Exercise 2.7

‘Use a combination of small apertures and wide lens to take a number of photographs
exploring deep depth of field. Because of the small apertures you’ll be working with
slow shutter speeds and may need to use a tripod or rest the camera on a stable
surface to prevent ‘camera shake’ at low ISOs. Add one or two unedited sequences,
together with relevant shooting data and an indication of your selects, to your
learning log.
Achieving deep depth of field might appear easy compared to the difficulties of
managing shallow depth of field. We’re surrounded by images made with devices
rather than cameras whose short focal lengths and small sensors make it hard
to achieve anything other than deep depth of field. The trick is to include close
foreground elements in focus for an effective deep depth of field image. Foreground
detail also helps to balance the frame, which can easily appear empty in wide shots,
especially in the lower half. When successful, a close viewpoint together with the
dynamic perspective of a wide-angle lens gives the viewer the feeling that they’re
almost inside the scene.’

Day 1

The weather was terrible. The light was terrible (it has been for weeks). I took around 40 shots, but… meh.

Example 1


View 1500 x 1000


The composition on this image should not work. The blue car is almost slap bang in the middle of the shot, and that’s a big no-no… but for reasons that I can’t explain, I really like how this looks.

There are areas that look like they might be out of focus, until you look closely, and realise that they are focused correctly. It may be to do with the light, reflecting off the pavement.

Despite the lack of wide open space, this image demonstrates how a wide angled lens and small aperture produce a deep depth of field, keeping everything in focus, from the front of the image, to the back.


Example 2


View 1500 x 1000


Not an ideal shot for demonstrating depth of field, as only a small area of the image contains distant objects, but even so… it does demonstrate clear focus from front to back… and I like the shot.

I was fully expecting the car lights to be extended through the image, due to the long exposure time, but was amused to see the ghost trainer in the bottom right, where someone had walked into the shot.


Example 3


View 1500 x 1000


While focus is maintained from near to far, clarity is lost towards the distance, due to poor light, and persistent drizzle.

The image may look underexposed, but it was getting dark, and I had to use brightness compensation to prevent the camera from producing an image that looked lighter than the actual scene. Sometimes you want things to look lighter than they are… like night photography, but in this case, I wanted to show just how dark and miserable a day it really was.


Day 2

I got up early to take my car for a service and MOT and was amazed to find decent light for the first time in weeks. Needless to say, once I’d dropped the car off, I went back home, grabbed my camera, and went for a walk up behind the golf course.

Example 4


View 1500 x 1000



I was standing in shade, among some trees on the edge of the golf course. This made for an interesting graduation from dark to light, which along with the trees in the foreground, adds to the feeling of depth.


Example 5


View 1500 x 1000


Exposure compensation was needed to stop the sky from being blown out, and then the RAW file tweaked in Camera RAW on Photoshop to recover some detail in the dark areas.

The far distance is only a thin sliver through the middle, but it serves its purpose.


Example 6


View 1500 x 1000


Not some neolithic standing stone, so much as a boundary marker on the golf course, I think.

More tweaking of levels on the RAW file were needed here.


Example 7 (sequence)

No processing has been done to these shots, beyond resizing. Click on the thumbnails to see the 1500 x 1000 versions.

exercise2-7a_8-300  2 exercise2-7a_9-300

3 exercise2-7a_10-300  4 exercise2-7a_11-300

5 exercise2-7a_12-300  6 exercise2-7a_13-300


View 1500 x 1000

8 exercise2-7a_15-300  9 exercise2-7a_16-300

I wouldn’t say any of these are perfect images for demonstrating deep depth of field, as while there is good focus from foreground to distant background, the detail in the distance is lost in the haze. However, I was having so much fun playing with the light, and love the way they look, so chose to include them here regardless.

Settings for all of these images are the same, except for the shutter speed, which varies between 1/10th and 1/50th of a second.



Example 8


View 1500 x 1000


There’s more deep depth of field in view here. Pity I’d lost the light at this point.


Example 9


View 1500 x 1000


In terms of composition, I feel this image is quite weak. However, the depth of field is very deep, and I really like the colours. While use of the camera’s built in flash lit the bark on the tree trunk nicely, a little tweaking in Camera RAW was needed to retain the detail in the rocks,



Exercise 2.6

‘Use a combination of wide apertures, long focal lengths and close viewpoints to
take a number of photographs with shallow depth of field. (Remember that smaller f
numbers mean wider apertures.) Try to compose the out-of-focus parts of the picture
together with the main subject. Add one or two unedited sequences, together with
relevant shooting data and an indication of your selects, to your learning log.
Wide apertures create shallow depth of field, especially when combined with a long
focal length and a close viewpoint. In human vision the eye registers out-of-focus
areas as vague or indistinct – we can’t look directly at the blur. But in a photograph,
areas of soft focus can form a large part of the image surface so they need to be
handled with just as much care as the main subject.
Don’t forget that the camera’s viewfinder image is obtained at maximum aperture for
maximum brightness and therefore at the shallowest depth of field. Use the depth of
field preview button to see the actual depth of field at any particular aperture. (This
is especially useful in film cameras where you don’t have the benefit of reviewing a
shot immediately after you’ve taken it). It’s surprising to see the effect that a single f
stop can have on the appearance of an image.’

All images in this series were shot using a Yongnuo 50mm prime lens. Basically a cheap (but effective) copy of the Canon ‘Nifty Fifty’. This equates to 80mm (35mm equiv) on the 1300D’s cropped sensor.

All but the first image were shot using manual focusing.

The camera was mounted on a tripod for all shots.

Example 1


View 1500 x 1000



Example 2a


View 1500 x 1000


Example 2b


View 1500 x 1000


Nothing clever or fancy going on here. I was just playing with the focus point, still marvelling at the shallow depth of field that can be achieved. Just a centimetre or so closer to the lens makes a significant difference to the level of blur on the cables in the background on the lower left.


Example 3a


View 1500 x 1000


Example 3b


View 1500 x 1000


I moved the focal point fractionally. The first one is focused on the plate just below the front ‘grill’. The second is focused on the ‘plunger’. While the effect this has on the overall look of the dalek, and which parts are in or out of focus, is subtle, it also has an effect on the lighting of the scene. This is most noticeable when you’re able to flick quickly between the two images (Open the enlarged images into separate tabs and then flick between them).


Example 4a


View 1500 x 1000


Example 4b


View 1500 x 1000


I like the idea behind these images, but the composition suffers due to less than ideal positioning of the guitar, and masking tape stuck on the wall in the background. More time and attention to detail were needed.


At this point, I realised I was supposed to include images that hadn’t been processed (all of the above have had levels adjusted, though none were cropped or otherwise tinkered with). I also hadn’t tinkered with aperture settings on the above, settling merely to tweak the focal distance slightly. So, with this in mind, the next three images are completely unprocessed, except for resizing, and demonstrate three f-stop settings.

Example 5a


View 1500 x 1000


Example 5b


View 1500 x 1000


Example 5c


View 1500 x 1000


Again, the differences between these images are best seen when flicking through them in sequence. Suffice to say, the difference in depth of field between f1.8 and 3.5, when up close, is significant.

Contact Sheet




In addition to the conclusions I mentioned already, (very small adjustments to close up focal distances have significant effects on blur and lighting, as do changes to aperture)… what really struck me when doing this exercise was the fact that this 50mm (80mm equiv) could shoot objects up close. I had considered it mostly suited to portraits and as a short telephoto for shooting middle distance. It turns out it’s minimum focal distance is 1.5ft.

I also discovered very quickly that trying to take shots like these, indoors and handheld, doesn’t work. There’s not enough light to allow a fast enough shutter speed, so without a tripod, everything comes out blurred.

Exercise 2.5

‘Find a subject in front of a background with depth. Take a close viewpoint and zoom
in; you’ll need to be aware of the minimum focusing distance of your lens. Focus on
the subject and take a single shot. Then, without changing the focal length, set the
focus to infinity and take a second shot.
The closer you are to the subject, the shallower the depth of field; the further from
the subject, the deeper the depth of field. That’s why macro shots taken from very
close viewpoints have extremely shallow depth of field, and if you set the focus at
infinity everything beyond a certain distance will be in focus.
As you review the two shots, how does the point of focus structure the composition?
With a shallow depth of field the point of focus naturally draws the eye, which goes
first of all to the part of the image that’s sharp. It generally feels more comfortable if
the point of focus is in the foreground, although there’s nothing wrong with placing
the point of focus in the background.’

This series was shot using a Vivitar 28mm f2.8 fully manual lens, converted from an old film camera, for use with the Canon EOS series. (28mm on cropped sensor equates to around 45mm on full frame sensor) So, apart from having no auto-focus features, this means there is no EXIF data collected from the lens, so I had to note everything down by hand. I also had to make use of exposure compensation quite a lot, as metering with this lens seems to be way off.

Example 1a


View 1500 x 1000

Camera: Canon EOS 1300D.  Mount: Tripod. Lens: 28mm.  Aperture: f5.6.  Focal Distance: 0.3m  ISO: 200. Exposure Compensation: -1

Example 1b


View 1500 x 1000

Camera: Canon EOS 1300D.  Mount: Tripod.  Lens: 28mm.  Aperture: f5.6.  Focal Distance: Infinity.  ISO: 200. Exposure Compensation: -1

This pair of images demonstrates very well how focusing on a close object, even with a medium aperture setting, blurs out the background, and vise versa, when focusing on the distance.

Finding a scene where the close object and background scene are of equal interest proved quite challenging, but on this one at least, I’m quite happy. There’s something about rusty metal that I find visually appealing, while canal scenes have a very calming sense of nostalgia.


Example 2a


View 1500 x 1000

Camera: Canon EOS 1300D.  Mount: Tripod.  Lens: 28mm.  Aperture: f2.8.  Focal Distance: 0.9m.  ISO: 200. Exposure Compensation: -1

Example 2b


View 1500 x 1000

Camera: Canon EOS 1300D.  Mount: Tripod.  Lens: 28mm.  Aperture: f2.8.  Focal Distance: 10+m.  ISO: 200. Exposure Compensation: -1

Without auto-focus, focusing on the iron gate proved very difficult. The light was poor, while the gate was in shade and of a very dark colour itself. Tricky.

It’s worthy of not that, despite using a wider aperture, because the camera was further from the close object (the gate) than in the previous pair of shots, the background when focusing on the gate is still fairly visible and identifiable.


Example 3a


View 1500 x 1000

Camera: Canon EOS 1300D.  Mount: Tripod.  Lens: 28mm.  Aperture: f2.8.  Focal Distance: 9m.  ISO: 200. Exposure Compensation: +0.3

Example 3b


View 1500 x 1000 

Camera: Canon EOS 1300D.  Mount: Tripod.  Lens: 28mm.  Aperture: f2.8.  Focal Distance: 15m.  ISO: 200. Exposure Compensation: +0.3

In the first image, I focused on the ‘Play Areas’ sign, but with a focal distance of 9 metres, despite the wide aperture, the background remained fairly well (if not quite perfectly) focused.

In the 2nd image, while focusing on the church, the sign blured out a little, but not to the point that it is illegible.



This exercise has proven very useful in demonstrating the effect the distance from a foreground object has on depth of field. Regardless of aperture, a very close foreground object will produce a shallower depth of field, and the further from it you get, the deeper the depth of field becomes (albeit potentially limited by aperture setting).

I learned something else from the exercise too.

Working with a fully manual lens is very satisfying. It forced me to slow down, as not only did I have to fiddle with the lens to set the aperture, and then tweak it by fractions, to try and achieve a good focus, I also had to pause between shots to note down the settings for each shot.

The result of this, when compared with the shooting I did in Sheffield using the kit lens, was that I was far more careful and deliberate about what I was doing. While this had downside of removing much scope for opportunistic shots, I found the shots I did take were better composed… or rather, it took far fewer shots to achieve the correct composition.

Exercise 2.4

‘Find a location with good light for a portrait shot. Place your subject some distance in
front of a simple background and select a wide aperture together with a moderately
long focal length such as 100mm on a 35mm full-frame camera (about 65mm on a
cropped-frame camera). Take a viewpoint about one and a half metres from your
subject, allowing you to compose a headshot comfortably within the frame. Focus
on the eyes and take the shot.’

‘Longer focal lengths appear to compress space, giving a shallower depth of
acceptable sharpness, which is known as depth of field. This makes a short or medium
telephoto lens perfect for portraiture: the slight compression of the features appears
attractive while the shallow depth of field adds intensity to the eyes and ‘lifts’ the
subject from the background.’

Self Portrait


View 1500 x 1000


I didn’t have a model to pose for me, so this is a self portrait.

I was able to achieve the framing and focus by using a nice little app on my phone called Canon Camera Connect. This hooks up to my camera via Wi-Fi and, among other things, allows me to use the phone as a remote viewfinder, and take control of the camera from a distance.

Using a 50mm prime lens, at f1.8, and with me standing about a metre and a half from the camera, the background blurs out very nicely.

The framing of this shot may not be exactly what was asked for, as the top of my head goes out of the top of the frame. I’m unsure how this is viewed in terms of photographic conventions, but I used this framing largely out of habit, as it’s pretty much standard when shooting vlog style YouTube videos.

Personally, I prefer this kind of framing, as it feels more… in the moment, and less artificially posed.

The light is coming from behind me, but just enough to one side to make shooting from this angle workable. I took several other shots, some without the empty space on the upper left of the shot, and this one seemed to work the best.

The moody, ‘thoughtful’ look is pretty much standard me. People assume I’m in a bad mood, but that’s just how I look when I’m not smiling.  “Cheers up” people say. Grr.




Okay, I felt the need to try some shots with the required framing, so went back out into the garden. (It’s freezing out there!)

I don’t think the auto-focus is fixing on my eyes, which is a pity. It wouldn’t be a problem if shooting a model, as I’d just switch over to manual focus, but when doing self portraits like this… I don’t know. Must see if it will respond to touch screen commands to tell it where to focus.



View 1000 x 1500


Hey would you look at that! I almost cracked a smile 😉

The depth of field is very shallow, as I was standing a little closer to the camera for this shot, and even though my eyes aren’t quite in perfect focus, I do like the overall effect.

The lighting is different too, as it was later in the afternoon, though I’m not certain I’d say it’s better. Just different.


Contact Sheet




Exercise 2.3

‘Choose a subject in front of a background with depth. Select your shortest focal
length and take a close low viewpoint, below your subject. Find a natural point of
focus and take the shot.
You’ll see that a very wide lens together with a close viewpoint creates extreme
perspective distortion. Gently receding lines become extreme diagonals and rounded
forms bulge towards the camera. Space appears to expand. The low viewpoint adds
a sense of monumentality, making the subject seem larger than it is, and tilting
the camera adds to the effect as vertical lines dramatically converge. Not the ideal
combination for a portrait shot!’

Example 1


View 1500 x 1000


There’s noticeable distortion of the objects on the background, while the foreground object is very imposing and ‘in your face’.


Example 2


View 1500 x 1000


I’m not noticing so much distortion here… (though the roofline of the rightmost building does seem to be pulled down onto the stone carving in the foreground), but the off kilter viewpoint makes for a very dynamic shot, bringing attention to and accentuating the motion of the people in the background.


Example 3


View 1500 x 1000


Distortion seems to be subtle here, and indeed, on all of these shots. I’m not sure how much that is down to the kit lens being a bit ‘vanilla’, or if I’m just doing it wrong. There is clearly distortion, but but none of it is what I’d consider extreme. That being said, it may just be that I’m used to seeing such images, and my expectation of what constitutes ‘extreme’ is what’s been distorted.

The lack of any leading lines in these shots is probably a factor too. I think I’ll need to come back to this.

Exercise 2.2

‘Select your longest focal length and compose a portrait shot fairly tightly within the
frame in front of a background with depth. Take one photograph. Then walk towards
your subject while zooming out to your shortest focal length. Take care to frame the
subject in precisely the same way in the viewfinder and take a second shot. Compare
the two images and make notes in your learning log.

As you page between the two shots it can be shocking to see completely new
elements crash into the background of the second shot while the subject appears
to remain the same. This exercise clearly shows how focal length combined with
viewpoint affects perspective distortion. Perspective distortion is actually a normal
effect of viewing an object, for example where parallel train tracks appear to meet
at the horizon. A ‘standard lens’ – traditionally a 50mm fixed focal length lens for
a full-frame camera (about 33mm in a cropped-frame camera) – approximates the
perspective distortion of human vision (not the angle of view, which is much wider).
A standard lens is therefore the lens of choice for ‘straight’ photography, which aims
to make an accurate record of the visual world.’


Example 1

Not a very inspiring shot. This was simply the first object I came across that fit the criteria of the exercise. As a photo, I can’t say I’m happy with this on any level, other than it demonstrates the difference between a 55mm shot at distance, and an 18mm shot up close.



View 1500 x 1000





View 1500 x 1000



Example 2

Not really giving in to my goth roots… it’s just that the graveyard was quiet, and I don’t much like shooting around people.

Again, not a very inspired or inspiring shot, but it served a purpose.



View 1500 x 1000





View 1500 x 1000


Example 3

Now we’re getting somewhere.



View 1500 x 1000




(I couldn’t quite match the viewing angle of the 55mm shot, as the statue is above my head.)



View 1500 x 1000




From this exercise I concluded 2 things.

  1. Shots with a longer focal distance do not look the same as shots framing the same object, closer up, using a shorter focal distance. The shorter focal distance shot fits more of the surrounding scene into the frame, but also causes distortion to the lines and objects.
  2. The 55mm shots look, to be blunt, flat, wooden and dull, while the 18mm shots feel fluid, full of space and life… though somehow kind of surreal.



Exercise 2.1

‘Find a scene that has depth. From a fixed position, take a sequence of five or six
shots at different focal lengths without changing your viewpoint. (You might like to
use the specific focal lengths indicated on the lens barrel.)
As you page through the shots on the preview screen it almost feels as though you’re
moving through the scene. So the ability to change focal lengths has an obvious use:
rather than physically moving towards or away from your subject, the lens can do
it for you. The other immediate difference between the shots is the ‘angle of view’,
which also depends on the sensor size of your camera. Use the sequence to try to
get a feeling for how the angle of view corresponds to the different focal lengths
for your particular camera and lens combination. Which shot in the sequence feels
closest to the angle of view of your normal vision?’

‘Does zooming in from a fixed viewpoint change the appearance of things? If you enlarge and compare individual elements within the first and last shots, you can see that their ‘perspective geometry’ is exactly the same. To change the way things actually look, a change in focal length needs to be combined with a change in viewpoint.’



View 1500 x 1000





View 1500 x 1000





View 1500 x 1000





View 1500 x 1000





View 1500 x 1000



18mm cropped to match 55mm



It’s hard to say which focal length is closest to my own eyes, not helped by the fact that my own eyes are, medically, a mess, (iritis, vitreous detachment and retinal laser surgery… if you’re interested), but 24mm seems to fit.

Comparing the cropped 18mm with the 55mm is very enlightening. I didn’t get the crop exactly right, having left in a little too much of the image at the bottom, but it’s close enough to see that, resolution aside, the images are the same.

Reading the part in the coursework about the scene in Blade Runner (Dir. Ridley Scott, 1982) irritated me. Blade Runner being a film I’m very familiar with (autistic tendencies led me, in my teens, to watch the film on a daily basis for several years, to the point that I have seen it over 1000 times… not kidding).

The course material drew attention to the fact that the ‘Esper’ machine, when zooming in to extreme close-up, dissolved into grain instead of pixels, using this as an example of how in 1982, Scott’s view of the future of photography was flawed.  That is a fair point, but the scene itself is entirely impossible, as the machine, when moving around the view in the photograph, was able to show objects that were obscured from view. You were able to see objects that were behind other objects.

Now three dimensional scans of rooms and spaces are entirely possible, even with current technology, but the idea that you can get such information by using a fancy machine to scan what is effectively a polaroid… while it was necessary for the film plot, for me, as any kind of commentary on photography, rendered that scene utter nonsense.

Okay, I’m just being picky, because the point itself is fair enough. Ridley Scott didn’t predict digital photography, but…  (grumbles) 😉