Connections to the past

I love a bit of irony.

Something that I do find ironic is that the further away from traditional camera designs the latest crop of mirrorless get, the easier some older, lost processes and techniques get.

Manual focus is one. SLR/DSLR cameras have prioritised auto focus so much over the last few decades that manual focus has become, not only less popular, but also harder to do. Focussing screens optimised for auto focus lack the accuracy needed for good manual focus, especially if you like to use the whole frame to compose with. Thumb toggles etc aside, you cannot create an AF system that reads a creative mind.

Not only this, but using focus confirmation or AF and re-composing is for me far too distracting. I often like to use deep transitional bokeh in my images, using the better characteristic of my 17mm lens in particular to it’s fullest. AF makes this more of a black and white process, the forced preciseness is to me more distracting than beneficial.

Manual focus for this style of shooting is gentler, more deliberate and calmer. Placing transitional blurring is not a matter of accuracy and speed, but rather instinct and connection to an idea. Looking into the “middle distance”*, instinctively feeling the framing come together is simply harder when fighting with or being aware of possibly fighting with AF. It is a little more like hanging on to a bronco than moving with a thoroughbred.

Something I liked to do with my Canon cameras was to tae the AF off the shooting button. This at least allowed me to short circuit the AF when it was not cooperating. I missed this feature at first with the EM5’s, but I have come to realise that it was as much a distraction as any AF limitation.

Is it possible, that auto focus has changed the way we have started to compose our images? I for one have felt for a while that focussing has become more a matter of camera limitations that creative needs. Did past masters habitually use the whole frame to shoot with more than we do now? Another bit of irony is possibly the attention spent on lens edges and corners in an age where possibly we use them less, allowing the AF system concentrate on the more logical middle of the frame or do we use them more to help recover our misses?

In the modern age of strong Bokeh effects, is the subtle art of deeper transition under even more threat. We are so obsessed with the amount of Bokeh, maybe the more practical and less creatively one dimensional types are not used enough. Third ironic thought; For most of photographies short life, more depth of field was craved. Now we can achieve it easily we want less, or is that just how fashions work.

I like a smooth background as much as the next person, but I do get tired of it’s over use. It is harder to fill a frame with harmoniously interactive details, but using too much blur to hide the bulk of the frame can feel like a cop out after a while.

Complicated, even messy compositions with often illogical placement and framing. Bring it on!

*A martial arts term for looking into the middle space between you and your adversary so you do not look at anything, but everything at once.