Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Depth of Field, San Xavier

I bought a new camera lens recently, a 135mm f/2 Canon lens. This will be my new portrait lens on my full frame camera body. Saturday, I wanted to try out the lens but I got a late start so I couldn't go far and decided to go to one of my favorite local places for photographs, the mission San Xavier del Bac south of Tucson.

Built between 1783 and 1797, the church is one of the older structures in the area and, being a plastered adobe and rock structure, is under constant maintenance and restoration.  Currently, there is no scaffolding on the outside of the church. The interior, having undergone recent restoration, is now in excellent condition.

I've always been drawn to the mortuary chapel at San Xavier where visitors light votive candles, say prayers to Our Lady of Sorrows (Virgin Mary), and make devotional offerings. I took a few photographs in the chapel experimenting with the shallow depth of field I get with my lens set wide open at f/2.  The short telephoto focal length also compresses depth a bit giving me the ability to pick out one statue from a group of small statues (ISO 200, 1/10 sec.).  Click on images for larger versions.

Outside the church, it was a fairly cloudy day and I shot various images of the church and grounds, as well as some images from "Grotto Hill" east of the mission. One of my favorite areas from which to shoot the crosses on top of the church is the back, or north side. Here there is a multi-arched entry through which I get a good view of the main dome of the church with the front bell towers behind. On this evening I noticed some mourning doves sitting on a metal arch in the garden area. I photographed them with the church behind but set my aperture to f/2.8 to throw the background out of focus and emphasize the birds (ISO 200, 1/160 sec.).

Later that evening, as the sun set, the clouds really lit up with orange and red light.  I went up on Grotto Hill and shot the church against the sunset, although now I stopped down the aperture to f/11 to keep focus throughout the scene (ISO 200, 1/5 sec.).

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