thru the other participants and up to the people on the balcony of the hotel. Again a choice in the composition as well as a recognition that "these guys are often moving so I need some latitude ".

    These are all situations where I had a choice and tried to use DOF to get the image I was looking for. So I don t get the idea of always shooting wide open?
    i could not agree more. DOF is an important control parameter and -clearly- the more you can control of it the better it is. so having high speed lenses is very desirable but you have to know the caveats. shooting a 24 or 21 LUX always at f1.4 is rather ridiculous. IQ of the high speed leica glass improves
    significantly as stopped down (until f5.6 or so), CA is high wide open and so is vignetting. these lenses give you the possibility to shoot wide open but still they improve a lot when stopped down. you shoot them wide open if you have to but then you must be aware of the IQ problems you encounter.
    certainly, in classical non-discerning M-style shooting (which -interestingly enough- is still alive) all this does not matter. there it is enough to get the (some) shot and define it 'artistic'.
    peter

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    Member roanjoh's Avatar
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    Re: Why Shoot Wide Open????

    Leica's fast glasses (0.95-1.4) are so expensive that it would be a waste of cash if you don't shoot 'em wide open (99% of the time) - at least for the first few months so it can pay for itself

    ...........then the novelty wears off and you start to explore the "other" more generic apertures.

    Just MHO.

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    Re: Why Shoot Wide Open????

    I assume this thread is a response to Thorsten Overgaard's post about his personal shooting technique. Here's a quote from his blog. He is commenting on reasons to shoot with the lens stopped down:

    "For landscape that might be considered optimum but for portraits and atmosphere photos, which is what I do the most, the quality of the narrow sharpness along with the play with light and the bokeh is what makes my day...The only reason I could ever think of for stepping down to f/2.0 or f/5.6 would be if there is too much light. I'm so fortunate to live in a Scandinavia where it's dark most of the year, so I don't have that problem...Another reason to stop it down would be to do for example a group portrait of three persons or more where you want to make sure they are all sharp."

    He explains why he chooses to shoot only wide open. Certainly he recognizes that there are times a lens should be stopped down, while explaining that for his type of photography he prefers wide open shooting. I agree that he is too dogmatic, and that wider DOF could benefit some of his shots. None the less, I did find his blog to be of interest.
    Last edited by tom in mpls; 16th April 2010 at 10:08.

  11. #11
    Workshop Member glenerrolrd's Avatar
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    Re: Why Shoot Wide Open????

    This post ,of course , was a reaction to "Thorsten s" best practices but also in response to the numerous comments about shooting fast Leica glass wide open. (almost every Noctilux post). I think if Thorsten wrote as you quoted above ....." .the only reason I could even think of stopping down to f2.0 or f5.6 would be if there is too much light" ...then IMHO he is unnecessarily limiting his creative choices.

    This in no way should be considered a critique of his work or his blog ..both of which are surely excellent. If,however, the intent of his post was to learn from his practices (isn t he holding himself out as an expert? ) then I felt a different POV was worthwhile .

    As I noted I have seen dozens of posts about the Leica fast glass and the emphasis seems to always be on the creative use of shallow DOF. I think the standard practice for a Noctilux is to only use the lens between 0.95 and 2.0 otherwise why have a Noctilux? I was trying to differentiate between having and using a capability(fast aperture) and limiting my options to only a shallow DOF look.

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    Re: Why Shoot Wide Open????

    Can't help but agree with Roger on this. There is nothing illegal about shooting wide open on every and any image, to create your own style, etc. But ANY dof is only part of the form and content of an image that determines whether it is successful or not. Very few images - IMHO of course - are successful JUST BECAUSE they are shot wide open, rather the dof becomes part of the photograph and everything in it. As one of my old photography instructors said many times; "your photograph can be in focus, perfectly composed, perfectly exposed and still be a shi***ty photograph."
    Shallow dof can sometimes add interest to an image, but RARELY, can it carry a photograph.
    BTW, being a pjist for twenty years, most of the art directors I worked with (back in heyday of film, on this planet, long long ago...) wanted nothing to do with shallow dof per say.
    Let the fillm and light provide the atmosphere, but give the art director "sharp".

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