Unusual Focus in Photographs

Mt. Rainier as a Model : Jeremy Sullivan PhotoIn the same edition of the National Geographic Magazine that included the Great Smokies article was a longer piece about the rebuilding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The photos in this particular piece really caught my attention.

Now, before I continue I must mention that this post is a little "off-topic" from the typical Park related posts. It is just that photography happens to be my favorite activity when hiking the National Parks. I have even been known to "focus" my trip planning on what I think will be the best photo opportunities on my journey. I figured there may be one or two of you that have a similar interest and may find this photo trick worthwhile.

OK, so the reason these particular Geographic photos caught my eye is that the photographer used a special camera technique which shifted the traditional focal plane, and uses a very narrow depth of field. Have a look at one such photo and you'll see what I mean. This focal shift is achieved by using a camera with a bellows attached to the lens. In the early years of photography these bellows used to be so common that seeing a camera today with such a set-up makes it look as it if is from an older era of photography.

Aided by modern computer software -- specifically Photoshop -- we can "virtually" do this same lens shift with any photo in your collection. If you happen to have the latest version of Photoshop (cs2), you may find that applying the technique illustrated in this tutorial to some of your own photos may be kind of fun. I have attempted it myself on a photo taken from a trail above the Sunrise parking lot in Mount Ranier National Park. If you click on the photo at the beginning of this post, you can see the effect in a little clearer detail. In this photo, the mountain really dwarfs the cars, and it seemed a perfect fit for this fun effect. As I look at the finished product, it reminds me of the type of photographic style you might see used with model railroads. Do you agree?