Use a combination of wide apertures, long focal lengths and close viewpoints to take a number of photographs with 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 or 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.
This opportunity arose to take this image on my way home from a local nature reserve. This was a fleeting image in more than one way as I knew that the light was fading and the poppies would only remain for a few days and fits the criteria for this exercise perfectly.
The poppy has a delicate petal with great detail, which I wanted to bring out in this image. ‘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.’ I feel that I have achieved this objective really well in the landscape and the sunset.
I selected a wide lens (16-35mm) ideal for landscapes, which was fitted to my full-frame DSLR Nikon D610. This provided me with the widest lens and longest focal length of 35mm combining the largest aperture for this landscape image thus creating a sharp foreground and soft background out of focus image. The flash I used was a Nikon SB900 and manually adjusted the flash output to 1/64th of it’s full power. This helped to fill-in the detail on the petal.
I took this printed image mounted in white to an advisory panel day with the Disabled Photographer’s Society and was critiqued by the panel. The feedback was very positive and had this image been entered to a panel for Licentiateship this would have passed the standard required.