Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How Can I Improve My Photography? #3

       Including strong foreground interest in our photographs, especially in landscapes, can be a very effective method to add impact to our images. It can draw a viewer into the scene creating a real sense of depth. Using interesting elements like rocks, grass, fences, etc will make the scene much more appealing, if it is possible to do so.  
     To do this, move closer and lower to your chosen foreground. Many times it is advantageous to turn your camera to vertical as it will allow you to include more foreground. It is also helpful to use a smaller aperture (bigger f stop number). This will give a person greater depth of field and helps to keep the image sharp from bottom to top (near to far).  
     Most of us have seen beautiful landscape photographs where the foreground interest seems only inches away from the camera and the entire picture is tack sharp all the way to infinity. How is this achieved?  First, a good quality, wide angle lens is often used in taking these photographs. Second, these pro photographers have learned to use a technique called hyperfocal distance method, where they focus part way into the scene. The question is: How far?  
     After researching this subject, I've come across articles that suggest focusing approximately 1/3rd of the way into the frame to help ensure greater depth of field and in turn a sharper image throughout. This method can be used when in a hurry but is not always successful. A more accurate method is using a hyperfocal distance chart that can be found on the internet or can even be downloaded onto your smartphone. What a handy tool- enter your camera, the focal length you are shooting at ( eg 18mm ), and the aperture ( eg f11 ) and the chart/program will suggest how far into the scene you should focus to achieve the best depth of field.
      Now there are other ways like using a formula and calculations or using the DOF preview button on the camera but I thought these were relatively quick and easy techniques to help achieve a sharp image with great depth of field. I have definitely simplified this topic. I would encourage anyone who wants to master this technique and learn it's many nuances, do more in depth research and practice. Including close foreground interest in a landscape image can present some issues, but using these tips, we can minimize them.
       Below is a picture of Lake Oesa in Yoho Park B.C.  As I had no chart, formula or smartphone I focused 1/3rd up into the frame and although not perfect, it turned out pretty good. 

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