Throwback Thursday No. 38


Images from the Film Archives — 2000

Crabapple in Spring Bud — Holmdel Arboretum, NJ © jj raia

Crabapple in Spring Bud — Holmdel Arboretum, NJ © jj raia

Faced with an overcast sky and breezy conditions, the composition above was just not possible to record in a “normal” way with the spring buds of a crabapple and the trunk in focus, since the branches spread out like an umbrella, and there was quite a bit of distance between the closest buds and the trunk. In order to narrow the angle of view, and eliminate any of the bright sky in the frame, the telephoto (210mm) was the necessary lens. But with its inherent shallow depth of field, an aperture of f/32 would be needed to keep the buds and trunk in focus, which in turn necessitated a very long exposure. And with the breezy conditions, the buds would not have been sharp with an exposure time of any length. So, what to do?

Try something different. Embrace the blur; something that would carry over years later with the switch to digital, utilizing Intentional Camera Movement (ICM). But the method here was different. By setting the aperture to wide open, the result would be a very narrow depth of field, and a still long exposure of one second. But if the speed were set to 1/15th of a second, 15 multiple exposures on the same frame of film would theoretically result in a properly exposed image. And each shutter release would be focused on a different spot of the subject, either the closest buds, the trunk, the background, or anywhere in between, blurring the rest of the scene. And of course, the process needed to be repeated for each bracketed exposure as well! This was the first time I used this method, and a week later after the film was processed, I was very happy with the results.

River Maple — High Point State Park, NJ  © jj raia

River Maple — High Point State Park, NJ © jj raia

The following fall, on a gloomy, rainy day, the same technique was used to photograph this rain-soaked tree of brilliant red leaves with an unusual copper-toned trunk. I would find out later that it was a river maple, but have not seen another one since. After seeing the results of this photo, the intent was to create a series of one image for each season. However, like many well meant intentions, I never followed through. Now, with my particular brand of digital camera, there is a limit of only ten exposures, which would still produce the same basic result, but I would have to find that function buried somewhere in the digital abyss of menus.

Note – The medium format camera and lenses I used back then never seemed to have a problem with difraction, where the use of very small apertures, such as f/32 as mentioned above, created images that were a bit soft, and not as sharp as possible. In fact, I had never even heard of the term until several years after switching to digital. Maybe medium and larger formats are able to withstand smaller apertures like f/45 without any image degradation, while full frame and crop sensors cannot. Not sure on that one, but being aware of it is important.

Now, with the aid of any number of software programs, images that are sharp can be processed to create the same results illustrated here, and have the best of both worlds, while the possibilities are almost limitless instead of only a singular result.


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