In an earlier post, we explained how Bill used a view camera to help achieve his vision by setting the focus along the entire section of the Vietnam Wall, getting everything he wanted in focus. In this post, we will explain how he used the movements on the view camera to get things he didn’t want out of focus.
Below is our photo “Lone Sailor” of the Lone Sailor statue at the US Navy Memorial. This memorial was one of the most challenging memorials in the Washington DC area to photograph. It took us several trips exploring the monument and taking various test photos before we were able to plan the photos we wanted to take.
At first glance, the Navy Memorial doesn’t seem that hard to photograph. A closer look reveals that it sits in the middle of downtown Washington, DC. Surrounded by buildings, the memorial has several major elements, including the sailor statue, the ships mast and several walls spread out over a plaza. At certain times of the day, a neon deli sign is visible just over the sailor’s shoulder.
Getting the sailor statue and one of the surrounding masts from the memorial into the photo isn’t really difficult, but getting these elements without a bunch of distracting elements (the surrounding buildings) is essentially impossible since the statue is surrounded by buildings, as shown in figure 1 below. To get a good view of the statue, including the face of the sailor, the surrounding buildings are going to be in the photo.
Figure 1 (not drawn to scale)
The human eye is naturally drawn to items in a photograph that are in sharp focus, and tends to pass over out of focus elements. By using a large amount of swing in the view camera on both the front and rear standards of the camera, Bill was able to set the plane of focus so that the sailor statue and mast were in focus, and the building were out of focus. (See Figure 2)
Figure 2 (not drawn to scale)
In addition to using swing on the camera, Bill used a large aperture (small f-stop number) for very narrow depth of field. The narrow depth of field ensured that everything except the statue and the mast were out of focus (you can see this more on the buildings to the right than to the left, but it is present on both sides). Instead of being a set of distracting elements in the photograph, drawing your eye away from the memorial, the out of focus buildings fade into the background as unobtrusive compositional elements, drawing the eye to the memorial.
The combination of the narrow depth of field and use of the movements on the view camera allowed Bill to achieve his vision of a photograph emphasizing the memorial within its cityscape environment.