Exercise 2.5

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.

This was an interesting exercise considering some aspects of ‘lens work’ that I have often taken for granted. I have a solid understanding about how  lens controls (focus and aperture combination) influence depth of field and where emphasis is placed in a scene as a result of such controls. As this section of the course is about imaginative space I pondered on the lens as a tool for controlling and managing the space seen by a viewer in a final image. 

BM Railing 1 18mm f2.8 1-2700 (1 of 1)

In the first image I focused on the gate railings of the British Museum. The 18mm lens was focused on the detail of the railing bars and an aperture of f4 was used. The background was thrown out of focus. In my view the out of focus background creates a sense of emphasis forcing the viewer to look at the detail in the railings. This shallow depth of field technique is often used by photographers to manage space, forcing the viewer to look at a specific part of a scene. In effect space in the image is managed by the intent of the photographer. Portraiture is just one example of practice that uses this shallow depth of field and out of focus background to manage what the view sees. BM Railing 218mm f4 1-2700 (1 of 1) In this second image the focus was set to infinity. Now the railing bars are out of focus and the background is in focus. in this shot the areas of sharper focus and the railing bars in from ‘jar’ on the eye in my view and whilst there is nothing wrong with this there is some visual conditioning that makes this juxtaposition seem wrong. The image just does not look right. The effect I described in the previous image does not work in reverse. An out of focus foreground and sharp background only serve to create a sense that something that is not necessarily wrong, but that does feel unsatisfying ( what ever satisfying actually is??). That said I have seen photojournalists use this effect to create a sense of alienation, perhaps relying on the uncomfortable effect foreground blur creates. Something to think about in future work?

Another image to emphasise the impact that an out to focus background has on emphasising the foreground, again using a wide aperture and focusing on the object in the foreground.

Fisrt class1 18mm f2.8 1-105 (1 of 1)


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