Keep landscape in sharp focus

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by ShaCow, Jul 31, 2007.

  1. ShaCow

    ShaCow TPF Noob!

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    ok... ive read in one of my mags a guide on how to keep your landscapes pin sharp all the way through.... and for the love of god can I find it again?... "yeah right"

    well, i remember something about manual focusing one third up, and using some DOF chart or something to set your distance to something else of something else... and yeah, im confused... and cant find the mag, and im going crazy! arrhrhhh!

    can someone please explain it to me if you know what im baffling on about.

    thanking you!
     
  2. Remi M.

    Remi M. TPF Noob!

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    I'm sure others will chime in that are much better at this then I am. But the general idea is to keep the aperture small (high f number). For example f8 or f11 and higher if your lens is sharp enough.
     
  3. skieur

    skieur TPF Noob!

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    That is an ideal that is not very realistic in most landscape shooting, even by professionals. A fast shutterspeed often gives you a narrow depth of field or area of focus. A small f stop like f16 gives you better depth of field but a slower shutterspeed, often requiring a tripod. If there is a wind, trees, flowers, grass may be soft focus due to movement. In the distance haze also distorts colour and takes away from pin sharpness despite your settings. Filters can reduce haze but they do not completely eliminate it. There is usually more contrast in the scene then what your camera can handle, so even trying to retain some detail in the highlight and dark areas is a challenge that requires postprocessing, let alone any hope of pin sharpness. The limited dynamic range of most landscapes in shades of colours also limits sharpness.

    To top everything off, according to one technician that I worked with on a project, any photography for commercial duplication by the company he works for, requires pin registration adjustment of the camera in his lab for accurate camera focusing irrespective of make and model of the particular camera.

    In terms of best digital camera sharpness, one lab study was so specific that it indicated that Canon was best with regular geometric shapes in buildings or objects for example and Leica was best in the irregular shapes that are present in nature like leaves, trees, rocks, ground, water etc.

    So, a Leica with pin registered focus done in a lab, on a tripod around sunrise or sunset with cross lighting or a cloudy day with diffused lighting shooting a landscape with no haze, limited contrast and dynamic range and limited motion might ,with ideal timing, come remotely close to sharpness throughout ....but not highly likely. Even if it were accomplished the shot might end up boring from a visual perspective because of the limitations.

    skieur
     
  4. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Keep the aperture small (f/11 or f/16).

    - use a mirror lockup if possible
    - use timer or remote shutter
    - use a heavy duty good tripod
    - use a heavy duty good tripod head (usually 3-way pans perform better over ballheads)
    - strap a bag full of your equipment hanging down the bottom of your tripod
    or
    hang a bag and fill with rocks (what i usually do).

    The idea is to focus on max field of depth and weigh down everything so a slow shutter speed is no longer an issue. I know the big fad today is carbon fibre lightweight stuff with fancy ball heads for quick convenience. Choosing lightweight and convenience is often counter of what type of equipment is actually necessary for a good landscape shoot. Keep that in mind if shopping for a tripod and head is in your future.

    set everything up.. take a few test shots (if you shoot digital)

    Pull up a chair... wait... for the right moment... set your bracket.. shoot...

    If slow shutter speed is still an issue due to wind moving the trees, try several shots at different ISO settings and apertures. A lot of this leads back to the concepts of hyperfocal distances and depth of field. Look both up on the internet or books for some good reading and understanding. It helps a lot to have a lens that has the f stop range visible on the lens... which is a BIG MAJOR thing I hate about newer lenses.

    Want more resolution?... look towards MF or large format...
     
  5. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Look up 'hyperfocal distance'

    Often, when I'm shooting landscapes, I either use F8 (as this is often a lens's sweet spot) or else I use F22 or smaller...to keep as much in focus as possible. Of course, using smaller apertures usually means slower shutter speeds which would require the use of a tripod.
     
  6. gizmo2071

    gizmo2071 TPF Noob!

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    Yeah, as mike said... your talking about the use of hyperfocal distance, which is basically having the camera set for the maximum depth of field.
    It's quite simple to set-up:
    Set your camera to manual focus and manual mode or aperture priority.
    Set the aperture to f/8~f/16
    Set the focus distance to infinity, now take a picture.
    Have a look on the image where the depth of field starts to become shallow (things become less sharp)
    Now the theory is that if you focus on the point that is just on the verge of becoming less sharp, that is where you will get the maximum depth of field through out your shot. Since you know that from that point to infinity will be in foucs and now you will have even more foreground in focus.
    you can do it the other way round aswell and focus as close as possible if you want more of the foreground in focus.
    It makes sense to me and i think i explained it quite simply.
     
  7. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Bearing in mind that when you use hyperfocal distance you need a chart for your camera sensor. The charts for 35mm film and an APS sensor are different. Also if your camera has an APS sensor you will start diffraction limiting above f/11. This means that if you want sharp as a tac, often you can't achieve max DOF because as you go above f/11 the lens itself starts becoming blurry due to light wave diffraction.
     
  8. ShaCow

    ShaCow TPF Noob!

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    WOW what a fantastic response. Thank you everyone for your time! I shoot with a 350D and use a sigma 17-35 dg for my landscapes.. I will go out tomorrow and take some test shots at f8 and 22... are all lens's "sweet spots" always f8?

    again, thank you very much for the replies, this is going to help me... A LOT! :D

    oh and I use one of those cheapo £22 jessops tripods... when its windy, it always bloody falls over (lucky i dont have my camera on it when it does, hehe)

    What do you recommend for a resonably priced sturdy tripod?.. Im on a tight budget as im saving for a 90mm macro
     
  9. skieur

    skieur TPF Noob!

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    Depth of field is NOT the most determining factor for sharpness throughout landscape photos. Lighting, haze, contrast and dynamic range are.

    skieur
     
  10. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    No lens sweetspots are normally 1 to 2 stops from wide open, and even that changes depending on the lens. Some lenses do not change much, others vary quite dramatically over their aperture ranges. Look for your lens at www.photozone.de and check where the sweet spot is at every zoom range.

    Still maximally sharp and maximum depth of field are two different things. Even if my lens is sharpest at f/8 I will often want to bump that to f/11 and f/16 to get some real depth of field.
     
  11. jstuedle

    jstuedle No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    The lens focal length will also greatly affect DOF. At 17mm, your lens should be in focus from a couple of feet to infinity. Hyper-focal charts will also be different for each focal length lens. My 14 will focus from 9 inches to infinity when set at f/22 and the focus ring is set about 1.5 feet. Many lenses will have a scale showing DOF for any focus ring/aperture setting. Good luck and have fun.
     

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