In my last post I mentioned that I'll be visiting Rocky Mountain National Park in a few weeks. I have plenty to keep me occupied right here in California for the rest of my life, but I look forward to these little excursions beyond my comfort zone. I probed the archives for something from my last visit to RMNP and found this from a few summers ago.
I remember lying in a meadow right near the Estes Park entrance station. I was at 17mm on my full frame camera, which means to make these flowers such a large part of the frame, they were no more than an inch or two from my lens. Another indication of how close the flowers were is the soft background, even at f20 and 17mm.
Was I concerned about the soft background? Absolutely not. In fact, in shots like this I want the background soft to force the eye to remain on the foreground subject. I want the background sharp enough only to be recognized for context, which I think I achieved here.
One of the most important things an aspiring photographer must master is the front-to-back component of the world. Everyone with a camera sees the left/right plane, but it takes conscious effort (at first) to see and manage the front-to-back aspect of a scene. Sometimes you want lots of depth of field, sometimes very little, and sometimes something in between.
If your primary subject is in the background, look for a foreground (and ideally, a middle-ground too) object to add a sense of depth to your frame. If your primary subject is in the foreground, look for a background that complements (without distracting from!) your subject, and or gives it some context (like location or weather conditions). Don't expect to get it exactly right all the time (I don't), but if you're at least aware of foreground/background with every shot, you will get better with time.
Another point that comes up a lot in my workshops is where to focus. I'm not one for rules in photography, but one "rule" that I rarely (but not never) find an exception to is the idea that I want whatever's in my foreground to be sharp. In other words, I'm okay with, and often want, a soft background, but I rarely want anything prominent in my foreground to be soft.
I find hyperfocal charts cumbersome in the field, and think the rule of thumb shortcuts, while useful, are flawed for beginners because they don't take into account all the possibilities and they inhibit understanding of the complexities of critical focus. When I have something in the close foreground but want to make sure something else behind it is sharp too, I'll shrink my aperture (f16, and sometimes smaller) and focus on something (anything--a rock, twig, whatever) a little behind my closest subject. In a scene like this I'd want all the flowers sharp (hence the f20). Knowing how I work, I probably focused toward the back of the middle flower, confident that at 17mm and f20 the other flowers will be sharp too.
But like exposure and metering, focus technique is very personal, and what ultimately matters is the result. If you have an approach that works for you, there's no need to even listen to "experts" like me. Just get out there and shoot!
* Website: Eloquent Images
Thanks for visiting. Even if I don't respond, your comments are always read and appreciated.