Exercise 2.7

Brief :

Use a combination of small apertures and wide lens to take a number of photographs exploring deep depth of field.

Because of the small apertures you’ll be working with slow shutter speeds and may need to use a tripod or rest the camera on a stable surface to prevent ‘camera shake’ at low ISO.

Add one or two unedited sequences, together with relevant shooting data and an indication of your selects, to your learning log.
Achieving deep depth of field might appear easy compared to the difficulties of managing shallow depth of field.

We’re surrounded by images made with devices rather than cameras whose short focal lengths and small sensors make it hard to achieve anything other than deep depth of field.

The trick is to include close foreground elements in focus for an effective deep depth of field image.

Foreground detail also helps to balance the frame, which can easily appear empty in wide shots, especially in the lower half.

When successful, a close viewpoint together with the dynamic perspective of a wide-angle lens gives the viewer the feeling that they’re almost inside the scene.

Process :

The process was pretty much the reverse of the last exercise.

This time I used my widest lens setting, 18mm. and closed it down to the high f-stop numbers, the distances remained the same as did some of the subjects; this enables me to truly compare the effects of aperture and lens length.

Pictures :

f 22     1/10th. sec.


f 14    1/60th. sec.

f 14    1/8th. sec.

f 22     1/15th. sec.

f 20     1/20th. sec.

f 18     1/25th. sec.

f 16      1/125th. sec.

f 14      1/30th. sec.

f 13      1/40th. sec.

Contact sheet.

Analysis :

A wide-angle lens also distorts the image somewhat.

Despite having a depth of field measured in feet and inches the background is more discernible than in the previous exercise.

The second and third shot are of the same subject, just different directions to give you some idea of how much background an 18mm. lens includes at higher f-stop numbers.

Reflections :

The equivalent to these photo’s on a full frame camera would be 27mm. and f 33.

Not the widest of angles or deepest of depth of field but enough for me to be careful how to use these combinations.

I can’t wait to be able to get a full frame camera and some faster glass, then at least these mathematical gymnastics would come to an end.

Every You tube video and every text-book references to 35mm. full frame .

As I grew up on 35mm. film I tend to reference images the same way.

The effects of lens length, focal distance and aperture however remains a constant, for this I am thankful.


Exercise 2.6

Brief :

Use a combination of wide apertures, long focal lengths and close viewpoints to take a number of photographs with shallow depth of field. (Remember that smaller f numbers mean wider apertures.) Try to compose the out-of-focus parts of the picture together with the main subject.

Add one or two unedited sequences, together with relevant shooting data and an indication of your selects, to your learning log.
Wide apertures create shallow depth of field, especially when combined with a long focal length and a close viewpoint.

In human vision the eye registers out-of-focus areas as vague or indistinct – we can’t look directly at the blur.

But in a photograph, areas of soft focus can form a large part of the image surface so they need to be handled with just as much care as the main subject.
Don’t forget that the camera’s viewfinder image is obtained at maximum aperture for  maximum brightness and therefore at the shallowest depth of field.

Use the depth of field preview button to see the actual depth of field at any particular aperture.

(This is especially useful in film cameras where you don’t have the benefit of reviewing a shot immediately after you’ve taken it).

It’s surprising to see the effect that a single f-stop can have on the appearance of an image.

Process :

In this exercise I took some shots of sculptures along the Thames river path near my home.

All were taken at 55mm. with various apertures.

I kept the distance the same and shot for both exercise 2.6 and 2.7 so that I could examine the effects of aperture and focal length.

As my tripod isn’t that good I hand-held my camera using the vibration reduction feature built into the lens and fired off multiple shots increasing my chances of an in focus image.

VR worked well for me down to 1/60th. of a second but was marginal at 1/10th.

I also had a polarizing filter on the lens to boost the sky and clouds.

Pictures :

f 5.6    1/125th. sec.

f 6.3     1/100th. sec.

f 7.1     1/80th. sec.

f 9     1/40th. sec.

f 5.6    1/160th. sec.

f 6.3    1/125th. sec.

f 7.1     1/100th. sec.


f 8 1     1/80th. sec.

Contact sheet.

Analysis :

I focussed all of these images at 1 1/2 feet, the minimum for my lens at 55mm.

Even at this distance and f5.6 the background is still discernible and a little distracting although the depth of acceptable sharpness is pretty shallow.

The last four images were taken tight with the apartments only just visible in the top left of the frame.

Depth of field is effected by distance to subject, distance to the background, focal length and aperture.

Reflections :

Despite using the widest aperture, minimum focus distance and good separation from the background my lens at 55mm. isn’t as good for separation of subject from the background as a faster lens would be.

An f2.8 lens would’ve reduced the distance of acceptable sharpness from 2 foot down to 1/4 inch at the same distances and focal length allowing the subject to have less distraction in the background.

Or at least giving me more control over it.

Exercise 2.5

Brief :

Find a subject in front of a background with depth. Take a close viewpoint and zoom
in; you’ll need to be aware of the minimum focusing distance of your lens. Focus on
the subject and take a single shot. Then, without changing the focal length, set the
focus to infinity and take a second shot.

The closer you are to the subject, the shallower the depth of field; the further from the subject, the deeper the depth of field.

That’s why macro shots taken from very close viewpoints have extremely shallow depth of field, and if you set the focus at infinity everything beyond a certain distance will be in focus.
As you review the two shots, how does the point of focus structure the composition?
With a shallow depth of field the point of focus naturally draws the eye, which goes first of all to the part of the image that’s sharp.

It generally feels more comfortable if the point of focus is in the foreground, although there’s nothing wrong with placing
the point of focus in the background.

Process :

I set up my tripod so that I had a view through a Celtic cross headstone.

Pictures :

55mm. f5.6 1/125th. sec. ISO 100

55mm. f5.6 1/320th. sec. ISO 100

Analysis :

In the first shot I focussed inside the hole of the cross so it would give a little depth to what is a shallow image.

The second shot I focussed on the Angel as my lens had everything out of focus at infinity, see more on this below.

The hole in the cross now becomes a frame that focusses your attention on the Angel.

Research :

The beyond infinity focussing of modern lenses isn’t a new phenomenon to me, I’ve notice it in many lenses I have owned or used.

The reasons for this bad habit endemic in modern auto focus lenses had never really bothered me but during a quick look on the internet it seems that many manufacturers have different reasons for why this happens.

The most popular reason seems to be to allow for lens expansion at high temperatures, this is why Canon telephoto lenses are white.

A good explanation was found at the B&H photo site in an article by Todd Vorenkamp which I’ve linked below.


Analysis :

What can I say, I cheated; sort of.

As you no longer have focus markings on many modern lenses who can tell where infinity is any more, gone are the days of hard stops and the reassurance that you’re at infinity.

Hyperfocal focussing is also more difficult if not impossible to get accurate.

I wonder how Ansel Adams would’ve dealt with it.

Exercise 2.4

Brief :

Find a location with good light for a portrait shot.

Place your subject some distance in front of a simple background and select a wide aperture together with a moderately long focal length such as 100mm on a 35mm full-frame camera (about 65mm on a
cropped-frame camera).

Take a viewpoint about one and a half metres from your
subject, allowing you to compose a headshot comfortably within the frame.

Focus on the eyes and take the shot.

Longer focal lengths appear to compress space, giving a shallower depth of acceptable sharpness, which is known as depth of field.

This makes a short or medium telephoto lens perfect for portraiture: the slight compression of the features appears attractive while the shallow depth of field adds intensity to the eyes and ‘lifts’ the
subject from the background.

Process :

For this photograph I had my subject stand in front of a wall.

I used a small reflector to remove ugly shadows that the direct sun light was producing.

Pictures :

55mm. at f 5.6 and 1/200th. sec. ISO 100


Contact sheet.

Analysis :

The maximum length of my lens is equivalent to 82.5 mm. in a full frame camera and produces pleasant portraits.

A longer focal length would produce more pleasing compression to my subjects features and a faster aperture would get better separation from the back ground.

The subjects glasses also presented reflection and focus challenges especially when using a speed light or reflector.

These challenges cannot be remedied by asking the subject to remove them, on an older subject the muscles around the eye’s are badly toned and it wouldn’t be flattering; you may get away with eye-glass removal if your subject is young enough, maybe I’ll find a willing volunteer for this experiment in the future.

Reflections :

I think this shoot went well despite never using a reflector before.

The harsh light even at mid morning only reinforced the feeling that I have to get up earlier.

I definitely need faster and longer lenses.

Exercise 2.3

Brief :

Choose a subject in front of a background with depth. Select your shortest focal length and take a close low viewpoint, below your subject.

Find a natural point of focus and take the shot.
You’ll see that a very wide lens together with a close viewpoint creates extreme perspective distortion.

Gently receding lines become extreme diagonals and rounded forms bulge towards the camera.

Space appears to expand.

The low viewpoint adds a sense of monumentality, making the subject seem larger than it is, and tilting the camera adds to the effect as vertical lines dramatically converge.

Not the ideal combination for a portrait shot!


Process :

For this exercise I lay on my back shooting upwards.


Photographs :

18mm. at f3.5 and 1/40th. sec

Contact sheet.

Analysis :

The upward angle, wide aperture and zoom setting on the lens makes for a pretty distorted image and not a flattering portrait.

The converging lines and accentuated arches give this shot a feeling of hitting light speed in a Sci-Fi movie.

Reflections :

The pose in this photograph could’ve been better but my friend didn’t want me looking up his nose and photographing his nose hair.

As I am out and about with my camera I try to look for unusual vantage points especially on mundane subjects.

This to me adds not only fun to my days out but sometimes, as in this series; gets people laughing at my antics and I get to chat to some interesting folk.

Exercise 2.2

Brief :

Select your longest focal length and compose a portrait shot fairly tightly within the frame in front of a background with depth.

Take one photograph.

Then walk towards your subject while zooming out to your shortest focal length.

Take care to frame the subject in precisely the same way in the viewfinder and take a second shot.

Compare the two images and make notes in your learning log.


Process :

I took these Photographs of a friend by some bushes in Fulham.

I framed the 46mm. shot first hand-held then stepped forwards to keep the framing as close to each other as was possible.


Photographs :

18mm. at f5.6 and 1/125th. sec.

46mm. at f5.6 and 1/100th. sec.

contact sheet.

Analysis :

In the 18mm. shot you can see the effects of perspective distortion especially with the subjects face.

The face appears to be pinched or elongated and there are more details apparent in the back ground, also the depth of field is greater.

Reflections :

One thing I did notice was, when viewing side by side in Lightroom at full size; the images appear very similar but when you view the images to fit your screen the distortion is more apparent.

I’ll have to give this more thought as I didn’t expect this phenomenon.

Continue reading “Exercise 2.2”

Exercise 2.1


Brief :

Find a scene that has depth. From a fixed position, take a sequence of five or six
shots at different focal lengths without changing your viewpoint. (You might like to
use the specific focal lengths indicated on the lens barrel.)
As you page through the shots on the preview screen it almost feels as though you’re
moving through the scene. So the ability to change focal lengths has an obvious use:
rather than physically moving towards or away from your subject, the lens can do
it for you. The other immediate difference between the shots is the ‘angle of view’,
which also depends on the sensor size of your camera. Use the sequence to try to
get a feeling for how the angle of view corresponds to the different focal lengths
for your particular camera and lens combination. Which shot in the sequence feels
closest to the angle of view of your normal vision?

Does zooming in from a fixed viewpoint change the appearance of things? If you enlarge and compare individual elements within the first and last shots, you can see that their ‘perspective geometry’ is exactly the same. To change the way things actually look, a change in focal length needs to be combined with a change in viewpoint.

Process :

For this exercise I again used my trust Nikon D5200 and 18-55 mm lens, I also made use of a tripod for this series.

I kept the focal length set to f5.6 as this was consistantly the widest for all the zoom range of my lens as it is a variable aperture lense ranging from f3.5 to f5.6 for it’s widest aperture settings.

I also kept the camera set to ISO 100, the lowest native setting my camera has to keep the quality of image.

All shots where taken using Aperture priority mode and I focussed on the beam with the crack in it to keep the series consistent.

The location I use a lot is Brompton cemetary in Chelsea, which I suspect is where the shots in the course materials also come from.


Photographs :

18mm at f5.6 1/640th sec. ISO 100

24mm at f5.6 1/640th. sec. ISO 100

35mm. at f5.6 1/640th. sec. ISO 100

46mm. at f5.6 1/800th. sec. ISO 100

55mm. at f5.6 1/640th. sec. ISO 100

Research and analysis :

The only research needed for this exercise was the camera’s manual which describes the use of aperture priority mode.

As you can see from this series zooming the lens does act rather like walking into the scene and although the angle of view changes so does the depth of field.

The wider the zoom setting, more of the scene comes into focus.

To replicate these images with a Full frame sensor you would need to not only use the crop factor on the lens length but also the f stop.

Reflections :

This particular exercise doesn’t need much reflection as the results are pretty much what I expected.

With this crop center camera I think the 35mm setting is closest to how my eye’s see the world.