IS IT TRUE? IS IT SHARP?



In many old buildings, right angles and parallels are at something of a premium. Quite often, if you can align one vertical (or even horizontal) with the edge of the picture, another will be "drunk", leaning at a slight angle, even if the camera is not in the least bit tilted. Interestingly the French word "bourrĂ©" can be used in exactly the same two senses: literally under the affluence of incohol, or simply out-of-true. 

Whether this is down to subsidence, sagging door-frames, a casual attitude on the part of the original builders or simply camera alignment, you can often true things up (or make them look true) via Adobe Photoshop or some other image processing program. I have no compunction about doing this, because you can do exactly the same with movements on a large format camera. As Frances said when I first demonstrated camera movements, "This is a camera for lazy people! You don't have to line it up properly!", 

Then there are subjects like this... The hard line of the window-bars on the right demands to be parallel with the side of the image frame. So does the rather fuzzier engaged column on the left. Incidentally, I only just learned the term "engaged column". I went to check the exact meaning of pilaster, which is what I thought it was, but pilasters are rectangular. When they are rounded like this, they are called engaged columns. Regardless of such architectural niceties, it still left the shutter, which as you can see is ever so slightly drunk. Another nice detail is the zinc cap on the top of the shutter, to keep the wood dry. This will greatly prolong its life. 

An odd thing about this picture is that it never looks quite sharp. It is. In the original, you can look at the grain of the wooden shutters, and the texture of the stone, so it's not camera shake or poor focus or a soft lens: it just looks soft. Some people look the same. If you turn up the sharpness, the textures become harsher and harsher (and with people, it starts looking like a nasty skin disease) but the overall impression is still of a certain, or perhaps more accurately uncertain, softness. Is the picture a success or a failure? Yes. I just can't decide which. 

It's in Arles, incidentally, though there's soft sandstone like that all over France. There's quite a bit in my house. The camera was a Leica M8 (the M9 was awaiting a sensor replacement) and the lens was either a 1,5/50 Zeiss C-Sonnar or a 1,4/35 Leica Summilux. 


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Picture and words copyright (c) Roger Hicks 2017