Get Shallow : Having fun with focus

I’m not sure there is another occupation or area of interest where the advice “get shallow” will ever be given. In photography, however, focus plays a large roll in describing mood and isolating the main subject. Using a shallow depth of field can add depth to your photograph and aid in establishing a focal point. Typically used in portraiture, opening your lens up increases the blur in the out of focus areas. Artistically, this can also be used for very creative shots that might otherwise be, well…boring.

Below is an image of some clothes pins I had sitting around. Now, the repetition in form can be an interesting element in a photograph. However, narrowing the depth of field in this image really enhanced it and gave it a little something extra.

How can I achieve this effect? Read On!

3 pins

There are two ways to achieve blur in your photographs.

  1. Open your lens as wide as it will go. Another reason to buy a prime lens. The aperture on many primes, like a 35mm or 50mm, go to at least to 1.8. For extra creamy blur, splurge a little more and go for a good portrait or macro lens. The blur quality (bokeh) is usually nicer on the more high end lenses, but there are exceptions..do the research!
  2. Distance from subject. If your lens will let you get close enough, even at f4 you can achieve a nice blurred background. The image below was taken at f4 with a zoom lens mounted on my Nikon. I was able to get close enough to create a decent quality blur.

Notice the Yellow flower in sharp focus, while the rest of the cast gradually blurs out. This can be such a powerful tool for expression. Desert Bloom

Thanks for stopping by and please let me know what I can share with you to help you with your artistic journey. I will add a couple more photos that utilize a very shallow depth of field to show and extreme example of this technique.

Be sure to join me on instagram: Big_Wide_Lens

Happy Shooting,

Shawn

macro dropsallign

Friends and Photography

You know you’ve become pretty good friends with someone when they’re willing to get their portrait taken on a whim. As an artist and stay-at-home dad for the past seventeen years, it has been absolutely necessary for me to find time to occasionally get out of the house and talk to other sentient beings. (My labradoodles listen pretty well, but they don’t quite offer the same level of intellectual support as my human friends do) This usually means meeting for coffee in the morning with friends. By now, most of them are pretty comfortable having their mugs of caffeine sharing table space with my camera. It helps too that most of my friends are creatives. In exchange for modeling, my friends receive an updated portrait for their website or social media pages. Win win!

Luckily for me, there are also interesting places nearby the coffee and breakfast stops, and I get a bonus session at the seasonal produce stand or the many nearby inter urban trails!

Here are some shots from this mornings coffee time. Enjoy, and see more on my INSTAGRAM : Big_Wide_Lens

Thanks, and happy shooting!

Shawn

Eric PonderingCinimon rollOnion Pile

Think Wide-The Art Of Exaggeration

Okay, as I was scanning recent photographs, it didn’t take me long to come up with an idea for a new photography tip blog entry. Yay! I forgot how much I like to share this kind of stuff. Really fun!

After reviewing images from an outing last Spring, I realized many of my photos were all shot with a single wide-angle prime lens. I was following my own advice and limited my focal range for a single outing. Now it’s fairly common for one to use a wide-angle lens for such things as landscape, seascape, and cityscape photography, but shooting wide can also create fantastic spacial effects and transform the mundane into magic.  Objects shot at close range with a wide angle lens (see your lens’s minimum focal distance) can make objects that would otherwise seem relatively near to your main subject, appear quite distant. The perspective of your subject will also appear greatly exaggerated.

Please enjoy the following images I took with a 20mm lens on a full frame equivalent sensor camera.

Note the exaggerated distance in the first image of my two dogs (Danny and Sandy) and then the exaggerated perspective of the bench and the taco truck images.

Thanks so much for stopping by! Be my bud on instagram: Big_Wide_Lens

If there are other things you would like to see, please please let me know!

Happy Shooting!

Shawn Pagels

on the prowlblossomFallsTaco Truck

 

 

A Closer Look

Its been over a year since I’ve posted new content here. I am an active artist and stay-at-home parent, so please forgive my lack of content recently. Visit my art page here–>Painting to see what else I do!

I have really LOVED shooting macro this past Spring and Summer. I will include a few shots in this post, and then I promise I will add more how-too’s and what-nots soon!

Thanks as always for looking and commenting!

Shawn

lilac3allignupcloseDesert Bloom

 

It’s A Photography Contest!

I am officially kicking off my newly revamped photography community blog with the first of many monthly photo contests.

This month’s theme: Motherhood

Prize: $20.00 gift card Best buy and feature on The Daily Viewfinder.com

To Enter, go to The Daily Viewfinder Facebook page and upload your image via comment on the current months contest announcement.

This is definitely open to interpretation. Portraiture of course will lend itself to this months theme, but I will be updating my blog with other ideas that will support “Motherhood.”

Winners will be announced at the end of every month.

Bath-Mary-Cassatt

Mary Cassat

Spring Is In the Air!

It’s been a few years since I have taken advantage of my proximity to the Tulip fields near my home in Bellingham, Washington. What a treat! If you are reading this from another part of the country, do yourself a favor and visit Western Washington in the Spring. I have never in my life seen more color. The Rhododendrons are starting to bloom in about every hue imaginable. The impossibly vibrant Azaleas are due to show themselves at any moment. The fruit trees are lining the streets with their white and pink fluffiness. The spectacle of it all is really magical and appreciated by all who survived the gloomy winters.

Here are some photos I took in Skagit County, in the Tulip fields.

 

Setting Limits

Today was the first day in while that it wasn’t raining or snowing in my little city of Bellingham, Washington. As a reward for working hard in my studio today, I gave my self a much needed walk. I have been itching to get out and find those first little sprouts and buds that begin to appear on the ground and branches this time of year.

As many of you know, choosing a lens can be an overwhelming decision to make. What if I want to shoot wide for a landscape? What if I want to do macro photography?

Normally I would just pick a kit lens or an advance zoom on such an outing. These lenses offer different focal lengths for many situations. But, unless you have spent thousands on a high end zoom (and I have not), you also sacrifice quality. Now, on a little jaunt like this you aren’t always necessarily looking to create a masterpiece… or that’s what I’ve told myself in the past and ended up finding the most dazzling light situation or an incredible display of color on a stretch of grass, and my mediocre kit just isn’t sharp enough to capture such amazing stuff! Ackk!!

Solution: Instead of taking a zoom lens, equip your camera with a 35 mm or 50 mm prime lens. These lenses can be found at a much better price than high end zooms ($100-$245) and are tack sharp! In most cases, they can open up to a f1.8, and some can go to f1.4. These lenses are fixed at the focal length they were designed for, so you will have to use your “zoom legs” to adjust focal length, but the reward is great quality pictures!

*below are examples of shots I took today with a 35mm 1.8.

Happy shooting everyone!

Shawn

Purple MajestyNew WaveModern Dwelling

 

 

 

Springtime in Washington

Tulips are a huge tourist attraction here in western Washington. Since I am still going through a black and white phase, I decided to shoot a bouqet we had in our front yard.

Thanks for stopping by!

“Welcoming Party”

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Expect Nothing, Get an Owl

It has been a long and gradual journey for me from casual to serious photographer. I first picked up a SLR back in community college, when I was being instructed how to shoot slides of my artwork. At the time (and for most things today) tools involving numbers or precision did not appeal to me in the least. For some reason, this tool with its focus ring, light meters and shutter speeds, really spoke to me and it wasn’t long until I spent a hefty chunk of my student-job paycheck on the cheapest 35mm SLR I could find. At first, I went fully automatic on all the settings, but I eventually came to a point where I could work fully manual. Back then, success to me meant creating photographs that were in focus and exposed well. My compositions were just so-s0, and none of my images were of a quality I would consider very artistic. That was frustrating. I was a decent artist that could draw and paint well. I understood perspective, lighting, color, tonality and line, but all my images just looked like snapshots…and I wanted them to look like Ansel Adams. Turns out, composition is HUGE in photography, and it would take me many more years of study for that to really sink in. With painting, if something doesn’t work, you can change it. In photography, you work with what you get! What a challenge. I had to learn P A T I E N C E.

Dang it! Patience. Waiting. Slowing down. Acceptance vs. anxiety. Going with the flow. All that stuff you see in the inexhaustible stream of Memes on social media today. Patience; the word that all of my instructors at one time directed towards my stubborn ears until the one day I finally embraced another concept and patience finally penetrated my young thick skull. I became humble. I realized I could actually get help from people and it was okay. I became a better student and my art and photography began to improve.

Twenty years later and I am still learning the rewards of patience. Learning that some days are going to yield amazing photographs, while others might only provide a single cup of good coffee, is an ongoing lesson for me.

Last week, I was in one of my favorite parks I use to prime my creative juices. I wasn’t really expecting much, but I was hopeful. There are a lot of places to shoot water, but the sun was already high and I wasn’t going to be able to take very long exposures. I decided I would just shoot trees and plants. Since it is a heavily wooded area, I could catch splashes of light hitting random sections of limbs and trunks of the cedar and firs. I wasn’t getting anything spectacular, but I was in acceptance of my situation and allowed myself to enjoy the smells of the park and the coolness of the air coming of the stream. After gathering up my gear, I headed towards a walk bridge and spotted something sitting on a tree limb. Almost immediately after I spotted it, a patch of light hit the object and I saw that it was a Barred Owl!

After a minute or so of admiring this beautiful bird, I suddenly thought, “camera!” I desperately dug out my camera from my bag and fitted my longer zoom and began shooting. To get it’s attention, I began making “hoot” sounds and knocking on the hand- rail of the bridge. It would slowly rotate its head long enough for me to get a few shots before returning back to whatever it was gazing on before. To push my luck, I decided to slowly walk around the owl on a trail that would get me another angle. After snapping some photos from the new angle, I looked over in the direction it was gazing and noticed a mother duck and its ducklings. Bonus! I was too far away to get a tight shot of the duck, but the lighting and the greenery in the foreground made for a nice composition.

It was a great nature photography day for sure. In the past, I would of looked at the harsh lighting and not pursued picture taking on a day like that. Experience has taught me that you can make just about any lighting situation work, and with enough patience and the right mind set, even your worst photo outings will be rewarding.

Thanks for stopping by! If there is a photography topic you would like to read, whether it be technical or artistic, let me know. I am happy to share all I know-Shawn Pagels

The WatchWho Goes There SmallGuardianSmallMotherhood

 

 

 

 

Spring Warm Up

It’s been a while since my last photography outing. I decided to get out of the house today and soak up some sun while taking a few happy snappys. It was a beautiful morning, but the sun was already rising and the light was becoming harsh. Luckily, there is a fantastic park nearby that is heavily wooded. Splashes of light here and there aided in these two shots captured with a 35mm prime lens. I enjoyed getting my bones warmed up today, but I will be looking forward to that next overcast day when I can capture all that April color.

tiny towers

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