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May 19, 2012: Going into Depth on Depth of Field

Today, Pete and I took a half-day photo workshop with local photographer Greg Gusse. The subject matter was depth of field. Greg did not disappoint. There were six of us in attendance. The lecture and commentary were for those at the intermediate level. I did not feel out of my element. This is good, considering that I have only been doing photography now for five months.

I was struck by two big picture things about this workshop: The first was the high degree of interest on the part of all the participants. This was nothing like my class at the college, where the students enjoyed talking about everything but photography. Their evasive nature often made me set my teeth. In contrast, this group was intense. The conversation did not ever veer off the subject matter. The second was that I realized just how much I actually did learn last semester. At least the terms were familiar to me.

A fairly narrow depth of field

And I learned a great deal this time around. Greg (who must be closing in on 60) has been studying photography since he was 16. Tall, imposing, serious – grey hair pulled back in a pony tail – one’s focus tends to be drawn in his direction. Greg also has a no-nonsense demeanor, which verges on the edge of impatience, but never goes over the line.

Some new things that I learned today:

  • Set the camera on the A- (aperture) setting, which of course determines the depth of field.
  • There is a button my camera that will enable me to change the ISO more quickly.
  • Hyperfocus is a specific distance to infinity.
  • F-stops are powers to the square root of two.
  • Depth of field is the single most important aspect of photography.
  • Depth of field CAN become second nature –it’s a way in which the photographer accentuates or diminishes the immediate environment.
  • Don’t put your camera on automatic focus – instead, put it on aperture setting.


When Greg (again) stressed the importance of learning about depth of field, Laurie Jo, my photography mentor, said (in relation to this statement) “this is why we continue living. This is how we get from here to there!”

After class I took a look around at the teachers’ art exhibit on the walls and noticed that someone had, in a single frame a photo of a setting in Ireland, and with it, a poem. I went and looked carefully at both. The photo was of a field and the poem was about the field. The photo was in focus, and the poem was carefully thought out. I was impressed, for the photographer/writer had done an incredible job of working in two art forms. I am going to go back to Mad Matters and get his name and give him a call and find out more about his work. I will also say that this is what I aspire to – being able to put image and word together, in an artful fashion. This fellow showed that it was possible.

How do I get from here to there?
There used to be people older than me
Who could answer this question, but did not.
No matter. I presumed that grandparents, aunts, uncles,
they’d be around forever— their steps growing heavier
with each passing day. Until one day, then another and yet another,
there was only the whoosh of ashes
being carried away by the wind.
In a manner of speaking, all was relative.
One-by-one they passed on,
leaving me with a fixed point of departure
but no end in sight.

Next: 163. 05/20/12: Gardening