In his writings, Bryan Peterson describes three types of aperture settings: “isolation” – such as f/4.0 – to create a shallow depth of field and isolate the subject; “tells a story” – such as f/16 – to create a greater depth of field to tell a story with as much as possible in focus, and “who cares” – such as f/9.0 – to just record the scene. I would add one more – “out of focus” – no f-stop needed. Photography is a whole lot easier than life, my f-stops don’t always give me the personal fix I would like, and usually, my D700 works a whole lot better than I do.
Sometimes, I wake up and set my personal f-stop to 4.0, look for the creamy bokeh, and hope to isolate one problem. Sometimes, the problem is so acute, however, that my attempt at a shallow depth of field so I can focus attention on the problem fails. There are just too many things going on and I have little ability to impose an isolation. In those moments, I simply have no f/4.0 in my chakra but if it gets really bad, I turn to my Nikon, where f/4.0 still works nicely.
Other times, there is an urgency for everything to be focused – to see as much and as far as I can. It is a hyperfocal personal moment although what I am trying to focus on is not always as pretty as a field of flowers. There may be a story to tell and to do so, I have to see as much as I can. I am not as good as the Nikon, though, and usually, my attempts to see everything fails. Again, the Nikon works better than I do.
Lately, I have not had too many “who cares” moments, but it would be nice to wake on a Sunday, set my personal f-stop to f/9.0, read the New York Times, and say to myself . . . “that’s nice” but it is someone else’s problem. Someday, maybe, but right now, I don’t function too often stopped down to f/9.0.
Out of Focus:
Mostly, I have been in this last category – world out of focus or as Fleetwood Mac observed, “World turning. I gotta get my feet back on the ground. World turning. Everybody’s got me down.” In the world turning picture, the f-stop does not matter as much. The moment is not aperture driven, but rather is a big pan. The hope upon hope is that even as everything is spinning, the Speedlight will fire, something will be frozen, and that something will be in focus even as everything else is not. The Speedlight usually does its job. With a PocketWizard, a good teacher or two, a little luck, and maybe a gel or two, it tends to perform more reliably that I do.
Here’s hoping that life will return to a day when I can determine what story to tell, what focus I want, whether I am just a shadow or present in a scene, and how much I choose to see. Here’s to a day when I work as well as my Nikon.