Columbia River Gorge Spring Wildflowers and Shallow Depth of Field Landscape Photography

Shallow Depth of Field Landscape Photography

Columbia River Gorge Spring Wildflowers and Shallow Depth of Field Landscape Photography –  In this day and age of hyper sharp, focus stacked photos, how do you feel about shallow depth of field landscape photographs?

When I’m photographing the wildflowers in the gorge I can almost always expect a wind or at least some sort of a breeze that tends to toss the flowers around. When you’re trying to increase your depth of field the breeze makes stopping down more difficult to do. An aperture lets more light in when open wider but the depth of field narrow, blurring the background. In many cases most photographers try their best to maintain a deep focus, but when that’s not possible the next step is to photograph multiple exposures at different focus points into the scene until frames are captured with each area in focus. After which these frames are combined to create a full focus from front to back.

But what if you are unable to focus stack or simply do not want to? In that case you will, most likely, deal with an area in the photo that’s out of focus. This can be used to a certain effect to create a feeling of depth. It can also be used to isolate an area in the scene that the photographer wants to make the subject of attention. In the case of the photo that is included with this blog post the foreground is in focus but it trails off to the soft glow of the sunshine in the background.

It’s not often thought of in landscape photography to use a shallow depth of field, but it’s used a lot in macro photography. But using a shallow depth of field is always an option that shouldn’t be completely ignored when the photographer is trying to be creative with their work. Does it work effectively every time? No, but there are times when we are challenged with capturing a scene, such as a windy day, when we can try to create something artistic instead of giving up and going home with nothing.

Sometimes super sharp focus from front to back isn’t necessarily the best approach to landscape photography. So keep this in mind on those windy or even on dark days. Perhaps it will eliminate a little stress or maybe produce a more creative image.

Moonlit Mount St Helens

Moonlit Mount St Helens

Moonlit Mount St Helens with lupines in the foreground taken from Johnston Ridge Observatory.

Night photography is a lot of fun but can be a challenge, even on a bright moonlit night, but the results can be dramatic. The breeze made this shot a challenge, while the moon light threatened to shine too bright and cast too many shadows. I still had fun playing in the dark that night.

Moonlight and Flowers on Mount St Helens

Mount St Helens in the moonlight

Moonlight and Flowers on Mount St Helens

With about 50% moonlight I set up this shot at Loowit Viewpoint near the Johnston Ridge Observatory at the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. The clouds above the mountain created a great fan like effect.

I used a short tripod to include the flowers in the foreground. Because I couldn’t stop down to get my depth of focus I used two photos; One for the foreground and another for the background. Once blended I finished with brightness and contrast adjustments.

Moonlight Mount St Helens.

Panther Creek Falls Washington

Panther Creek Falls

Panther Creek Falls Washington during high water.

It was a great day to visit this waterfall. I had tried to drive to the trail two weeks prior and was stopped by fallen trees and unmelted snow. In the meantime the road had been cleared and so Darlene and I decided to drive up and give it a look. I’m glad that we did. With the high Spring runoff from the snow and the rain has made the creeks and waterfalls very full and powerful. This particular waterfall has areas to the right side of the normal fall that become a water curtain when the water becomes high. These were the conditions that I sought.

As I approached the falls the view through the trees was breathtaking as it appeared as a soft, bright diffused veil of water past shadows from the trees. When I broke through the trees and walked down to the water’s edge the mist was soaking. I had to cover my gear to keep it reasonably dry. The rocks were very slippery and because I was down there alone didn’t push my limits much.

The compositions from there are a little bit limited but conditions make a big difference, and this amazing curtain of water at the right side of the main falls, which is not there in normal water flow, was pretty incredible and made a unique photo for this location. The sun and the mist would play on each other as each one changed in time.

Just a quick word about photographing this location. Be aware that there’s a viewing platform at the top of the falls that most folks view this scene from. The more adventurous and capable can take a steep and slippery slop to the bottom, but please beware if you attempt this, especially when it’s wet.