A windfall and new gear.

It’s been a while since I did any work on this course due to a financial crisis that required me to sell all my camera gear.

Good news is I recently had a bit of a windfall that allowed me to get back on track financially and get some new gear.

I went a bit wild but got a Nikon D5 and the Tamron F2.8 Trinity plus the Nikon 200 – 500 f5.6.

I also purchased a Gitzo tripod and ball head.

Damn! now I’m all out of excuses and must get cracking.

No more complaining about depth of field or not having a lens long or wide enough for what I want to do.

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 2.5

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 2.2

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”

More thoughts on framing.

Curator John Szarkowski (1925–2007) found that photography is a decision about what to include and what to leave out.
This he surmised leads to a photographer concentrating on the edges of a frame and the shapes this creates. (Szarkowski, 2007, p,4 ).
Looking at his pictures of ” The school house, 1949″ and “From a country elevator, 1957” I can agree to a certain degree.
Where I diverge from his thought is when you see too much concentration on the edges produced by Alfred Stieglitz’s cloudscapes, the Equivalents for example.
Although looking hard at the edges will reap rewards I feel concentration is more than the edges deserve, after all the subject must come first.