Category Archives: Part 2

Exercise 2.7

Exercise 2.7

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 ISOs.  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.


This series of photos were actually shot on the same day as those in the previous exercise at the Wildlife Park – in fact these were done in the morning with the park in the afternoon – it can be seen there was a marked difference in the weather between the two photo shoots!


The images were taken with a Canon 40D camera with a 17-40 mm lens on a tripod.  They were all taken either on the Mountain Road or in close proximity on the Isle of Man.  With the narrow aperture and wide angle you get the scenic sweeping vistas common to this area of the island with the hills and sometimes sea in the background.



Focal length 24 mm 1/60sec f11 ISO 100 (Img 2)


Focal length 33 mm 1/30 sec f16 ISO 100 (Img 5)


Focal length 20 mm 1/160 sec f11 ISO 200 (Img 9)


Focal length 24 mm 1/60 sec f11 ISO 200 (Img 10)


Focal length 26 mm 1/125 f 16 I(Img 7101)



Exercise 2.6

Exercise 2.6

The Task

Use a combination of wide apertures, long focal lengths and close viewpoints to take a number of photographs with a 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 and 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.


At the point I got to this exercise it was a wet and cold day so I decided to try some still life shots indoors.  I used a Sigma 105 mm macro lens to get the long focal length and a good shallow depth of field.  The camera was placed on a tripod and I placed a piece of white card as a reflector  to the left of the items in order to try and bounce light back on to the objects.   I first of all experimented with shooting the stamens of lilies as below:


Focal length 105 mm.  1/60 sec, f2.8, IS0 100


The focus point is around the centre of the stamens and it can be seen it drops off towards the front of each.


A similar shot but unedited is:


Focal length 105mm, 1/25 sec, f2.8, ISO 100 (Img 7042)


In this image the focus is on the centre stamen.

I then tried some still life photos – this one with the 24-105 mm lens attached:


 Focal length 73 mm, 1/30 sec, f4, ISO100


Despite being on the tripod the image is not sharp where I would have wanted, i.e. the yellow pepper and seeds sharp with the focus dropping off for the red and green peppers.  The background does show the shallow depth of field.   It can be in macro work that several photos are needed with differing focus points and then stacked in Photoshop for overall sharpness.


The following week the weather seemed better so I headed to a local wildlife park with the idea of photographing some of the inhabitants with a shallow depth of field.  Of course the best laid plans can go awry and this is what happened towards the end of my photoshoot – hail – even the ducks were swimming for cover!  These photos were all hand held with my Canon 6D and 70-300 zoom lens (I had assumed that I may need to zoom in to get far away animals) – there is some camera shake in some photos.



On a more serious note I did get some good wildlife images for those animals brave enough to be out in the cold:


Focal length 210mm f5.0, 1/250sec  Focal length 300 mm, 1/125 sec, f.5.6

ISO200 (Img2)                                            ISO 500 mm (Img 4)


Focal length 275 mm, 1/1000 sec, f.5.6    Focal length 275 mm, 1/125 sec, f.5.6

ISO 800 (Img 6)                                                ISO 400 (Img 9)


Focal length 300 mm, 1/85 sec, f7.1, ISO 800 (Img 11)


In looking at these 5 images they all have a relatively shallow depth of field although the last is getting more to a middle range aperture.  Due to the gloomy conditions the ISO was set quite high and there is some noise apparent particularly in Image 6 which has been cropped.

Exercise 2.5

Exercise 2.5

The task

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.

I had some difficulty finding something for this task.  I went to Peel Castle hoping I would be able to find an opening to look through.  Unfortunately it is now shut for the winter but I was able to walk up the stairs towards the entrance and tried these two shots through a window in the wall – it was hard to get the foreground shot as I was constrained for space between the two walls of the staircase.

You can see the bottom of the stones in the window frame clearly in this photo with the town appearing as a shallow depth of field in the background.

In the second image the stones of the window frame are blurred with the sharp background of the town and hill behind.

I then went for walk around the aside of the castle and did find further ‘windows’ in the wall as shown below.  The scene through the window isn’t particularly scenic with just a view of rocks and sea but again one image shows the blurred window and sharp background with vice versa for the other image.

Exercise 2.4

The task

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 100 mm on a 35 mm full-frame camera (about 65 mm on a cropped-frame camera).  Take a viewpoint about one and a half metres from your subject, allowing you to compose a head shot 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.  For this image Beryl and I found a white wall on a building around the corner in sunlight.


This made the lighting difficult and I have cropped out some shadow.  Although as the screenshot below shows I did set the camera to a wide aperture (f/4) the white building does not really demonstrate the shallow depth of field.


I have zoomed in using Photoshop to check whether the focus is on the eyes as suggested in the task – while there is a catch light in the right eye they still look somewhat soft.

The following day I went to a local Wildlife Park for the purpose of taking photos for exercise 2.6 and think the image below does demonstrate the shallow depth of field and focusing on the eyes that this exercise required:


In this instance I was however using a telephoto lens with a focal length of 200, Av 5.0 and I had set a high ISO of 800 for sharpness as just prior to this there had been a hail storm and it was still gloomy.



Exercise 2.3

The Task

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 round forms bulge towards the camera.  Space appears to expand.  The low view point adds to 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 idea combination for a portrait shot!


Certainly Beryl appears larger in this photo than in the previous photos although I’m sure she wouldn’t want to think she was bulging towards the camera!  However one can certainly see how the lines are distorted as if they are merging together on the road and the gap between the houses appears much narrower than it actually is.

Ingledew (2013: 188-190) discusses the various lenses in common use and the focal lengths of each and how the differing focal lengths will produce different images of the same scene.  On p.189 he refers to Bill Brandt’s work and how his placement of nude models created maximum distortion – there is an example on this page.


Ingledew, J. (2013).  Photography.  London: Laurence King Publishing.