Thursday, March 6, 2008

The landscape photo with 'everything sharp'

Here an example of a landscape photo with 'everything sharp':

Camera: Canon 5D: Lens: Canon 17-40, Focal Length: 19mm, Shooting mode: Av, Aperture: f22, Shutter-speed: 6/10th of a second, ISO: 100, Picture Style: Landscape, White balance: Cloudy, Other: Tripod, Graduated natural density filter, mirror lock-up, remote release.

This is one of my all-time favorite landscape shots. Here is what went into making this shot: it was late afternoon and it had just finished raining, but it was still overcast. I was walking along the beach in Manzanita, Oregon and there was all this wonderful driftwood, but every time I framed-up a shot it just looked 'boring' and flat. Then I found this great charred log arching-up and I knew this was 'the place' to get the photo. I was sure to get all of the following into the shot: the log, the ocean, the sky and the mountain on right. I also made sure you could see underneath the arched log. The combination of the overcast sky and everything being wet also contributed to this photo 'working'. I took about 40 frames of this scene, tweaking where I shot from, how I framed the log, focal lengths, etc.

Here is why I choose each key setting:
  • 17-40 lens: This is my favorite full-frame landscape lens because it can go so wide (focal length of the shot is 19mm.) This wide perspective allows you to include the subject (the arched log), the foreground (the flat logs) and the background (sky, mountain ocean.)
  • Shooting mode of Av: I wanted to have everything in the frame sharp so I wanted to specify the exact aperture the camera should use (I let the camera choose the best shutter-speed)
  • Aperture of f22: I used the smallest possible aperture so everything in the frame would be sharp.
  • Exposure compensation of -1/3: The camera meter wanted to make the photo 'brighter' than it really was.
  • Graduated natural density filter: I used this filter to darken the sky. Without the grad, the sky would have been 'solid white' and the shot would have been poor. The grad allowed the camera to capture the image as closely as possible as it appear before my eyes. In my opinion, grads are a key tool for the landscape photographer. You can do something similar in Photoshop (a 'digital' grad), but that feels like 'cheating' to me and I don't think it looks at natural. The late Galen Rowell considered grads a requirement for his photography. I use Cokin Z-Pro filter holder and grads.
  • Camera mounted on a sturdy tripod: For longer exposures (which you typically need when shooting at f22), a tripod is required to keep the camera still while the exposure is made.
  • Mirror lock-up: For longer exposures, the 'slap' of the mirror swinging up can cause slight image blurring. Mirror lock-up 'locks-up' the mirror on the first press of the shutter release and exposes the photograph with the second release of the shutter. You can 'enable/disable' mirror lock-up in custom functions. I only worry about 'mirror-lockup' if I'm trying to make the highest-quality landscape photos.
  • Cable release of the shutter: Cable release of the shutter eliminates any 'shake' from the pressing & releasing of the shutter button. (You can achieve the same result using the camera's built-in timer, but if you're taking 20 or 30 images, the timer is a slow process.)
  • ISO 100: This ISO delivers the best possible image quality.
  • Picture style of Landscape: I feel this picture style gives me great results for landscape shots.
  • Shot in RAW and processed with Canon Digital Photo Professional (DPP.) Sensor dust removed using the healing tool in Photoshop (when you shoot at f22, you see every spec of dust on the sensor.)
I have printed this photo 30" x 20" and had it professionally framed. It's hanging in an art gallery in Manzanita, OR.

This photo is an excellent example of a landscape photo with the 'everything sharp' technique. These type of shots, in my opinion, are a lot of work. Having to setup the tripod, setup the grad holder, enable mirror lock-up, use a remote release, etc... is a burden. But, this is what's required to get shots like this and have them look great, even when printed at large sizes.

Sidebar: Some folks complain of softness due to 'diffraction' at very small apertures such as f22. I shot at f22 so everything in the frame would be in-focus. I'm not sure the log in foreground would be sharp @ f13. Printed at 30" x 20", this photo looks incredibly sharp. In hindsight, I wish I had also done a shot @ f13, so I could compare, but I did not.

If you want the same Cokin z-Pro filter holder I use, bundled with a couple popular filters, including a good grad, go here:

Cokin CU961 Z-Pro Grad Filter Kit, SQ/ Z Pro Filters


swimlappy said...

Wow great shot! Thanks for posting how you got this! I love the step by step why you chose each setting and the story behind it. For newcomers like me, this is a great guide to try and follow and learn from.

Chris said...

Fantastic info - thanks, but I'm curious about your focus point ie did you use the hyperfocal distance for the lens/aperture or did you focus on the log, or 1/3 distance into the scene ?

CB357 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CB357 said...

Fantastic info - thanks, but I'm curious about your focus point ie did you use the hyperfocal distance for the lens/aperture or did you focus on the log, or 1/3 distance into the scene ?

bob said...

I have a question about picture Style. I thought if you shot raw the camera does not use picture style.
I just found your blog and it is very good.

Clint Bogard said...

Bob: If you shoot RAW, you can still specify a picture style. The picture style will be applied to the image you see on the camera LCD screen and the 'default' view of the image you see in your RAW converter. RAW does give youthe ability to apply different picture styles (along with white balance, sharpness, exposure compensation, saturation, contract) all before creating your JPEG or TIFF file. RAW allows you to tweak almost everything in RAW processing, except shutter-speed, aperture and ISO.

jamskof said...

hi great shot, where did you focus? on the main log?