At the end of Part 1 on this topic I veered into how I used a telephoto focal length to creatively interact with my Aperture to change the basic look of my image. In addition I used the telephoto effect of compression distortion to enhance the impact of the composition. I’ve found in my 40+ years of fine-art photography that the settings for exposure, in the creative process, cannot really be considered in isolation because one of the most important settings we use as a creative tool is Focal Length.
So I propose the Creative Quadrangle!
APERTURE, SHUTTER SPEED, FOCAL LENGTH, ISO
A Note about ISO Today
You’ll notice I put ISO last. That’s because it’s no longer the creative setting it once was in the film era. With film it was a choice we made right up front before we did any photography. The film we chose decided our Color Palette and the amount of grain we wanted (grain was a beautiful artistic effect). The whole look of an image was decided by the film type; Kodachrome, Ektachrome, color negative, Tri-X, Pan-X, etc., all had unique characteristics. No longer; ISO today is just a number. It no longer represents an artistic look. And, the ISO numbers today don’t even reflect an adjustability of the sensitivity of our DSLR’s sensor. That’s because we actually have no control over its sensitivity as every digital camera’s sensor has a Fixed Sensitivity. All our DSLR’s do now when we roll-up to a high ISO is do a bright-up (increase gain) in response to an under exposure condition we created. The unfortunate result is increased noise—and noise is not pretty.
So, these days the only function ISO has is to get me to the Aperture/Shutter Speed combination I require to create the image.
So, back to my Creative Quadrangle…
In most of my fine-art images TWO Settings usually Dominate creatively:
- Aperture/Focal Length or
- Shutter Speed/Focal Length
- Sometimes ALL of them are critical for certain images
I will illustrate with some examples…
APERTURE / FOCAL LENGTH
f7.1 @ 1/250 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 200mm
Walking through our common area just before sunset I was looking for some icicles to align with backlight when I found this great threesome.
For this image I wanted good Depth-of-Field and nice Bokeh in the background. Because the background is so distant I knew I could stop-down quite a bit and still knock that background way out-of-focus so I chose f7.1 to keep all the icicles and that clump of snow covered pine needles sharp.
In addition I chose a Focal Length of 200mm to further soften the background and create Larger Bokeh. This illustrates nicely that you DON'T need Large Apertures for Good Bokeh—good Bokeh is more a matter of Long Focal Length than anything else.
SHUTTER SPEED / FOCAL LENGTH
f25.0 @ 1.6 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 20mm
Working the Western Idaho State Fair is always challenging—especially the midway area.All the rides and attractions are placed close together and the place is chock-full of people every night of the fair. I brought my tripod since I knew I would be doing time exposures of the rides.
I wanted my Shutter Speed to be at least 1-second to really make that Ferris wheel blur with color. In addition, I wanted all the people to disappear as much as possible. That structure in the foreground is a fun house maze and it was full of people running through those three levels of balconies. Doing some test shots I settled on 1.6 seconds by using my smallest aperture at a medium ISO to try to avoid too much NOISE.
The Shutter Speed created the pizzaz here but the Composition was created by Focal Length. I didn’t want just an image of a solitary Ferris wheel—I wanted something in the foreground; I wanted leading lines. So, I backed-up directly in front of the fun house maze and used my lens at 20mm to distort that fun house (wide angle extension distortion), which turned it into an “arrow” pointing to the Ferris wheel—my leading lines!
Sometimes every setting is critical…that is what I will be covering in the final Part 3…’Til next week…now go out and practice!
Author: Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman
Training site: http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com
Client site: http://www.TheStorytellersUsa.com
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