Focussing on Details / by Graham Dew

Along the Oxdrove, #1 © Graham Dew 2012
Along the Oxdrove, #1
We are being treated to some fine, bright and mild weather at the moment. This Sunday just past dawned bright and fine, so I took off towards the Oxdrove near Northington to the east of Winchester to take some pictures. In visual terms is not a particularly interesting place to visit; long vistas of gentling rolling countryside, and fairly nondescript paths, but it is relatively high and bright, and I felt in need of a good dose of sunshine.

Along the Oxdrove, #2 © Graham Dew 2012
Along the Oxdrove, #2

The most appealing features on the walk were the bleached leafless branches of some of the younger saplings. Once again I concentrated on using the 20mm prime for my G3, separating various planes of interest in the images by using the shallow focus possible from this lens. I scarcely need to say that it is always important to pay attention to the background on any picture, and it was my intention with these pictures to have softly drawn stems that echoed crisply focussed elements in the foreground. 

I was reminded how far modern cameras have developed of the past few years. It is so much easier, more interactive, using digital cameras for this type of work. Even with depth of field preview levers, it was largely a game of luck trying to work on shallow focus images using film cameras. I’m now wondering how I might extend narrow depth of field working to the creation of joiners.

Along the Oxdrove, #3 © Graham Dew 2012
Along the Oxdrove, #3
I had always found it difficult to control the focussing on small details when using the 20mm Lumix lens, finding that the camera would usually focus on the background when my intention was the thin near-field detail, such as branches and leaves. In the past month I’ve given a couple of lectures, and in one discussion during the interval a member of the audience told me of how useful he had found the pin-point focus mode on his G3. This has proven to be a very useful tip, and I now find that by using this mode I can now quickly get the focus I wish when using this lens. On Sunday I was using it all the time.  

Along the Oxdrove, #4 © Graham Dew 2012
Along the Oxdrove, #4
Focussing was one of the main issues for me when I decided to move away from a DSLR to a mirrorless system camera. DSLRs, with their separate AF sensor are always prone to alignment tolerances, and there were many times when I could not focus accurate at close distances with my previous camera. Apparently this is still a problem even on some very expensive new full-frame cameras. Because the autofocus works directly from the image sensor on mirrorless cameras, the focus is always correct. Added to that, the whole process of touching anywhere on the monitor to set the focus is so intuitive and so quick on the G3. The focus modes, such as pin-point, subject tracking and face recognition are not gimmicks, but useful practical tools that work to help you get the picture much more reliably than was possible just a few years ago. Some progress is real progress.