Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Winter Scenes, "Fake" and "Real"

I've been feeling unlucky about rarely having an opportunity to do winter photography featuring the leitmotif of the season - snow. Yesterday, while preparing a late night snack, I found that I had accidentally created a sort of simulation of stones on snow and ice. The resemblance is slight, and I only invested a few moments in setting up lighting and shooting the miniature scene, but it was fun.

The technical details would take longer to describe than the "photo shoot", but in a nutshell, I used a single strobe (Canon 600 EX-RT) on a simple plastic support, placed to camera left and about 30ยบ behind the subject. I knew cross lighting would bring out some texture in the "rocks", which were actually tiny cacao nibs. The Greek yogurt substrate doesn't have much texture (sugar would have been better if this had been a planned project), but that's okay. As soon as I had the photo, I grabbed a spoon and ate my simple concoction. It was delicious, and I didn't even get any on the macro lens.

Today I decided to take our Raleigh winter as it is (cool, warm, cold, warm, cool, hot, cold - don't try to plan), and photographed a rogue autumn leaf. The slightly odd character of the transitions from sharp to fuzzy in this photo (i.e., the gradient of blur from left to right rather than just far to near) is explained by my use of a tilt- shift lens. I tilted the optics the opposite direction from what would keep the entire fence in focus, so the plane of sharp focus extends from near the camera on the left (where there is nothing but air at that distance) to far from the camera on the right, passing through the region of the dead leaf along the way. That is what I wanted to emphasize. A telephoto lens with wide aperture could give a very shallow depth of field and isolate a sharp subject, but an ultra wide angle lens that can give the kind of perspective seen here would inherently have a rather deep depth of field, and minimal background blur. A tilt lens enables a lot of control over this, even in a short focal length.

Here's how one can get the entire scene in focus, tilting the lens to the right, aligning the plane of principal focus with the fence, and stopping down to f/11. The aperture was f/4 for the shot above.


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