Ross Hoddinott on... Achieving razor-sharp focus
“I rarely head to the coast without my tripod. First and foremost, I want stability. I’m often using slow shutter speeds exceeding 1/2sec, so my camera needs to be stable. Also, it is much easier to align graduated filters precisely with the camera fixed in position. However, a tripod is also a great compositional aid, allowing me time to carefully fine-tune the framing. “A tripod also allows me to focus via Live View, which is my preferred method. I don’t use hyperfocal charts or apps any longer – the formula sacrifices too much background sharpness in my opinion. Instead, I will often double distance focus – a method where the photographer identifies the closest object they want to record sharply in the frame and then doubles this distance. For example, if the closest object in the frame is approximately 3m away, focus at 6m. I’ve found this quite a reliable way to achieve acceptable front-to-back sharpness.
“In order to set focus, I activate Live View and then use the magnify button to zoom into my chosen point. I then focus using back-button focusing. I also have the added advantage that my Nikon D850 provides live depth-of-field in Live View mode, while if I switch to manual focusing, I also have the added assistance of focus peaking. I rely on mid-range f/numbers like f/8 or f/11 for seascapes. An aperture in this region provides good depth of focus while remaining relatively free of diffraction – an optical effect that tends to soften overall image quality at smaller apertures. If I am unable to achieve sufficient front-to-back sharpness at my chosen aperture, I will focus stack instead.”