Live and Learn Photography

Green House

Green House (click image to view large)

As you may remember, about this time last year I embarked on a project to photograph all, every inch, of Albany’s commercial streetscapes. Granted, this only amounts to two streets that intersect and are each about a mile long. It is not a big place, but that still amounts to a few hundred shots to get every linear inch of it all. And I didn’t finish all of it until July.

For this, I really wanted to go for a sharpness that I don’t often worry that much about. I did it all on a tripod with the sharpest lens I have, a 35mm prime. And–well, I’m going to out myself here as a basic idiot, but I’ll proceed anyway–I also thought I would stop down to get deep depth of field and the best sharpness I could. So I shot the whole thing at f/16. So, short of going really far, like using mirror-up mode to reduce vibration, I thought I was going to get the sharpest results possible with my current gear. But somehow,… the results weren’t really that great. The shots didn’t look as I imagined they would.

Today I may have discovered why. I happened across a discussion of techniques for sharpness on a photographer community site, and it turns out that while depth of field increases at smaller apertures, after about f/8 or f/11, diffraction creeps up and results in a general out-of-focus softness. This is something landscape photographers deal with in trying to balance deep depth of field with maximum sharpness. Needless to say, I won’t be reshooting the project. But I will be remembering the lesson for a long time.