IT’S ABOUT a month since we last walked through the woods at Newmillerdam and it now feels as if autumn has arrived. Bracket fungi are starting to sprout from the fallen silver birches with shapes that remind me of the cream-filled meringues of my childhood.
A Finger on the Button
Like most digital cameras my new FujiFilm S6800 focuses on whatever is in the centre of the screen when you half press the shutter button. But what if you’d prefer to have your subject off centre?
As I should have worked out long ago when using previous cameras, if you keep button half-pressed you can then move the camera to get the composition you’re after but the focus of the lens will stay as it is, set to your subject.
I think that having the main subject at the junction of thirds, rather than slap in the middle of gives a better composition. Central can sometimes be too obvious, like a passport photograph.
Throwing the background out of focus also gives emphasis to the subject.
As a record shot to help with identification it wouldn’t matter if the subject was central or the background in focus but I feel that by moving the subject to one side you introduce a little bit of narrative, a bit of expectation perhaps, and keeping the background out of focus goes a little way to building up that feeling of mystery that you get when you see fungi emerging in autumn woods.
Inspired by the new camera, I’ve been reading Doug Sahlin’s Digital Landscape & Nature Photography for Dummies. I’m making an effort to get thoroughly familiar with its controls, so that they become second nature to me. With previous digital cameras I’ve had such good results with the auto or programmed settings that I’ve never got around to trying manual settings such as aperture priority and shutter priority.
It’s the photographic equivalent of making the move from marker pens to watercolour in sketchbook work. There’s nothing wrong with in-your-face boldness in photography or in illustration but when it comes to trying to express a more enigmatic mood I think you need to develop a more subtle technique.