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Where to Focus

As with any type of photography, you can use various depths of field to shoot landscapes. But if you are interested in those big, encompassing shots (as most landscape shooters are), you more than likely want everything in your shot to be in focus. From the foreground to points way off in the distance, all the details of the grand scene in front of you are tack sharp! But where do you focus in order to achieve this?

First you need to make sure you are set up to shoot the large landscape. To gain maximum depth of field and focus, it is typical to use your smallest aperture. For most wide and standard lenses, this is f/22, though some stop down to f/32 or f/45. Since a smaller aperture forces you to shoot with a slower shutter speed, you’ll need to be set up on a sturdy tripod. The tripod allows you to concentrate on the other part of the formula: where to focus to achieve maximum depth of field. For this, you must utilize something called the “hyper focal distance” of your lens.

Hyper focal distance, also referred to as HFD, is the point of focus that will give you the greatest acceptable sharpness from a point near your camera all the way out to infinity. If you combine good HFD practice with a small aperture, you will get images that are sharp to infinity.

After you have composed your shot, focus on an object that is about one-third of the distance into your frame (Figure 8.19). That’s pretty much it. You’ll most easily achieve this by focusing manually, which will allow you to be more exact with where you place the focus.

Figure 8.19

Figure 8.19 To get maximum focus from near to far using the hyper focal distance (HFD) one-third rule, I focused one-third of the way up the hillside. You can either select a focus point for that area or use the center focus point and recompose before taking the picture. This kept everything in focus.

ISO 200 • 1/60 sec. • f/6.3 • 24–70mm lens at 35mm

When Live View is on, a7-series cameras’ EVF and LCD will display depth of field in real time as you adjust your aperture. This is a handy feature when you want to preview the amount of depth of field you will achieve.

Additionally, depth of field is inherently (more like physically) different for different types of lenses. Practically speaking, wider-angle lenses achieve greater depth of field compared to longer lenses. This, among other reasons, is why wide-angle lenses are a part of most landscape photographer’s kits. It is also why some photographers choose not to attempt hyper focal distance with telephoto lenses. At stopped-down apertures, longer lenses (even on a tripod) can sometimes render an image soft.

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