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Thread: A Good Read on Soft Focus History...

  1. #1
    Richard K. Richard K.'s Avatar
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    A Good Read on Soft Focus History...

    Russell Young's PhD thesis (!), The soft-focus lens and Anglo-American pictorialism you can get it online:


    by clicking on the .PDF file download. You can save it and read at your leisure. Many many interesting segments. I found the P&S story especially fascinating...
    When I was 16 I thought my father the stupidest man in the world; when I reached 21, I was astounded by how much he had learned in just 5 years!

    -appropriated from Mark Twain

  2. #2
    Japan Exposures
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    Re: A Good Read on Soft Focus History...

    Very cool, thanks for the link. LFF is credited at the end and some familiar names of forum members in the source notes.

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    Re: A Good Read on Soft Focus History...

    Thanks, Richard.

    The problem is that I was working under very stringent academic guidelines at an ancient (founded 1411 A.D.) university and there was a tremendous amount (at least equal to the current thesis) that I wanted to include but wasn't deemed acceptable, such as my working experience with these lenses, support equipment issues, etc. There was also the issue of proof - I couldn;t say the sky was blue unless I could prove it so many hunches and intuitions are not in the thesis. Nonetheless, I hope it has been useful to you.

    I'll give a workshop with Tillman Crane (tillmancrane.com/workshops/wrkshps.html) later this month that will be specifically aimed at addressing these practical issues. Someday, the goal is to write a book on the Keepers of Light model, with the history at the front, followed by practice methodologies. Stay tuned.

    Russ

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    Richard K. Richard K.'s Avatar
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    Re: A Good Read on Soft Focus History...

    Quote Originally Posted by russyoung View Post
    Thanks, Richard.

    The problem is that I was working under very stringent academic guidelines at an ancient (founded 1411 A.D.) university and there was a tremendous amount (at least equal to the current thesis) that I wanted to include but wasn't deemed acceptable, such as my working experience with these lenses, support equipment issues, etc. There was also the issue of proof - I couldn;t say the sky was blue unless I could prove it so many hunches and intuitions are not in the thesis. Nonetheless, I hope it has been useful to you.

    I'll give a workshop with Tillman Crane (tillmancrane.com/workshops/wrkshps.html) later this month that will be specifically aimed at addressing these practical issues. Someday, the goal is to write a book on the Keepers of Light model, with the history at the front, followed by practice methodologies. Stay tuned.

    Russ
    Thanks Russ. I do understand the stringency inherent in a PhD presentation, I completed course work in theoretical physics towards that degree but stopped short of completing a thesis. That type of book you mention would be totally groovy and I would (try to) be the first in line to buy it!

    Also, I wish somebody would do an illustrated coffe table type book on all these lenses starting with the Grubb - C Aplanat or even earlier.

    I would love to do your WS. Have to check the status of my wallet first...
    When I was 16 I thought my father the stupidest man in the world; when I reached 21, I was astounded by how much he had learned in just 5 years!

    -appropriated from Mark Twain

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    Re: A Good Read on Soft Focus History...

    Quote Originally Posted by russyoung View Post
    Thanks, Richard.

    The problem is that I was working under very stringent academic guidelines at an ancient (founded 1411 A.D.) university and there was a tremendous amount (at least equal to the current thesis) that I wanted to include but wasn't deemed acceptable, such as my working experience with these lenses, support equipment issues, etc. There was also the issue of proof - I couldn;t say the sky was blue unless I could prove it so many hunches and intuitions are not in the thesis. Nonetheless, I hope it has been useful to you.

    I'll give a workshop with Tillman Crane (tillmancrane.com/workshops/wrkshps.html) later this month that will be specifically aimed at addressing these practical issues. Someday, the goal is to write a book on the Keepers of Light model, with the history at the front, followed by practice methodologies. Stay tuned.

    Russ
    I'm looking forward to that workshop!

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    Re: A Good Read on Soft Focus History...

    I have had a quick skim - and I'll get back to it! Some comments.


    - Yes, I identified the Graf variable 16/18 in the Ed Weston portrait too - it's a "patent pending" model so may be from before 1926. Looks awfully like a publicity shot for the supplier.

    - I am sure you are right about the Graf date 1911 being a mistake.

    - I found the comments and quotes about soft/pictorial focussing on ground glass - especialy with the "exploding light" ground glass image you show - to be fascinating. Obviously, I will have to experiment with different qualitities of glass. I suddenly realised that most of Jim Galli's posted images are the type that don't have the direct light and are therefore more easily focussed!

    - The history of the decline was fascinating - but there were an awful lot of bad photographs made by photographers who absolutely had to choose (design/manipulate?) an image which was suitably "arty". Perhaps this why people stick to veteran cars, flowers and still lives? I have a series of Danish annuals of a photographers art magazines from 1911 to 1915 - the type with original photographs stuck in - in place of photographic reproductions. The images are hardly exciting, so I can understand that the movement soon ran out of steam.

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    Richard K. Richard K.'s Avatar
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    Re: A Good Read on Soft Focus History...

    Quote Originally Posted by jp498 View Post
    I'm looking forward to that workshop!
    Sigh...if only I lived closer than Toronto...if only I had the money...

    Should be a great one!!
    When I was 16 I thought my father the stupidest man in the world; when I reached 21, I was astounded by how much he had learned in just 5 years!

    -appropriated from Mark Twain

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    Re: A Good Read on Soft Focus History...

    I live about 10 miles away, so it's mostly a matter of setting time in my schedule to do it. I do have to pay for the class, but no travel/lodging expenses of course.

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    Re: A Good Read on Soft Focus History...

    Hi Steven-

    You've made some astute observations... thanks for reading the thesis...


    - Yes, I identified the Graf variable 16/18 in the Ed Weston portrait too - it's a "patent pending" model so may be from before 1926. Looks awfully like a publicity shot for the supplier.
    Weston was excellent at self-aggrandizement and in this and earlier times strove to portray himself as an artist in a monumental way... you should see the ones in a cape...he was a short man, about 5'2" and almost never allowed himself to be photographed in a manner that showed his physical stature realistically.


    - I found the comments and quotes about soft/pictorial focussing on ground glass - especialy with the "exploding light" ground glass image you show - to be fascinating. Obviously, I will have to experiment with different qualitities of glass. I suddenly realised that most of Jim Galli's posted images are the type that don't have the direct light and are therefore more easily focussed!

    Thanks. The character of the ground glass has far less impact on sharp images but with soft focus, it can act to mask the diffusion of the lens and mislead your assessment of the actual nature of the image.

    - The history of the decline was fascinating - but there were an awful lot of bad photographs made by photographers who absolutely had to choose (design/manipulate?) an image which was suitably "arty". Perhaps this why people stick to veteran cars, flowers and still lives? I have a series of Danish annuals of a photographers art magazines from 1911 to 1915 - the type with original photographs stuck in - in place of photographic reproductions. The images are hardly exciting, so I can understand that the movement soon ran out of steam.[/QUOTE]

    I'm not sure if it ran out steam but key luminaries like Day and Coburn no longer were active photographers and the newer pseudo-Pictorialists did not understand the term "subtle" or have an adequate art education. It is impossible, of course, to stay on the cutting edge indefinitely. Perhaps only Carl Christian Heinrich Kuhn managed to successfully live his life as a Pictorialist to the end.

    Russ

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    Re: A Good Read on Soft Focus History...

    Richard, thanks for the link, VERY interesting!
    Some images are missing but I think I can survive
    Many, many thanks to the author!

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