Sunday, August 27, 2017

Burlingame Street Faire - Zone Focusing

Photo #1
This balloon monkey (Photo #1) was one of the more festive art pieces found at a street fair held in my neighbor to the north, Burlingame. Shortly after this photo was made, I had my "Money Shot" safely stored on the camera's SD card, so I was now free to roam about, making photos that I simply wanted to, of subjects that I found amusing.

For these shots, I used a Fuji X100T and used a cheap, no-named radio trigger with a Nikon SB-800 set to non-TTL automation. Depending on the intensity of the existing light, I sometimes decreased the flash output by decreasing the size of the aperture.

Photo #2
Swing Time: Several instructors from a local dance studio were giving impromptu dance lessons , as you can see here in Photo #2. With the wide angle adapter on my Fuji, I now had the equivalent of a 28mm lens. I was able to stay close to my subjects, thus minimizing interference from passers-by. For this low angle shot, I held the camera at waist level, viewing the camera's LCD display from an oblique angle. This odd angle gave me a rough idea of my composition, but without a reticulated display, it was the best I could do, and was essentially  "shooting from the hip". However, it gave me the effect I wanted: a less cluttered background. The reticulated display on the X-T2 would have made it much easier, but I wanted to use high flash synchronization speeds, which only the XT100T could provide. I could also purchase a Fuji X70 for its fast sync speeds, APS sensor, and reticulated LCD, but shots like these can't justify a $700.00 investment.

Photo #3
When shooting at such short distances, one is beset by a different set of problems. Subjects who move randomly (and rapidly) are more difficult to track, even with the most advanced focus tracking systems. Then too, focusing outdoors can be problematic when the subject is lit from behind.

Zone Focusing: Here's a technique that can be applied in situations were your camera is having difficulty keeping up with the rapid movement of the dancers. Instead, I set the camera my X100 T to Manual Focus, and using the distance scale displayed in the viewfinder, chose a distance of 5 feet. Now all I have to do is stand 5 feet from my main subject and shoot when I get the expression I want. It can get tricky, but I learned to move forward and backward with my subjects in an attempt to keep the distance as close to 5 feet as I could (Photo #3).

Photo #4
Here's a closeup of the display on the X100T in Manual Focus Mode (Photo #4). The grey rectangle is the Manual Focus Assist Zone, which for all intents and purposes acts like a traditional split image rangefinder. The focusing ring has been rotated to the 5 foot position.When shooting at an aperture of F 8.0, the depth of field, indicated by the blue line, extends ranges from about 4 feet to 7 feet, a zone that's pretty easy to estimate.

Photo #5
With the focusing issue resolved, I simply let the flash dole out a "proper exposure". I could also experiment with different combinations to produce a flash "key" light, for use it as a fill. In Photo #3 and Photo #5, you can see that by underexposing the ambient light, my speedlight was actually functioning as a key light, with almost no detail in the shadows. In Photo #2, the speedlight served as a fill light.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I had used the zone focusing technique many, many years ago, when lenses focused manually and every lens had a distance scale and depth of field markers. Having essentially the same features on my Fuji made it pretty easy to apply this old technique.