Joshua Tree Preserve, Utah
I took this photo last night around 8 pm, just before the sun set through a lightly hazy sky. It's amazing how warm sunset light can transform an ordinary landscape into something beautiful. I drove about half an hour away from home to a remote area near the border of Utah and Arizona for this view. Even though it is still a little too early for the cactus buds to bloom out, yellow wild flowers always make me happy!
A photographer friend asked if I would tell her the settings I used to take this photo, and how I achieve focus from foreground to background. Below is my response:
Yes, but first a disclaimer. I am impatient when it comes to learning techniques and probably know less than a forth of what my camera can do, so I hesitate giving out technical info, not because I want to keep it secret, but because this is not my strong suit, and there are many photographers on this site who will tell you there are far better settings or ways to do what I end up doing. I'm mostly motivated by composition and color so feel more confident talking about those areas. Now, about the near to far focus, first let me say, I am not hugely concerned that my landscape or nature images with great DOF are tack sharp because most people normally don't see a sweeping landscape tack sharp from the foreground to the distant mountains...unless you are 10 years old! If distant backgrounds look too sharp, it looks unnatural to me. (Personal preference.) So if I have believable focus that pleases me, I am good. (In this case, if you were to look at the full resolution file you would see that the background cliffs are a bit soft, but when I look at the entire image, that doesn't detract.) I can usually achieve acceptable focus fairly simply. I use a good wide angle lens (10-24mm), with an f stop usually between f/16 and f/22. I tend to like the closest foreground object, like a flower, to look larger than normal, (personal preference), and I achieve this with the wide angle lens and by positioning my camera so the flower takes up a fair amount of composition 'real estate', and typically within one or two feet of where I am standing. Where to focus is the tricky part. One rule of thumb to get maximum DOF is to set your focus point approximately 1/3 of the way into the scene. In this case, I probably focused on some of the back flowers. But this varies with every situation. It's hard to determine the focus in this shot because the wind was blowing, causing some of the flowers to be somewhat blurry. Honestly, I take many shots of a scene and experiment with various f stops and various focal points. The more shots I take, the better my chances are that one or two exposures might work! How's that for confidence! I do know there are far more sophisticated ways of achieving perfectly sharp focus foreground to background, such as focus stacking. This is where you take numerous shots, each one focusing on a different point throughout the scene, then combine them using a computer program. I'm not sure it is possible to do this without using a tripod. So far I'm too lazy to do all this!