8.13.2015

I'm taking credit for a new photo-geek term. While Ming Thein and Lloyd Chambers have appropriated Erwin Put's "Micro Contrast" I am officially laying claim to "Nano Acuity." Which I will now describe as the detail within the micro contrast....


"I have such high standards that most people can't even understand the parameters around which my standards are fabricated and brought forth into this world; like Aphrodite born in perfect form from the forehead of Zeuss."

--technically proficient photographer with a Jones for the clarity slider......

People talk a lot of shit about lenses and they use all kinds of words to make their observations sound very, very important and official. Transparent versus veiled. Micro contrast versus gross edge contrast. Acuity. Etc. It's just like "wine experts" who have their own exclusionary language to describe various wine attributes. But the great chefs and real sommeliers tell you, "It's all in the drinking."

Point a Sigma Art lens at a pile of dog crap and it's still a pile of dog crap. Point a poorly made Chinese 50mm Canon knock-off at Aliens abducting Madonna and Barrack Obama while they are intertwined in a passionate embrace and the image is a Pulitzer Prize candidate. Right place, right time, right story, right intention. That's all that counts.

I am amazed at the number of people who really believe that they would be unable to share their vision with the world in the absence of a certain lens, a certain camera or a certain system performance.  To my mind it may mean that their vision isn't ready for prime time so they need to dress it up in lace and lipstick.

My favorite image that I've made in the long years I've been doing this is a black and white image of a girl with a portfolio under her arm and a cigarette in her hand, walking through Paris. Love the image. But it's out of focus, grainy and was done with a Canonet camera and some moldy Tri-X film. Would it be better with a Phase One and a super Leica lens? Naw, it would ruin the whole feel of the image. It would be in focus but it would be as dull as yet another street scene of a triangle shaped building at dusk.

So, I figure every great photo blogger needs a phrase. In car racing it's Ricky Bobby's immortal, "Shake and Bake." (reference to Teledaga Nights, the movie). In my blog, from now on, if I am able to make a really sharp image with a lens it will, for all time, be known as a lens with High Nano Acuity. Which is the detail within the detail of micro contrast.

I'm sure Ken Rockwell will approve.

Yes, this one.

And the way I sometimes feel now. 

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Fucking A.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of Steve Martin and his quest for the ultimate hifi system. He finally found the googlephonic stereo with the moonrock needle. (It's ok for a car stereo).

amolitor said...

I am fascinated by the way people can separate technical stuff from how it looks.

"The photo looks great but did I put the lights in the right places? Use the right lens? Etc?" People don't quite ask that, but it's how way too many people lean. The want to get the formula right, in addition to making a picture that looks good.

If it looks good it is good. How it looks is literally all there is to a photo. Literally literally, not the modern form of literally.

Dave Lumb said...

This is why I keep reading the VSL.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir, I read your blog with interest. What camera should I buy to get the most Nano Acuity? I look at my photos and find them lacking something, and until today I didn't know what that something was. You've opened my eyes, my photos are fine it's just the right level of Nano Acuity they lack. This makes perfect sense to me. Surely they would be better if only you would share this Nano Acuity secret. Thank you.

PS: You are the only photo blogger talking at present about Nano Acuity which must mean a) you have an exclusive for now!!! and b) you are about to launch a fee for service venture to share all your Nano Acuity findings with willing subscribers. Could I get a discount as an early adopter?

Anonymous said...

This post reminds me - I sat through a slide show of some personal project photos by a fairly well known photographer last year. A lot of the images were lacking in what I now know as Nano Acuity. In spite of being shot with what probably be considered an inferior lens and/or camera by gear geeks, they were incredibly deep. I was drawn in, captivated by imagery that hit me not just visually but more importantly emotionally. I was looking at images that were absolutely beautiful while at the same time hauntingly sad in some cases. The photographer didn't have to explain them. I understood. By the time the slide show ended, I was holding back a tear that was fighting to escape my eye. That was some of the most moving photographic work I'd seen in a long time.

As the lights came up, a guy next to me smirked and mumbled under his breath, "When I get a blurry picture, I delete it." Somebody doesn't get it.

Kirk Tuck said...

Exactly. Very cool comment.

amolitor said...

Sally Mann has taken a few blurry pictures in her time, and a few people out there think she's maybe on to a little something, now and then.

JohnW said...

Actually, to us technical purists, its "meta micro contrast" (all rights reserved) ..... but I like Nano Acuity better.

Do love your rants.

Bill Stormont said...

The young woman in Paris reminds me of many B&W photos taken at the end of WWII (without burned-out buildings), when "civilization" was digging out of its latest ruins. I believe "evocative" is the word I'm reaching for.

As for Nano Acuity...it's not solely dependent on the camera/lens. Software, in fact, may be where it really lives. I predict Adobe will announce a slider for it soon.

And +1 for the comment about "blurry pictures." Better that than "a sharp image of a fuzzy concept," per AA.

Eric said...

Love this post -- reminds me of that old Ansel Adams line that there's nothing worse than a sharp picture of a fuzzy concept.

My own personal favorite photo is one I took years back of my (then-4-year-old) daughter on a kiddie roller coaster at the state fair. It was the very first time my wife and I were able to coax her onto a ride without one of us along. About the top half of her face is sharp, most of the rest of the frame is motion blur -- but you can see her excitement, and joy, and fear, clearly. Took it with a P&S.

Max Rottersman said...

What do we want, when we take a photograph? Do we see the image in our imagination and configure the camera to best realize it? I'd do that if I could. I can't. I envy many of the pretentious photographers/bloggers you allude to. If I knew what a good photograph is I'd become a professional photographer (or pretentious workshop runner) tomorrow. I don't buy photography books, or artwork. Our apartment is a mess. My office more like a mad scientist's den of electronic parts, gadgets, equipment, strange books in all subject areas. I envy you, that you take images that CAN be called art, where I program computers to do things that exist in an abstract reality, never to hang on anyone's wall. We are all after the same ephemeral goal--significance, meaning, connections with other people. Pride. Whether one gets to their photographs through nano acuity, the best Zeiss glass, or loud music and pot smoking visions of their muse, can they ever be sure tomorrow will produce anything good? We're all full of bullshit to someone. I relate to the VSL way of thinking, to me it isn't bullshit. I don't feel alone when I read VSL. The struggles you go through between artistic and technical goals are the same I go through. This is a very long-winded way of saying no one knows how to make good photographs. There is NO right way or wrong way. You COULD do photographs like Ming Thing, or whatever his name is, but you don't, because part of your art is the philosophy of process. You're a philosopher in the vein of the American Pragmatists. Do you really believe one can't get a good image through the most pretentious approach to camera equipment? We can only do what works for us? .... wife yelling at me I have to go!

Peter Wright said...

I liked your caption for the picture of the elderly man at the top of the escalator looking at the exit sign. Made me laugh!

Keith Reavis said...

Note to self - no eating or drinking while reading VSL, almost spewed my tea when I read of Sir Rockwell's approval.

Unknown said...

Apparently you don't subscribe to the widespread belief that that which is quantifiable is more real than that which is not.

dasar photography said...

anxiously waiting for Ming Thein's secret weapon (something he is going to call crystal clear blurriness)