Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Degrees of Indistinctness

You should read this awesome post. It's really good.

As usual ToP has some really smart stuff to say, about some things I had not really thought through. Like many photographers I think about depth of field as an in or out proposition. There's the stuff in focus, and the stuff out of focus. What John, and especially some of the examples he gives, makes clear is that one should think and work with degrees of indistinctness. Putting one thing in sharp focus lets the viewer know what's important, what to pay attention to. Stuff that is less in focus can still be part of the composition, can still carry information, can still be more literal than blobs of pure form.

This naturally leads us in two separate directions.

How else can one deal with degrees of indistinctness, how else can we layer up degrees of importance? Local contrast, which is closely related to sharpness and feels similar to in-focus-ness, darkness and light; and I suppose one could play games with color or degrees of saturation. What else?

The other direction, at risk of slopping over into the technical stuff I so dislike, is to consider ways to control depth of focus in a more detailed fashion. With focus stacking techniques, or with a light field camera, one could arrange for arbitrary portions of the final image to be arbitrarily more or less in focus. My feeling is that pushing this very far would just look weird. The viewer is used to the ways focus softens outwards from a given plane in a single exposure with a single lens, but carefully used it could be quite powerful. These things do evolve, perhaps in twenty years arbitrarily placed focus will look perfectly natural to most viewers.

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