Aspicus and the Art of Photography

From Snapper to Shooter (hopefully)

Project 2

Focus with a set aperture

What: The aim of this project is to explore the concept of shallow depth of field and how it can draw attention to various parts of an image.  The project involves taking images of the same scene with a very wide aperture, each image focused on a different area.
Where: Some duck ornaments around the pond in my garden.
When: Lunchtime in March.  Sky was very overcast, although it was dry.
Why: Again, more of an experimental project rather than an arty one, but nevertheless I’m trying to get into the habit of thinking around a photo rather than just taking it.  Walking around for inspiration for the first few projects I noticed the ducks which seemed to foot the bill (Pun definitely intended – thank you, thank you.  I’m here all week).
How: Camera settings were manual, focal length, 95mm, ISO200, f/5.3 (largest aperture at this focal length),  and 1/400 seconds shutter speed.  I used a tripod as directed in the course notes.  No software manipulation other than conversion from RAW to JPG.

The images:
Focus on front duck:

Focus on middle duck:

Focus on duck at the back:


The main observation of course is to confirm the course notes, that focus draws the attention of the viewer (an apt name in more than one way then), and how the viewer (well at least me) almost disregards the parts of the image that are not in focus. For example, notice the blue and green objects in the background, and also the hint of a red shape (an ornament of a big fat Robin). For me at least I didn’t even notice these things which could equally be on interest to the viewer (well at least the Robin could – trust me on this) because of the 2-fold impact of having part of the image in focus, and the rest not. The exception to this though are the other ducks. In all the pictures the other ducks are just as noticeable and stand out from against he background. Maybe this is because of the high contrast in colour (white against a darkish background) or maybe it is because they are as not out of focus as the rest of the image (but then you could say that of the green tank in the last image in the top left hand corner), or maybe it is because of the similar shape and colours of the part of the image in focus. Maybe the brain focuses on the sharp aspect of the photo and then notices very quickly those things similar to it. Therefore I suspect that it is probably a combinations of the contrast in colours and the similarity with the part of the image in focus.

In terms of my favourite image, I think it’s the first image. This is the one that seems most natural, most leading of the eye without confusing it. You see the image, and the first thing that you notice is the duck in sharp focus. You then notice the other ducks out of focus and almost dismiss the background (I’m beginning to sound like one of those chaps off Masterchef). Thinking about it it is almost as if you see it from front left to back right, but I’m not sure if that is because of the image or the way we read photos. For the second and third photos, the ducks in focus just don’t seem so natural. For the second photo the duck in the middle jars a little. It is nice and central to the frame, but my eye keeps noticing the front duck more – maybe due to its size or maybe because its in front. It’s like I want the front duck in focus and so keep looking at it. The last photo is sort of similar, but amplified. You see the back duck in focus then wander what’s so special about it that this is the duck in focus and not the front two. Maybe if it had something very different about it (wearing a hat for example) then it would work, but at the moment again I’m left thinking – why this duck?

Having said all that, although the first image is the most comfortable to look at and my favourite of the three, it also seems to some degree the most dull. The viewer is on solid footing here – nothing to think about. Perhaps such compositions as in the second and third can be used to effect the feelings of the viewer especially if combined with something exciting as well (I really want to put a hat on that duck now).

Further Questions

1. Is there any natural way that the brain and eye reads a photo? Does it look first and the centre and then out, from front to back, from right to left? What are the implications for composition if there are – can this be used to make the viewer feel comfortable with what they are seeing, or even to make then feel slightly uncomfortable? I’m assuming that experience and the course will help me find the answers to this one.

2. What are the relationships between colour, size, shape, position and similar figures in composition and in leading the eye to where the photographer wants it to be. Again, flicking through the course notes, some of these aspects seem to be covered later on, so I’ll leave the answers for now.

What I’ve Learned

1. Setting a high aperture means that only the subject (and its focal plane) will be in sharp focus.

2. This sharpness means that the photographer can lead the viewers eye to where he/she wants the viewer to concentrate.

3. However, there appears to be a “natural” way of viewing images that the photographer needs to be cognisant of to ensure that the focused area does not jar.


7 March 2009 - Posted by | Projects

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