Lobster Rolls, Lens Diffraction, And Getting The Real Scoop

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brandtb

Lobster Rolls, Lens Diffraction, And Getting The Real Scoop

Postby brandtb » Sun Sep 12, 2010 2:46 pm

Having spent a good deal of time on the New Enland Atlantic coast in recent years (Maine in particular) - one invariably comes face to face with the age old question..."who makes the best Lobster Roll?" Well I value my time and lobster rolls - so I like to get as much real "boots on the ground" information as I can. I'm not just going to take on face value..."there's only one really good place - and that's in Wiscasset" - I'm going to look into it as much as I can before hand...and get the real scoop.

To wit, recently I was in a wonderful day long seminar with the photographer Art Wolfe - the well known landscape photographer and host of a public TV program called "Travels To The Edge" which follows him on some of his photography excursions. We got to see many many wonderful pictures, and get the background...all a truly great experience. Then later, Art stopped to talk about his gear and technique a little bit...and then talked about aperture use in landscape photography. He said that when he has finally sized up the image, and got the tripod situated - he always stops down to f22 or what ever the maximum is on the lens he is using. Well, as soon as I heard him say that a big octagonal shape appeared in my minds eye...colored bright red...with big white letters spelling out... STOP! You know it sounded just like someone telling me..."well the best lobster roll on the East Coast is...". I paused for a moment an thought...is this the absolute best thinking?...always?...how in the world is he accounting for lens diffraction? Lens diffraction from higher f stops can potentially ruin a landscape image by adding blurriness - even though at higher f stops depth of field increases. What critical information Art did not mention was at some point on some lenses and for some images - the lens diffraction blur can totally offset any increase in depth of field - and that is a really big deal. Some lenses may be more prone to it, and if shooting an image with a lot of bright reflectance - back light, snow scenes, etc. - then you're really going to potentially get a lot more of it. I personally experiment with my lenses to see how much of it occurs and have some idea what my best options are, and of course when shooting something important I will shoot stops from f11 all the way to f18 ust to have options to compare later. Note that my Zuiko 12-60 mm has a sweet spot somewhere between f14 and f16 - I never shoot at f22 with that lens. I'll never forget shooting a beautiful Greek Revival white church in freshly fallen snow with magical morning sun light - right after I first got that lens...all the best compositions I shot at f22. I looked at them later...all unusuable. The only shots from that morning that really looked good were shot at f9. The magical moment and subject gone forever...lesson learned.

Other important ancillary considerations for those of us who love shooting foliage is leaves and windspeed - these have to be considered carefully as well, before using the highest f-stops (note that if you use a camera that shoots usable images at ISO 1600 and above you can get some faster shutter speeds - so you may have a little less to worry about here). If you decide you want to shoot a scene with a lot of leaves and the wind is blowing 10 mph or so - one needs to consider how fast a shutter speed is needed to stop that action. If you follow the "stop down to f22" you may (of course adding into the equation the amount of ambient light of course) not have a fast enough shutter speed to stop the action, THEN combined with lens diffraction...the image will become noticeably blurred in its finest details. I have had very good landscape images produced using f7 ( I don't do this as a rule or often) or so - just get a fast enough shutter speed to stop windblown foliage in the foreground. This extreme sharpness in the foreground can trick the eye into thinking an image has front to back sharpeness to some degree even with a shallower depth of field. When I studied doc. camera with Bestor Cram at the Maine Media Workshops several years ago - if an image was not in focus or enough in focus - it was eliminated.There wasn't any further discussion ...none...nada.

As an aside, I recently ran across the work of a professional photographer (way above my pay grade) who has had many books published. Almost all of the leaves or foliage in any of his outdoor shots is slightly blurry, and has ugly artifacts of lens reflectance. He is of the "stop down to f22 no matter what" school - and partly because of his camera and lenses, and partly because he's never really tested to see.... he never gets truly satisfactory focus results sad to say. I wish I saw less of this, but c'est la vie.

Finally, while I have my favorite Lobster Rolls (and have eaten hundreds and hundreds in my search for the best) - that of course is all still somewhat subjective. I've included, however, a link (I happen to like Cambridge tutorials but you can Google a bit for more info.) dealing with factual provable effects of lens diffracton which be of some help to us all as we prepare to make our way this October to those magical places full of the most wonderful fall foliage.

http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutori ... graphy.htm
Last edited by brandtb on Mon Sep 13, 2010 9:12 am, edited 1 time in total.


Andy
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Postby Andy » Sun Sep 12, 2010 6:40 pm

Brandt: Thanks for this timely and informative reminder. I was surprised to hear the Art Wolfe "always stop down to f22" thing. I have read many books on photography over the years, as well as many reports on different lenses. Most of what I have read espouses exactly what you are suggesting, that each lens has different characteristics. And while I have read about diffraction before, I think your discussion is the clearest I have hear about the practical meaning.

I will generally try to assess how much DOF is critical to an image. If I am trying to keep something in the foreground in sharp focus and have front to back sharp focus, I may shoot at a smaller aperture. If not, I will generally shoot at f8 or f11 and then, if time permits, I will make some exposures at smaller apertures and sometimes wider.

It is an issue of the particular lens. The fixed length wide angle lenses I have owned have performed generally better at larger apertures than my mid and long zooms, for example. Also, as a hobbyist with other expenses, my budget means I may be using lower quality, so-called "consumer grade" lenses, rather than the "pro lenses." They are clearly going to perform differently. I shot for a long time with the Nikkon 18-200 VR. The reports I read showed that it performed better at different focal lengths at varying apertures. All those are considerations.

I have recently shifted back to the so-called "full frame" sensor size, which means I am re-thinking/re-working my lenses. I need to do some testing to determine where those individual lens sweet spots are.

I think the point is mainly, you cannot have an "always" rule when it comes to this, and that you have to know and test your own equipment and its limitations?
Andy

If it sounds too good to be true, its probably . . . .

Andy
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Postby Andy » Sun Sep 12, 2010 6:43 pm

BTW: How about a short list of the best Lobster Rolls (from someone who LOVES lobster -- and most any other kind of seafood/shellfish) :)
Andy

If it sounds too good to be true, its probably . . . .

brandtb

Postby brandtb » Sun Sep 12, 2010 7:08 pm

On the lobster roll...a little background. I'm not from the school that says the best hamburger has 12 pounds of beef btw 2 pieces of bread...I like proportion.
I've always liked the roll at Lobster Shack in Cape Elizabeth...always well proportioned and always done right...great clams...chowder, haddock too. They are by far at the top of the list for me. The Lobster House near Small Point is not bad...although I had a great one out of a truck near a public park in nearby Bath. I like the one from the tiny little retail fish shack near the dock on Monhegan...it has dill in it...but it was great...would definitely eat it again...Ha. Had great one from Legal Seafood in Cambridge MA.

faxmachineanthem
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Postby faxmachineanthem » Mon Sep 13, 2010 11:32 am

I too am surprised that Art Wolfe throws the diffraction issue out the window and shoots at f22. Surely he knows about diffraction. That said, it hasn't seemed to me to be too important.

Typically I shoot landscapes at f11, since it seems to be a good compromise between most lens' sweet spot (usually f8 ) and maximum depth of field. If focused correctly I'm never wanting for more depth of field. However, recently I had been playing around with long exposures where I wanted to motion blur The light was often too bright even with my neutral density filter, so I found myself stopping down to f22 to get the slow shutter speed I needed. The photos are still pretty sharp. I think I detect a very slight loss of sharpness but it is small enough that I just won't worry about it. And if Art Wolfe's shots are at f22, well then I definitely won't worry about it. That said, I still like f11. :D

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Postby ctyanky » Mon Sep 13, 2010 8:23 pm

I usually don't venture over here in the photog forum but a discussion of lobstah intrigues me.

Brandtb and Andy: Here is the 2010 Boston Globe's New England clam and lobster shacks "best of the best" of the New England coast.

Enjoy! Brandtb, Legal Seafoods is AWESOME!

http://www.boston.com/travel/explorene/ ... am_shacks/

BTW: I don't like mine with butter, just minimal mayo and a lightly toasted roll! :wink:

brandtb

Postby brandtb » Mon Sep 13, 2010 9:41 pm

I saw the Globe piece when it ran...it hit's the high points I think. Last time I was at Legal was in Cambridge...and we were in the middle of our lunch and the waiter came over and said...'I have an extra lobster roll, would you like it?' Ahhh the perpetuation of the love affair.

Closest I've ever been to Woodman's Of Essex was several years back when we were in Gloucester visiting friends...and one of their delivery vans ran into, and totaled our car!... heard the food's pretty good though....Ha.

ctyanky
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Postby ctyanky » Tue Sep 14, 2010 5:11 am

An "extra" lobstah roll? Wow. Those things can run up to $13 bucks apiece! Good for you!

I would rather enjoy a roll than a whole lobstah. Too messy! :wink:

Karma2x
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Postby Karma2x » Wed Sep 15, 2010 9:59 pm

Diffraction issues softening the image at small apertures are largely a problem with crop sensors on digital cameras, right ? Right? Nobody seems to have mentioned this, so I thought I should ease the mind of us old-timer photographers who still largely shoot film.

BostonRott
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Postby BostonRott » Tue Sep 21, 2010 11:55 am

Wow, I'm truly amazed that Art would profess such a thing!! The retired dog trainer in me immediately wonders if this is his "thing." Almost every dog trainer who does seminars has a "thing" that they toss out at some point. Some utterly ridiculous, some ingenious. But it seems like there is an unwritten rule to have a "thing," whether or not it will truly benefit the students.

Being leary of diffraction, it is very rare for me to venture much beyond f/11, and occaisionally to f/16. But for this lover of low-light, natural light, photography, anything beyond f/4 must have MILES of DOF. :wink: I do shoot full frame, and had not heard that the diffraction was more limited to DX than FX, very interesting!
Gretchen



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