Focus Experiments

I was thinking about titling this post "there's no such thing as depth of field" but that seemed too long. I'm enamored with the way all of the Fuji X-System glass renders. So much so that I go out of my way to make pictures with large areas of what could be considered the main subject out of focus. Hell, sometimes I rack the lens way out of focus on purpose. How's that for a to hell with auto-focus technology for ya?


I guess I've been used to most wide-angle lenses and especially zooms at the wide end looking like dog crap in out of focus areas. All of the Fuji glass I've used so far looks fantastic. My earliest experience with how good the Fuji lenses look as a whole in focus transition and out of focus areas was my original X100. That's probably the first time I made a few series of out of focus pictures on purpose.

For the Black/White project I've made a few here and there. To be candid most of them don't work for various reasons. Since I was mostly playing over the long New Year's weekend I decided to try a few focus experiments. Actually a whole lot more that I have before. I think the above photograph actually works. I made a few like that which were racked way out of focus at f/8 but was playing far more with putting the "wrong" part of the picture in focus and forcing the rest out.


I've not spent much time letting these sit but my initial impression is that it works for the project as a whole as well as the Fragments side project. Here's the rub; Works absolutely fantastically at large reproduction ratios (big prints or on a big screen like a 27"). Doesn't work that great for small sizes like cell phones, laptops, etc for web viewing.


Obviously this is due to smaller looks sharper so it's hard to see subtle differences in focus choices. All of these were shot at f/8 wide-ish to normal field of view at fairly close range. I didn't resort to tricks like putting all of my DOF in front of the subject like I described in the Fuji look post. Truthfully Melanie was too dynamic to manage that effectively in most setups we did. This was all just strait-up focusing on the cuff nearest the camera.

Aside No/1 — DOF

That "no such thing as depth of field" thing I mentioned above; Of course there's such a thing and obviously that needs some consideration. I'll clarify that a bit. Once I take general considerations about how much depth of field I have in general I typically work as if I have no depth of field. This has everything to do with my subjects my general M.O. of working very close. Depth of field is not really something that can be considered in isolation or as some absolute thing. It all has to do with how big you are magnifying the image.


Consider this for a moment. All of these frames were made at 35mm and f/8. That should register to most without actually thinking too too hard at it as "plenty of depth of field". Heck that's like f/11 on a 50mm in full-frame filmy terms. Less than that and the big bad diffraction starts to make things "less sharp" (who cares but that's for another day). Melanie's hands are a foot from her face at the very most, probably a bit less. Also remember most of the DOF is behind the point of actual focus.

Hmmm, working close to three dimensional subjects where various pieces at different distances, even small variations, that cover a lot of the frame are pretty much impossible to deal with in terms of focus coverage. Just a take-away for those that haven't played with this a whole lot. Also not a fault but looked at the right way just another visual tool.

Aside No/2 — Fear

When photographing human subjects I think we all suffer a certain fear to try things that are not certain. To one degree or another it's hard to experiment. Sure there are the failures that just happen but it's different in a dynamic situation to take the leap and make a decision to do something out of the norm.


I certainly suffer from this. The frame above is something I love. I knew I would love this particular one as the fleeting moment appeared. This was very difficult to make the decision to experiment with vs. just shifting the focus to Melanie's face.

Am I happy with the result? Sure but not knowing is what makes experimenting difficult, at least for me. When it comes down to it that fear is a bit irrational. I can take more pictures, make different choices the very next frame or even the next time around. Knowing that really doesn't seem to help in the moment though, never has. Always easier to make the choice that's "safe" in your own head.


End Notes

All photographs made with the Fuji XT-1 and 18-55mm XF. Processing via LR CC with VSCO FILM05 BW400CN applied on import.