Maintaining focus on the *entire* photograph area

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by phoenix_kiula, Nov 4, 2008.

  1. Hi I have a d300 with the usual 18-200 VR lens. I am shooting at wide angle (18mm?) -- without the lens out of
    its position at all -- and getting the full visible scenery in viewfinder. But in these cases, there is still
    some focus somewhere, a tree, or a rock, or something, and the rest is blurred. This effect is great when I wish
    to focus on something, but it's a big disappointment when I come home and see an entire mountain or lake
    completely blurred with one stupid tree in focus.

    I know I am missing something here. I use my camera in the shutter "S" mode, because this helps me most with low
    lighting (I do a lot of night photography). Should I be shifting to aperture "A" mode instead, and setting "f" at
    something like "f22" so that the widest possible area is in focus? This is what I have gathered from reading some
    websites and the "Understanding Exposure" book, but I'm not sure.

    Also, when I have "A" mode and I am selecting aperture, how should I set manually the shutter speed? Or will I
    have to let D300 select the shutter speed automatically? Thanks!
     
  2. Phoenix,

    You need to research 'depth-of-field' and use manual or aperture-priority modes to be able to deal with these issues.

    All the best,

    James
     
  3. Thanks James. I am trying to become better at the "A" mode.

    My question:

    (1) is it possible to be in "A" mode and still manually set the shutter speed?

    (2) is it better to use the "continuous servo" mode instead of the "single servo" mode?

    I'm speaking specifically of d300. Thx!
     
  4. To supplement James' response, also look up the phrase 'hyperfocal distance'. If you are not doing so already, you may want to consider the bringing a tripod into the mix. The moral of the story is that you are probably going to need/want to stop down your lens. This will lead to longer shutter times (whether you set it manually or not) and you are going to need to keep you camera rock-solid during the exposure. VR will help, but it is no match for a good tripod in this situation.
     
  5. 1. In 'A' mode, you set the aperture and the camera sets the shutter speed. If you want to do both, choose 'M' mode.

    2. For static subjects, single-servo is probably the preferred mode as there is no need for the focusing system
    to do predictive tracking (the subject is static).
     
  6. Thanks James. I am looking through Thom Hogan's D300 book. The "Depth of Field" has a button on D300 in the front which allows me to "preview" it. But can I "set" DOF?
     
  7. Thanks Scott is what I meant :) Either way, appreciate all the advice. I'm wondering if DOF is simply a resulting factor, and not something I can tweak? Is it right that DOF is what results from me focusing/setting the aperture?
     
  8. How did you determine the I Q of the tree?
     
  9. Phoenix,

    Thom's book, which I have not seen, is more likely a user guide for a camera rather than a photography manual. Look at this http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/understanding-series/dof.shtml to start with and then read around the subject. When you set a small aperture you can press the preview button and you will see the out of focus backgound/foreground suddenly come into sharper focus

    In landscape photography, broadly speaking, depth-of-field as controlled by aperture and focus is usually much more important than shutter speed (as you often want everything in focus) and the two are mostly irreconcilable. Using a small aperture means long exposures which may entail blurring of movement and degrading the image through diffraction; using a wide aperture means you get shallow DOF but no movement. You can get around this with filters/changing ISOs/camera or lens movements but the subject is pretty large.

    As Scott said if you don't use a tripod then you are really going to need one to be able to take a lot of landscape shots. The best thing to do is read about DOF, look at good landscape photos and above all try it a lot!

    James
     
  10. To help you learn depth of field turn off AF, and shoot in manual focus. That way you determine what you are focusing on. The actual focal point of the image has a great bearing on the total range of focus in the image. Once you have grasped this, you then can switch to AF if you must, but then you have to move the AF point to the right location. I often forget this last step, so my best practice is just use manual focus, but that is me.

    Use aperture priority. A larger the f stop, like f 11, the smaller the lens opening and the greater will be the depth of field. But the shutter speed will be lower. So use a tripod. It is a must. I would try and take my shots at 20mm and not 18mm to avoid any possible distorsion.

    Also research diffraction at Luminous landscapes. Large f stop numbers like f 22 (small openings) give good depth of field, but sharpness suffers! Until you master the concepts and learn the specific parameters of your 18-200mm lens, I would use f stops between f 8 and f 16.

    Joe Smith
     
  11. Put the camera on P mode. Rotate the main command dial and the camera will pick different combinations of aperture and
    shutter consistent with ISO selected and light available. The exposure will all be correct or at least the same.

    The closer to f22 you are, the more will be in focus. The closer to 4.0, the less will be in focus.
     
  12. Phoenix, I have the D300 and Hogan's eBook so maybe I can offer some help.

    Generally, if you have a deep landscape with something in the foreground and mountains in the background -- and you want all of it in focus -- you want an aperture in the f/8-11 range. That's why I usually use Aperture priority, not Shutter priority. As said, a tripod is a huge help because your shutter speed will be slower. A suggestion, also remember to turn off the VR when you use a tripod and a cable release as well as mirror lock-up or at least Exposure Delay is very helpful to minimize vibration.

    If you are basically setting the aperture and shutter speed yourself, use the M (manual) mode instead. Until you know what you are doing, this will give some funky results but it is a way to learn.

    Hogan's book is great for helping you with settings that work well with the D300 but he assumes you already know about photography. You might want to look into doing some reading about landscape photography. Libraries are great for free stuff and there are many online tutorials available. Amazon, of course, offers dozens of books as well.
     
  13. Thanks so much Joseph, James, and Bruce.

    I have been playing around with my tripod, no VR, and even manual focus, but I have some questions.

    (1) Where is mirror lockup? Is this a menu setting or some button needs to be pressed?

    (2) I am trying A mode on d300. When I rotate the black wheel to the right in this mode though, nothing changes, and in the viewfinder I keep seeing "f3.5". Aren't the aperture and this f-value (or "f-stop"?) related directly? How does one change the aperture or the f-value in the A mode?

    Thanks so much for bearing with me.
     
  14. Oh, the f-value is set from the FRONT dial/wheel! Duh.

    Ok, so now I am setting it at f11. Looks like I still need to play with A values and even so, the shutter clicks, then waits for what seems to be an eternity (sometimes up to 10 seconds!) and then clicks. Once or twice, I keep waiting for 20 seconds or so and it still hasnt clicked. Is this normal?
     
  15. When you don`t know what you are doing, P mode does all the work instead of half like aA and M.
     
  16. Phoenix, this same question was posted to both the Nikon and Beginner forums. Please choose one forum when posting questions or starting new threads. -- Thanks, LJ
     
  17. Learn about depth of field. An old used film camera book is just as good at describing this as a modern digital photography book.

    Shoot in aperture priority mode. Adjust to a fairly small aperture like f16 or f20 using the front dial on your D300. Set the ISO sensitivity auto control to ON.
     
  18. Is that long time normal? Yes, if it's kinda dark.

    I am going to try to make this easy to understand. I hope it works! Your camera has to get a certain amount of
    light in order to make a picture. Doesn't matter what kind of camera you have, they all have to have a certain
    amount of light to expose a picture. The camera can get that light one of two ways: either it can expose for a
    long time, or it can open up the lens "hole" (aka aperture) to let in more light. When the hole is large, you
    are at a low-number f-stop (e.g. f2.8). F2.8 would mean that the lens is open 1/(2.8) amount, or nearly
    one-third of the way open. When the hole is small you have a high-number f-stop such as f22. F22 means the lens
    is open 1/22 of the way. It's a really, really tiny "hole" or aperture. If your lens is only letting in that
    tiny amount of light, the exposure has to be longer in order for enough light to get in for your picture. Maybe
    a lot longer. Make sense?

    The thing is, when the lens is really open, and letting in lots of light, it makes the image fuzzy except where
    you put the focus - the more open the hole, the more stuff will be fuzzy (or, the shallower your plane of focus
    will be). So, f2.8 will ALWAYS be fuzzier than f22. But you have to remember that f22 requires a lot more time
    to make the picture, and after a while, your hand might start to shake holding the camera. That is why you need
    the tripod - it won't shake. The "mirror lock" also has to do with camera shake, but try the tripod first.
     
  19. If the entire photograph was in focus it would look very flat. I am not sure if that is what you are going for.
     
  20. Phoenix,

    I would recommend buying a good book on basic photography and reading with camera in hand. Read it as many times as you need till you understand what they are saying. I learned a lot from a book called "Photography" by Barbara London. The edition I have (7th) has a lot of film stuff in it but the basics of a camera and lens and how they work together are the same whether you are shooting film or digital. This book does a good job of explaining things in a very simple way with lots of illustrations.

    Good luck,
    Catherine
     
  21. Phoenix,

    Jennifer has given you a good simplified explanation of what you need to know. The is only one mistake: at f/2.8, the aperture is not "roughly 1/3 open", that is essentially meaningless. The aperture is actually open an amount equal to the focal length divided by 2.8. For example, if using a 28mm lens at f/2.8 your "hole size" will be 28/2.8 = 10mm (1cm). So it's not really the diameter of the hole that's crucial, it's the RELATIONSHIP or RATIO of it's size to the focal length that's important.

    Hope that's clear :)
     
  22. Thanks Matt - It's a quick rule of thumb for me. I appreciate the correction.
     
  23. You're welcome Jennifer, definitely not having a go at you! Just didn't want a learner starting out with slightly incorrect picture of things and then clinging to that where it might make more confusion as he/she learns further. Best,

    Matt
     
  24. Thanks so much everyone, esp Jennifer.

    I am reading up on DOF. Makes sense. Looks like this is exactly what I was describing as "focus all over" (high depth of field).

    But I am not sure d300 is making things any easier for me.

    Two things I tried, with tripod this time, and using timed release:

    1. First as a base to compare things with, I took a pic with "P" mode. Of the entire landscape in front of me. It makes quite an alright guess: chooses F8. Exposure is too much (it's sunny right now) but with -1.0 it looks acceptable.

    2. Now I try to take it in the "A" mode. Set the F at F11. I have a tripod. Don't care about how long the shutter takes. But it's still not as good as I want it to be!

    Clarity in both 1 and 2 seems the same, not very clear in either case. I am even using the tripod now and it's not very windy, so the camera is being pampered with the best conditions really afaik.

    What else can I do to improve "focus" as I called it earlier, but I now mean clarity? How can a picture with high DOF be made clearer?
     
  25. You probably still don't have enough DOF to satisy you at f/8-f/11. Realistically, as far as the eye is concern on moderate sized pictures (say up to 16-20 inches), loss of image quality due to diffraction won't be too noticable at f/22. Try taking the picture at around there and see what you get. Make sure the image quality on the camera is set to highest resolution too.
     
  26. Buy and read Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with a Film or Digital Camera by Bryan Peterson. It answers all of your questions and then some.
     
  27. You can be in P mode and any other mode and still control which aperture you are using for proper exposure and proper DOF. Think about that: what would you need to do in each of the 4 modes:
     
  28. You can be in P mode and any other mode and still control which aperture you are using for proper exposure and
    proper DOF. Think about that: what would you need to do in each of the 4 modes: P, A, S, and M to do just that?
    Good luck, and do try this out on the camera. You will grow by 3 inches once you understand how simple
    photography is. Do ask if this is too hard for you, please.
     
  29. Phoenix,
    A couple of further suggestions...

    Make sure that your lens is clean; it is amazing how much gunk can accumulate on the front of a lens.

    Make sure that you are focusing at a the proper distance - the hyperfocal distance. When you focus on the hyperfocal distance, the depth of field extends from half the hyperfocal distance to infinity. There are lots of free tables on the internet for determining hyperfocal distance for different zoom and f/stop combinations. If you follow the method properly you should be getting very sharp images.

    Also watch out for movement in the scene. Using this method for huge depth of field usually leads to small f/'s and long exposures. Even the slightest breeze will make leaves, tall grass and such appear blurry due to wind movement.
     
  30. Arrrhhhhh! Phoenix. Read that camera manual a few times. But if you can't wait what you are after is a shutter speed of around 1/500 to reduce camera shake, and a aperture of around f8 to f11 to get a good depth of field. Adjust your ISO up to get these minimum settings, no need for tripods and mirror lock ups. You can do this 3 ways; by setting your camera on landscape mode, by setting the shutter speed Tv on 1/500th or setting the aperture Av on f8-f11. Move the ISO setting around until the camera's auto exposure system achieves these. If you have a lot of sky in the shot compensate by increasing exposure compensation by +2/3 stop. (now you know why you need to read the manual). Set your focus point on something that's about 100 feet away or on the main object you wish to capture. Sometimes we make things more complicated than they need to be.
    Neill (a Canon owner!)
     
  31. It seems like replies are falling into two main groups:

    1. Getting big DoF via proper settings and technique (without the hyperfocal method)

    2. Getting huge DoF via the hyperfocal method

    Each has it's place. Method number 1 is probably sufficient for scenes with most of the subject matter distant when you don't care about having near objects sharp. Method 2 (hyperfocal) is the way to go if you want everything acceptably sharp from very near the camera out to infinity. Once you learn the hyperfocal method it really isn't difficult to employ. It is also nice that it forces you to slow down and think about what you are doing.
     
  32. The issue you mentioned has been adressed directly by Canon constructor, who provided A-DEP mode. The camera uses info from the nine AF pionts and chooses proper A setting that is balanced in an optimal way. Manually you can use P mode and the depth preview.
     
  33. Phoenix, you have received some excellent pointers here. The D300 is a complex camera for someone starting out with a DSLR. But, you can accomplish what you are asking quite easily with the 18-200 VR lens. You can handhold the camera and get good results, although a tripod will be essential at very slow shutter speeds. I have the D300 and the same lens. For almost all of my work I set the camera in A...aperture priority, so that I am in control of the DOF. The camera then chooses the shutter speed based upon the available light. You should shoot at the lowest iso setting possible for your conditions to get the highest quality image. The D300 is very good at higher iso settings. I don't start to pick up much noise until I get above iso 800 and even at 1600 it's not bad. For landscapes the advice about staying in the f8 to f16 range is correct. Here is a recent shot, handheld with the D300 and the 18-200mm VR zoom, with the VR on, handheld. Everything is in focus, which is what you are trying to achieve...
    00RP6k-85821584.jpg
     
  34. Best advance is to set camera in A mode..and go out and shoot..changing the aperture..and see what you get..remember you can throw away the pictures..Larger F stops like F16 will yield sharper images..so just have fun and experiement. Bring your tripod..and turn off VR ..this will get you the sharpest results. A wireless remote shutter release is also good idea.Enjoy!
     
  35. I have the same set up and am a beginer too, everything that has been said is very helpful and i will be using your advice in the future. One thing though, the DOV button on the front, i press it and everything in the viewfinder just gets a grey haze over everything and i can't seem to work out what i am actually supossed to be looking for, any sugestions?
     
  36. Sorry about the bad spelling, trying to do 5 things at once this end and something has to give, lol..
     

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