Exercise 1 – Focus with a Set Aperture

TAoP-Ex-1-Set

An interesting place to start on a dark October evening as the choice was to wait for the weekend and some daylight or carry out the exercise indoors. I chose indoors and decided to try photographing some small subjects, in this case baby tomatoes, on my old light box.

This is a technique I have been meaning to try for ages although I had it in mind as a technique that would work well with thin slices of fruit.

As this miniature studio was less than a metre long I chose to use a 105mm fixed focal length lens that I felt would tend to emphasise the depth of field variations. I made a few false starts with lighting. With only the light box the subjects were far too bottom lit and the pop up flash on my camera was not strong enough to counteract the light from the box so I after a few test shots I settled on using a flash gun with a diffuser. This gave acceptable results in terms of being able to complete the exercise but the setup would not work for many subjects.

Image 1 - Focus on nearest subject

Image 1 – Focus on nearest subject taken at f/3.2 1/250 ISO 100

In image 1 I have focussed on the nearest tomato. This is sharply in focus, tomato 2 can be identified as its twin but 3, 4 and 5 are very blurred. All attention is on number 1.

Image 1 - Focus on nearest subject f/3.2 1/250 ISO 100

Image 2 – Focus on second nearest subject taken at f/3.2 1/250 ISO 100

In Image 2 I have focussed on the second tomato. Again this is sharply in focus, with tomato 3 appearing to be slightly more in focus that tomato 1. Attention is clearly on tomato 3, the point of focus, but there is a lead in and lead out from the main subject which I think works quite well.

Image 3 - Focus on third nearest subject taken at f/3.2 1/250 ISO 100

Image 3 – Focus on third nearest subject taken at f/3.2 1/250 ISO 100

Image 2 - Focus on forth nearest subject taken at f/3.2 1/250 ISO 100

Image 4 – Focus on forth nearest subject taken at f/3.2 1/250 ISO 100

Images 3 and 4 continue to display the same characteristics with tomato 3 and 4 in focus in image 3 and 4 respectively.

My preference is image 2. In image 1 the focussed subject is very obvious and as the nearest to the camera is the largest and most dominant in the frame, however the tomatoes start to lose their shape as the distance increases and the result is a photograph of one tomato that is nearly divorced from the group – over isolated might best describe it.

In both 2 and 3 I see a row of tomatoes even though my eye is drawn straight to the one in focus. Isolated but with some context. Overall I feel that image 2 works better partly because there is an imbalance between the number of tomatoes behind and in front of one in focus and partly because I am more comfortable with how far I have to enter the photograph before finding the subject. This might be better explained by looking at image 4 where the focus point is too far in for me, I think the blurred tomato in position 1 is actually more dominant than the focused one at position 4 and that is certainly an effect I have never noticed before.

It will be interesting to return to this set up at some later date and find subjects that would work with bottom lighting. The narrow light box made framing a challenge, I would have preferred to be a little more side on so that the subjects were a more obvious diagonal across the frame but I couldn’t find a position where this worked with the narrow light source. Looking at the end results leaves me thinking that this lighting set-up would work best with the subject being photographed from directly above.

Note: Each of these images was captured in raw and processed in photoshop. I found that there was a distracting pink tinge to the light coming from the light box so I used the white balance dropper in curves to set white as the bottom left of each image.

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