Nature Photography, LLC
Ever wondered how a photographer managed to get her subject in sharp focus, while everything behind and in front of the subject is blurred? Or why everything from the very front of the image to the furthest back is clear and sharp? It is all because of my personal favorite control on a camera: the aperture, also known as the f-stop. This delightful feature controls how much of an image (properly focused) is in sharp focus. This is known as the image’s depth of field. The landscape in which you can see all the way to the furthest feature has a large depth of field, while the sharp-subject, blurry-background image has a shallow depth of field. As an example, this month’s featured image, “Buzzed! – Black Bear” has a shallow depth of field: the bear is in focus, but the grasses directly behind it are blurry.
A camera’s aperture works by controlling how far the shutter opens. Think of the shutter as a window: last month’s discussion of shutter speed dealt with how long the window stayed open; aperture describes how far open the window is. If the window is open just a tiny bit, denoted rather counter-intuitively by higher numbers, the depth of field will be great. If the window is thrown wide open, denoted by small numbers, only the subject will be in focus while all else blurs. The “plane of focus” can be quite small; it is not difficult with the right lens to get someone’s eyes in sharp focus while their nose is blurred.
Just as shutter speed is a means of controlling the amount of light that hits the camera’s sensor (or film), so too is aperture. When you change one, you necessarily change the other to get an equivalent exposure. Using our window analogy again, if the window is wide open, it takes less time to get a certain amount of air in than it would to get the same amount of air in with the window less open. Thus, for a given exposure, if you widen the aperture, you should use a shorter shutter speed, while if you close down (or “stop down”) the aperture, you need to use a longer exposure. Clear as mud? Just remember: a wide-open window should be left open for a short time, while a less-open window should be left open longer.
As with everything on cameras, to really get a feel for how aperture works, you should play with it. Most cameras these days, even point-and-shoots, have an aperture-priority mode. This allows you to choose the aperture while the camera chooses the appropriate shutter speed for a proper exposure. Being a wildlife and landscape photographer, this is my default camera setting: it is important for me to be able to isolate my subjects at will, or to show them in their deepest glory.
Once you get a basic understanding of how to manipulate depth of field with the aperture settings, put your camera on manual mode and start experimenting with different combinations of shutter speed and aperture. Getting away from what the camera deems a proper exposure, you can create some very interesting and artistic images, manipulate mood, and capture light in ways that your eyes cannot see – all in-camera, no computer needed. This means more time with your camera and less at a desk. What photographer doesn’t like that?
Get 10% off of unframed, 8x10 prints of “Buzzed! -- Black Bear” and / or 8x12 prints of “Renewal by Fire -- Fireweed” when you order from our specials page. As with all of our unframed prints, these prints are eligible for our No Hassle Returns.
Oh, April, how we enjoy your second half so much more than your first – because, of course, the deadline for filing our Federal Tax Returns falls on April 15th. As you and thousands of others rush toward the post office (or your computer’s “send” button) as midnight draws near, here are a few interesting facts to keep you amused.
· Moses instituted a tax of sorts on, among other things, domesticated animal herds and flocks. Every tenth animal was to be tithed to the Tabernacle. (Leviticus 27:30-33)
· Your service animal (guide dog, mobility assistance monkey, etc.) is completely tax-deductible, while the expenses related to your company’s (alas, not your home’s) guard dog are also deductible – just not the cost of the dog itself.
· Not only is it good for you, it’s tax deductible! Most of the costs of “wilderness therapy,” used by some medical practitioners in the mental-health field to treat their patients, are tax-deductible as medical expenses.
· Many states offer tax breaks for land owners who maintain their land as “open space.” Good for wildlife AND for your bank account? It doesn’t get much better than that.
· And of course, donations to environmental organizations such as The Nature Conservancy are tax deductible! For more information, see “IRS Topic 506 - Charitable Contributions” at http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc506.html
Disclaimer: we are nature photographers, not tax attorneys or accountants. The above is not tax advice, but rather items of general interest which may or may not be applicable to your situation. You should obtain your tax advice only from trained professionals with appropriate certifications who understand your specific circumstances.
If you have any questions, or suggestions for future newsletters, please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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