Category Archives: 1; The distorting lens

Exercise 2.7

Use a combination of small aperture and wide lens to explore deep depth of field.

My initial images for this exercise were a very traditional landscape view of local farmland, using the tractor pathway to draw your eye into the picture. I prefer the left image as I feel it is more balanced.

Further experimentation used a slightly less distant panorama

The selected image is shown here, as although the Gunnera make a striking element, I feel they take over the whole image and I would have preferred them to be less dominant.

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1/60 sec, f/22, ISO 1250, focal length 21mm


Learning points:

  • remember to think about the whole image, foreground and background especially is using a small aperture.
  • look at the balance within the image
  • one very dominant part can take over, not always the part wanted


Exercise 2.6

Use a combination of wide apertures, long focal lengths and close viewpoints to create a shallow depth of field. Try to compose the out-of-focus areas as well.

A selection of images of our local train. It doesn’t go anywhere, but the children love it. My preferred image is shown below, it gives just enough of the train for you to imagine what it is, and also shows the background, giving clues to the time of year and the park surroundings.

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1/500, f/4.9, ISO 200, focal length 46mm

This is a technique I find very useful for botanical photographs.

My recent select from this type of images is below as I feel the background really adds to the picture:

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Learning points:

  • Think about the background

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

Exercise 2.4

Find a location with good light and a simple background for a portrait shot. Use a wide aperture with a moderately long focal length.


1/800 sec, f/6.5, ISO 200, focal length 46mm

These settings give a very pleasant portrait shot, (completely unlike the one in exercise 2.3!). The eyes stand out well and the background is out of focus so not distracting.

Exercise 2.3

Choose a subject in front of a background with depth. Use a short focal length and take a low close viewpoint, look for perspective distortion.

There is clear perspective distortion in both images. The person and dog image emphasises the mans hand and arm at the expense of the face, and the dog’s nose is lengthened even more than normal. As noted in the manual, not a good look for a portrait.

The plant is a less disastrous image in that it does focus on the plant,  seeming huge in comparison to everything else. If I had been intending an image of this plant alone I would normally have shot from straight on, or possibly gone even lower and tried to take against the sky.

Learning point:

  • be aware of distortion
  • if shooting wide angle you need to be straight on to the image unless the distortion is planned, for instance to emphasise a set of stairs.


Exercise 2.2

This exercise is to take a fairly closely constrained portrait shot with your longest focal length and then walk forward until you can get the same framing with your shortest focal length and retake.

These images are taken with the subject standing in the same spot (note the just visible wall behind his head), however the apparent surround appears completely different. The much closer image (on the left) taken with a relatively wide-angle focal length shows much more of the background and puts him ‘in place’ while the image taken with the long focal length focuses in on him and isolates him from the background.

Learning point:

  • There is a clear difference between a close-up and a distance image even if the main subject takes up the same amount of the image.
  • Either may be useful depending on what is required.

Exercise 2.1

Find a scene that has depth. From a fixed position, take a sequence of shots at different focal lengths without changing your viewpoint.

All images taken standing at the same spot. The only deliberate camera alteration was to the focal length however there are some slight changes to the exposure time, I assume partly due to minimal variations in the light but will also be due to the differing amounts of light reaching the sensor though the varying focal length. It was very windy and clouds were scudding over. There was also an inevitable difference to the aperture, for this set I left the aperture as wide as possible, but the maximum aperture varies with the focal length. I was curious to see how the camera would handle the long distance at this aperture, but the pictures remained sharp throughout. I assume it was because I was focused on the statue at infinity.

I then took a second set of images where there was also something (a set of bollards) in the foreground. In this case, I changed the aperture to as small as possible to maintain the widest depth of field.

In this set I was pleased to see that the depth of field remained enough to allow the bollards to be in focus even though I still had the camera focused to infinity. I was standing in a fairly shady spot, and by this point the light was changing rapidly, however I note that the camera has ‘chosen’ to vary the ISO rather than the exposure time. I assume this because the internal processor ‘judged’ that the exposure time would become too long and there would be a risk of camera shake.

Learning points:

  • The focal length most similar to my eye’s view is between 24 and 34mm for my camera (Panasonic micro 4/3rds).
  • Be aware of the camera changing the ISO to compensate for lighting levels, either fix the ISO in advance or use it creatively in low light situation.
  • At a very small aperture with this lens I get a good depth of field although the sense of distance is partially lost, there is a much greater sense of distance in the first set of images using a wide aperture.