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Authenticity and an aperture chameleon

Antique Plate of the Golden Pavilion

Not usually my thing, this. It’s a bit heavy handed, a bit over the top, but I was playing with the Silver Efex Pro photoshop plugin and found a variation on the ‘Antique Plate II’ setting really suited the rendering and content of this image, because it appears plausibly authentic.  Or does it?

It’s not a great photograph, compositionally. It can’t decide whether the main subject is the island tree or the Golden Pavilion.  They stake a roughly an equal claim, but fail to play off each enough to make the combination work.  But it is a timeless ageless roughly unageable image, by which I mean there is at first glance nothing to tie it to the present day.  This is important, as it means the ‘antique’ look doesn’t instantly appear at odds with the subject matter.  Test one – passed.

Consider the crop (shown at approximately 60% magnification) and you’ll note the rendering of the image.  The edges are soft, and despite the normal angle of view and the moderate focus distance, there is a surprising drop off in focus from the middle to the background.  Much as if it were shot on a large format plate camera with an old three element lens.  Test two – passed.

60% magnification crop

But where does this image fail the authenticity test?  It’s the ripples, dummy.  That water should be creamy and dreamy, thanks to the long exposure required with insensitive materials.  Unfortunately the ripples all well defined, and the resulting sharp reflection of the pavilion actually hinders the composition on a macro scale too.  Test three – failed.

This was shot in 2008 on a Leica M8 with a 35mm pre-asph Summilux. 1/8000 s, and based on exposure and lighting conditions I’d guess f2, but based on rendering I’d guess f1.4. This lens is a great ‘aperture chameleon’, a term I’ve just coined for a lens whose character changes over the aperture range whilst remaining appealing throughout.  Contrast this to an ‘aperture kangaroo’ that when wide open deserves only to hide in a pouch, but once stopped down is capable of wonderful exhilarating leaps and bounds. I’ve gone too far.

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