Can’t see the forest for the trees.

Definition:  An expression used of someone who is too concerned about the details to see the “big picture”.

Recent pixel-peeping-type comments pertaining to my film images (by a minority of individuals), and a text from a friend who asserted that the output from his M Monochrom is superior to the output out of a Rolleiflex, prompted me to remind people of the above expression.

And I leave you with one question:  Why would you pixel-peep a film photograph?

(we don’t do that for a painting, even though an iPhone can “out-resolve” it)


13 thoughts on “Can’t see the forest for the trees.

  1. Nick Devlin says:

    I was joking about the Mono vs. Rollei thing, you know 🙂 The Rollei is a beautiful machine to use in every way – a sensual experience in the hands. But I love the Mono too. A lot.

  2. Umberto Orsenigo, Milano (Italy) says:


  3. joceaphoto says:

    Dear Peter,

    My perception is that your expectations of your Mamiya (film & lens combo) compared to your previous setup were not the same. I can see the mountain since I’m far enough to see the whole picture 🙂

    Each photographs you post are really nice photographs regardless of the camera you choose.

    Cheers! JOCE


  4. Kevin Ng says:

    Hey Peter,

    I think you may have mis-interpreted my comments regarding your previous posting. Moreover, I completely agree with your comment of “Can’t see the forest from the trees” and is the fundamental reason for my comment on that posting. Let me explain a little further…..

    First of all, I don’t generally “pixel peep” any picture – regardless of the medium. To me, the most important thing about a picture I come across is how it makes me feel either emotionally or aesthetically (what I would reference as the “quality” of the picture). I spoke of “pixel peeping” because the picture you posted was so small even “pixel peeping” would not have allowed me to determine/guess the medium used and as such, assessing the “quality” of the picture (recognizing that this is highly personal) could not (and should not) possibly be influenced or evaluated via the underlying medium. I specifically pointed out the slight green tinge as it’s my contention that if people believed it to be a digital photo, such would become the focus of discussion instead of the real “quality” of the picture. By stating this, I also wanted to point out how odd it is that since it was known the picture was taken on film, no one mentions the colour (I know, I know – since I was the second commentator, I didn’t give anyone the chance to :)))).

    Second, I follow your blog relatively regularly and have read numerous times of your dis-satisfaction with digital, CCD vs CMOS, colour rendering, etc., etc. And while I completely appreciate and respect your opinions and thoughts on the matter, I sometimes find the level of detail in your analysis falls squarely into the cliche of “can’t see the forest from the trees”. You show us your “life’s little moments”, you focus on the emotions of the moment and that is what matters to your readers – not the nits and picks you have with a given medium (unless, of course, the particular details are so hideous to be completely distracting – like a really bad HDR, as a very obvious example of what I mean). Undoubtedly, those discussions are fun and each of us have differing opinions but my point is that I sometimes feel like your strong focus on how great film is and how weak digital is ends up precisely as “not seeing the forest from the trees”.

    Please know that my comments are being made with no underlying judgements. I shoot both film and digital and have my own personal opinions on each. I am simply expressing my own thoughts on the matter, in general, which is that medium is irrelevant when there is “quality.”

    I hope the above explains my comments in a more coherent way.


  5. sanecinema says:

    Can’t see the picture for the pixels?
    The sun is too harsh and the moon too soft.
    Inspiration happens in a flash.

  6. Chris D says:

    In the transition from film to digital, maybe we’ve taken a few steps back in a meaningful critique of one’s aesthetic intent. I remember from the film days, the only technical considerations/comments made, had to do with the different levels of acutance produced when shooting Plus-x, or Tri-x and processing in Rodinol vs D-76, or HC-110; and of course one’s taste in print paper. Regardless of how an image was processed/printed, these different techniques rarely influenced the critique of one’s aesthetics. Every now-and-then when I take the time to peruse Flickr, it seems like there is a lot lot of meaningless photography being shot with great digital equipment, including Leicas. IMO, pixel-peeping is a pointless result of the rise of digital.

  7. If they can’t see the forest for the trees, then they need to remove their macro and/or telephoto lens and learn to shoot with an ultra-wide angle lens or fish-eye.

    And exactly how do they pixel-peep when the base image doesn’t contain pixels? Judging the pixels of a digitized film image means they’re judging the scanner used more so than the actual image.

    I can say from experience of using “The Darkroom” to process and scan my 35mm film that I do see a difference in scan quality between their standard scan and their enhanced scan. I have not tried their super scan, as the enhanced has been good enough for my use.

    • John G. says:

      I’m curious if you or anyone else has any opinions of “The Darkroom”. I’ve been trying their service with the Superscan. It didn’t seem that much more expensive and I hate scanning.

      I’ve been reasonably happy, but not thrilled with my first roll of Portra from a 500 C/M. I’ve never show the film before, so maybe there was something wrong with the film…not sure.

      • Jim says:

        I use them for 35mm color, B&W, and E-6 (slides) all the time. I have no complaints about development or scanning. I get better quality prints from my local camera store (with an exception I’ll mention next). But the local place has forgotten to do the scans, sometimes the prints have an ink smear, and they don’t process B&W. So I have been using The Darkroom because they do E-6 and B&W.

        • John G. says:

          Thanks for confirming Jim. I’ve been happy except for the Portra and it may have been old film…not sure.

          I bought an Epson printer last year and have been very pleased with the prints. The ink is expensive, but it’s nice to print them at home…to me anyway. .

  8. Pi says:

    I think your stirring us 😳

    Camera disappointments = forest.
    Life’s moments = trees

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s