The ORB revisited

Started Apr 28, 2012 | Discussions thread
PF1944
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Re: The ORB revisited
In reply to dotbalm, May 1, 2012

Dotbalm and Feedme bring two substantial reasons to disagree with my view of ORBs as something which, for me, is occasional at best and something that I can use, should I have the talent to do so, as a natural artifact of the photographic process.

Feedme’s assertions being the coarser of the two approaches, I will start with his statements that: (1) ORBs are two random in nature to be tamed by the photographer and put to use; (2) Cartier-Bresson’s work is that of a second-rate technician and (3) I voluntarily incited the negative responses that I received.

(1) In my case, ORB’s have been difficult, but not impossible, to replicate. Far from being random, I have had to point the camera where I was pretty sure that this would be its natural response. Picture (a) -

- was taken with the X100 and (b) -

- with the X10. Only (b) shows ORBs, but, given what is known of that camera, it would have been strange indeed if it had not. Yet, of the two, my own view is that the X10 captured the essence of the scene better than the more pleasing image created by the X100. The reflections of the sun on the parked cars were blindingly hurtful; you can feel that better from picture (b) than from picture (a).

(2) I read somewhere that Cartier-Bresson saw the ever greater ability of cameras to function autonomously as a real deliverance which allowed him to concentrate on composition. This would probably align with Feedme’s assessment of his photographic ability. Again, this is a question whether the ‘how’ is more important than the ‘what’. I consider Cartier-Bresson a genius for his ability to produce images that jar me into thinking about their contents, not about ‘how’ they were achieved. The ‘how’ is transparent.

(3) As I have not experienced Feedme’s random ORBs, I was not trying to belittle his, or anyone else’s problems. Indeed, it seems to me that the fact that some of us have not suffered as drastically from the ORBs as others would bolster Feedme and company’s claim that their X10’s are faulty, and not simply the result of a design “flaw”. That fact alone may explain Fuji’s willingness to swap sensors, presumably for those who will request it.

Dotbalm presents a much bigger challenge, in my view. His claim is that : “Orbs (white disk phenomena) are an undesirable aspect of what happens AFTER light has transited the lens and entered the camera. They are not organic to the scene or development of the image/print, as is the case with the eyeglass image.” And that, consequently, they are not of the same nature as the Valencia ORB. He refrains from using the word “natural”; I had said that ORBs are the natural product of a natural process; he, instead, says that they are not organic. His claim therefore can be summarised thus: ORBs are not ‘organic’ and are ‘undesirable’. The challenge is to try to understand what Dotbalm means by those two adjectives.

‘Undesirable’ typically means something which no one would desire. That seems like a fairly broad statement, which is not supported by any kind of evidence, and, by its nature, cannot be: it is not falsifiable. But let us assume that what Dotbalm means is of an ilk with Letkeman’s idea that an ORB will inevitably, someday, ruin a fond memory, and that, in that sense, the X10 proclivity to produce them is necessarily undesirable to all. This is a fairly tall order: pictures are a great way to jog one’s memory, but they are not ‘the memory’ of an event. Even an atrocious picture will jog a memory, whether pleasant or unpleasant, and the happy or sad feeling that will come from the memory will not be affected by the quality of the picture. On the other hand, for someone who concentrates on the ‘how’, the quality of a picture may be so awful as to deter that person from ever wishing to look at it again, thereby losing this helpful memory jogger. In that sense, ‘undesirable’ is much too broad a statement: it is undesirable only to those who are so affected. I doubt very much that this is a majority of any picture viewers.

‘Organic’ is not a word that I have seen in the context of non-living organisms very often, but it does have a sense of: ‘Constituting an integral part of a whole; fundamental.’ In that sense, and it is the only one that has any relevance to the issue, the ORB in Valencia is no more organic than any ORB produced by the X10. It is precisely because it is not an integral part of the picture that it is jarring; it doesn’t just draw our eye in that direction, if forces our mind to try to make sense of a part of the image that is odd. There is no connection between the lack of organicity and the moment when the ORB is created. One way or the other, it is a product of nature that the viewer must make an effort to understand. The photographer may not want it there, and, in that case, the image is defective, the ‘what’ is not good. But the photographer may not mind, and then it is neutral, or may even feel that it adds to the picture, as Cartier-Bresson did.

While we have not, I am sure, convinced each other, at least I thank you for forcing me to articulate my views on the subject far better as a result of your pushback than I would ever have done without it.

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