Posts Tagged ‘adjective’

Adequate Adjective

12 August 2008

Dear J-

Our eleventh grade English teacher was a big one for talking about things with specifics; one of her favorite tirades had to do with vague adjectives.  Nice.  Good.  Bad.  It’s less that they aren’t necessarily valid, it’s more that they’re not precise.  So, believe in this:  saying a lens has nice bokeh, which is a Japanese term dealing with how a lens draws out-of-focus highlights, has little relevance.  A lens might be nice and sharp, but the out-of-focus portions might be not to your tastes, so you end up not using that lens.

Let me elaborate:  bokeh is a subjective quality.  What I find pleasing in out-of-focus may not be to your tastes.  That’s fine.  But you must understand where I’m coming from; twenty-five years of wearing glasses has taught me a certain way of seeing the out-of-focus world.  Thus good bokeh, to me, naturally replicates that without calling attention to itself.  You might hear what they’ve said is “restless” bokeh — to me, that’s characterized by falsely hard details in the out-of-focus regions; that’s most apparent to me in looking at pictures taken with my Nikkor 50mm f/1.8.  On the other hand, funny things like flare — internal reflections or not — will reduce those hard edges; some of the pictures I’ve seen taken with remounted Vest Pocket Kodak lenses have a magical quality to them; that’s definitely a rainy-day project I want to pursue at some point.

I could make all kinds of words and justifications about the purchases I make in the pursuit of the perfect lens, but I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, and I’ll probably keep repeating it periodically; for me, since photography is about sharing a moment, the tool used is irrelevant so long as it doesn’t interfere with faithfully duplicating the memory you saw.  That said, I find myself, after having spent weeks now with the same lens, seeing the world as that lens sees it, framing my attention at the same distance.  It’ll be interesting to see if I can successfully switch lenses now, and what the learning curve will involve.

I admit that the first time I put a 35mm focal length lens on a 135 film SLR was quite a revelation; the field of view matched my natural attention nearly perfectly.