Which are you apart of? Group ƒ/64 or Group ƒ/1.4

L/R Laura Standard, Almond Standard, Pam Pullen (Almond’s daughter) & Christine Burton (Almond’s sister) & Kyle Standard (Nephew of Almond) & Rick Standard (Almond’s Son)
Almond Standard built his log cabin home himself. It is located in Tignal, Georgia.
[Nikon D2X, Sigma 15-30mm, ISO 100, ƒ/13, 1/4]
Group ƒ/64

In 1930 Willard Van Dyke as well as Ansel Adams & Edward Weston formed the Group ƒ/64.

Group f/64 was a group founded by seven 20th-century San Francisco photographers who shared a common photographic style characterized by sharp-focused and carefully framed images seen through a particularly Western (U.S.) viewpoint. In part, they formed in opposition to the pictorialist photographic style that had dominated much of the early 20th century, but moreover they wanted to promote a new modernist aesthetic that was based on precisely exposed images of natural forms and found objects.

The term f/64 refers to a small aperture setting on a large format camera, which secures great depth of field, rendering a photograph evenly sharp from foreground to background. Such a small aperture sometimes implies a long exposure and therefore a selection of relatively slow moving or motionless subject matter, such as landscapes and still life, but in the typically bright California light this is less a factor in the subject matter chosen than the sheer size and clumsiness of the cameras, compared to the smaller cameras [35mm] increasingly used in action and reportage photography in the 1930s.

– Wkipedia

 

One of the magazines I have done work for through the years is Country Magazine. There requirements are to shoot at the highest depth-of-field for their photos. To do this on today’s DSLR cameras you are typically shooting at ƒ/22. This would be equivalent to the ƒ/64 on a 8′”x10″ that many in Group ƒ/64 used.

Stream near Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont in the Great Smoky National Park located in Townsend, Tennessee on June 22, 2006. [Nikon D2X, Nikkor 24-120mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 100, ƒ/22, 1/1.5]
The strength of shooting with sharpness all through the photograph is it puts the audience into the scene. This is where you are using composition and lighting to draw the audience into the photograph.

While your eye may go first to where the photographer directs you using light values and composition your eye will wonder afterwards around the scene just as if you were standing there yourself.

This style was in opposition to the pictorialist of the time.

Pictorialism is the name given to an international style and aesthetic movement that dominated photography during the later 19th and early 20th centuries. There is no standard definition of the term, but in general it refers to a style in which the photographer has somehow manipulated what would otherwise be a straightforward photograph as a means of “creating” an image rather than simply recording it. Typically, a pictorial photograph appears to lack a sharp focus (some more so than others), is printed in one or more colors other than black-and-white (ranging from warm brown to deep blue) and may have visible brush strokes or other manipulation of the surface. For the pictorialist, a photograph, like a painting, drawing or engraving, was a way of projecting an emotional intent into the viewer’s realm of imagination.

– Wikipedia
Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 140, ƒ/1.4, 1/100
Group ƒ/1.4
Group ƒ/1.4 you may not have heard of, but I bet you have heard of BOKEH Photography.

In photography, BOKEH is the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image produced by a lens. Bokeh has been defined as “the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light”. Differences in lens aberrations and aperture shape cause some lens designs to blur the image in a way that is pleasing to the eye, while others produce blurring that is unpleasant or distracting—”good” and “bad” bokeh, respectively. Bokeh occurs for parts of the scene that lie outside the depth of field. Photographers sometimes deliberately use a shallow focus technique to create images with prominent out-of-focus regions.

– Wikipedia
I would say that those who shoot primarily wide open aperture are more stylistically like the pictorialist of the last century and less like Group ƒ/64 which was about preserving everything in the scene.
Nikon D750, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 500, ƒ/1.8, 1/320
I love that my camera lets me shoot from ƒ/1.4 to ƒ/57. The ƒ/57 is when I shoot with my Nikon 60mm Micro lens. Here is a shot I did that was widely published.
“ƒ/8 and be there,” was Alfred Eisenstaedt’s response to the question on how to be a successful photographer.
However the earliest record of the quote “ƒ/8 and be there” is attributed to Weegee who was a famous street photographer during the 1930’s, 40’s and beyond. It represents a philosophy to keep technical decisions simple and be where your vision takes you. The quote has been the mantra of photojournalists, travel photographers and even nature photographers.

This says you just need to anticipate and be technically ready to capture “the decisive moment.”

I say to be careful not to treat your interviews as just got microphone and recorder levels set and just hit record and I am done.

Don’t Make Your Camera a Box Camera

Kodak made a box camera where you pushed the button and Kodak did the rest. You had no control over the Aperture, Shutter or even ISO.

Once you subscribe to shooting all your photos like the Group ƒ/64 or those doing BOKEH photography you have in essence taken that very expensive camera and turned it into a box camera.

Exercise for you to do

Take your camera and just one lens. Find a scene and then shoot the scene at every aperture you can on your camera. Now as you get to a wide open aperture you know that your depth-of-field becomes very shallow, so remember to change your focus so that the focal point is on something in the scene that creates interest. We call this technique selective focus.

Now just spend time doing this for several different situations. It might be able to do it with scenics rather than people at first, but then move on to people. What is really fun to do is to shoot where there are many people. A good example would be in a coffee shop.

Your challenge is not to make one good photo in each situation, but rather a great photo at each ƒ-stop.

When you master this technique you will discover you will be able to say something totally different about each situation. This will be the difference of you writing a very short sentence to creating a novel with just one frame.

Will you take up the challenge?

I believe the great photographers are the ones that know when to use what aperture to capture what they want to say about the subject.

Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.4D my go to portrait lens

Nikon D4, 85mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 800, ƒ/1.4, 1/160

Today I had a lot of fun helping a young actress build her portfolio. Her mother wrote to me saying “We are need of getting some Headshots done for my daughter’s acting webpage.  She is an actress and has an agent here in Atlanta.”

You can see the young actress Kalyn Wood on her Facebook page here.

They were needing four different looks. So we shot for about 4 hours and had some fun. All the images were shot with the Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.4D.

Sometimes I would white balance for the modeling lights and not use the flash like in the photo above. I did this so I could shoot at ƒ/1.4. She is thinking about using this as the big photo you first see landing on her page. Makes sense because of the horizontal format will work great on the webpage.

Nikon D4, 85mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 400, ƒ/1.4, 1/100

I think she did a great job of bringing some great variations of expressions to create those different looks and then I tried to light the photos to match the mood we were looking to produce.

Nikon D4, 85mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 400, ƒ/1.4, 1/125

By just changing some clothes and hair we could get a completely different look.

Nikon D4, 85mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 200, ƒ/1.4, 1/80

For this photo here I talked to her about the character Anna Bates in Downton Abbey.

Nikon D4, 85mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 200, ƒ/8, 1/200

For this photo with the red background we talked about The Evil Queen/Regina Mills in the ABC series Once Upon a Time.

Nikon D4, 85mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 200, ƒ/8, 1/160

In this photo I can easily see her as one of the cast in Pretty Little Liars.

Nikon D4, 85mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 200, ƒ/8, 1/160

What is important to know is that it is much easier to have something in mind together that you are creating than to just pick up a camera and start shooting. Together we were able to get some great images, but we both had to be on the same page.

She had to bring expressions and clothing for each of the shots. I had to light and compose the photos to help create that mood.

You know anyone wanting to build a model or acting portfolio, then send them my way and we can have some fun creating something together.

Shallow depth-of-field @ ƒ/9 can give great Bokeh

Nikon D3S, 28-300mm, 100mm ISO 200, ƒ/9, 1/200

When you first think of ƒ/9 you might think of the photo above where you can see from the lady to the sign behind her that most of photo is in focus, but that the far background of the building is out of focus.

I have written on this topic before in a different way and even created a video on it. Here is that link.

This is a little different perspective on the topic using the new Fujifilm X-E2.

Nikon D3S, 28-300mm, 300mm ISO 200, ƒ/9, 1/125

Now in this photo here you might not realize it too is shot at ƒ/9.  Two things helps with the silky Bokeh in the background. First, I am now shooting at 30mm verses 100mm at ƒ/9 and second the background is far enough in the background that it is out of focus.  It is about 100 ft from here.

Nikon D3S, 28-300mm, 150mm ISO 200, ƒ/9, 1/200
In this photo she is standing not too far from where she was in the first photo. However the shallow depth-of-field is helped by the distance from the building, the 150mm focal length.  
Same photo from above but just cropped
Now when you enlarge the photo you will see the eye closest to the camera is tact sharp. But the next eye is ever so slightly soft, but by her hair by her ear we are out of focus.  
Things that affect the Bokeh of the background in photos
  • ƒ-stop: The wider the aperture with everything else the same, then the depth-of-field becomes shallow
  • Distance to Subject: The closer you are to your subject the shallower the depth-of-field will be.
  • Subject distance to background: The greater this distance the more likely the smoother look of the Bokeh
Fujifilm X-E2 with Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.4 using the Nikon G AFS lens to Fujifilm Fuji X-Pro1 X-E1 Adapter Aperture Control Ring to connect the Nikon lenses to the Fujifilm camera
ƒ/1.4

ƒ/2

ƒ/2.8

ƒ/4

ƒ/5.6

ƒ/8

ƒ/11

ƒ/16
All were shot on tripod at the very closest focusing distance that the lens would focus on the eyes at ƒ/1.4. The only thing I changed was the aperture and the camera adjusted the shutter speed to keep the exposure the same.
Approximately 100% view of the ƒ/1.4
You can increase your depth-of-field by just backing up from the subject and this will increase it for you. Conversely if you want a shallower depth-of-field get closer if the lens allow you.
When you are super close you are not looking for Bokeh
Macro photography you are actually needing a large aperture or the photo can look out of focus even when it is in focus.
All these were shot with Fujifilm X-E2, Nikon 60mm ƒ/2.8 Micro 
ƒ/2.8

ƒ/4

ƒ/5.6

ƒ/8

ƒ/11

ƒ/16

ƒ/22

ƒ/32

3.5 reasons to buy faster glass

[Nikon D2X, 24mm ƒ/2.8, 1/4, ISO 800] Ismael Tarnagda and Jay Shafto wind up a long day in Sabtenga, Burkina Faso.

1.    You need a faster lens to capture a scene
2.    You need a faster lens to increase the shutter-speed
3.    Bokeh: You want a silky smooth out of focus background and/or foreground
3.5.    Status symbol

If you are still shooting film and don’t have a digital camera shooting fast glass is a necessity in low light. Kodachrome only went to ISO 200 and sure you could push the ISO and pay extra to process, but the quality just falls a part.

If you shoot color negative film you can find ISO 1600, but again there is a lot of grain to contend with in your photos.

[Nikon D2X, 28mm ƒ/2.8, 1/10, ISO 800] Ismael Tarnagda and Jay Shafto wind up a long day in Sabtenga, Burkina Faso.

On my Nikon D4 the ISO is expanded to 204,800. This looks better than my film did at ISO 1600.

This is all to say that if you cannot increase your ISO for any reason you need a faster lens to capture a photo. One of the first lenses many photographers first buy to get the faster glass is the 50mm ƒ/1.4.  This lens is affordable as compared to almost every other ƒ/1.4 lens.  The Nikon 50mm ƒ/1.4 sells for about $289 on the street.

Many of Nikon’s cameras come in a kit with the 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED AF-S DX (VR) Lens. By adding the 50mm ƒ/1.4 the photographer gains 2 ƒ-stops.

If you are shooting architecture getting faster glass isn’t that important for the most part. Most of these photographers are stopping down the glass to get everything in focus. Also, they can put the camera on a tripod and since their subject doesn’t move they can shoot a long exposure time.

If you shoot people, then shooting much slower than 1/30 shutter speed will capture motion blur due to the subject moving.

[Nikon D2X, 30mm ƒ/2.8, 1/60, ISO 400] Clinic attendant Ester Betnam assists George Faile, general practitioner as he sees patients at Baptist Medical Center in Nalerigu, Ghana.  Outside his door are patients waiting to see just him for today. 

Stanley’s Shutter Speed Guidelines

  • 1/30 for people when they are stationary. You could do family portraits with your camera on a tripod (to avoid photographer movement) to get good results.
  • 1/500 for sports. This is for most sports you can get sharp photos of the athletes. Things like football, basketball, and baseball will fall into these sports that will work at 1/500.
  • 1/2000 for high-speed sports. If you want to freeze the hockey puck or the motorcyclist in a race you need to crank up that shutter speed even more.

These are just guidelines. Shooting a photo with a shutter speed of 1/30 maybe too slow if you have an active child in a family photo. Maybe you want to pan with the racecar and shoot a slower shutter speed to blur the photo and therefore you wouldn’t want to shoot at 1/2000 shutter speed.

These are just ways to evaluate your need for faster glass in a situation.

With today’s zoom lenses being incredibly sharp as compared to earlier models they rival the sharpness of some of their prime lenses counterparts. Due to this increased quality I recommend finding a zoom that fits your style of shooting.

[Nikon D3, 16mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 6400, 1/50] Sunrise in North Georgia for a balloon ride over Lake Lanier.

Here are some of my recommendations from Nikon’s lens lineup.

Zooms

Photojournalism/Documentary/Street Shooters

  • Wide Angle Zoom (one of these) 
    • AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED 
    • AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED VR 
    • AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D IF-ED 
  • General Zoom (one of these) 
    • AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4G ED VR 
    • AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR
[Nikon D4, 105mm of 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 1/640 ISO 12,800]

Sports Shooter Zoom (in addition to the above)

  • AF-S NIKKOR 200-400mm f/4G ED VR II

[Nikon D4, 85mm ƒ/1.4, 1/100, ISO 800]

Prime Lens Suggestions

Photojournalism/Documentary/Street Shooters

  •     AF-S NIKKOR 24mm f/1.4G ED
  •     AF-S NIKKOR 28mm f/1.8G
  •     AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G
  •     AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G
  •     85mm (either one)
    •     AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G
    •     AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G

Sports Shooter

  • AF-S NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8G ED VR
  • AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4G ED VR 

[Nikon D4, 85mm ƒ/1.4, 1/250, ISO 100]

Bokeh

If you desire the silky smooth Bokeh there is another thing that affects the background—sensor size. This is especially true when you go to the smaller chips. The lens gets closer to the sensor and when this happens the depth-of-field increases. This is why your smartphone photos look in focus with a ƒ/2 lens. It is like shooting at ƒ/8 or ƒ/16 with a full-framed DSLR.

Buy a full-framed sensor camera to get the silkiest of all backgrounds.

[Nikon D4, 85mm ƒ/8, 1/6, ISO 100 for light I used Alienbees B1600 at 1/16 power being triggered by Pocketwizard Mini TT1 on the camera and Plus II transciever on the strobe. The strobe is powered by the Vagabond Mini Lithium]

Nikkor 28-300mm ƒ/3.5 – 5.6 can replace the Nikkor 85mm ƒ/1.4

Nikon D4, 28-300mm (300), ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/25 – Off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900.  The Flash is on the Pocketwizard TT5 and being triggered by the Mini TT1 on the Camera with the AC3 to control the output of the flash. Flash is -2 EV and the camera is -1 EV.

Bokeh 

Bokeh originated in the Japanese word [boke], which means blur. Today many photographers are going out and buying the ƒ/1.4 lenses to get that silky smooth background for when you shoot the lens wide open.

If the reason I am reaching for a lens based on getting a silky smooth out of focus background I might be wasting my time. You see so much of what I shoot is with the AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR and to take the lens off to put on my AF NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4D IF I could be just creating an unnecessary step.  

If you compare the lenses at the same aperture and focal length then it would make more sense to grab the 85mm ƒ/1.4. As you can see in the photo below shot on the 85mm @ ƒ/5.6 the background isn’t all that silky Bokeh.

Nikon D4, 85mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/50 – Off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900.  The Flash is on the Pocketwizard TT5 and being triggered by the Mini TT1 on the Camera with the AC3 to control the output of the flash. Flash is -2 EV and the camera is -1 EV.

Nikon D4, 85mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 100, ƒ/2, 1/50 – Off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900.  The Flash is on the Pocketwizard TT5 and being triggered by the Mini TT1 on the Camera with the AC3 to control the output of the flash. Flash is -2 EV and the camera is -1 EV.

Shooting however at ƒ/2 you are seeing a major difference on the 85mm as compared to itself. But now compare it to the first photo on this blog shot with the 28-300mm when the lens is zoomed in to 300mm and shot wide open at ƒ/5.6.  I am having a really hard time seeing any difference in the Bokeh.

Nikon D4, 85mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/50 – Off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900.  The Flash is on the Pocketwizard TT5 and being triggered by the Mini TT1 on the Camera with the AC3 to control the output of the flash. Flash is -2 EV and the camera is -1 EV.

When shooting at ƒ/1.4 with the 85mm the depth-of-field is tad bit more shallow than the 300mm @ ƒ/5.6.

This is where you might just be scratching your head as I was after doing this little test.

The trick to getting that really silky smooth background has as much to do with how close you are to the subject as the ƒ-stop.

I would argue that if you are wanting that shallow depth of field with a creamy Bokeh you can do it with the 28-300mm ƒ/5.6 and not have to buy another lens to carry around.

There are other reasons you might want an 85mm ƒ/1.4 in your bag–stay tuned in for that post later.