How do I capture so much depth of field?

Ron Niebrugge Alaska, Ask Ron, How to, Kenai Fjords, Photos, Travel 11 Comments

Pedersen Glacier, Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska.

Pedersen Glacier, Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska.

It has been awhile since I have answered any Ask Ron questions.  As a reminder, I will answer any photography question as best I can.

A couple of weeks ago I received this question:

I love how you capture a foreground, middle ground background with such great depth.
Do you typically try to accomplish this with a 24 T/S or the 24 1.4L?
Thanks, Ray

To answer your question, yes I do use Canon’s tilt shift lenses a fair amount.  By tilting the plane of focus I am better able to position the depth of field from near to far without sacrificing a lot of shutter speed.  I go into more detail in this post on tilt with Canon’s tilt shift lenses.  These lenses are especially valuable when you have something really close, say within a couple of feet, and still want to keep distant objects in focus.

But, I don’t use those lenses as much as I should.  It is so much easier, faster and lighter to carry one 24-105 then three tilt shift lenses.  In these circumstances, I use a small aperture to maximize depth of field – usually around f/16.  I then focus about 1/4 to 1/3 of the way into the scene.  I also almost always will use a tripod, mirror lock up and the 2 second self timer to minimize any movement as much as possible.  This is about as good as it gets without tilt.  If something still has to be a bit out of focus I would rather it be distant objects – I believe prominent foreground elements have to be sharp – distant objects like mountains can be more forgiving.

Tomorrow I will answer another recent question on depth of field – this one regarding bokeh.

Comments 11

  1. Hey Ron,

    That little sliver of light is gorgeous. And I love the real in your face feel of those icebergs. Great juxtaposition of warm and cold.



  2. Thanks so much for your reply to my request. What a surprise to hear you use the 24-105L so much. I’ve got a 24-105L but haven’t tried it as I’ve found my 16-35L and 24-70L to either be soft on the edges or have back focusing issues which is why I had been moving to primes with my 5D. I guess I better do some testing with my 24-105L first.

    Thanks again, Ray

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    Thanks a lot everyone!

    Ray, I just read a fairly detailed comparison of the 24-70 and the 24-105 and the 24-105 was sharper across the board. I would say my copy of the 24-105 is sharp enough. My biggest complaint with the lens is the vignetting. It is especially bad anywhere near wide open on the wider apertures. Which is really too bad, because it limits its usefulness for aerial photography, or for walking around city stuff.

    Here is the comparison:

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    Thanks Todd!

    Good question Scott. For some reason the EXIF data is missing, but this pre-dated my ownership of my tilt-shift lens, I think this may have been with a 17-35.

  5. Ron,

    Nice shot and thanks for your tips!

    I just received your book on Kemai Fjord National Park from Alaska Geographic. I think back inside cover has iamge of same location.


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