Tomorrow I start the final workshop in the busiest workshop season I’ve ever had—since mid-August I’ve led 8 of my own workshops, and assisted Don Smith with 2 of his, in four states from Hawaii to Utah. I’ve photographed lots of great stuff, and met many fantastic people, but I’m looking forward to a few consecutive days in my own bed, and an opportunity to share more new images and blog about them.
In the meantime, here’s a Yosemite autumn reflection image from a few years ago. This scene perfectly illustrates a point I try to make to my workshop students: The focus point for a reflection is the focus point of the reflective subject and not the reflective surface. In other words, if you want objects in the foreground (like these leaves) to be sharp, unless you maximize your depth of field, your reflection will be soft.
This is counterintuitive for many, but it’s an easy thing to verify. The next time you find yourself photographing a scene like this, try focusing on the reflection and watch your foreground go soft; focus on the foreground and watch your reflection go soft. The solution is to stop down to a small aperture to maximize your depth of field, and focus toward the back of your foreground subject or subjects. If you find it impossible to get both in focus, it’s usually best to opt for a sharp foreground over a sharp reflection.
For this reflection of El Capitan basking in warm pre-sunset light, I stopped down to f18 and focused on the most distant leaves I could see through my viewfinder (seat-of-the-pants hyperfocal focusing). My small aperture ensured that all the leaves would be sharp (the smaller the aperture, the wider the sharp zone in front of and behind your focus point), while still giving me the most distant focus point possible.
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