"Is that the way it really looked?" (third in a continuing series)
I'm asked that question quite frequently, and my response is always an emphatic, "No!" The camera and the eye see the world differently; it's silly for any photographer to claim an image is "exactly the way it looked when I was there." A camera's dynamic range, visual depth, and range of focus (to name a few) are all inferior to the human eye. A good photographer doesn't submit to these limitations, he or she turns them into an advantage. Conversely, there are wonderful things the camera can do that the eye can't. All these differences combine to give the experienced landscape photographer an opportunity to create evocative, artistic images in the camera, with very little post-processing required. Today's post continues an ongoing series expressing my thoughts on using your camera's vision to your photographic advantage (and without having to resort to Photoshop enhancement).
Range of focus (depth of field)
Sprawled on my belly in the weeds, I could see all the flowers, grass, shrubs, and rocks surrounding me, but I knew my camera could not. One approach would have been to stop way down to increase my depth of field (DOF), but even using the smallest aperture wouldn't have resulted in enough DOF to match what my eyes saw (and frankly, all that other background stuff would have been a huge distraction).
Fortunately, your camera's inability to match your eyes' focus range is something to celebrate, not lament. A narrow field of view allows you to eliminate distractions and guide your viewers to whatever you deem the most important part of your scene.
In today's image I wanted to emphasize this poppy's color, its graceful curves, and the way poppies appear to generate their own light when backlit. I felt including the entire poppy in the composition would introduce too many distractions; limiting the composition to the poppy's glowing base, and using an extremely shallow plane of focus, my goal was to immerse the viewer in the scene's most compelling elements.
But identifying and isolating the subject isn't the end of the job, and a paper-thin plane of focus is no reason to ignore the rest of your scene. In fact, out of focus elements provide a fabulous opportunity for beautiful, artistic effects, as the blurred areas become abstract shapes and splashes of color.
The complementary purple wildflowers in the background here were no accident; rather, I intentionally positioned myself to juxtapose the blurred violet flowers against the poppy's orange. To minimize the DOF I dialed in my lens's largest aperture; to further reduce DOF and fill as much of my frame as possible with the poppy, I inserted an extension tube between my camera and 70-200 lens.
All SLRs default to the largest aperture for composition (to make your view as bright as possible--that's why you need to use DOF preview to close the aperture to the set value to see the actual DOF you'll get with a smaller aperture), then close to the specified aperture when you click your shutter. But since my exposure setting was for largest aperture aperture already, through my viewfinder I saw the focus exactly as the camera would, making composing pretty straightforward (no need for DOF preview).
I spot-metered on the brightest part of the poppy and underexposed by about 1/3 stop to bring out the color. The post-processing for this image was minimal. In fact the color was so intense that I actually desaturated it slightly.
Next post: August 19 (please view my previous posts by clicking the arrow in the upper left of today's image)
* Website: Eloquent Images
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