Landscape Photography: Depth of field

One of my greatest photographic challenges is achieving adequate depth of field in my landscape photography. I understand the concepts and techniques to overcome this challenge. In the upcoming post I will discuss why this challenge exists and methods of overcoming depth of field issues.

Manipulating depth of field is one of the primary reasons I enjoy using a full-frame camera. The larger sensor size allows for shallow depth of field to be achieved with greater ease, but at the same time creates a challenge when large amounts of depth of field is needed. What compounds the issue is that I enjoy creating photographs with close foreground subjects as well as an interesting mid-ground and background. To achieve maximum focus I set my focus 1/3rd of the way into the scene, as depth of field is 1/3rd in front and 2/3rds behind the focal plane. I use a small aperture, f/11-f/16, to maximize my depth of field. I try to avoid f/16 or f/22 when the lens allows for it, since the effects of diffraction will soften the image. Often when reviewing the images on the back of the camera it will appear that I have obtained adequate focus, but find that upon importing I have not achieved my goal.

Lens selection/focal length plays a role in how much depth of field I may achieve at a given aperture and distance from my subject. Wide-angle lenses will allow for greater depth of field at a given aperture and distance, but will change the perspective of my shot. While I enjoy using a wide-angle lens from time to time, I prefer the perspective of a more moderate focal length. When using my Voigtlander lenses on my Sony A7II I get the added benefit of having a distance scale so I can see exactly how much depth of field I will have without having to consult a depth of field calculator.

Compromise is the name of the game, which seems to be a reoccurring theme in all things photography. One of the most practical solutions is to composite images together to achieve necessary depth of field. I cannot consider this a viable option for many of my shots as I am often shooting multi-minute shots of moving water as light levels are quickly diminishing. Shooting wider as mentioned earlier will help obtain some extra depth of field, but will also change the photograph. Lastly, and I think my best solution for many of the photographs I create is to make certain that I achieve complete foreground focus and sacrifice some background focus. For example, the included photos show the rocks in the foreground slightly out of focus, but I would much rather that they are in sharp focus and the cliff in the background is less sharp. 

To increase the usability of these images where adequate depth of field was not achieved cropping to a more panoramic perspective to eliminate the out of focus rocks in the foreground becomes a decent option.