A story behind the click in Atacama. By Ossian Lindholm

You may remember this photograph from my previous newsletter. I took it in a Salt Flat in the Atacama desert 20 minutes after sunset.

Blue hour in Lagunas Baltinache,
Nikon D810 with Sigma-Art 24mm   f/11  3 sec  ISO100 @24mm 

It is common to think that you always you need an important background in a landscape photo. But in a situation like this, the interest is in the foreground that shows the texture of this Salt flat surface and in the pond in the middle ground. The background is  the simple silhouette of a mountain. In the case of this photo, what most attracts the eye is the little salt island in the pond. Therefore, in composing the landscape in our mind and then in the viewfinder, we see that the most interesting subject matter is in the middleground.
If we envision a photo like this with all the details sharp, the control of the Depth of Field (DOF) is very important.
Let’s review the factors that affect the DOF: 

1. Aperture: large apertures (i.e. f/2 or f/2.8) produce a very shallow depth of field, this is nice for portraits. With small apertures (i.e. f/11 or f/16) we get images with a large depth of field. On this photo I used f/11.

2. Focal Length: Wide-angle lenses (short focal lengths) have a deeper depth of field than telephoto lenses (long focal lengths). On this photo I used a 24mm wide angle lens mounted on a Nikon full frame.

3. Camera Subject Distance: the shorter that distance, the smaller the depth of field. In practice this means that for a photo like this one, you don’t focus on something too close to you, because you will probably blur the background.

Once you have chosen a wide angle lens and you have selected a small aperture, the question is where to focus in order to achieve the desired depth of field. If you focus on the mountains it is likely that the foreground will be blurred, and if you focus on something very close to the camera it is likely that the background will be blurred.

A rule of thumb that works very well is to focus on something that is at 1/3 of the distance from the foreground. Focusing on the 2/3 you will probably loose sharpness on the foreground.

Note: On most of the DSLR and Mirrorless cameras you have a  preview button that allows you to visualize the depth of field of the photo you are going to take.

The Hyperfocal Distance
But if you want perfect control of the Depth Of Field there is a concept called Hyperfocal Distance.
One commonly used definition is: The hyperfocal distance is the closest distance at which a lens can be focused while keeping objects at infinity acceptably sharp. When the lens is focused at this distance, all objects at distances from half of the hyperfocal distance out to infinity will be acceptably sharp.
It can be a confusing subject, but once you understand it, it is very easy to use. Anyway it is a long topic that exceeds the objective of this newsletter.

The tripod 
The dim light after sunset,  forces you to use a long exposure time – slow shutter speeds- so you need to have a tripod. In this case my shutter speed was 3 seconds. Sometimes, depending on the composition you are looking for, it is not necessary to fully extend the tripod. In this case the camera was only 1 meter high with the purpose of showing the texture of the ground.

 

Join us on our next Atacama Photo Tour:
November 27 to December 5, 2018

Photo by Lauren Hefferon

Ossian Lindholm
lindholm.ossian@gmail.com

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