weekly photo challenge: focus

Saturday, August 24This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge is inspired by Matthew George’s post on focus, in which he introduced us to the basics of depth of field and aperture. He explained what an image with a shallow depth of field looks like (or conversely, a photo with a greater depth of field), and how the aperture setting on your camera affects it.

Cheri Lucas Rowlands of WordPress writes: For this challenge, get out there and take a picture demonstrating the concept of focus. Depending on your skill level or type of camera, tinker with the manual settings, use the auto focus feature, or play around with an app. Some ideas:

  • Snap a photo of something or someone in focus, against a blurred background.
  • Share a panorama or landscape in sharp focus, in which you can see details far away.
  • Use a camera app to force focus (or blur) in an experimental way.
  • Take multiple photos of the same scene or subject using different aperture settings and publishing the results.

IN A NEW POST CREATED SPECIFICALLY FOR THIS CHALLENGE, SHARE A PHOTO DEMONSTRATING THE CONCEPT OF FOCUS.

I worked on this today, specifically following the instructions to change my aperture settings, using the smaller number f-stop to get a shallow depth of field and a larger numbered f-stop to get a greater depth of field.  I’m not sure my experiments worked very well, especially because when I used the higher f-stop number, I just got a lot of blur all around.  Here’s an example of one I thought worked well.

Shallow depth of field, F-stop 3.5
Shallow depth of field, F-stop 3.5

I’m excited that WordPress is doing this Photography 101 series and then pushing us in the photography challenges to use what we learn.  This is the first time I’ve gotten off my lazy butt and opened my camera manual and tried to use the manual settings!

Here are Matthew George’s instructions:

  • For a more shallow depth of field, use a bigger opening/aperture, which is a lower-numbered f-stop.
  • If you want a greater depth of field, use a smaller opening/aperture, which is a higher-numbered f-stop.

I liked this one too, although I wasn’t sure how this worked as some of the fungi on the foreground of the tree are blurred; the middle ground seems in focus and the distance is blurred.

f-stop 4.0
f-stop 4.0

And yet another photo of fungi.  I know, exciting, right?

f-stop 4.7
f-stop 4.7
f--stop 4.4
f–stop 4.4

I took these shots of my son with a f-stop of 3.5, but I don’t understand why the background isn’t more blurred.

f-stop 3.5
f-stop 3.5
f-stop 3.5
f-stop 3.5

Here are a few successful shots (I think!) from my archives.  These, however, were done with pure luck, and automatic settings.  With much chagrin, I have to admit today is the first day I experimented with adjusting aperture manually.

f-stop 3.5
f-stop 3.5
f-stop 4.9
f-stop 4.9
f-stop 5
f-stop 5

Finally, in one weird moment today I tried an f-stop of 22 and here’s what I got.  I took this in my living room and the focus was supposed to be the pot.  Now, that’s just wrong!

f-stop 22 in my living room
f-stop 22 in my living room

What went wrong here?

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a walk at scott’s run nature preserve

Saturday, August 24: Today, I go with Mike, Alex & Bailey on a short 3 mile walk through Scott’s Run Nature Preserve along the Potomac River.  This park wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for citizen protesters in the late 1960s and early 1970s who fought against development of the area.

We walk through mature hardwood forests of large oak and beech trees, among ancient hemlock and wild cherry trees.  We toss sticks into the Potomac River for Bailey; we clamber up cliffs and across creeks.  We lose Alex for a while and when Mike makes a strange bird call, Alex answers back from the  depths of the forest. We add stones to a large cairn in the middle of the creek and find leaves rippling under flowing water.  Alex does hand stands and leg lifts.  I find fungi on fallen tree trunks and photograph the strange colors and shapes from every angle.  We discover initials carved into a large tree that tell of those who have gone before us.

It’s hot today, but I can feel fall is around the corner.  I can’t wait.

Alex prepares for the walk with a gymnastics move
Alex prepares for the walk with a gymnastics move
Mike and Bailey at Scott's Run
Mike and Bailey at Scott’s Run
Fungi on trees at Scott's Run
Fungi on trees at Scott’s Run
Fungi on trees at Scott's Run
Fungi on trees at Scott’s Run
Fungi on trees at Scott's Run
Fungi on trees at Scott’s Run
Alex
Alex
initials carved into trees
initials carved into trees
Alex does another gymnastics move
Alex does another gymnastics move
Fungi on trees at Scott's Run
Fungi on trees at Scott’s Run
Fungi on trees at Scott's Run
Fungi on trees at Scott’s Run
Fungi on trees at Scott's Run
Fungi on trees at Scott’s Run
Fungi on trees at Scott's Run
Fungi on trees at Scott’s Run
Fungi on trees at Scott's Run
Fungi on trees at Scott’s Run

Scott’s Run is the main creek that runs through the park.  It winds to its journey’s end where it spills over a small yet lovely waterfall before entering the Potomac River

waterfall at Scott's Run
waterfall at Scott’s Run
the Potomac River
the Potomac River
waterfall at Scott's Run
waterfall at Scott’s Run
The Potomac River
The Potomac River
The Potomac River
The Potomac River
Alex
Alex
cairn at Scott's Run
cairn at Scott’s Run
in the creek
in the creek
a lone leaf
a lone leaf
Alex does a handstand
Alex does a handstand

Scott’s Run was once a battlefield between developers and environmentalists.  Mike remembers going with high school friends in 1970 to a Fairfax County Board Meeting where opposing sides presented arguments for and against the formation of a park. It turned into a major battle. According to the website for Fairfax County, Virginia: Scott’s Run Nature Preserve:

In the 1960s, there were 336 wooded acres along the Georgetown Pike known as the Burling Tract. The land had belonged to an attorney named Edward Burling, Sr., who had a secluded cabin at the site. A developer bought the land after Burling’s death in 1966 and proposed 309 cluster homes for the area that would have left about half of the site as preserved, open land.

Neighbors saw small rezoning signs in the woods, and the clash of philosophies was under way. A citizen movement to stop the development arose, and the conflict of ideas that followed over the next year eventually enveloped county residents, the governor of Virginia and local elected officials, four U. S. senators, conservation and park agencies, the federal government, the New York Times, a national conservation organization, developers, protesting high school students and door-to-door petitioners.

Eventually a local public referenda passed as voters decided to tax themselves one and a-half million dollars to buy the land, although negotiations over the price continued. Eventually the U.S. Department of the Interior provided $3.6 million dollars to buy the land, which today belongs to the Fairfax County Park Authority.