Friday, October 29, 2010

Focus, Group f/1.4 vs Group f/64

When I started trying my hand at travel photography, I was inspired by Ansel Adams and believed in the "Group f/64" philosophy of "everything in sharp focus". For some subjects, I still think this is the best choice but since I started doing some portraits (of people), I've fallen in love with the shallow depth of field of large aperture prime lenses. When the subject of a photograph is a person's face, background clutter can be a distraction and a shallow depth of field allows the eye to be drawn to the face, particularly the eyes of the subject which I usually want to be in sharp focus.

Esther (shot at f/2.0)

Lately, I've been trying this shallow depth of field more and more in other situations, for portraits of things and even landscapes. Sometimes I wonder, how much of an image needs to be in focus for the photograph to convey the story I have in mind?  For example, the following photograph, looking through the spokes of an old wagon on a ranch in southern Arizona, has very little in focus. There is just one wagon wheel spoke in focus, and only part of that. Still, I like the feeling of the image, the out of focus ranch house still tells the story without really needing details. I'll plan to explore this style more in the next weeks.

Looking through a wagon wheel at the ranch house, Empire Ranch, AZ. (shot at f1.6)

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