Monday, August 31, 2009

An Eagle's Eye and Disappearing Fences

It's Monday afternoon, the last day of August, and summer is beating down with a vengeance. It is beastly hot today. I love summer, though, because it gives me a chance to do some scenic photography, which I used to do way more of than I do now. Don't get me wrong, I love doing portrait photography. It's a blast to work with people and see how excited they are when they get their proofs. But when I first started shooting seriously, I did nothing but scenic photography. You can see some of it posted on my website
Anyway, last July 4th I was in Big Bear Lake where I lived prior to coming to San Diego. One of my favorite places to visit up there is the Moonridge Animal Park otherwise known as the Moonridge Zoo. I had worked as a docent there when I lived on the mountain and I have always had a fondness for the bald eagles. The old fellows that live at the zoo have been through a lot with their injuries and can no longer live in the wild. Did you know that bald eagles nest in Big Bear Lake each winter? A pair of eagles had a nest not far from my home. They are breathtaking to watch and I can identify their cry after years of hearing them each winter.
So I decided to visit the zoo and found a big festival going on. Lots of people and lots of kids. It worked out great, though, because I was able to sneak right up to the fence of the eagle enclosure and capture some great images of these amazing creatures. The photo above is one that I took that day. Had I not been able to sneak in, I could have used the depth of field on my lens to fade out or greatly diminish the chain link fence as I did in a photo I took of the owl below.

For some reason that concept seems to be a difficult one for photographers just starting out or at least it was for me. So let me see if I can explain it simply, and if you have a better way of explaining it, add your comments. I'd love to hear your explanations.

Here goes. Each lens has f-stops. They determine how big the opening is that lets light into the sensor in your camera. Here's the part that drove me crazy when I first started out. The big numbers, like f-22, mean the opening will be small, and the small numbers, like f-2, mean the opening will be big. My brain took awhile to get this concept, but I've got it now.

In order to make the fence disappear, you need to use a small f-stop number, like f-2, which will give you a very narrow depth of field. That means the owl will be sharp and the area in front of him and behind him will be out of focus, which is exactly what we want. Out of focus fence means it will disappear or fade greatly.

Lenses vary, so use the smallest f-stop number you have. Then focus in on the owl or whatever it is behind the fence you want to shoot. Be careful you are not focusing on the fence itself or you will get a lovely shot of a tack sharp fence - not what you want! Hold still and shoot. That's it! It's not rocket science, but it can make for wonderful photos.

Now go forth and make it a day to try something new - like making fences disappear!

1 comment:

  1. Great photos, as always. I never knew that you had a pair of bald eagles nesting near your home in Big Bear--how wonderful.

    And very interesting to read how you manage to fade fences or other distractions in front of your subjects.