Posts Tagged ‘depth of field’

Mastering Night Photography – Focusing

February 15th, 2015

A lot of people are doing nighttime photography these days including yours truly. There are many good sources of information on nighttime photography. I’ve written a few blog posts myself (Exciting Nighttime Photography in 10 Easy Steps). Nighttime photography falls into two categories – star trails and night sky. In this post I want to elaborate on something I’ve discovered recently with regards to night sky photography.

double-arch-joshua-tree-140628Nighttime photography is pretty much like daytime photography. The biggest difference is you can’t see what you’re doing. Let’s run through a quick comparison of camera settings in daytime and nighttime photography.

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Making a Photograph – The Technical and the Creative

January 13th, 2015

There’s no question about it; photography is very technical. There are many technical skills that must be mastered to become a proficient photographer. And they didn’t all just crop up when digital cameras came on the scene. Film cameras required a great deal of technical know-how also.

If you were taking a grand landscape photograph back in the days of film, a composition that had a very interesting foreground and a spectacular background, you had to know how to control your depth of field so that the foreground and the background and everything in between would be in focus. This required a technical knowledge of the three factors that affect sharpness; those being, focal distance (the distance from the camera to the object you’re focusing on), the focal length of the lens and the f-stop.

Exposure in the film era was perhaps even a little more intimidating. Your ISO was determined by your film and you selected that when you purchased it. But you had to set your shutter speed and your f-stop manually. Shutter speed wasn’t too hard to understand. If you decrease the length of time the shutter was open, you decrease the amount of light that passed through the lens by the same amount. A shutter speed of 1/30 of a second let twice as much light through the lens as 1/60 of a second. Pretty simple.

But f-stop didn’t make any sense at all. If your f-stop was f/8 and you wanted to double the amount of light coming through the lens, you set it to f/5.6. The amount of light was doubled but the number was smaller. And it wasn’t what you might intuitively have expected it to be, namely, f/4. It could be a bit baffling. And the only way to get a grasp on it was to memorize these weird numbers. With film you were stuck with manual exposure and there was no getting around it. With digital you can use one of the automatic exposure modes so you can get away without fully understanding this f/stop stuff. But it’s still best if you do.

digital-cameraThe coming of the digital camera introduced a whole new level of complexity. In the film age the camera was a simple mechanical device. You were responsible for doing practically everything – deciding where to focus, the shutter speed to use and the f-stop to use. The only role the camera played was to open the shutter for the precise length of time that you specified when you set the shutter speed.

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Making a Photograph – Two Sides of the Coin

November 23rd, 2014

I recently read an article by William Neill in the September Outdoor Photography magazine titled “Need to Know” that really resonated with me.  His main point is, don’t let the acquisition of gear and techniques interfere with the experience.  There’s so much information out there, so many people offering advice on techniques for composing, exposing and post processing.  But in Neill’s journey he has developed what he calls, ‘… a simple but effective tool set.”

A foundation of gear and technique is important in capturing the experience.  But it is the experience that is what we’re out there for, not histograms or depth of field or leading lines.

joshua_tree_140920__SM32515_6_7_8_9-Edit

 

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Mastering Sharpness – Fuzzy Photos

May 2nd, 2014

How many times have you returned from a shoot with some photographs you are really excited about only to find out they are out of focus.  That’s always very disappointing and often frustrating.  And it happens all too often to me.  At the Joshua Tree Gathering this past March someone asked the question, ”How many ways can a photograph be out of focus,” and that got me thinking.  This would be a fun article to write.

But let’s get something straight from the start.  Not all ‘out of focus’ photographs are out of focus.  They may not be sharp but that can come from two causes.  They can actually be out of focus or they can be blurry.  This may seem like a subtle distinction but it’s an important one.  So let’s take them one by one and explore their causes and solutions.

But before we do, I want to make another very important point.  A photograph that is out of focus or blurry is not always a bad thing.  Often times the artist does it intentionally because that is his or her artistic vision.  When it’s done intentionally to create an expressive photograph then it’s not only OK, it’s necessary.  It’s when it’s unintentional that we get frustrated and loose great moments.

But now, let’s get into the details.  We’ll talk about blurs first.

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Mastering Sharpness – Depth of Field

March 2nd, 2014

A topic that receives a lot of attention in our workshops is focus.  It’s incredibly important, so important that I consider Appropriate Sharpness to be one of the four pillars of a successful landscape photograph.  (For more, read Making a Photograph – The Four Pillars.)  Most of the questions center around depth of field and hyperfocal distance.  In fact, this is so important that I give a class on Appropriate Sharpness during just about every workshop.  Let’s start the discussion with Depth of Field

Depth of Field

This is the range, if you will, of objects in the view of your camera that are in focus.  Objects in front of this range are out of focus as well as objects behind the range.  A deep depth of field would have the flowers just a few feet from you camera and the distant mounts miles away all in focus.  The depth of field would then extend from a couple of feet to infinity and for all practical purposes would be infinitely deep.  This is often referred to as a ‘near-far composition.’

death_valley_sunrise_2012_rrpm_rc0A shallow depth of field may be just a couple of inches deep with nearer and more distant objects out of focus.  This is referred to as ‘Selective Focus.’

sego_palm_130629__SM36636

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Ansel Adams – The Making of 40 Photographs: Frozen Lake and Cliffs

July 15th, 2012

It was in the  ‘70s when I was backpacking through the Kaweah Gap areas of the Sierra Nevada mountains.  We were two days out and came upon this lake.  I instantly recognized it from on of Ansel Adams that I particularly liked – Precipice Lake.  It was exciting and we spent the night there.

Frozen Lake and Cliffs (1932)

I’ve always been a fan of this Ansel Adams classic.   For me it has a feeling of immensity and majesty.  So it  has a special meaning to me reading about it in “Examples.”   A few things caught my attention in Adams’ narrative…

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