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Author Topic: Alain Briot's latest essay  (Read 28737 times)
Nick Rains
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« Reply #40 on: February 13, 2006, 02:19:38 AM »
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Science on the other hand is a harder master. Science requires a hypothosis to be tested. In other words, there must be a way to prove a claim false. If the method cannot prove the claim false, then we can form a theory. Theories stand until they are contradicted. Science has not been able to prove any absolute existence to "art" except it is subjective. 

[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=58021\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Also, in mathematics, the opposite is the case - mathematicians do not seek to disprove a hypothesis, they must demonstrate a rigorous proof for a theory to be considered 'true'.

Neither science nor maths will ever prove the existence of art - as the man said, I may not know what it is, but I know it when I see it :-)
« Last Edit: February 13, 2006, 02:20:18 AM by Nick Rains » Logged

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« Reply #41 on: February 13, 2006, 07:11:22 AM »
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Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

That is called "metaphysics." A rather slippery slope.

I am not denying art, but pointing out that subjective statements are not science. There are some very firm statements made in this thread that have been presented with some authority. But that don't make 'em true. (and I am aware of the paradox of my statements.)

You may find math very close to art critism. Math is a game. It makes the rules and proves itself true by those rules. It does not need to describe any "reality." Art critism is the same for the most part. (Science on the other hand, must deal with the reality of the universe.)

Is art just a catagory of thought? Does it change with the whim of the artist, critic, or audience? Then its "reality" is simply subjective. No absolute statement can be made about it as you point out with the "I know it when I see it" statement.

Now, I don't mean you should give up on art. Or that it is unimportant - it is extremely important. But statements about it are like math, they are word constuctions to support subjective rules or limits and have no requirement to support a "reality," but simply support the "logic" of the "argument."
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« Reply #42 on: February 13, 2006, 03:09:41 PM »
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Gee, and here I thought the original article was about considering ultimate print size during the capture stage!      

Anyway, just wanted to add in my .02 and offer my compliments on this thought-provoking article!  

When I first saw the title, my first thought was why make this complicated?  Just capture assuming you are going to print big, and then you can always print it small and it will still look great. And in fact, this is how I've been shooting all along...  

But in reading further, I feel a credible case was made for having final print size in mind during the capture phase and set me to reflect on some of my own images.  I have a multitude of expansive landscape images, shot with normal to wider view lenses, that when printed large look great.  Yet when printed so they fit the pages an 8-1/2 x 11 portfolio, many look like simple postcards, lacking the ability to evoke the emotions the larger print does.  By contrast, most of my isolations -- simpler views taken with longer lenses -- display very well at the letter size, though when these are printed large, much of the time they simply look like larger versions of the smaller image with no added impact...

This realization on ultimate image size now brings up some questions on matting:

Alain, could you please share any insights you may have on how matte size and/or frame orientation come into play with regard the overall display of an image?  

Thanks,
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« Reply #43 on: February 13, 2006, 04:18:48 PM »
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Alain, could you please share any insights you may have on how matte size and/or frame orientation come into play with regard the overall display of an image? 
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It is a good suggestion, and rather than write a short forum post I will try to expand my answer to a complete essay, a reflection, on the subject of matting & framing in relation to the content of the photograph and its intended effect.  This will be a welcome change of mind and a logical continuation to this essay.

Regards,

Alain
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Alain Briot
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« Reply #44 on: February 13, 2006, 04:24:19 PM »
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That will be great -- I'll look forward to reading it!  

PS: I would also be interested in hearing your thoughts on framing a horizontal image in a vertical matte and frame -- it seems to be gaining popularity in many fine-art photographic presentations...
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« Reply #45 on: February 13, 2006, 05:54:20 PM »
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PS: I would also be interested in hearing your thoughts on framing a horizontal image in a vertical matte and frame -- it seems to be gaining popularity in many fine-art photographic presentations...
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=58074\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I would be interested, too. I have in fact done that very thing a very few times, but only when something about the direction lines in the image made it "feel" better on a vertical mat. (But I've never found a vertical image that felt right on a horizontal mat.)

My own generalization is that such decisions should be conscious, with some good reasons for them, rather than simply because somebody else has done it. And the same thing applies to the decision about size. I find Alain's arguments quite convincing that one should at least consider the size of the final image while shooting.

Eric
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« Reply #46 on: February 13, 2006, 09:47:47 PM »
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But in reading further, I feel a credible case was made for having final print size in mind during the capture phase and set me to reflect on some of my own images.   

This realization on ultimate image size now brings up some questions on matting:
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=58070\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Jack,
Not only on matting, but on DoF considerations and even whether or not one should bother taking a particular shot at all. If one is going to take the attitude that digital images should not be interpolated beyond their native resolution, or at most interpolated only slightly, then we are left with the prospect that a camera such as the 5D is only good for 12x18" images or, at most, 16x24".

One could then find oneself gazing upon a scene and realising that one's 12MP camera is not adequate. Nothing less than a P45 or 4x5 film format, and perhaps even 11x14 film format will do. So one doesn't waste one's time taking the shot.

I tend to think this is a slightly absurd position to take. Have we really become victims of a false dichotomy between art and photography?

During the Renaissance, many painters used lenses and mirrors to project real life forms onto their canvas. As a result they were able to get the perspective, proportions and light and shadow falling on what they painted, exactly right. I guess they didn't advertise their technique much at the time. They no doubt tried to keep it a trade secret. But the fact is, much of the allure of such Renaissance paintings lies in their 'true to life' properties; the extraordinary attention to detail and the amazing accuracy with which the painters seem to have wielded their brush.

After the camera was invented (of course lenses came first) painters naturally became dismayed at the great precision of the camera, which they couldn't hope to compete with. I guess most of us have heard of Picasso's comment (apocryphal or not) regarding this, "I've discovered the camera. There's nothing left for me to do. I might as well commit suicide."

Whilst I'm no expert on the history of art, it seems irrefuatable that the emergence of the camera has had a profound effect on styles of painting. In a sense, painters have been freed from the tedious and painstaking chore of providing accurate fine detail in their paintings. But we photographers are still in straitjackets. We feel compelled to abide by the rules of public perception that the camera's true role is to provide accurate detail and that whatever else it provides (by way of artisitc inspiration, for example) should not be at the expense of any sacrifice in detail.

To return to my example of the Duomo at Siena, if I were to blow up this 6MP image to really huge proportions, say 20ftx26ft (too big for one's living room, but maybe right for a convention centre or airport) and, if Dale Cotton were to walk towards the right side of the print, take off his glasses and study from close up one of the 2 ladies sitting on the steps, he would see the following.

[attachment=239:attachment]

Now I ask you, is this worse than the confusing mess of brush strokes one might see on an impressionistic painting from close up. As a painter, one might find such close examination informative. As a non-painter one might be amazed at how the painter is able to create an impression that's appealing and meaningful from a distance of say 20ft, but almost incomprehensible from the distance that the painter would appear to have painted it.

On the other hand, as a photographer looking at the above image, one might also be impressed with the nature of the interpolation algorithm that is able to turn such photographic detail into something reminiscent of Picasso's cubism or at least an impressionistic painting.

And as for the client, he/she gets a huge photograph that looks sharp form an appropriate distance, and lots of little impressionist paintings from close up, thrown in for free   .
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« Reply #47 on: February 14, 2006, 08:10:15 AM »
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Ray wrote:
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if I were to blow up this 6MP image to really huge proportions, say 20ftx26ft
I read recently that the standard resolution of commercial billboards is 15 PPI.

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if Dale Cotton were to walk towards the right side of the print, take off his glasses and study from close up one of the 2 ladies sitting on the steps, he would see the following.
... And he would be neither appalled or offended, because his eyes have long since become inured to such graphic crudity by the blotchy stick-figures (http://www.globalgallery.com/enlarge/034-55934/) in the landscapes of Cezanne and Van Gogh. ;)

Ray: I suspect you did not misread my last post as advocating, as opposed to defending, the micro-detail approach, but others may have done so. That would be ironic, since my own stuff has gradually mutated to be anything but detail-centric. That said, my own position for my own prints - and I enlist no one else to march in lock step to the beat of an eccentric drum - is that the close-in experience should be as satisfying as the middle distance and far distance experiences are (with thanks to Mr Wyndham Potter for his tri-partite insight).

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I guess most of us have heard of Picasso's comment (apocryphal or not) ...
Another Picasso quote, even more diametric to the spirit of the camera: "To copy nature is to draw toenails".
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Ray
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« Reply #48 on: February 14, 2006, 08:30:45 AM »
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You may find math very close to art critism. Math is a game. It makes the rules and proves itself true by those rules. It does not need to describe any "reality." Art critism is the same for the most part. (Science on the other hand, must deal with the reality of the universe.)

Is art just a catagory of thought? Does it change with the whim of the artist, critic, or audience? Then its "reality" is simply subjective. No absolute statement can be made about it as you point out with the "I know it when I see it" statement.


[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=58034\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I know this is slightly off topic but I can't resist a comment because it's such an interesting subject, ie. that maths is very close to art criticism because it makes the rules and proves itself true by those rules.

I can think of at least a couple of examples from general reading in science where maths 'appears' to have uncovered a reality that has later been substantiated by experimentation and other evidence.

Einstein, as we all know, was not a great mathematician. He got help from other mathematicians to consolidate (if that's the right word?) his theory of relativity. One of the problems he had was that the maths he used indicated quite clearly that the universe is expanding. Einstein believed at the time that this was just a mathematical quirk or aberration. He had no reason as a physicist to believe the universe was expanding. So he introduced a constant into his equations to cancel the effect of an expanding universe.

A few years later, Edwin Hubble showed that galaxies are moving away from us at a speed proportional to their distance. Einstein realised his error and considered it one of his major mistakes. However, Einstein's maths also indicated that there would exist 'singularities' in the universe, commonly known as Black Holes. Until his death he continued to believe that Black Holes were a myth; a mathematical aberration. I believe there's now a consensus of opinion amongst physicists and astronomers that black holes really do exist.

The second example is just as fascinating. The British physicist, Paul Dirac, unlike Einstein, was both a brilliant mathematician as well as brilliant physicist. Whilst trying to reconcile Einsteins theory of special relativity with quantum theory, Dirac also came across a disturbing problem of a similar nature to Einstein's. The maths that 'worked' also indicated that anti-matter should exist. In fact, his equations required that ant-matter exist.

It seems that Paul Dirac was rather embarrassed at this finding because there was no empirical evidence to suppport the existence of anti-matter, so he kept it as a secret for a while, afraid his reputation might be damaged. However, friends pointed out that if he didn't publish, someone else might beat him to it and get all the credit. He took the risk and just a few years later the first example of anti-matter, the positron, was discovered in experiments.

As I understand, there are now groups of physicists who are trying to determine what the subtle differences might be between matter and anit-matter. Since both destroy each other on contact, why has matter prevailed? Why indeed should we, or anything, including art, exist?

Sorry for that digression   .
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Ray
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« Reply #49 on: February 14, 2006, 09:33:25 AM »
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I read recently that the standard resolution of commercial billboards is 15 PPI.


Dale,
That seems about right. It's quite surprising how sharp and clear some of these billboards appear from a distance, yet from close up you can see the individual dots with spaces in between. This is definitely not a satisfying experience. The uniformity of the dots tends to emphasise the mechanistic nature of the print production process. My theoretical example of a very large billboard of the Duomo in Siena is at 240ppi. I much prefer the smooth tones and sharp edges seen from very close up, even though there are a few distorted shapes suggestive of a painterly effect. A blurry effect, or over-sharpened effect would be less satisfying. I think GF really distinguishes itself when interpolating relatively small files into relatively huge files. For normal size prints, the difference between GF and bicubic, or many other interpolation algorithms, seems insignificantly small to me.

Quote
my own position for my own prints - and I enlist no one else to march in lock step to the beat of an eccentric drum - is that the close-in experience should be as satisfying as the middle distance and far distance experiences are (with thanks to Mr Wyndham Potter for his tri-partite insight).


If that's your position, then I take it you are either in favour of fairly large prints or live in a very small room   .

I would say that most prints smaller than 24"x36" cannot be fully appreciated from a 'far' distance, ie. the other side of an average living room.
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John Camp
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« Reply #50 on: February 14, 2006, 10:29:10 AM »
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It's quite surprising how sharp and clear some of these billboards appear from a distance, yet from close up you can see the individual dots with spaces in between. This is definitely not a satisfying experience.
[{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

But it can be -- see the photo-realistic paintings by Chuck Close on this website:

[a href=\"http://www.chuckclose.coe.uh.edu/life/gallery.html]http://www.chuckclose.coe.uh.edu/life/gallery.html[/url]


The interesting thing about Close is that he works from photos, and he takes each "pixel" or "grain" and makes something of it. When you stand back, you see the overall image; when you stand six inches away, you see dozens of pretty interesting individual abstract paintings -- the "pixels."

The idea that Impressionistic paintings are not satisfying when viewed close-up seems odd to me; I find them very satisfying to view that way. I've been warned by museum guards that I'm standing too close, sometimes. I will admit that I find many so-called "impressionistic"-style photos less satisfying, because there's a difference between "impressionistic" and "out of focus," and too often, photographers excuse out-of-focus paintings as being impressionistic. They're not. They're out of focus. When I think of *real* impressionistic photos, I think of something like Robert Capa's very grainy, but sharp, photos of the Normandy landings; photos that might look quite good blown up to billboard-size, and that also could be profitably viewed on a postcard sized print. In that case, the black-and-white nature of the photos, the clumped grain, the skewed horizons, the motion-blurred bodies, all add to the feeling of urgency, grimness, death and war. In other words, the technique ADDS to the impact of the photos; it's not at all annoying. It makes them feel more real.

Impressionism, especially in painting, doesn't mean "soft." The Impressionists were not trying to paint objects per se, they were trying to paint light.
 
JC
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« Reply #51 on: February 14, 2006, 11:57:29 AM »
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The Impressionists were not trying to paint objects per se, they were trying to paint light.
JC
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That was the goal for some of them, Monet for example, as demonstrated in his quote featured in my latest essay. For others, the subject was people, or a specific activity (dance for example) and so on.  

The goal of impressionist painters was, and still is, to create an impression.  The goal is to create the feeling that one is not only, or so much, looking at a scene depicted in a painting, but also becomes a participant in this scene.  This goal is achieved in various ways, from pointillism, to  broad strokes of color, to brustrokes structured like pencil marks, etc.  The technique is most effective when it becomes either transparent or a quality of the work, while creating the intended effect.  The fact that paint lends itelf to various "factures" (best translated as "the artist's touch" although there's more to it than that), makes this endeavor possible.  In a way, the Impressionists opened new possibilities for painting, possibilities that continue to be explored today.  Maybe we can open the door to new possibilities for photography by following their example.

Alain
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Alain Briot
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« Reply #52 on: February 14, 2006, 01:36:54 PM »
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This discussion has certainly done quite a bit of wandering .

What I got out of Alain's essay was in part a confirmation of something I feel I was starting to understand intuitively (that many images really require a print of a particular size in order to express what I mean to say) and more data to add to something I've been thinking about for a while: how the size of the print inflences the way the viewer "reads" the image.

On recent projects (and partially informed by Alain's article) I've been giving a lot more thought to intended print size during previsualization. And I've been surprised by how often my initial conception is WRONG. It's become very clear to me that this is an area that I've simply not given enough thought (or practice) until now. Nobody ever said it would be easy...

I'd love to see more articles in this vein, as well as a discussion of the importance of paper choice.

Cheers,


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« Reply #53 on: February 14, 2006, 04:40:04 PM »
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Regarding horizontal images in vertical mats and frames
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I would be interested, too. I have in fact done that very thing a very few times, but only when something about the direction lines in the image made it "feel" better on a vertical mat. (But I've never found a vertical image that felt right on a horizontal mat.)
It would also be interesting to discuss other, non-standard mats and frames.

I've been toying with the idea of composing pictures for 45-degree mounting, and various geometric shapes.

Here's an example, albeit a bad one:

[attachment=240:attachment]

Please ignore the poor quality of the PS job, I'm only trying to illustrate a possibly desired effect here.

While we're well acquainted with heart-shaped wedding mats, oval portrait mats etc., it might sometimes be interesting to work with something completely different. Or not?
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« Reply #54 on: February 14, 2006, 04:42:08 PM »
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I have been following this thread, albeit with its' wanderings, with keen interest and have now started to be more conscious about the size of my final image when I take my photograph. Ben Lifson has a very interesting series of articles on RAWWORKFLOW.COM - in particular mentioning in one article his thoughts on viewing distance and his comparisons with viewing a tapestry. http://www.rawworkflow.com/making_pictures/07/index.html .

The whole article (and series) is worth reading, but the specific reference to viewing distance is about 2/3 in to the article and commences under the heading:The Lesson from Tapestry: Appendix to June, and Looking Ahead to July. Mr Lifson begins the section -

"Like many ambitious photographers the world over, these students were making large prints—anywhere from 2 x 3 to 4 x 6 feet or larger.
In most cases the subject matter was well seen and strongly felt and the pictures were interesting.
However, most of these large works held the eye only when seen from a specific viewing distance somewhere between four and five feet.
Seen from closer up the imagery dissolved into chaos. When one stepped farther back the eye somehow couldn’t grasp the image. The scenes in the pictures—a series of landscapes, say, or portraits—seemed, to put it bluntly, to leak out the edges, to evaporate into thin air. This gave one a disturbing sensation that the pictures simply weren’t there. "

After some further examination of various examples, Mr Lifson concludes ;

"And so, as the evidence of tapestries reveals, even pictures with a uniform surface depend on the specificity and singularity of form down to the smallest details--as if the classic photographs reproduced above were not evidence enough. And the new pictures by Socolow and Glaser show that digital printing has opened up a new world of control over these very details."

This article has also made me give more consideration to the composition of my images, with reference to what happens with those minute details as they become larger or smaller, and how resolution and size affects these minute details. It is a rather cirquitous route however, being conscious of these technical aspects of line, form, composition, resolution, size - yet allowing them to become unconscious enough so I can allow an intuitive connection to drive the pressing of the shutter. For me, the effectiveness of this symbiosis can only be ascertained if an image in print affects me.

Julie
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« Reply #55 on: February 14, 2006, 06:26:39 PM »
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I know this is slightly off topic but I can't resist a comment because it's such an interesting subject, ie. that maths is very close to art criticism because it makes the rules and proves itself true by those rules.

I can think of at least a couple of examples from general reading in science where maths 'appears' to have uncovered a reality that has later been substantiated by experimentation and other evidence.

Einstein, as we all know, was not a great mathematician. He got help from other mathematicians to consolidate (if that's the right word?) his theory of relativity. One of the problems he had was that the maths he used indicated quite clearly that the universe is expanding. Einstein believed at the time that this was just a mathematical quirk or aberration. He had no reason as a physicist to believe the universe was expanding. So he introduced a constant into his equations to cancel the effect of an expanding universe.

A few years later, Edwin Hubble showed that galaxies are moving away from us at a speed proportional to their distance. Einstein realised his error and considered it one of his major mistakes. However, Einstein's maths also indicated that there would exist 'singularities' in the universe, commonly known as Black Holes. Until his death he continued to believe that Black Holes were a myth; a mathematical aberration. I believe there's now a consensus of opinion amongst physicists and astronomers that black holes really do exist.

The second example is just as fascinating. The British physicist, Paul Dirac, unlike Einstein, was both a brilliant mathematician as well as brilliant physicist. Whilst trying to reconcile Einsteins theory of special relativity with quantum theory, Dirac also came across a disturbing problem of a similar nature to Einstein's. The maths that 'worked' also indicated that anti-matter should exist. In fact, his equations required that ant-matter exist.

It seems that Paul Dirac was rather embarrassed at this finding because there was no empirical evidence to suppport the existence of anti-matter, so he kept it as a secret for a while, afraid his reputation might be damaged. However, friends pointed out that if he didn't publish, someone else might beat him to it and get all the credit. He took the risk and just a few years later the first example of anti-matter, the positron, was discovered in experiments.

As I understand, there are now groups of physicists who are trying to determine what the subtle differences might be between matter and anit-matter. Since both destroy each other on contact, why has matter prevailed? Why indeed should we, or anything, including art, exist?

Sorry for that digression   .
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=58119\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I was taking Nick's comment about math as pure math.

But certainly math has been a backbone of science. And I agree this is a fascinating subject. Right now in cosmology there are two problems related to this.

One is connected to String Theory (although it is only a hypothosis) which is that the math has pushed our knowledge to such a limit that it may be impossible to actually test if it is true on not. Which means String Theory may never be anything more than a mathematical metaphysics.

The second is a philosophical problem - is the universe actually mathematical in nature? We can predict phenomena with math, but does it actually describe or reveal the process. This becomes more of a problem when you start dealing with very small scale in quantum mechanics as it very much based on statistics.

I like your last comment. Who was it who said the question was not why anything in the universe existed, but why anything exsisted at all. It is not why there is something, but why there is not nothing.

But interesting stuff. It is amazing what thoughts an essay on print size can generate.
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« Reply #56 on: February 15, 2006, 12:08:48 AM »
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This article has also made me give more consideration to the composition of my images, with reference to what happens with those minute details as they become larger or smaller, and how resolution and size affects these minute details.

I'll have to go back and read this again to see if I understand it correctly.  My interpretation was not detail in the sense that I can count all of the hairs on the subject's head, but detail in the sense that all of the elements in the photo must work together to create a whole that will hold your attention in the frame.
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« Reply #57 on: February 15, 2006, 12:41:10 AM »
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I'll have to go back and read this again to see if I understand it correctly.  My interpretation was not detail in the sense that I can count all of the hairs on the subject's head, but detail in the sense that all of the elements in the photo must work together to create a whole that will hold your attention in the frame.
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Scott, I think we are sort of saying the same thing.

Lifson says...
"With Photoshop, Glaser enhanced and strengthened details whose handling is extremely difficult in a wet darkroom. In the picture on the left these details included the lines on the pumpkin and between the mother’s finger, the out of focus shapes in the wall and ceiling, right, and strands of both the boy’s and the mother’s hair. In the picture on the right he gave optimum visibility to lines in the drapery, the shapes of shadows and furniture and the shapes of, and the patterns within the bands in the rug.

Dealing thus specifically with lines, down to the smallest and thinnest ones, Socolow and Glaser strengthened the play between the representation of deep space and patterns and forms on the picture’s front most plane."

I interpereted the article to mean that the smallest shapes and form contribute to the overall impact of an image, and that it was important for me to bear this in mind in deciding upon the size of my printed image. For the "strands of both the boy's and the mother's hair" to contribute effectively compositionally they need to be of a resolution where they do just that - whatever resolution or level of sharpening is required to do that.

In my post I said, "  This article has also made me give more consideration to the composition of my images, with reference to what happens with those minute details as they become larger or smaller, and how resolution and size affects these minute details"... consideration...not necessarily advocating a specific sharpness or clarity of minute detail, just a greater awareness of the shape and form of the smallest elements in an image and how resolution, sharpening and size effect these small elements, and how then they affect the whole.

Julie
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« Reply #58 on: February 16, 2006, 07:26:25 PM »
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A piece of art should bear examination at a close distance. If a photograph does not bear satisfactory examination at a close distance then it is too big.

I would appreciate you expanding a bit on this idea.

It is probably my aged mind (having exceeded the age of 40), but I have never been comfortable with sweeping statements about art. What exactly do you mean by "bear examination"?

When I view a very large painting from a distance I see the entirety of what the artist wanted me to see. As I move closer some details may become clearer while others become less so. Up close all I can see is technique, because when it is large, generally the artist wanted it viewed from a distance - they had that in mind during the creative process.

If you go to the Great Zimbabwe ruins there is art that is wonnderful viewed form a distance but is simply well constructed stone (good technique) up close. A large print of an image up close may reveal something about the pixels, for example, but why must it bear close examination?

To my simple mind what it must bear is the scrutiny of the viewer from a distance desired by the artist, in order to see that little piece of the world as the artist wanted me to see it.
« Last Edit: February 16, 2006, 07:28:07 PM by Pelao » Logged
Scott_H
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« Reply #59 on: February 17, 2006, 05:44:44 AM »
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Scott, I think we are sort of saying the same thing.

Yeah, I think you're right.  I probably should have just read your post more carefully.  
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