Ever wondered how pro landscape photographers get an entire image to be in tack-sharp focus, from the detailed foreground subject all the way to the distant, background elements?
It’s because they understand an intriguing concept called “Hyperfocal Distance”.
And it’s not as complicated as it may sound….
“Use f/11” and “focus twice the distance from your foreground subject” are simply tools to help you get in the ballpark.
I generally find that I need an aperture of more like f/16 or f/22. It depends on how close my foreground subject is to the camera. Sometimes, the foreground element is just too close to the camera and it’s physically impossible to get both it and the background in focus. In these situations, back away from the foreground subject a bit, or do “focus stacking”, a technique requiring a completely different blog post.
If you want to calculate the hyperfocal distance more accurately than just “twice the distance from your foreground subject”, you can use apps like HyperFocal Pro, which is the tool that I use when I have the time to actually calculate it out.
I think it’s interesting to step back and think what the concept of “hyperfocal distance” is teaching us here. When going for maximum depth of focus, hyperfocal distances helps us see that the very things you want to be in focus are not what you focus on.
If you want everything to be in focus, focusing on the close-up, foreground subject won’t get you what you’re looking for.
By the same token, to get everything in focus, focusing on the background elements won’t get you what you’re looking for either.
The only way to get all the elements in focus, is to focus on something else, a less tangibly discerned point. The hyperfocal distance, as you just learned.
Which reminds me of the Proverb: “Evil men understand not judgment, but they that seek the Lord understand all things.” Focus on one extreme or the other, and you won’t find what you’re looking for. Seek the Lord, and all things will come into focus.
Have a favorite spot where you like to go to “seek the Lord”? Photograph it and submit it for the latest Shoot to Serve assignment, Picturesque Place for Devotions! Submission deadline is October 6.
Love this concept! I always wondered how people managed to get a whole landscape in focus – not anymore! Can’t wait to try it out in the field.