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Lesson 7 from: How to Get Started in Nature Photography

John Greengo

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Lesson Info

7. Focus

Lesson Info


Next up we're gonna be talking about focusing and the thing that you have to know about focusing is that you absolutely have to get it right. You know, I have I've seen a lot of scifi futuristic movies where they are like taking an out of focus picture and they're using some sort of computer algorithm to fix the focus on it that in my opinion and I may go out on a limb and they may pull this footage and I'm gonna look like an idiot that'll never happen it'll never happen because that that information was never gathered all right, it's kind of like, well, we can take an old photograph from one hundred years ago and we can make it into a billboard well, we don't have the sharpness for it we don't have the detail for it and so there may be cameras in the future I fully believe they're going to be cameras in the future that we essentially don't need to focus they won't have anything focus you decided all later that's that's that's right there on the horizon right it's a happening with some...

cameras right now so that's a possibility but right now you have to nail the focus if you screw this up, you will not be able to fix it later and it is completely unacceptable having a picture that is slightly out of focus now our trips you auto focus here is going to be very quick folks uh you should be very familiar with the focusing points in your camera and how to adjust them I realize that your camera has tohave subjects within those focusing points to focus so if you're going to set up a shot like this, your camera will not be able to focus you need to get contrast and lines within those brackets. Most cameras these days will have multiple ways of selecting focusing points you can select either a single point you could do a group point which I think works great for action sports type photography or you can select all points if you kind of don't know what you're gonna be focusing on and most all landscape photographers if they're going to use auto focus would choose a single point they would then maybe select which point they want to use or use some other techniques talk about here a little bit but probably just the single point focusing for the focusing my would be aware that your camera has to main ways of focusing the first is single auto focus this is designed for subjects that are stationary this is mostly what we're doing in nature and landscape photography canon calls it one shot nikon calls it f s other companies have slightly different terminology the continuous focusing is when you're trying to track birds or wolves or something else moving so you don't want to have your camera in the continuous focusing mode because it's going to refocus on something that you may not have intended on the camera, the focusing buttons and the control of them is kind of interesting because a lot of photographers have started using we're been using for quite a while to be honest with you something called back button auto focus, and this is where they focused with the back button on their camera, and they no longer focus with their shutter release button and many of the intermediate and higher and cameras have the phone buttons right on the back of the camera. Take a look on the back of your camera and see if it's there and the way the system works is that you have two buttons you need to press before you take a picture. The first is the on button you will focus on your subject and then once you're done focusing, then you can go over and you can take pictures, and this is very handy when you're working on a tripod and you're having to reposition the camera from where you want to focus and where you want to compose but realize that and I do know this because I teach classes in over twenty five different cameras, there is no camera on the market that comes out of the box doing this you have to go into the menu system and find out how to change it now where and how to change it well that's twenty five different answers on that but it is capable on virtually every camera that I know of it is more than about seven hundred dollars in price so let's take a look at an example of how the normal out of the box camera focuses all right I got my camera composed the way I wanted to but I need to focus it now and that middle focusing bracket doesn't have anything to lock onto because it's on blue sky what I need to do is I need to move the camera a little bit off to the side I'm gonna press down halfway that's going to activate focus okay, now we're focused now we need to get composed again leaving my finger halfway down I will then recompose the camera and I will take the picture we call this focus lock and when I want to take a picture of a person and I want to put them off center this system works really well little bit more difficult when you're working on a tripod if I was working on a tripod I would prefer to use back button focusing what I will do is I will recompose the camera I will focus all right let's get our focus in okay focusing is done now we go back to composition and now when I take a picture of the camera doesn't want to refocus and I could just continue taking as many pictures as I want with little adjustments and the camera is exactly focused the way I wanted to the first time, and so this is going to save a lot of time and hassle uh, when it comes to focusing all right, this class is gonna be a mixed bag. I got some really basic stuff I'm sure you guys already know about, but I'm also going to jump into some more kind of like a little bit more advanced stuff and that's hyper focal distance if you're ever, you know, with a group of photographers or non photographers and you want to impress them, just throw the word hyper focal out just wow that's a hyper focal picture if I've ever seen one and it would just make it sound like, you know a lot. All right, so what? What is hyper focal distance? Well, it's, where you focus it's, the focusing distance to achieve the maximum depth of field it's so where do we need to exactly? Focus the lands if I want everything in focus and like everything else related to depth of field, it deals varies according to your focal length, what aperture you have set and how far away the subject iss let's, imagine a scenario where you have a mountain and there's some flowers in the foreground, and you want to photograph both of them and have them in focus. If you focus. If you focus on the mountains that's where your plane of focus is and you set your act two point eight, which is a fairly shallow depth of field, the mountain will be in focus and the flowers will not be in focus. So you say, well, I need great depth of field, so I'll go to f twenty two. Well, there's, a good chance that f twenty two is not going to reach the flowers there by your feet. All right, well, what if I focused on the flowers? Well, you could do that. Depth of field shrinks because you're focusing closer up and it's probably not going to reach the mountain behind it. And so there is a magic spot, most likely, but not guaranteed in between. Where the flower is in the mountain is that the depth of field will reach in front to the flower and in the background to the mountain and figuring out where the spot is can be a little challenging. And this is why it really helps to have kind of the intermediate to hire and lenses that have a focusing scale on them. The better ones even have a depth of field scale the old school manual focus lens has had a great scale like this on them and so right now we're focused at two meters were about seven feet let's just focus now we're at ten feet or three meters let's jump up to infinity focus so this is where infinity is you notice where that line is and here's a little side note for you most of your all of your lenses focus beyond infinity you guys know what's beyond infinity something to do with buzz lightyear or something your camera's focus out there so there's a little bit of extra range in case of hot and cold expansion and contraction within the lens and you're focusing range kind of shrinks you might say you would hate to go to infinity but it no longer gets to infinity so they just allow you a little extra room on that side so if we're focused for instance right here at thirty feet or ten meters and we have an aperture of f eleven let's take a look at the f eleven on the left and follow that line and that gets us to fifteen feet or five meters so that's what's in focus on the near side and eleven on the other side gets right about just pass the infinity point so at f eleven where this lens is focused we have everything from five meters to infinity and focus. If we adjust a little bit further right here, let's, look att f twenty two now f twenty two will take us from two meters all the way out to infinity, and so this is the hyper focal point on this particular lands. I brought three lenses here, and there are various focal lengths that I may or may not use for landscape photography, but I found it found it kind of interesting because this twenty four millimeter lands has the focusing scale on it, and it has a depth of field scale where we have markings for f four. I don't know if that's f five, six or eight, but something in between up eleven and up twenty two and the next lens over here. This is a pretty much worthless depth of field skill, because all it has is twenty two, right next to where the focusing point is and so it's really hard to read any sort of depth of field it's not very likely that you're going to get much depth of field within eighty five one eight, and this hundred millimeter lens here doesn't have any depth of field on it at all. It just has a focusing scale, and so take a look at your lenses, see if they have a focusing scale at all. Because some of the kit lenses don't and the higher and ones will have a little bit more depth of field scale, you're going to find these depth of field skills maurin wide angle lenses, then you will on telephoto lenses, but that was one of the disadvantages of the auto focus lenses of these days, so being able to figure out hyper focal distance is really important when you shoot a photograph like this. This is the salar day tony down in bolivia, where I'm trying to get something to focus six inches in front of the lands all the way out to infinity. And this is a standard technique for a lot of landscape photographers shooting something in the foreground, as well as something in the background, everything being in focus and this hyper focal distance will change with what lens you're using and what aperture you need to use as well, because I prefer not to stop down twenty two, but I have no qualms about stopping down to twenty two if necessary. You can take an image that is shot at f twenty two you can add a little bit of sharpening and nobody we'll probably ever see the diffraction unless you are really blowing it up very high, and this comes to a very difficult question, okay, I got the scene set up. Now, where do I focus? I know what I want in focus, but how do I figure this out? Well, the secret formula is actually fairly easy if you go double the near point. So let's, take a look at the photograph I have on screen here. What do I want to focus? Well, I got these flowers in the foreground. How far are they from the camera? In this case? They're probably about three feet, so I'm going to focus out here somewhere around six feet and have twenty two that would hopefully get everything in focus in a picture like this. Back down in death valley, this is maybe ten inches in front of me. I'm going to focus at about twenty inches in front of the camera, and then it have twenty two I'll check with my depth of field preview to see if that holds it in focus, and in this case it did. And so this formula works very well unless you take it to extremes and tryto focus on something one inch in front of the camera and then focusing on two inches, it may not be able to hold that distance, so there is a limitation on it, but it's a good kind of shortcut rule of thumb to remember.

Class Materials

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Nature and Landscape Course Notes

Ratings and Reviews

Danette Zak

I got this course for free thru View Bug and John Greengo is an amazing teacher. He explains nature photography with a sense of ease and he really makes you want to get out there and keep trying to get THE photo, that the day you go out there may not be the right day or right time, but to keep trying and you'll get it! He also encourages you to get out there to the same places other great photographers have been and make it your own, to get your own experiences. Yes, I recommend this course and any courses he instructs, I hope to take another one of his courses in the near future!

a Creativelive Student

Very instructive! And John Greengo is a great teacher. He knows very well how to go deeply without putting you in a difficult situation. I have followed almost all of his courses, and this one is one of the best! Don't hesitate if you are a beginner or even and advanced photographer interested in Nature photography.

Vilius Senkus

Perfect class, loved it. Short, concentrated, nice examples, pasionate speaker. Just want to grab my cam and go apply new knowledges.

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