photography blog

Focus: How to get sharp images front to back, part 2

In the first part we covered the 1/3 of the way in method and focus stacking.

And now we discuss the hyperfocal distance.

Hyperfocal distance

As complicated as it sounds its actually not that complicated once broken down. The hyperfocal distance is basically how close into the scene you can focus so everything from the point focused on and half that distance to infinity will be acceptably sharp. I know the statement I just made has not made it easier to understand but I am going break it down so its easier to digest.

First of all let us define what infinity is.

The infinity setting of a lens is the point where the furthest object into the scene will be in focus, it doesn’t matter if it's 10 meters away or 10,000 meters away, if it is in the frame it will be in focus.

Each lens (usually) has a measurement system that tells you what distance you are currently focusing at. Many of these lenses have various measures before they reach infinty, mines stops at 3ft before reaching infinity whilst others may stop at 6ft or more. Once you have reached the infinity sign it signals that you have reached the furthest plane of focus in your lens. Some lenses may focus a little beyond infinity as a precaution of heat distortion in hotter climates.

Now, when using the hyperfocal distance our aim is to have the foreground, middleground and background acceptably sharp.

How do we do this? We find out where the hyperfocal distance is, but this depends on aperture, focal length and sensor size. For example look at the diagram below.

This diagram is not to scale and is based on a full frame sensor

This diagram is not to scale and is based on a full frame sensor

Let us break down the diagram one step at a time and by the end of this blog I hope you rejoice in your new found understanding of the hyperfocal distance.

Above we see the camera set on the tripod. the focal length is 16mm and the aperture is set at f8.

I have a beautiful scene infront of me and I want to make sure everything is in acceptable focus. So I dial in the focal length and aperture into a photography app and it tells me the hyperfocal distance is at 3 feet 6.6 inches.

After I focus on exactly (or as close as possible) to the required distance, I now know that everything from half of that distance to infinity will be in focus. So just to break it down even further, The red line from the camera is how far into the scene the focus is set, 3 feet and 6.6 inches. The blue line which starts at 1ft 9.3 inches is half of that distance and is where the range of focus starts up to infinity. Everything from 1ft 9.3 inches to infinty should be acceptably sharp. Not pin sharp, but acceptably sharp. The hyperfocal distance will always be sharp from half of its original focus distance to infinty. So if I dialed in f11 and the same focal length of 16mm into the photography app it would tell me that the hyperfocal distance is 2 feet 7.2 inches, so I would set my focus there. However, from 1foot 3.6inches to infinity would be in focus. This will always be the case when using the hyperfocal distance. Just as in the diagram the focus point (red line) is set just after the flowers, but because from half of that distance will be in focus (blue line) we dont have to worry about them because the range of focus starts just before the flowers so we have them covered.

Again just to make it crystal clear that whatever the hyperfocal distance is, half it and thats where the point of sharpness starts right up to infinity.

I know I may of exaspirated my point but I always like to be crystal clear when giving instruction, especially when covering the hyperfocal distance because many times when I have explained it before to a friend or a colleague and always ended up being lost in translation.

When to use the hyperfocal distance?

I may lose a few friends for saying this but I hardly ever use it. I think it's too much of a fidgety process and if your a slight bit out with the focusing distance then that can really be bad news for your photo. Another problem I have with this this method is that when using a tape measure or an augmented reality app that measures the distance for you and shows you where to focus, I have never really had the best results. My preferred method is to either focus 1/3 of the way into a scene, focus stack or focus to infinity.

That being said I know a number of people who use this regulalry and with fine results, it just depends on what you are comfortable with.

If you are going to try and use this method I would recommend that you have ample time and set up before hand rather than being at a location last minute and having to rush the enitre process. Now to answer the question when to use it. I would say use it when you have ample time and when you want to make sure everything will be in focus. Although one can argue that can be achieved by the 3 methods I have listed above. It’s totally dependant on your preference.

You may probably be thinking if I dont use it then why talk about it?

I wanted to blog about it because I think that as photographers we can never have enough tools. Whilst the hyperfocal distance is a tool I almost never use it might one day serve me when I might have need of it, or maybe if I want to pass the knowledge on to someone who might use it more than I ever will.

Thank you for reading and stay tuned because in the next post I will be asking some well known photographers for snippets of advice about how they became successful and what advice they might have for those wishing to start out in photography.

See you in the next one,

Adam.

The exposure triangle : A brief lesson on exposure

Hi all,

I thought today would be a good day to write about the exposure triangle and how it works.

For those of you who are new to photography this is a crucial piece of information that you must take with you. I wont be getting too technical but I will be explaining how the exposure triangle of shutter speed, iso, and aperture work together and how they may affect one another.

So let’s get down to the basics and I shall explain what each one is and its function.

Shutter speed

The shutter speed essentially determines how much light hits the sensor while passing through the shutter once the release has been pressed. The faster the shutter speed the more motion it will freeze whilst letting less light into the sensor. Just say for instance if someone is running and you have a fast shutter speed of 1000th of a second, it will freeze that person in motion. However if you have a slower shutter speed lets say of about 1/4 of a second then it will blur moving objects and give a sense of movement throughout the image.

Just remember this does not only apply to people, but shutter speed can affect any moving bodies such as water, clouds, crowds and anything else that moves. It all depends on what story you are trying to tell in your photograph.

Aperture

Aperture is when the blades form a circle within the lens when the shutter release is pressed. This determines how much light will hit the sensor whilst passing through the aperture blades.

Things to remember:

The higher the aperture number the smaller the physical hole. The lower the number the larger the hole the blades form.

The larger the aperture the less in focus your image will be, and the smaller the aperture the more in focus your image will be. But I personally wouldn't go over f16 (Also the larger the aperture the more light, the smaller the aperture the less the light that will go through to your sensor)

The function of aperture can also determine how much of the image will be in focus depending on the cameras focal point whilst increasing or reducing the amount of light hitting the sensor. For example if I had an aperture of f2.8 and chose a building in the background to be my focal point then that building would be in focus and the foreground and part of the middle ground would be out of focus. On the other hand if I had an aperture of f8 or higher while keeping the same focal point then the foreground and middle ground of the image would be more in focus than that of the image taken at f2.8. Again this is only a brief idea to get you started, but just keep in mind whilst photographing at higher apertures up to f8 then its usually better to photograph with a tripod to avoid camera shake. (These examples have not included hyperfocal distance as I will be talking about that in my next post)

Iso

Iso is tool within a camera to determine how sensitive your camera sensor is to light. The lower the iso number the less sensitive to light your camera will be, therefore the image will have less grain (noise) and more detail. The higher the iso number means your camera sensor will be more sensitive to light and will result in more grain (noise) and wont give you as much detail.

An example of this would be photographing an event indoor where you may not have adequate lighting and may need to boost the iso to 500-1000. When opening those shots on the computer you may notice a certain amount of grain on your image and although it wont necessarily destroy your image, iso does lower the quality and depending on the size of your sensor.

That does not mean you should be shy to use iso. I have photographed many a beautiful image that has used around iso 3200 (full frame) and have still come out with very usable shots. Also about sensor size the general rule is: The larger the sensor the more quality and less grain you will encounter whilst using high iso. That being said the difference is not always apparent if you aren’t going to pixel peep.

How it all works together

Upon reading the above you may start to have an idea on how it may all come together seamlessly, so if you were right in fitting the pieces of the exposure puzzle together let me give another brief explanation and another example.

When the three elements of shutter speed, iso and aperture are brought together then you get the exposure triangle. Each of these elements works seamlessly together when trying to create a perfectly exposed image.

Each in a harmonious balance the three parts of the exposure triangle work together seamlessly.

The best way I can give you an example is if I tell a story…So, it’s a dark night in the city, but you happen to be by the waterfront and you see the vast beautiful array of buildings around you. You realise that you have your camera and tripod with you, so you decide to take a shot. As you set up your camera you realise that it’s dark outside but the city lights are helping to illuminate the scene whilst causing beautiful reflections in the water. You stand there for a moment and think how to take this shot?

Here are your points for consideration

  • Shutter speed (fast or slow)

  • Aperture (How much of it do you want in focus)

  • ISO (Will a high iso ruin the shot by adding too much grain?)

  • Tripod or handheld?

OK, since it is night time and you have a tripod on hand you’re likely going to use a slow shutter speed because not only will it allow enough light into your camera but it will also smooth out the water giving it a silky smooth look (if that is what you want). Next on our list is aperture. You would likely use a Small aperture of about f8 because this will keep the whole cityscape in focus, especially since the buildings are far away from you (focus to infinity). Next and last on our list is Iso. Again you would use a fairly high iso of around 6400 or more. This can all change dependant on what you are trying to do, but if it’s a generic cityscape then this should be ideal. However if you decide you want the water in the scene to be frozen to keep the details in the ripples then a faster shutter speed would be needed which would increase the Iso adding more grain to your image. The aperture can be left the same because if your aim is to get everything in focus then the f8 setting would be sufficient.

Now we have delt with a simplified explanation of the exposure triangle at night, lets have a look at it during the day.

The obvious thing is when more light is availabe then the shutter speed does not have to be low and the iso does not have to cranked so high. You can even suffice with iso 100 (the lowest setting on most cameras). However the aperture is different, the reason for this is focus and the how much of the image you want to be sharp. For a hand held image if it’s a bright day I am happy using an aperture of 5.6, because it keeps the image in focus.

However, we all know even on a lovely summers day light can change. So consider this, you have set up your composition and you don’t have a tripod, but you know where to stand and you have dialled in the a shutter speed that is adequate enough not to cause camera shake and your aperture is set to f5.6 and the ev meter (the meter that goes minus 5 to the left and plus 5 to the right) is comfortably sitting at 0. Brilliant! you have a correctly exposed image! But when you think everything is going great and just before you press that shutter release button the light drops a notch causing your image to be under exposed…What would be the right thing to do? That’s right you guessed it! Crank up the Iso to compensate for the drop in exposure. If the opposite occurs and the scene has too much light but your iso is at its lowest and apeture is just right then the next thing to to would be to use a faster shutter speed to compensate for the over exposure.

These are just guidelines to go by whilst you are still learning about your camera. There are many concepts and techniques that have not been discussed yet…But rest assured more is to come on this subject. The best thing to do in my opinion is to keep it simple and follow these guidelines until you feel comfortable playing around with exposure. I am currently writing a piece on focus to go hand in hand with this piece, so just keep your eyes peeled for the next post.

I really hope you enjoyed reading my brief lecture on the exposure triangle and I look forward to providing you guys with more on this subject later on.

Until the next time

Kind regards

Adam

The Faroe Islands

Hey guys,

I am back after 5 days exploring the Faroes and what a fantastic time I had. From Moderate hikes to extreme weather changes and epic scenery, it was an amazing experience. And photographically speaking a success, with some minor set backs.

So, lets take it day by day.

Day 1

After a somewhat turbulent flight from Copenhagen airport to Vagar, my wife and I picked up a car from the “Visit Faroe islands” information office. We opted for the daily wifi option and were pleasantly suprised how well it worked. Michael the owner of JustDrive.fo was very friendly and gave us a few tips about the islands whilst showing us to our car. After a pleasant exchange we got in our car and drove to our rented airbnb accommodation which was a cosy caravan 5 minutes away from the airport. With eight hours of travel behind us we decided to stay in and make some dinner, then get up early in the morning to explore the island of Vagar.

Day 2

We got up to the sound of our alarms blaring at 0700am but after breakfast we got out at 0800 and decided to visit out first location, Gasadalur. During the drive up we were met by incredible views of the sea and winding roads. Since it was raining heavily the night before all the waterfalls were in full force making the scene even more spectacular. Stopping every so often and getting out of the car (on the designated stopping points) to enjoy the view, we were mesmerised by the scenery that seemed like something out of a movie, but that was only the start of our journey. As we made our way back on track we entered the tunnel in the mountain (blasted in 2010) to the once isolated village of Gasadalur. We parked up and followed the sign to the famed waterfall “Mulafossur” and we were met by a view that seemed to come straight out of a fantasy film. Truly a sight to behold. I stood there with my wife and took in the violence of the whole scene. The waves crashing against the rocks, the wind doing its doing its best to overthrow my tripod. It was truly majestic, even though I was being pelted by heavy rain and harsh winds, my hiking gear kept me relatively warm and dry.

Valley of the Storm (website standard).jpg

Here is the image I captured that day. The harsh wind and heavy rain allowed for me to capture the waterfall in its full glory. Even though this shot was not done at the typical sunrise/sunset times, I really like the way this image gives off the feeling of power/violence yet somewhat resistance by the land itself.

The hardest part of taking this photograph was trying to keep my tripod as still as possible. Also I had to keep wiping water spots away from my lens.

This image is for sale in the “Prints” section of the site.

The Witches finger

After taking this shot the wife and I decided to go back to our rented caravan and thought it would be a good idea to rest up and then continue after drying our selves off and checking our next location.

It happened by accident that we ended up going to the witches finger. We were originaly heading to Traelanipa’s view point, but upon driving and seeing the sign for witches finger which was very close I decided to head there instead.

After a short drive ( 15 minutes ) we arrived at the car park and got out of the car. There was a marked path up to leading up to the view point, taking us 40 to 50 minutes to reach it (considering we kept stopping to admire the view) Upon our nearly reaching the view point I was met with this beautiful waterfall (again in full force due to the weather)

Faroe falls (website standard).jpg

I was pleasantly suprised to see this water waterfall in full force. I decided to compose this shot in a way where there is no real “anchor” point hence allowing the eye to “flow” around the image just like how a waterfall flows. I did set up a composition using the rule of thirds but decided to disregard it in a way which would allow my to give a sense of movement. whether I was successful or not I dont know, only you the reader can judge. However I am happy with the way this turned out.

5 minutes more walking and we reached the viewpoint to see the witches finger. It was mightly impressive and I absolutley have to stress this, no photo can ever do the place justice until you have been there to see it yourself.

The waves were crashing against the cliffside, the wind was howling and fog was just starting to set it. Again, It was something straight out of a film, or a video game. I just stood there taking in the sights and smell of the salty sea air. I didnt care at that moment whether or not I was pelted by rain, or whether or not the conditions were perfect for photography. I was just glad to be there and experience such a dramatic view.

Power+%28website+standard%29.jpg

This was the view I was met with and its size and scale dwarfed me completely. Again for this shot I wasnt able to get everything as sharp as I wanted and that was down to me using a Manfrotto 190 GO aluminium base. it’s a great tripod but I realised just then it didnt have a hook where I could add the extra weight of my bag to it, helping to keep it steady. Even though I love this photo I will not put it up for sale. I dont think the quality of it is good enough to sell due to excessive artifacting…

The village of Gojgv

I was still coming down from the dopamine rush I experienced from the amazing veiw at witches finger. After driving off and leaving it behind we stopped at a petrol station and filled our snack bag with sandwhiches and water, readying ourselves for a long drive to the island of Estyroy. Our current location was the island of Vagar so about 70km away from the sleepy little village. As we were driving the Faroes opened up its beauty to us showing us the deceptively large scale of the mountains. My wife insisted that we played the lord of the rings soundtrack Whilst going through a mountain pass and to say the least it did add a little more “epicness” to the already epic scenery.

1 hour and 30 minutes later we reached the village of Funningur, but we didnt stop. We had driven a little further halfway between Funningur and Gojgv to a little parking area. I researched the area beforehand and found out there was another veiw point after a short hike directly up from the parking lot. So I decided it was going to be worth doing. I Was told that doing this “short” hike would only take ten minutes, however it took me considerably longer due to me not being as fit as I thought I was. 30 minutes later, huffing and puffing with my legs feeling like led I was met by the view…or lack of it. I was utterly heartbroken as this photo would of been the real highlight of my trip to the Faroes.

The fog was intense and I could only just barely make out the fjord.

After waiting an hour the fog only shifted a little and I was left with this beautiful but still foggy view

After waiting an hour the fog only shifted a little and I was left with this beautiful but still foggy view

As mentioned in the caption my wife and I waited for an hour for the fog to shift. I was persistent in my endeavour and would not budge until I got my photograph. However it wasn't meant to be. An hour of being pelted by rain and cold winds, causing my water resistant jacket to “wet out” was the main reason for my eventual acceptance of defeat. In a way it was a blessing in disguise because the fog still had not shifted many hours after and knowing me I would of stayed no matter how long it would of taken if the weather had permitted me to do so. None the less just being there was a joy in and of itself and this is a great location to visit if you are visiting the island of Estyroy. I had found this location in one of the videos of youtube photographer Mads Peter Iverson who marks it down on a map in his vlog (search “Mads Peter Iverson Estyroy” in youtube). If you are going to watch it to find the location I suggest that you get google maps going as well so you can mark it down yourself. The drive there is pretty epic. The winding roads and overbearing mountains give you sense of the grandeur of it all.

When we finally descended from he treacherous, but short hike we had a small snack break in the car and then headed straight to the village of Gojgv.

Gojgv (blog).jpg

This sleepy little village was cosy and eerily quiet, but it offered some fantastic views.

We didn't spend much time here, maybe about 30 minutes as we had to head back to our caravan which was 1hour and 30minutes away and my wife wasn't as confident driving at night, but during our little adventure here we explored a little, but sadly I wasn't able to take as many pictures as my camera battery ran out.

Again there was a nice little view point which was very easily accessible and offered a great view of the natural harbour that the town is known for.

A visit here is a must because of the easy access to the view point. A car if necessary in my opinion for this leg of the journey.

Day 3

We woke up to the sound of silence…I was stunned for once because by this point I was only just getting used to the howling wind waking me up every time I tried to sleep. But alas! 7 hours of pure unadulterated sleep had been mine to enjoy.

Not much happened on day three as we were in search for different accommodation which had electricity and running water…And after a couple hours of searching we came across it. The Vagar Hotel. Although it was ten times the price of our very cheap and cosy caravan, we just couldn't have stayed there any longer. Especially without running water or electricity to charge our devices up. It was a shame because I really liked the caravan but a lot of simple things let it down. For example the lack of cleanliness and basic facilities made what would've been an otherwise cosy stay very un-cosy so we had to get out of there before it ruined a great holiday.

Making our way to the hotel my wife and I were cheering on the inside as I fantasized about having back our basic facilities. It really made me think of how much I do take for granted and still do to this day…

After a warm shower and a cup of black coffee I realised how tired I was, especially Solera (My wife’s nickname) as she was doing all the driving. I could tell today she wanted to rest up and do something different. So we had a very long nap and drove to the capital city of the Faroes: Torshavn (pronounced “Tor-shun”) It was 19:00pm when we set out and was pitch black. This time Solera thought it would be a challenge to drive at night and so she did. To my surprise for someone who hadn't driven in six years she did an awesome job and again I give a massive thanks to her for being my friend, travelling companion and driver during this trip and for having to put up with my stringent standards on getting the “shot”.

Sorry I have no photos of the place we ate at, but part of the fun of travel is discovering for yourself. I did do some research on how to get to different islands but after that we just explored the place for ourselves. Much more fun to do it that way in my opinion.

Day 4

This was basically the last day we had as our flight the day after was at 8am.

Traelanipa

I reluctantly got up at 6am and sunrise was scheduled at 8am. That being said I really wanted a sunrise shot of the viewpoint and I was willing to skip breakfast just to get there. Solera wasn't too happy but agreed to drive there on the promise that I make it up to her. We left and headed for the view point located on the Island of Vagar itself. We reached the parking lot in ten minutes and we started along the trail. The funny thing is on this trail you can actually see the view point and the hike looks deceptively short. I honestly didn't think it would take nearly 2 hours to reach, but it did and I just missed sunrise by 10 minutes, mind you I had managed to capture the beautiful crimson/redish hue in the sky, leaving an almost fantasy feel to the photos.

Aperture priority f11 iso100 shutter speed 1/8 sec (no filters used)

Aperture priority f11 iso100 shutter speed 1/8 sec (no filters used)

The beautiful thing about this view point is that as you get two in one. This first shot being the famed waterfall Bodalafossur which is even more stunning in real life. It is only a two minute walk (down hill) from Traelanipa.

It is really is best to bring some good hiking boots and waterproofs with you as I saw a couple of people leave after 5 mintues of getting there just because they didn't have the right gear. True its not all about gear, but if you're going somewhere like the Faroes then it is important to be prepared so you get the most out of it.

Also not to mention that I saw a couple of tourists nearly lose their footing whilst taking selfies on the edge of a 400ft cliff. Needless to say if you fall you will probably die. No shot is worth risking your life for and the wind can come at full force without warning.

6 stop ND (LEE little stopper) at f11 shutter speed 15 seconds iso100 (Bulb mode)

6 stop ND (LEE little stopper) at f11 shutter speed 15 seconds iso100 (Bulb mode)

Now we reach the main viewpoint of Traelanipa.

Absolutely stunning in scale, the warm colours and snow-capped mountains in the background truly made this one of my favourite shots. It may be a view point that has been photographed many times before but I just had to, especially with those colours in the sky.

After taking the shot Solera and I relaxed and had a small picnic whilst casting our gaze onto the vista that lay before us. Some sheep sitting near us decided all at once to stare our way, we didn't want to disturb them so we ended up moving on.

Back at the hotel we realised our time in the Faroes was almost up, a sadness washed over us knowing the daily grind of real life was going to catch up with us shortly, so we savoured every minute we had whilst walking back to the car.

Day 5

The day we went back home. Due to how early our flight was (8am) we didn't really have time to do anything at all. We returned the car back to Michael (owner of justdrive.fo) and thanked him for providing us with such a fantastic service, then it was time to go through the motions of travel, checking in luggage, security and of course the unnecessary shopping at the duty free just to ease the sadness of leaving such a lovely place.

Sitting on the plane I reminisced on how much I had taken away from this trip and what I had learned firstly as a husband and secondly as a photographer.

Conclusion

My time in the Faroes had been fantastic. A God given dream come true and whilst I had fun and enjoyed the trip I learned a lot about myself and my wife as well. I learned she was much tougher than I had ever given her credit for, much braver and she kept me going at times when my morale was low. I learned that with patience we solved a lot problems during the trip and we did it as a team. So I am truly thankful for the experience I shared with her and for all her help during this trip and not to mention the patience she had with me when I was in “Photographer mode”.

Photographically speaking I learned how to a take slower approach to photography and not to always assume that I had the “shot” in one composition. I took many different compositions that were “technically” correct and many that weren't and was pleasantly surprised at the results.

Photography will never be an exact science/art form because there are so many perspectives that we all see from and what we find aesthetically pleasing might seem as pleasing to others. That is not to say you can throw out all the rules, no. As with any art form/discipline there always has to be some form of basic rules every one must follow, but that does not mean that they can’t be bent every so often. The main thing is to look at your surroundings first, take a little time to walk around before setting up the tripod and see what hidden treasures you might find.

All in all I had a great experience and there are some parts of the trip that still need to sink in.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this post

Until the next time

take care

Adam