Years ago when I was admiring the work of photographer David Muench I noticed one of the things that set his work apart was that he sometimes had something of interest in the foreground as well as the background of a photograph. I distinctly remember one shot where a flower was in front and a mountain was distant, and both were in sharp focus. This is a pretty good trick if you can pull it off. I’m uncertain how he did it but I suspect he used a small aperture and the swings and tilts of a view camera in order to maximize depth of field. Having learned from Muench I sometimes try to incorporate something of interest in both the foreground and background of my landscape photos.
I made a quick snapshot the other day during a hike and while it’s just an OK photo it demonstrates this approach. Perhaps this is something you can think about when you’re out and about with your camera, and use to improve your photography.
So, now you know where I got part of the title of this post: Foreground/Background. The rest of the title comes from a second photo tip, a technique I discovered myself. You see, in order to have made this photo “properly” I would have had to set the camera on a tripod very close to the ground to capture the flowers. That would have meant fussing with the tripod, laying out a ground cloth so I wouldn’t get all dirty, and assuming something of a prone position to compose, focus and shoot. I didn’t want to hassle all that so I set the camera focus manually somewhere between 2′ and infinity, selected a small aperture for greater depth of field, f22 if I recall correctly, then I just bent over a little and hung the camera down, holding it in my hand and shot without even looking through the viewfinder. After a few tries I had a reasonably good composition.
It can be tricky getting subject matter both near and far in focus, especially with so many of today’s lenses not having a proper depth of field scale, but with a little experimentation you may find that sometimes when you’re feeling a bit lazy you might be able to pull off a decent shot with my FOREGROUND/BACKGROUND, THE LAZY MAN’S WAY technique.
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