Stopping down, Depth of Field and Bokeh

rod fleming depth of field
Limited depth of field, as seen here, can separate the subject from the background and strengthen the image. Pic: Rod Fleming

In the last article we looked at the optical principles that govern focus and depth of field. Now let’s explore how these are applied practically in the camera. For the moment we will assume that we are using a single-lens-reflex (slr) or rangefinder type camera, either digital or film.

If you look at the lens barrel you will probably see a ring which controls the aperture diaphragm. This will be numbered in f-stops, which on modern cameras will run f1.4,2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22, (32, 45, 64). I put the last three in brackets because you’re pretty unlikely to have them but you might see them on view cameras. Note that the numbers double on every second step—2,4,8 etc and 2.8, 5.6, 11 etc. The f-stops are determined by dividing the effective aperture into the focal length, so a 50mm lens with an aperture of 25mm is f2, and with 12.5mm is f4. Each f-stop, going from low number to high, admits half as much light as the one before, so f2.8 is half of f2 etc. It’s easy to work out why if you’re mathematically inclined, but if not, just remember it.


Continue reading “Stopping down, Depth of Field and Bokeh”

The Naked Truth

I grew up in a world where photography, especially monochrome photography, was synonymous with ‘truth’. That was never strictly accurate, of course, and as a photographer I knew the extent to which the truth can be manipulated. Nevertheless, as evidenced by the incredible work we saw every day in the newspapers of the 60s, which I consumed with passion while still at school, a photograph was regarded as an equivalent to reality; it was not just a representation of truth, but an affirmation of it.

“Look,’ it said, ‘This is a true thing; I stand witness to that.’ Even today, when PhotoShop has put tricks of the trade that I spent years learning at the click of an amateur’s mouse, photographs brook no argument. The leaves really were that green, the sunset that orange, the woman so perfect. Yet perfect beauty was never in the sorcery of the darkroom or the airbrush artist’s hand, nor is it in the magic of digital manipulation; real beauty is actually real. It needs no PhotoShopping or dastardly manipulation, only to be seen and known, and recorded.

The other part of my life, however, is very different from the ascetic artist whose delight is in the expression of pure form or idea. As a musician, I am by definition an entertainer. And my professional photographic career has been mainly in Photojournalism. Indeed, long before I immersed myself in Weston and Brandt I was mainlining Cartier-Bresson and Don McCullin. Continue reading “The Naked Truth”

Focus and Depth of Field

Focus and depth of field are related, and the advancing photographer should understand the relationship between them.

If you are used to using a digital compact, then focus may be something you take for granted. Things just are in focus. But if you are thinking of buying a DSLR or a film camera, then focus becomes much more important. In fact it is one of the primary creative tools the photographer has.

 

About Lenses

Lenses resolve the light emitted from objects in the world into an image that we can use. Sometimes, as in a telescope, this is for direct observation, and the focus is inside the eye; in photography, resolution is always on a plane behind the lens.


Continue reading “Focus and Depth of Field”

Malolos: Street photography and ladyboys

On the 25th of February 2017, we went to Malolos, the capital of Bulacan, to see a ladyboy parade; but it never appeared. Ladyboy levels of disorganisation are, of course, legendary, in addition to which, they were probably working on Filipino time, which makes ‘manana’ sound urgent. Still, a couple of nice cold Red Horses and some good pictures.

Street photography, long established as an art and a specialist form of photojournalism, requires very similar techniques to those needed to photograph field sports, notably football (soccer, not that American nonsense). You need sharp reactions, complete confidence in technique and total reliance on reflex. As soon as you see an image, it’s gone, so you just have to go with it.

Markets everywhere are wonderful for this sort of thing. They’re very colourful and people are concentrating on selling, not watching the photographer. I was using a DSLR for most of these, with no issues. As usual with digital, you have to watch the exposure. I find using the old tranny technique of underexposing by 2/3 of a stop is useful in holding highlight detail.

To see the gallery, please click the read more link below

Continue reading “Malolos: Street photography and ladyboys”

Arbroath January 1972

Arbroath January 1972 . I was living in the house at 9 East Grimsby. My Dad had died the previous year and I was still struggling with it.  But I had a few things going for me: music, a camera and my books. It wasn’t a lot but it helped.

Russ Black, the art teacher at school encouraged me to use its darkroom. I had lost my own a couple of years before when we moved house. This is one of the earliest rolls I still have from then.

The camera was a Leica Model III fitted with a Ross Xtralux 50mm f2, an excellent lens. I used the name ‘Xtralux’ for a band some years later, in Exeter. Film was Ilford FP3.

Continue reading “Arbroath January 1972”

Wedding in Molinot — a photo essay.

Last week we had the first wedding in Molinot for five years. The Bride and groom have been together for years and decided to make it all official.  It was a lovely event, very redolent of a rural France that is fast disappearing. Yes folks, la France Profonde is contracting. Soon it won’t be there at all.

Meantime it was nice to see an event like this, with all the colour, hilarity and distinctly earthy humour. This is the Arriere-Cote.

I don’t know when we’ll see the next wedding in Molinot, so better enjoy this one.

Wedding in Molinot July 2016

 

 

 

 

Strömholm’s Beautiful Transsexuals

Strömholm ‘s Transsexuals: Les Amies de Place Blanche

Christer Strömholm (1918-2002) was ‘the father of Swedish photography’. A talented and influential photojournalist, he favoured direct contact with his subjects. He never ‘stole’ candid pictures and instead always had a relationship of some kind with the person or people he was photographing.

Christer Stromholm

For over a decade, beginning in 1958, Strömholm documented the lives of a group of transsexual women (male-to-female) living in an area of Paris called the Place Blanche. His body of work is remarkable. In 2011 Aman Iman Publishing in Paris republished it as Les Amies de Place Blanche. The price is a very reasonable 45 Euros.

Continue reading “Strömholm’s Beautiful Transsexuals”

Philippines 2016: Markets and Mountains

The Philippines has become very important to me over the last four years. It’s now the focus of much of my life and I want to spend more time there. The winters in France are just too cold for me now.

When you visit a country for longer periods, months at a time, as I do, you can’t do quite what the holiday  tourist does. It’s partly to do with budgets but also with burnout. You have to learn to chill and take it easy.

Continue reading “Philippines 2016: Markets and Mountains”

Reflex-Reflection: Photography’s Genius

The unique mechanism by which photography distinguishes itself from every other visual art is something I call reflex-reflection.

Photography, although shunned by the establishment in its infancy, became the quintessential, defining art of the twentieth century.

This was not simply because photography’s roots were in the five decades immediately preceding the year 1900, nor that it blossomed, came to maturity and ultimately transformed with the ageing of the century itself.

Continue reading “Reflex-Reflection: Photography’s Genius”