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adamhanlon

Are Technical Elements of an Image Important?

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I thought it might be worth discussing how important technical aspects are to individuals when viewing images.

While subjects and composition are naturally very important, do people find that if images have technical flaws, this affects their enjoyment of them?

My take is that, while I enjoy charismatic images of interesting subjects, once I notice technical flaws, this lessens my enjoyment of them. Shooting underwater is fundamentally difficult, and typically things like corner sharpness (for example) can be mitigated by researching and choosing lenses that have good corner performance behind a dome port. In effect, this is something that can be "fixed" before we get in the water and then attempt to find, compose, expose and focus our elusive subjects.

The hard part of underwater photography should be the bit underwater, and I want my gear to support me, particularly when I want to capture an "excellent" or "once in a lifetime" image. I am the weak link in the imaging process and the last thing I want is that my equipment is not performing as well as it could/should. 

Hence things like lenses that perform poorly behind a dome port are not acceptable (to me), and I seek out the best possible options (within my budget of course). Similarly, I would never recommend an imaging solution that compromises the potential performance. of an optical system to others. 

Or, have I got it all wrong, and if I find a charismatic and fascinating subject, technical issues do not matter? 

 

 

 

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I think it is highly individualistic and somewhat dependent upon the situation and conditions.

I dive almost exclusively on wrecks and lately have been finding, researching, and documenting new wrecks in Southern California.

https://wreckedinmyrevo.com/category/new-discovery/

We just found a new P-38 that crashed nearly 80 years ago in Nov 1943 that I will be posting about on Monday with detailed pictures and a photogrammetry model. 

Conditions here in Southern California can be "iffy" at best sometimes (dark, current, cold, lot of particulate matter, deep, etc). Plus, you never even know what you will find. One time we thought the target was an airplane and it ended up being a whale fall. How can you plan for that?

https://wreckedinmyrevo.com/2021/08/11/loras-point-loma-whalefall-point-loma-180-fsw/

Under the above conditions, my primary "job" is to keep myself alive. 90m+ deep in 50F water with deco accumulating fast, my primary concern isn't if I have some backscatter. ;)

However, when I'm diving in a location with warmer water and amazing visibility, then I tend to spend more time working on photos -- even if it means more deco. Examples are my recent wreck diving trips to Palau, Vis Croatia, and Malta (all are fully documented on the above blog site).

So, to sum it up, I think the answer as usual is "it depends...." and some of that is the "why" you are taking the pictures. :)

 

- brett

 

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12 minutes ago, TmxDiver said:

Under the above conditions, my primary "job" is to keep myself alive. 90m+ deep in 50F water with deco accumulating fast, my primary concern isn't if I have some backscatter.

Agreed, and I think backscatter is something that can definitely be sorted out in post!

But if you visit these remote, hard to access places, and seek to document them, I think ensuring that your equipment is the best available for the job is critical, and things like focus and corner sharpness (which can't be fixed in post) are (in my mind) very important, arguably more so than in a less challenging environment?

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4 minutes ago, adamhanlon said:

Agreed, and I think backscatter is something that can definitely be sorted out in post!

But if you visit these remote, hard to access places, and seek to document them, I think ensuring that your equipment is the best available for the job is critical, and things like focus and corner sharpness (which can't be fixed in post) are (in my mind) very important, arguably more so than in a less challenging environment?

Within reason.

Generally, I'm trying to identify features that are in the center of the frame (e.g., number of cylinders in an engine, number of oil coolers, name or number on a boat, hub design on a landing gear, etc.). 

Also, given the type of photographs I take, the corners are often either water or sand. 

That doesn't mean I don't want good gear to take photos it just means I personally value the center of the frame more than the edges for what I'm doing. 

This is the reason that I generally shoot with the WWL-C or WWL-1B.

Could I get sharper corners with a 230mm dome and good high-quality wide angle lens? Most likely. Would I want to haul that thing around and then also try to do some of the penetration I do into shipwrecks? Heck no.

I also prefer rectilinear for what I shoot which adds complexity. I don't get that with the WWL lenses but they are not nearly as distorted as a fisheye either.

- brett

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Over the decades I have observed people reacting to photographs. These observations have included positive remarks of photographs (e.g., photo is great) that I would have immediately rejected if it had been mine, even by well-educated people, e.g., those with Ph.D. degrees (and thus should be a bit more critical). I surmise from this that technical execution far less important than the subject matter. I suspect that non-photographers may not even notice the soft corners of many wide-angle underwater shots and other technical issues.

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I'm not sure higher education makes anyone more discerning in terms of photographs (or many other aspects of life come to think of it!) or any other form of art. Knowledgable maybe but this doesn't necessarily translate into artistic appreciation - or lack of it.

I agree though, if there's a Wow factor - or if the picture stimulates an emotion (positive or negative) that will, in many cases, outweigh any critical view of technical imperfections.

I guess, bottom line, is the photograph an accurate record of something (ie a fish portrait) where perhaps technical perfection is important; or a piece of art aimed at creating a reaction from the audience? 

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@TimG - Agreed.

Here is a recent photo of the bow of the HMS Southwold in Malta (~ 65m). Could it be better? Yup,  you bet. I had to boost shadows to get the starboard side of the bow a bit better defined which brought out some backscatter against the bow and the sand. The corners are probably blurred but does it matter? Not really IMHO. I wish the diver was a little closer and more in focus but I was dealing with depth of field issues.

It is meant to evoke a feeling and I think it does a reasonable job of that.

We were at the end of our dive heading back to the downline and had over an hour of deco to do but I wanted to get the shot.

Setup is a Sony a7rIV with the WWL1-B. 28mm, 1/60th, f 9.0, ISO 800. I had Retra strobes but was shooing natural light. 

sw-1.thumb.jpg.c7328f65e31c03a5b7e63338f488a697.jpg

 

- brett

 

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9 minutes ago, TimG said:

I'm not sure higher education makes anyone more discerning in terms of photographs (or many other aspects of life come to think of it!) or any other form of art. Knowledgable maybe but this doesn't necessarily translate into artistic appreciation - or lack of it.

 

This depends on how many graphs, data tables, etc. one has closely examined looking for patterns, faults, etc. One needs to be analytical. This is a question recommenders are asked of potential graduate students. By the time one has a Ph.D., at least in a science discipline, one should have had a some experience!  As well one is trained to be critical, e.g., to do peer review, especially of one's own work.

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Here is a famous Ansel Adams quote: “There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.”

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There is no doubt that having the right tool and exposing an image properly is important

However the process of 'judging' an image to find flaws does not match the large majority of people out there that look more than anything else for impact of an image

This is not unique to underwater photography is the same with land photography

I know which images a judge will like and what images I like and they are seldom the same thing

Besides many photographers (land) that are competition winners say exactly the same thing

One example is corner sharpness, ok it is better if the corners are sharp however the subject is not in the corners

Analogy to nightscapes you shoot a milky way with a lens that has coma in the edges, however nobody cares about what is in the edges

 

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It's been my experience that only photographers notice 99% of the 'flaws' in an image.   Composition is king.

 

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3 hours ago, adamhanlon said:

Or, have I got it all wrong, and if I find a charismatic and fascinating subject, technical issues do not matter? 

That's right, Adam. Composition, as Craig says, is (usually) king. Usually only someone who is an expert in the technical field used to create the work might tut-tut at a technical flaw. 

The Webb telescope images: are there flaws? I have no idea. Are they impressive? Do they invoke a reaction? A Wow? 

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For me, its lighting and composition that make a good shot.  Getting the techs right take that  same shot towards the 'great shot' category.  

Doesn't always have to be pin sharp - blurs and the  like can be fantastic even though they are not meeting the traditional sharp  standards expected. 

I'd much rather see a well lit and  composed  image of a clownfish  than a sterile but technically perfect shot of a rarity.  

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I guess another way of looking at this question is asking what one's criteria are for rejecting or keeping images. I will admit that I do use technical criteria. In the case of my salmon pictures, which quite numerous, I do reject many that are technically proficient and have good composition. I therefore have to have other criteria. One that I use is if I cannot think up a caption other than naming the species or something so simplistic that applies to many of my other salmon shots just as well.  I do have pix on my website that have just the species as their caption. I am, however, more critical of my salmon shots. I have tossed many simply because they are boring. On the flip side; if the pic shows an interesting behavior I may keep it even if not technically perfect.

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I just had to add this: some very dodgy brush techniques going on here - not to mention cigarette ash dropping on the canvas....

(Jackson! Your technique is awful. No-one will like your paintings and they'll NEVER sell!)

 

ugc1222981-990x1024-1364917432.jpeg

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I’m with the majority here, composition first, lighting second, technical brilliance matters but doesn’t rule an image in our out of contention.

I am 100% sure that higher education does not necessarily lead to enhanced appreciation of an image.  (Full disclosure: I am also a doctor of philosophy in a technical discipline, aka “piled higher and deeper”).  I’ve always liked this diagram as an explanation.  

 

A613470B-97C1-466A-BA42-4A6BE5B0903F.png

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Technical aspects aren't exclusive to the other factors...If your creative vision is to incorporate technical "defects" into your images and do not see them as defects, go for it :good:

But using lighting that provides a more pleasing light, using lenses that allow for sharp corners, ensuring technique is up to date and practised etc. are things that can be accomplished in addition to focus (or deliberate defocus!), composition, subject selection et al. 

Surely, if the goal is to produce excellent images, we need to load the deck in our favour?

A practical example (and apologies for "picking" on @TmxDiver), in the environment he is describing, the WACP will produce technically better results, and will actually be easier to use. Is the reason for not using it, expense, size, weight, bulk or something else? I appreciate that this seems aimed at one individual, but more generally, why would individuals chose technical options that potentially compromise image quality?

Do we limit our images to the "good" category by compromising on technicalities, or could they still be great with technical flaws?

 

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1 hour ago, adamhanlon said:



A practical example (and apologies for "picking" on @TmxDiver), in the environment he is describing, the WACP will produce technically better results, and will actually be easier to use. Is the reason for not using it, expense, size, weight, bulk or something else? I appreciate that this seems aimed at one individual, but why more generally , why would do individuals chose technical options that compromise image quality?
 

cost, weight, ergonomics usually are a trade-off against quality

The WACP is extremely heavy I was on a boat once with a small build american lady she could not actually carry the rig herself outside the water and getting out of the water was a problem

In addition with the drag and the current she was flying everywhere and actually not able to take the shots others could

So here is a good reason to go for a smaller set up just there

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Yeah, I agree with Massimo: a trade-off.

I found a 230 domeport a bit the same with a rectilinear lens on FF. Moving it around airports and planes was, I thought, an utter pain. I switched to an FE (15mm Sigma) as it would work with a smaller dome, didn't need a big EXR (90mm) and so took up less space and weight.

Maybe not the ideal thing I wanted - but a compromise.

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1 hour ago, Interceptor121 said:

In addition with the drag and the current she was flying everywhere and actually not able to take the shots others could

I would suggest that this is a skill issue as well as an equipment one! 

Surely, there is no more drag with a WACP than there would be with a large dome. In strong currents, wide angle scenics are going to be  a struggle with any dome port combination! If the dive briefing mentions strong currents, I'm not going to plan to shoot any :D

Perhaps the issue here is that her lens choice in those conditions being at fault, which again brings me round to the question of how we should use equipment to maximise the technical potential of our images.

However, it is important to stress that I am not recommending that the WACP is the right choice in all conditions. I used it simply as an example, not as a general recommendation or suggestion.

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4 hours ago, adamhanlon said:

Technical aspects aren't exclusive to the other factors...If your creative vision is to incorporate technical "defects" into your images and do not see them as defects, go for it :good:

But using lighting that provides a more pleasing light, using lenses that allow for sharp corners, ensuring technique is up to date and practised etc. are things that can be accomplished in addition to focus (or deliberate defocus!), composition, subject selection et al. 

Surely, if the goal is to produce excellent images, we need to load the deck in our favour?

A practical example (and apologies for "picking" on @TmxDiver), in the environment he is describing, the WACP will produce technically better results, and will actually be easier to use. Is the reason for not using it, expense, size, weight, bulk or something else? I appreciate that this seems aimed at one individual, but more generally, why would individuals chose technical options that potentially compromise image quality?

Do we limit our images to the "good" category by compromising on technicalities, or could they still be great with technical flaws?

 

I don't mind the feedback at all. :)

Two quick notes:

1) I agree with the idea of using the best tools available -- subject to a cost/benefit analysis. For example, I was using Big Blue lights and recently bought some Keldan 8x 18k lights. They are far superior and produce light which has no hard edges, the color is nicer, etc. However, they also cost about 2x the Big Blue lights. 

2) In terms of the WACP,  it is a cost/benefit analysis for me. It probably would have been a better image but it weights ~3x a WWL-1B (on land) and costs ~ 4x (?) a WWL1-B and I'm not sure the image would be 4x better. I'm also often traveling so weight and size matter (in addition to being a factor in the conditions/places I'm often diving with current and small places).

For me personally, the cost/benefit equation doesn't work and I have considered "upgrading" to the WACP. If somebody were to loan me one and asked me to evaluate it for deep wreck diving, I'd do it. :)

- brett

 

PS - @adamhanlon I am curious as to why the WACP would be "easier to use" than the WWL-1B?

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7 minutes ago, TmxDiver said:

I am curious as to why the WACP would be "easier to use" than the WWL-1B?

I kind of want to avoid this becoming about WACPs!

But I did open the door...corner performance at small apertures is better with WACP than WWL. Shooting big wrecks at some distance from the camera does not really create a DOF issue.

So, it would be easier, as you would be able to shoot wide open, allowing you to use faster shutter speeds and/or lower ISOs.  While the ISO issue is really more of a post processing hassle and achieving as much dynamic range as possible, the shutter speed advantage would allow you to shoot darker scenes, or reduce the potential for motion blur.

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I would suggest that this is a skill issue as well as an equipment one! 

 

Surely, there is no more drag with a WACP than there would be with a large dome. In strong currents, wide angle scenics are going to be  a struggle with any dome port combination! If the dive briefing mentions strong currents, I'm not going to plan to shoot any 

 

Perhaps the issue here is that her lens choice in those conditions being at fault, which again brings me round to the question of how we should use equipment to maximise the technical potential of our images.

 

However, it is important to stress that I am not recommending that the WACP is the right choice in all conditions. I used it simply as an example, not as a general recommendation or suggestion.

That was an example

In terms of skill issues looking at a few trips I have dome quite a few photographers had a level of fitness inadequate to take certain shots

I had several occasions when someone said please take me where you go I had some counter current swimming and they were gone

Partially also because of diving equipment choices i.e. split fins may be comfortable but unsuited to the task

Generally I have the best equipment for what I decide to shoot and know how to take that shot however I have plenty of technically good shots that mean little to me but in some case less technically perfect that are more powerful but didn’t have the time to set things best or I had not made the best choice to go underwater with

 

 

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Well I guess, lack of fitness and/or diving proficiency definitely ties into the things that we can do something about before venturing underwater in order to obtain better images.

However I'm not sure that it would necessarily affect technical proficiency in photographic terms? For example, I can back fin pretty adequately, which is a really useful thing to be able to do. I have dived with lots of photographers that cannot, and they can still produce well composed, exposed and technically well executed images :nea:
 

50 minutes ago, Interceptor121 said:

but in some case less technically perfect that are more powerful but didn’t have the time to set things best or I had not made the best choice to go underwater with

So, if they were technically perfect too, they might be even more powerful?

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They would if you could
However if the fish moves and your composition didn’t have the perfect settings you can’t
Or you jumped with a too short or too long lens
Ultimately only landscape photography can have the perfect setting dialled in and then it conditions are perfect match the shots
Underwater many things like bracketing don’t work with strobes so you have less opportunities


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