Photography is FUNdamental

My Canon and I had some fun today.

(Note: I’m going to descend a bit into photographer-geek speak here. I promise I’ll link everything…and most links will be to Digital Photography School, which is a terrific website full of tutorials and posts. If you’re doing any digital photography, I highly recommend it.)

I needed to take a shot of the swatch I just finished for a design I’m submitting, so I broke out my standard low tech set up: a piece of white poster board on the floor of our sun deck. It’s got windows on 3 sides, and gets great indirect light most of the day. But this time, for the first time, I picked up my DSLR instead of my old point & shoot.

The swatch shot was pretty straightforward–I didn’t want anything fancy, just a solid, well-exposed shot with true colors. I did play a bit with the modes to see which worked best (did I want macro, or did I want to try one of the less automatic modes?). Macro seemed my best option, and I stuck with my 50mm/f1.8 lens.

Once that was done, I decided to play around a bit. I do love those artistic shots of knit items where only part of it is in focus and the rest is nicely blurred (as long as those aren’t the only shots; I’m in full agreement with those who want a nice shot of a complete object where you can tell what it actually is!), but it wasn’t something my P&S could manage. Jared Flood, aka Brooklyn Tweed, takes some stunning photographs (page down to The Juneberry Triangle for some great examples).

Now, I’m no Jared Flood, but I decided to see if I could get some of the same effects. They’re created by having a very shallow depth of field (meaning that whatever is in front of or behind the item you focus on is blurred), which in turn can be created by having a very large aperture. A low f-stop means a large aperture (yes, I know it makes no sense, but I didn’t design the system!), and while my kit lens’ max f-stop is 3.5, my new lens goes all the way to 1.8…making it perfect for those shallow depth of field shots.

I set my camera to aperture priority mode, which lets me select the aperture and then adjusts all the other settings (like shutter speed and ISO) to take the picture. Then I experimented with different angles and distances to see what I got.

After several pictures, I realized I really wanted to be able to share what I was doing…but I couldn’t with this swatch. So I grabbed another swatch I’d knit up and my daughter’s Diamond in the Sky cardigan and went back to snapping.

DOF experiment (1)

DOF experiment (2)

DOF experiment (3)

The first 2 pictures were taken with me lying on the floor, propped up just a bit on my elbows. Even though the swatch is pretty small (about 7″ long), I was able to get enough change in distance between where I was focusing and the other parts of the swatch that you can see just the cables (in the top picture) or just the far end of stockinette (in the middle picture) are in focus. For the 3rd picture, I got up on my knees to take the shot. I was focused on the cables, but you really can’t see a difference, except for just a bit at the edge.

DOF experiment (4)

DOF experiment (6)

The angle I was shooting from in these 2 shots wasn’t much different, but it was enough that there’s a visible difference in how much of the picture is in focus.

DOF experiment (7)

DOF experiment (9)

In these pictures, I was at a higher angle, but by backing up further, I was able to compensate. I foresee a lot more fun and experimentation in my future.

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