Exercise 2.5


Find a subject in front of a background with depth. Take a close viewpoint and zoom in, focus on the subject and take an image, then focus on infinity and take a second shot.

I found this exercise more challenging than I expected. On my initial round of attempts I focused on the subject and obtained some pleasing images with the background out of focus, however when I moved the focus to infinity and then looked at the images I found that the background was out of focus as well as the subject image. On looking and thinking it became apparent that my ‘background’ was not far enough away to register as infinity for the camera lens, and therefore was out of focus. I am very used to focusing close-up on botanical subjects, but had not really considered the distance away of the background as all I had wanted to do was throw it out of focus which was not the object of this exercise. I went out again and took another round of examples. It is a good thing I am using a digital camera as the only ‘cost’ is time and footwear!

The final images were:

I find the most pleasing images in these sets are the ones where the focus is on the subject (the ornamental railing) and that it gives a somewhat disconcerting image when the near object, that the eye automatically travels to, is out of focus. However, I experimented further:

The processing in this set is the same, however I must have moved slightly when refocusing. I find both images interesting but they give a very different feel, when the focus is on the gravestones the tree simply forms a frame, when on the tree the image becomes more ‘dreamlike’ in quality, and, although the gravestones are not in focus, I feel it portrays the graveyard more successfully.

Further experiments confirm that the point of focus that gives the preferred image depends on the purpose of the image, not necessarily the closer or most obvious subject. The gate is more important in the upper set, while the path is more dominant in the lower set. In all images the gate acts as a ‘barrier’, locking you away, however the lower right image makes you feel as though you, or at least your imagination, is travelling onward.

Learning points:

  • be aware of the background as well as the obvious subject matter
  • focus on the important thing in the picture, not just the nearest
  • the background (even though apparently far away) may not be at infinity as far as the camera lens is concerned
  • sometimes throwing the subject out of focus gives a more effective way of showing it
  • if you want to keep your framing identical you need to use a tripod

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