Posted by: David Vernon | May 19, 2010

Project Double Take 9 – Landscapes Wide Open

Welcome to the ninth edition of Project Double Take. This week’s assignment is “Landscapes Wide Open” in the vertical format.

When someone thinks about the typical landscape shot they usually think about the vista. And while you can certainly do intimate work in landscape photography, it’s a little unusual to sort of overdo it. Most folks use a wide angle lens and a lot of depth of field – an aperture setting of f/16 or f/22 is typical. So what happens when you force yourself to the other extreme. A tighter/longer focal length and almost no depth of field? The result definitely forces you out of the conventional box you’re living in – and yet it can work very reasonably.

Stacy and I both found ourselves at Allerton, over near Monticello, IL, last weekend. The purpose of that trip was to kick-off the next Project Double Take – Formal Gardens. And yet we both ended up making images for the concept of Landscape Wide Open. Shooting on 50mm lens – on cropped sensors no less – making for an even tighter look – we ventured into the extremely shallow end of the DOF pool at f/1.4. At a distance of 10′ – the approximate distance I was standing from the fish in the Chinese Maze garden at Allerton – your depth of field is about 8″. That’s all the sharp focus you’re going to get. It makes telling your story a little complex and you are led to infer some things as a viewer that you might otherwise know if you were looking at a good old fashioned vista. Yes – that’s a second fish across the garden – nestled into the crook of our near fish. Yes – the maze of the hedges continues throughout the garden – even if you can’t see it. In the end I’m really attracted to a low depth of field shot because it forces my focus to the subject and allows me to lazily transition into the soft-focus areas. Don’t tell anyone – but I’m definitely hooked on shooting landscapes wide open. I’d just feel better if I had that beautiful Nikon 24mm f/1.4 lens instead of my tighter 50. Oh well.

Stacy’s shot echoed the beauty in the peony gardens that stretched out forever. The interest in her shot – to me – is the lack of slow transition from sharp to soft. It’s more like the foreground peonies are standing on the podium – addressing the masses of other flowers off in the distance. It takes on an almost tilt (-shift) look in miniature. And it really drives home the point of just how far the peonies stretched.

So if you want to draw particular attention to your foreground object – try going wide open. And be prepared to take a lot of shots – it doesn’t always happen on the first try. Now – back to the garden.

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