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Landscape photography at f/0.95 in Patriarch Grove

In my June 3 entry, I discussed shallow depth of field, and how it might better focus attention on a subject, rather than stopping down for sharper results. From a perceptual standpoint, sharpness is relative, not an absolute metric. In-focus eyes stand in relief to out of focus everything else, even if the absolute sharpness is less than what is possible.

Landscape images with pin-sharp details everywhere are frequently about the entire scene, about no element in particular, rather than any particular element of that scene. The mind is left to wander in a way. But hint and suggestion from out of focus elements can actually communicate more, more quickly, because it leaves the mind free to perceive in an orderly way, with focused attention on one element, with other environmental information settling into place naturally. Too much depth of field impedes.

Below is a portrait for consideration. This is one of a series that I shot in the White Mountains to help teach myself what works with this technique. The technical flaws of vignetting and very little sharpness imbue this image with a “precision of attention”. I shot a tighter version which might be a bit better, but this example serves to show how the wide aperture can pick out the subject against foreground and background, an atypical effect for a landscape photo.

While this image was made at f/0.95, an f/1.4 lens can achieve similar effects. In particular, the vignetting at the corners is essential, as is the shallow depth of field. I’m planning on elaborating on this approach in my Guide and Review of the Leica M9, in DAP.

Standing Sentinel
Leica M9 + 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M ASPH @ f/0.95

Patriarch Grove is also a research area (eg dendrochronology), with many living and expired Pinus longaeva and even chunks of wood tagged with small metal tags. A few have lost portions to science as seen here, an aesthetic loss, but of minor issue as compared to the cutting of the Prometheus tree. The downed tree shown below could be at least several thousand years old, since a living specimen is dated at 4841 years as of 2010. The dense resin-infused wood decays extremely slowly. Please, if you ever visit Patriarch Grove, tread very lightly, and disturb nothing. It is a rare and beautiful place. You can accompany me on a photo tour sometime if you want to photograph here.

Sampled Specimen
Leica M9 + 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M ASPH @ f/0.95

What to do when the lighting isn’t so great and the snow has mostly melted? Have some fun at the office!

Leica M9 + 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M ASPH @ f/0.95
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