Aperture, depth of field and bokeh

The place where I’ve practiced the most Craftmanship during the past year is definitely in front of my computer rather than in front of my camera.

I’ve reached a point where I don’t think too much about technique when I take pictures. I’ve learned a few things about how light and exposure work and that’s usually enough. For the rest I let my camera do its magic. For that, I often rely on bracketing. Automatic exposure bracketing, so I can choose which exposure works best later, or even go to HDR if none works. But I also use manual bracketing for the aperture setting so I can choose later which depth of field works best for me.

The most well-known consequences of a large or small aperture is a small or large depth of field. Opening your camera’s aperture ring will result in more light coming in, but also in a smaller area being in focus, this is the depth of field.

Editorial note: For those of you who are getting confused, have a look at Wikipedia here. The larger the opening in the lens, the smaller number you get. So a 1.8 aperture number, actually means a very big opening, lots of light being captured by the sensor in the same time frame, read shutter speed. A 22 aperture number is a much smaller opening (but a bigger number), which captures much less light on the sensor with the same shutter speed. All of this is normally called the exposure triangle and kind of the basics of understanding aperture, shutter speed, and ISO when you want to go beyond the auto mode of your camera.

Another consequence of a large or small aperture is the intensity of the bokeh. Sometimes my choice of aperture setting is not related to how much will be in focus, but rather how strongly the background will be blurred.

One photo from last year where some kind of unexpected bokehlicious magic happened.

An issue I encounter very often is how to choose between these alternate photos with different aperture settings. The dilemma is deciding how blurred I want my background. This is critical when I want the viewer to be aware of the location. A larger aperture/stronger bokeh/shorter depth of field will focus the viewer’s attention on the subject which is often one or two toy figure(s). A smaller aperture/softer bokeh/biggest depth of field will blur less the background, giving more information about the location and the environment in which the subject evolves. Although the background will still be blurred and allow the figure(s) to be detached from the background, the viewer’s attention will be less focused on the subject.

I have always been and I’m still very attracted by pictures with short DoF and strongly blurred background. But I’ve also been experimenting for a while with trying to show more details in the “blurry mess” of my backgrounds. Although the background is still very blurred, here I used a rather small aperture of f/8. I could have used an aperture of f/1.8 and the result wouldn’t look worse (if not better), but it wouldn’t give any clue regarding where Aria is.

There’s no rule to decide whether a small or large aperture is better (or any other technical aspect of photography). The choice should be made based on the intention of the photograph, based on this technical choice supports his vision.

Because for me location can be really important (and I’m not the only one), this led me to ask myself what is my subject. Is it a toy? Is it a landscape? Is it both? Am I an outdoor toy photographer? A travel photographer using toys? Both? Because I have troubles solving this dilemma, there are photos I wait for months before sharing anything online. Just because I’m stuck between two shots that I like and tell a slightly different story…

These two photos are (almost) identical except for the bokeh. With a larger aperture and smaller depth of field, the viewer’s attention is centered on Master Yoda and Admiral Ackbar. With a smaller aperture and larger depth of field, while the background is still blurred, more details about the locations are revealed at the price of giving less importance to the characters. After more than three months, I still haven’t decided whether I prefer the attention to be focused on the location or the characters…

Which of the two last photos would you choose? Would you rather focus the attention of the viewer on your subject, or use both toys and location as a subject?

And I Think It´s Gonna Be A Long, Long Time…

(I´m seriously wondering how many of you can sing along with this article´s headline. Seems as if Reginald Kenneth Dwight chose a famous topic for that certain song back in the days.)

 

About two weeks ago, on the day of its release, I was kindly given a long awaited set from the LEGO Ideas theme, specifically the 21309 LEGO NASA Apollo Saturn V rocket. In case you didn´t know all things space are my most favourite LEGO sets. I can´t explain in words what specifically attracted me to this set. Was it the fact that it reminded me of one of the earliest sets I remember in my family, the #367 Moon Landing from 1976? Was it the size of it (1,01 m)? Was it the brand new astronaut nano figures? Or simply the fact that it´s another fan designers´ (Felix Stiessen and Valérie Roche) set?

 

The LEGO Ideas NASA Apollo Saturn V rocket

 

You´ve probably all read a dozen reviews about the rocket so far so I´m not going to bore you with the same details and facts like that this set contains 1969 parts (wait, what year did they land on the moon?); or that it consists of the original three single stages that can be taken apart and put back together easily; that it comes with a LunarModule (you know, the tin can that actually landed on the surface of the moon) and the control/service module that took the astronauts safely back to Earth at the end of their mission; that the building instructions are 184 pages thick…!

Continue reading “And I Think It´s Gonna Be A Long, Long Time…”

Wonder Woman’s Lipstick

This month’s word is craftsmanship and the crew is having some great discussions behind the screen on where to take the craftsmanship.

When selecting this month’s word one of the influences came from Maelick comment or should I say “ask” in one of the social channels on how much you clean up your images, and I can tell you it is one of my basic skills I almost always apply. I use the lipstick to clean up the major flaws of LEGO prints, dust and the non-authentic scars of age. I do post correct, and I can tell you, the one single reason why I cannot abandon Adobe Photoshop for just Lightroom is the magic properties of the Healing Brush and it’s Hogwarts magical properties of healing. It is subtle, yet so amazingly powerful. Continue reading “Wonder Woman’s Lipstick”

Pack your bag(pipes), we’re going to Scotland!

In 3 months, now, all the Stuck In Plastic crew and friends will gather for the next toy safari.

We will spend three days taking pictures of toys and basically having fun.

If you are not familiar with the concept of a toy safari, I invite you to read some posts from past participants who will join us once again for this incredible weekend.

After the previous meet-ups in Stockholm, Hamburg and London, it was decided to go on  the lands of William Wallace . So, this time, the safari will take place in Edinburgh, Scotland on September 15th/16th/17th. Continue reading “Pack your bag(pipes), we’re going to Scotland!”

Craftsmanship

craftsmanship
ˈkrɑːf(t)smənʃɪp/
noun, mastering the craft of the lightsaber 
the new word of this month

Not Battlestar Galactica.
No RMS Titanic.
No Enterprise NX-001.
No Death Star.
No Black Pearl.
Just a ship called Craft. Craftmanship.

There are plenty of discussion on the internet exploring if photography is an art or a craft, but we like to stay far away from that one (at least for today).

Continue reading “Craftsmanship”

Visiting the RLFM days 2017. Excuse me, the what..?

When Boris and myself went to Billund, Denmark last week to attend the RLFM days  2017 (RLFM aka Recognized LEGO® Fan Media) as representatives of StuckInPlastic I was excited and nervous at the same time. Excited as it was my first visit to the domicile of LEGO System A/S – and nervous for the same reason.

From the schedule that had been sent to us in advance by AFOL Relations Manager Kim E. Thomson I already had an idea of what was going to happen:

On the first day we would meet the other participants and learn about their groups; we would meet the company´s CEO for a dialogue session and have a tour of the new LEGO house and a Q&A session with its director and designer, followed by a dinner.

Listening to the CEO

Continue reading “Visiting the RLFM days 2017. Excuse me, the what..?”

Zero, One, Two and Three

There’s two things that I’m constantly obsessed with: numbers and maps.

I see numbers everywhere and it doesn’t spare my toy photography. From taking pictures to post-processing I have the need to use what I consider “nice” numbers. Prime numbers, multiples of two or three, powers of two, five and ten, 42, palindromic numbers (either in base 2 or 10), and much more.

Selecting one single number is a task too difficult, if not impossible, for me as there are so many I love. This time again, I approached the word through reflection. I went back to my recent photos to see if I can find some kind of pattern(s), and eventually recurring numbers. Continue reading “Zero, One, Two and Three”

The mountains are calling and I must go

I see your number, 2786, Julien, and I raise you. 4200.

Ask any geologist and they will tell you the best bit about the job is the fieldwork. Being able to travel to far-flung places, ones that are often beautiful and extremely photogenic, in the pursuit of science and a deeper understanding of the earth we live on, that’s the reason I became a geologist. My PhD project involves looking at rocks in the mountains of the Himalaya, and last month I had the privilege of working in the majestic kingdom of Bhutan.

Don’t worry, there are lots of people who don’t know where Bhutan is!

Bhutan is a small country, about the size of Switzerland, at the eastern edge of the Himalayan mountain range. It is seen as many as an exclusive country to visit due to its expensive daily tourist tariff, which is hard to argue with. But once you are there you are treated to a country filled with culture, warm-hearted people, and stunning scenery. And my first thought when I found out I would be going there was of course, “What Lego Minifigures am I going to take?!” Continue reading “The mountains are calling and I must go”

2,786 m under the sea

When Boris asked us to write, this month, an article about numbers, I was a bit puzzled.

'You don't have to be a mathematician to have a feel for numbers.' - John Forbes Nash Jr.Click To Tweet

There are so many numbers I could talk about, like the 3,098 Lego minifigures that I own (according to Brickset), the four spacemen that I use in my exploration series, the number 42 because of “H2G2” (of course), my #100_Shadows series or even the number 142,857 a number that fascinates me because of its mathematical properties. But none of those numbers are special or personal enough.

So, I decided to tell you a little story about me and my number (2,786).

“Numbers have life: they are not just symbols on paper.” - Shakuntala DeviClick To Tweet

A year ago, I had the opportunity to spend some time at sea on a vessel. Not the small boats that are used for leisure, neither the big cruise ship. It was a work vessel and I was onboard for work. That was a very unique experience that I really enjoyed. Continue reading “2,786 m under the sea”