At the Forefront
Ambarin Afsar helps you understand that the obvious elements that lie right in front of you have the potential to transform your wide angle photos.
This article was originally published in February 2014.
Very often, while shooting wide, most of us overlook one of the most obvious things—the foreground. You know how it is, you are looking out through the viewfinder, and it is a large field-of-view. There is just so much going on everywhere that your eyes usually tend to rest in the middle or the upper edges of the frame. Basically, you are looking into the distance and miss the interesting things happening in front of you.
Look Around First
We all talk about observing the scene and previsualising it, but it is best kept in practice when shooting wide. Ask yourself what the foreground has—is it a funny signboard, posters, stacks of magazines, an interesting rock, patterns on the sand? If you are shooting in a busy market place, ask yourself what is in the vendors’ baskets that lie immediately in front of you? What about moving closer to that group of hawkers having their tea?
Use Both Eyes and All Senses
To immediately grasp hold of things going on around you, keep one eye on the viewfinder and instead of squeezing the other one shut, keep it primed at the scene. Listen for the roar of a car, the shuffle of footsteps or the flutter of wings to capture fastmoving elements as they make an entry in the foreground space.
How Much is Too Much?
Wide angle images can either suffer from too much foreground, or too little. For an extremely quick guide, go by the Rule of Thirds and either include one-third of the foreground or two-thirds of it. For insance, an expanse of seaweed sprawled on sand, leading to the waves could lend more character to the beach.
How Sharp Should the Foreground Be?
Ideally, if you have something extremely characteristic in the foreground, you would want to have it tack sharp. You are in luck as wide angle lenses offer great depth-of-field. All you need to do is simply stop down the aperture, shoot at the hyperfocal distance and get everything from a certain distance to infinity, rendered sharply. The other advantage of shooting at the hyperfocal distance will make sure that you don’t need to refocus or wait for autofocus to hunt, which can be invaluable in street scenes
Using Blurs for Foregrounds
When shooting at the wide end from a moving vehicle, you can effectively blur the trees, uneven small hills or even railings. All that is in the distance will appear sharp at any rate, and the foreground blurs will help you create an effective frame within a frame. While this technically doesn’t constitute the foreground, you can make it seem so.