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    • In my photo essay about D-Day, @Pathfinder said he didn’t want to promote topic drift, so maybe have a separate conversation about how the photos were made?

      I’ll give my opinion on depth of field first. I have the sense that for a lot of photographers, especially ones who shoot weddings, they shoot wide open with wide lenses because it makes the photos look beautiful. They like the cinematic look of out of focus backgrounds the Hollywood filmmakers use. It gives them a look that’s harder to achieve with smaller cameras and cheaper lenses.

      I agree with that but I think there’s more. A lot of people can take a pretty photo but few can tell a powerful story. In cinema, film directors use the shallow depth of field to focus your attention where they want it, changing focus from one person to another as part of storytelling.

      Here’s an example: Phil asked me to take a photo of him with a vet. He put his arm around him, they stood side by side and smiled for the camera, Instagram ready. The story: Phil met a vet. That vet probably helped tell that story 100 times for other people on Instagram that day and Phil would have been just another person with an I-was-here photo.

      What I had noticed was Phil’s face lit up like a lantern and so did the crowd’s when he spoke to vets. He draws them out and the conversation is funny and magical. He has an extraordinary talent and passion for it. That’s the story I wanted. Much harder to capture.

      I was looking for both men to be in sharp focus because they are equally important in the story. It isn’t just one with the focus like it often is in cinema. And I wanted at least one audience member in the background with expression out of focus but not so out of focus he’s lost from the story.

      I had my index finger on the aperture dial as I always do to go up or down. The quick mental calculation was to shoot at 200 mm zoom so I didn’t crowd them and could narrow the field of view to just them; f/2.8 might be too shallow because (a) I might not get them exactly the same distance from camera and (b) guy in background needs to be in focus enough to see expression. Quick, guess f/5, click.

      I was thinking, damn I hope I got that. So fleeting. So many elements had to come together. Low percentage shot, but I tried.

      Other thoughts about depth of field?

    • I was quite impressed with the shallow DOF in your images, which is not typical in many images from most street shooters, who are shooting with more typical 28mm -> 50mm lenses. Your image of the 92 year old vet in uniform comes to mind, such a lovely soft background. As opposed to several of Phil's images which are quite good, but have much more extensive dof, ( thinking of the soldier in the tank with street details pretty sharp in the background ) and I suspect were shot with a shorter lens.

      Your explanation of your choice of depth of field to focus the viewer's eye on the primary subject WHILE keeping just enough focus of a viewer in the backbround that one can see her smile is very significant. I have images of mine, where the actual subject is in the background and not in sharp focus, but blurred just enough that the viewer can still see and identify that it is the subject - but my images usually are of still non-moving petroglyphs, not moving people . Not easy to do create that precise DOF, while shooting rapidly moving subjects in the street. Well done!

      I have owned a 70-200 f2.8 IS L for over 15 years, and Lightroom tells me it is one of the least used of my lenses. I must confess that I have never developed much love for my 70-200 f2.8 IS L lens - too big, too heavy to carry all day for me, too noticed by subjects, but I am going to try to remember to bring it along with me in the future because I like the softness and bokeh of your backgrounds so well. I must spend more time with it.

      I also liked the color toning of several of your images with folks in period uniform where the overall tone is a kind of khaki filter to the images, softening the contrast and color saturation and giving the image an "historic look".

    • That's funny, you're the norm, I'm the weird guy. The 70-200 f/2.8 is my favorite lens. I don't really care about size and I like standing back a little instead of crowding whomever I shoot. I know a lot of photographers sense that a big camera intimidates their subjects, but I feel it inspires confidence. I sense they're thinking "this guy looks like he knows what he's doing, he'll make me look good."

      I really like how 200mm makes things look closer together too, but sometimes I think I shoot it wide open too often, making the background more out of focus than people would like when it's an important element of the story:

    • I took a great night course once called 'Picturing People' at a local college. It was about exactly that - taking pictures of people. In the first lecture we came up with 10 themes, such as Transportation, Food, Celebration, and so on. Then each week were were assigned to go out and shoot pictures of people that captured the weekly theme. At the end of that week we would place our five or ten best slides into the carousel and all the photos would be shown to the class. Critique and discussion would follow.

      Very early on, we learned to fill the frame. We learned about using shallow depth of field to isolate our subject. We learned about using fill-flash (and @Chris - did you use fill flash, or do you have some HDR setting going on?). But the thing I remember learning most - around the third week - was that the theme had to be obvious. There were so many pictures we saw of people where the theme wasn't obvious. "It's a good picture" the teacher would say, "but what does it have to do with food?" "There's a banana in his pocket" was one reply I remember.

      If you're trying to communicate something with your photograph, the viewer shouldn't have to go hunting around in the picture to find the thing you're communicating. After that, my photos improved immeasurably.

      I seldom try to capture images that communicate something these days. I mostly go for artistic scenes. I like geometry. I like photos that make you go 'hmmm', or spark some curiosity. But there was a golden age back when I was still shooting Ektachrome that I applied this lesson quite a bit.

      And yes, I often used a long lens - it was great for shooting candid pictures of people at markets and other busy places. Sadly, I don't have one in my current kit. I need to get one. And a flash.

    • "I have owned a 70-200 f2.8 IS L for over 15 years, and Lightroom tells me it is one of the least used of my lenses. I must confess that I have never developed much love for my 70-200 f2.8 IS L lens - too big, too heavy to carry all day for me"

      Have you considered the 70-200 f4lis? Theres a mk 11 version which gets a great review: I've owned the 70-200lis since 2003 and it is a beast to carry and to hand hold. The f4, with is, is half the weight

    • I also liked the color toning of several of your images with folks in period uniform where the overall tone is a kind of khaki filter to the images

      I wish I could say that's my mastery of subtle color and tone I learned from years of studying the masters, like Rembrandt and Michelangelo.

      In this case, I didn't like the bright neon colors I saw in the background of some of my shots from bank teller machines, etc., so I tried a few Lightroom presets. I've never used the Aged Photo present for anything, but when I tried it on some of these shots, I liked it. Somehow I liked how it faded the reds but didn't make them go completely away. I may have scaled back the yellow tint a little, but anyway here's a shot out of the camera with no mods versus one where I applied Aged Photo with no mods:

    • and @Chris - did you use fill flash, or do you have some HDR setting going on?

      That's a hard question. In the film days, you really didn't have a choice, you had to use fill or get deep shadows.

      Now fewer photographers use fill because in Lightroom you can just use an exposure brush to lighten faces, plus fill flash requires more technical mastery than most photographers have (about that subject, anyway). I don't use it very often anymore.

      However, I shot a wedding a couple months ago where I used fill flash on almost every shot, partly because the idea of using the exposure brush on so many images after the wedding would have taken forever. It really changes the way you shoot because the light drops off so fast with distance, among other things to think about.

    • I actually do own both the f2.8 IS L and the f4 IS L versions. I do drag the f4 version along when travelling, but strangely enough, I rarely use it either - I frequently switch to a 70-300 IS L, if expecting wildlife . Rumaging through LR and seeing which lenses you do use for the images you actually keep in LR, and which lenses you do not, can be informative or educational. Or disheartening....

      I will use the 70-200 f2.8 IS L more in the future, but it is hard when air travel is involved.

      I am leaving soon for Newfoundland and my bag contains a Sigma 21mm f1.4 Art, an EOS 24-105 v2, an EOS 100-400 v2, and a Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art - makes for a heavy load.