Thursday, 14 June 2007

How much resolution is enough?

Blencathra, Cumbria, May 2007 - a work in progress

All the harping on about resolution of film, scans and sensor sizes...but what is the correct amount?

I'm sure it is something that dogged a few photographers in the "film age" but now we're all (figuratively) digital, every pixel can be seen by enlarging the view on the computer. There is an endless obsession with resolution and catching every detail: if I can't see a fly on a blade of grass a mile away I'm not getting enough.

For me, I'm trying to capture enough of what I see to express in print what I felt & saw in reality. Sometimes that means a lot of detail, sometimes not.

River Tsetserleg, Mongolia, September 2006

Of course, when wants little detail or blurred effects (as with River Tsetserleg above) it's easy. The crunch comes when the detail one wishes to convey is beyond what was captured, in either medium. Then there is the issue of how to develop the image to best use that detail to create the right expression. Sometimes that goes beyond the mere circle of confusion definition for observer to image distance.

The top shot is one I'm currently ruminating over in this regard. Not quite struggling yet. As I showed from a crop here, there is plenty of detail being captured but there are still subtleties in the wide open areas that I wish to bring out. One of the things that draws me to this view and caused me to want to photograph it are the subtle changes in shading & tone caused by the grasses and upland flora laid out across the valley and surrounding hills. It's a question of resolution and micro-contrast (I think). Developing the image to show off that effect is the difficult part. Largely the scan captures the raw data, the film picks up the subtleties quite nicely but how to bring it out. The final image, even at 24" or so will need to have more detail than strictly necessary from human resolving power to ensure this is conveyed properly, in my opinion.

I might post some more entries on this image as I try to resolve these issues across the various parts of the image.

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