One Third of the Way to Nowhere!

Posted by on Aug 22, 2012 in Articles | 2 Comments

Arrggghhh! It has happened again! I have read once more for the ten thousandth time it seems that the proper place to focus for a hyperfocal landscape is one third of the way into the picture!  Oh really!?!

Let’s us all think about this for a moment. A hyperfocal landscape is a composition that goes from very close to very far and it is all in focus. Typically it goes from a couple of feet from the camera (can be even closer) all the way to the far horizon or infinity in camera-speak. In order to do this you must use a wide angle lens, your smallest f-stop and you must pick a point of focus where the depth of field will cover everything from near to far. So far so good.

Okay, so now the composition is all set up, the exposure is all figured out using f22 on a 24mm lens and you have to decide where to focus. If you focus too far into the composition the foreground will be blurry. If you focus too close, the background will be soft. We all have the tendency to focus too far away and our foregrounds go out of focus usually ruining the image. So how do you figure out where the proper focus is supposed to be?

You DON’T focus a third of the way into the picture. What does that mean anyhow? If the farthest point in your picture is at infinity (which it will be for a hyperfocal landscape) then you should focus one third of the way to infinity. What is one third of infinity? What is one third of the way to infinity? It’s like asking what is one third of limitless or one third of eternity? Excuse me, I’m going to go one third of the way to forever. Pardon me, May I have one third of endless? Really!?!

IT’S NONSENSE!!!!! IT CAN’T BE DONE!!!!!

IT’S BBBAAAALLLLLLOOOOOOOONNNNEEEEEEEEEYYYYYYY!!!!!!!

(I’ve taken a breath now) Here is the correct way to figure out where to focus for a hyperfocal landscape. The rule is that you should focus 2 to 3 times the distance of your closest point in your composition. If there is a flower that is 2 feet away from your camera then you should focus at 4 to 6 feet. If a rock is the closest thing in your composition and it is 3 feet away from your camera then you should focus 6 to 9 feet away (you can bracket your focus points- take several shots with focusing points at 6 feet, 7 feet and 8 feet say).

When you do this you will initially feel that you are focusing much too close but you are going to have to trust me and just do it. Thirty years of taking a gazzillion hyperfocal landscapes tells me I’m right and every ‘third of the way’ idiot out there is a moron. Can I be any clearer?

Baloney is bad for you and terrible for your photography. Don’t swallow it.

2 Comments

  1. Rod Barbee
    September 15, 2012

    Hah! I just blogged about this very same thing too. I recently heard this 1/3 nonsense from a very well known workshop leader. A cringe-worthy moment if ever there was one.

    • David
      September 19, 2012

      Hi Rod,
      It makes me CRAZY!!!! Still jealous of your trip to Iceland!