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Sunday, 14 December 2008


Ctein, this is probably too elementary for you, but it might be useful to other people on the forum, who, like me, are more interested in effect than in cause. :-p


Mike J. and I recently mildly disagreed on the efficacy of lots of (digital) shooting vs. slow, thoughtful (film) shooting; I was in favor of lots of digital shooting, feeling that nothing -- nothing -- replaces actually doing something (which doesn't require you to be thoughtless.) I have no doubt that you are the world's leading authority on dye transfer, because you do it all the time. But even if you went back to school to study chemistry or whatever, I doubt that you would ever get truly expert in dye chemistry unless you *did it all the time.* You're smart enough, I'm sure, but you've got to do it. That's not only true in technical fields, but also stuff like journalism and law and medicine.

So, my response -- maybe from being a journalist -- is to not worry about it. I'm happily non-technical in the field of photography. If I should ever have a dye transfer problem (which is about as likely as my having a bobcat-castrating problem) I'd send you an e-mail; if you didn't answer, I'd send somebody else an e-mail. I'm constantly impressed by how many really bright people are out there, who know all kinds of stuff, and are willing to answer questions about it.

Of course, being curious, and satisfying your curiosity with study, is a wonderful thing in itself, and might be a god reason for somebody to study dye chemistry. I'd personally rather castrate bobcats.

Ctein, are you aware of this website?


This sort of on the subject.

I remember reading about Boeing passenger jets. The person being interviewed said there is not one person who understands the entire airplane. People building them, and repairing them, only know their own area of expertise.

I have found as I get older, I know less. I simply cannot keep up any longer with the flood of information. Look at how much is published each day on the web, alone.

At one time, Kodak published a series of educational books and pamphlets on photography and related subjects, which were excellent. If anyone can get hold of them, it's a great start.

I reckon a good place to start (as with many subjects) is Wikipedia. The intro to optics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lens_(optics) ) is pretty good.

My favorite online resources for technical information:

kmp.bdimitrov.de (Pentax specific)
www.photozone.de (Lens tests)

Well, I guess introductory, could mean at the beginning and so to take a quantum step back. Feynman's text "QED" will introduce one as to how light works and a good read.( I am not a scientist or barely even clever, but it is good info to understand the basics)


Norman Koren has a great collection of technical articles and tutorials about various aspects of photography on his website www.normankoren.com

In 6th form (UK 6th, just before University) physics we were taught how to design couplet and triplet lenses and correct chromatic faults. Very basic, but a good foundation on understanding how lenses work and different types of glass.


It doesn't have the technical details that texts have, but for an intro on how camera lenses are made, this YouTube video (about 10 minutes) is in my favorites:


I own and read Kingslake's classic on lenses. The downside of this book is that I found out most of my magic large format lenses are actually Tessar designs.


I am a certified beginner, so let me give you a list of everything I have read--17 books in all with more in the works.

As a beginner, I found early on that Rob Sheppard were the authors I could most easily understand. Then I expanded to other authors.

The Digital Photography Book, Kelby
The Photoshop Channels Book, Kelby
Adobe Camera Raw for Digital Photographers Only, Sheppard
Window Seat, Julieanne Kost, because it lists techniques at the back
Scott Kelby's 7-Point System for Adobe Photoshop
The Adobe Photoshop CS3 Book, Kelby (He has a CS4 book.)
Epson Complete Guide to Digital Printing, Sheppard
Restoration and Retouching, Katrin Eismann (for those rare occasions when the family asks me to restore an old photo)
The Photographer's Eye, Michael Freeman
Understanding Exposer, Bryan Peterson
The Magic of Digital Nature Photography, Rob Sheppard
Practical Color Management, Eddit Tapp
The Complete Guide to Digital Photography, Michael Freeman
The Moment It Clicks, Joe McNally
John Hedgecoe's New Introductory Photography Course
Night & Lowlight Digital Photography, Michael Freeman
Photographing the Landscape, John Fielder
The Digital Photography Book 2, Kelby
Black and White in Photoshop CS3 and Photoshop Lightroom, Leslie Alsheimer
High Dynamic Range, Ferrell McCollough
Rick Sammon's Travel and Nature Photography

Currently I am reading, simultaneously,
Travel Photography; Digital Masters, Bob Krist (A Lark Photogrpahy Book)
The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 book for Digital Photographers, Kelby
Photo Journalism, The Professional's Approach, Kenneth Kobre
Digital Photography Master Class, Tom Ang

As a professional photographer and a part time artist/designer understanding optical physics is not my primary concern. After all its final product that counts!

With the lenses on the 3 systems and five cameras I use or have used all but one has been purchased on the basis that I like what I see in the final image.

This is not to say that I am not interested or don't care about the science underling the craft. Its just that I am happy to admit that I don't have the time or cranial capacity to take it all in and fulfill my main objectives, I learn what I have to and then move on.
However, it is essential that a bit of the theory has to be understood so that when limitations are reached they can be recognized for what they are and alternate courses of action can be followed to enable one to achieve the original task or goal.

If I were to think of one author that has explained
practical optical science and the success or failure of individual lenses it would be Geoffrey Crawley. He writes regularly for the British weekly Amateur Photographer and has done so for many years. His qualifications are impeccable but more than that his writings are readable and understandable.

Erwin Puts' "Tao of Leica" http://www.imx.nl/photo/ isn't well arranged for a start-at-the-beginning Optics 101 approach, but he has a number of semi-technical articles that may be apropos.

His topics tend to run more toward photography (depth-of-field, why use MTF curves, how digital has affected us, etc) than toward optics per se.

There's also good information in his articles on Zeiss, Canon and Leica lenses, though they are even less general.

All in all, more of an 'outside reading' source for Optics 201 than a text for Optics 101.

One not to forget for historical interest is "Opticks" by Sir Isaac Newton. It is quite fascinaing to see how much he got right by experiment even though he did not know that light was a wave form.

Of particular interest is that it is the only major work he wrote in English - you should be able to get a complete transcript (The first edition might be beyond the means of most who read this blog :-) ). Surprisingly it is quite an easy read.

It's also worth examining the psychology of perception in respect of image rendering at the retina (as a corollary of lens rendering of the subject at the sensor/film) as Latto and Harper point out in their paper The Non-Realistic Nature of Photography
(pcwww.liv.ac.uk/~Latto/Articles/Latto & Harper 2007.pdf).

For what its worth I think LP Clerc's Photography Theory and Practice gives a good grounding in understanding optics (et al for film) even if it is not contemporary. Shoot me down if you will, I'm not half as bright as your regulars, but it is my first post.
Must say that yours is probably the most refreshing blog out there/here. Regards.

After reading all that, you're not a certified beginner any more!

Mike J.

Mark Walker,
That's okay, I'm not half as bright as my regulars either.

Mike J.

Learning is fairly easy; The tough part for me is figuring out what I don't know but need to.

I wish I had something positive to contribute, but the fact is that I have been hoping for an answer to Ctein's question myself.

A related question: has anybody read or at least skimmed the new edition of Basic Photographic Materials and Processes, now written by somebody called Nanette Salvaggio? It appears to have more information on digital than the second ed, but all the previous authors' names have been removed. Salvaggio is now teaching the relevant course at RIT, which is a credential. Since the third ed appears to be a complete rewrite, I'd like to hear from someone who has actually taken a look at it, rather than relying on the reputation of the previous ed.

Ctein, if you get any helpful answers to your question other than via comments here, please post them. I would like to see them, and I can't be the only one.

Long time reader, first post. Look forward to reading every day.

Looks like you have a good amount of suggestions for Optics question, the photo science references seem a bit thin.

"Fundamentals of Photographic Theory" by T.H. James and George C. Higgins. The "gold standard" for intro to photo science. I don't believe this is currently in print, but available used on Amazon.

"Photographic Sensitometry, The Study of Tone Reproduction" by Hollis N. Todd and Richard D. Zakia is a good follow on to the above.

I work as the division head for the advanced measurement science division for the U.S. Navy's measurement science department (METROLOGY). We have quite a few experts on the calibration of optical systems be they night vision goggles, laser tracking, infrared optics for FLIRs, etc.

When we do optical measurements we use a reference standard that must be at least 4 times more accurate than the item we are measuring. The standard must be traceable to NIST via a similar test accuracy ratio. If a standard cannot be found that meets the test accuracy ratio (TAR), then according to 17025 we must include the uncertainty calculations. Calibration is not what most lay people think. It is NOT alignment or adjustment as those are repair functions. Calibration is simply verifying that the item is performing within the designer/builders specifications. We take as found measurements and if it is within specifications we do nothing. If it is out of specifications we then perform a repair function which may include alignment after which it is measured against a standard again. The two measurements of importance are the as found and the as left measurements. By collecting this data over time we can predict the drift or deterioration rate (everything degrades overtime). With that information we know how often it must be submitted for calibration so we can ensure that it is performing properly over its useful life.

We write detailed calibration procedures which direct the technician in the steps to take, the order to take them and how to connect and setup the equipment used to make themeasurements.

If you want to see a Navy procedure in optics let me know and I will post one up as a PDF.

Night Vision products are unique. They are great for the Noctural Animal Watchers. I purchased a pair of binoculars for my husband. I believe my 4 year old enjoys them more than anybody in my family.

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