Tak­ing your fo­cus to new lev­els of clar­ity

Practical Photography (UK) - - Coastal Masterclass -


PHO­TOG­RA­PHY is ef­fec­tively unique among the vis­ual arts for the way it blends cre­ativ­ity and science. A pho­tog­ra­pher might ap­proach a glo­ri­ous coastal scene in a man­ner fa­mil­iar to any other artist, but the cre­ation of a great pho­to­graph re­quires the mas­tery of a ma­chine – the cam­era – in or­der to turn the pho­tog­ra­pher’s vi­sion into vis­ual re­al­ity.

Talk­ing tech

Find­ing your per­fect lo­ca­tion, wait­ing for just the right sort of light and com­pos­ing for max­i­mum im­pact will give you all the foun­da­tions of a great pho­to­graph, but if the tech­ni­cal as­pects aren’t spot-on, you are likely to be very dis­ap­pointed with the end re­sult.

Mod­ern dig­i­tal cam­eras are ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing good re­sults in ‘point and shoot’ mode, while the abil­ity to in­stantly re­view the im­age you’ve just taken has re­moved much of the guess­work from tak­ing a great shot, but if you want to pro­duce the best pos­si­ble im­age, while en­joy­ing the sat­is­fac­tion that comes with re­ally un­der­stand­ing what you’re do­ing, then tak­ing full man­ual con­trol of your cam­era is key. In coastal pho­tog­ra­phy there are sev­eral ad­van­tages to this ‘ana­logue’ ap­proach to shoot­ing.

Keep­ing your fo­cus

The cur­rent crop of aut­o­fo­cus lenses and cam­eras are tech­no­log­i­cal mar­vels. They fo­cus silently and al­most in­stantly in nearly ev­ery type of light­ing con­di­tion and of­fer a num­ber of dif­fer­ent modes, but when it comes to tak­ing a shot of a seascape, much of that tech­nol­ogy is rather su­per­flu­ous.

Get­ting hy­per

Coastal pho­tog­ra­phy rarely needs to be a hur­ried pur­suit, and with time on your side you will have the op­por­tu­nity to con­trol ev­ery as­pect of your shot – so how should you go about achiev­ing sharp­ness?

We will as­sume that your cam­era is an­chored to a tri­pod, so cam­era shake won’t be an is­sue – so you can turn off those im­age sta­bil­i­sa­tion set­tings – and if you’re look­ing for sharp fo­cus from front to

back in your im­age then your aper­ture will be di­alled down to its smallest open­ing (prob­a­bly around f/22 to f/32 on most lenses). That just leaves the ques­tion of where in your im­age to set your fo­cus point.

Due to the way in which lenses fo­cus light, the field of sharp­ness at any fo­cal ra­tio will be roughly twice as deep be­hind the fo­cus point as it is in front of it. What that means in prac­ti­cal terms is that if you fo­cus roughly one-third of the way into your scene, then no mat­ter what aper­ture you’ve set, you will achieve the deep­est zone of sharp fo­cus that you pos­si­bly can.

Many peo­ple will re­fer to this as ‘hy­per­fo­cal fo­cus­ing’. Tech­ni­cally it isn’t (see the box, top-right, for more de­tail) but it will de­liver a con­sis­tently sharp im­age with as much of the scene in fo­cus as pos­si­ble.

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