Author: Bruce A Tracy
Have you ever wanted to just shoot that kid that shows up to your door with the “pants on the ground” and the world revolves around me look about him to take your daughter on a date? Kind of like how the two old men in Second Hand Lions dealt with salesmen coming to their door. My neighbor across the street has three beautiful daughters and he has told some of the young men coming to his door that his neighbor shoots people for a living! Amazing how well behaved they become and how respectful they treat his daughters – gotta love it! Anyway, I digress…we won’t be shooting this kind of moving target!
I was out shooting electrical boxes near the railroad tracks when I heard the train coming. I wanted to get a shot of the train as it went by, so I hurried to get into position by the tracks. I wanted the shot to have good depth of field and good focus throughout, so how was I going to get it? There are several ways to do it – using auto focus and an aperture of f/22 would do if you could maintain focus as the train approaches would be one method. Another method would be to use the hyperfocal method so that even as the trains moves through the frame it would stay in focus no matter where on the train the camera is pointed. Since there isn’t a lot of time to think about this when a train is approaching, I quickly decided on the hyperfocal method which had me scrambling to pull the chart out of my wallet to see what settings to use on the camera. Note: I did not use the Optimal Hyperfocal method for this, just the standard hyperfocal method.
I wanted to use a wide angle and have everything from five feet to infinity to be in focus which meant a hyperfocal distance of 10 feet. Looking in the chart for a focal length of 28mm at 10 feet indicated an f/stop of f/8. I also wanted to freeze the action, but I wouldn’t know on this until I had the train in the frame. I quickly set the camera for these settings while praying to the optical gods that I had made the right choice.
Just as I was putting the hyperfocal chart back in my wallet, the train came into view. I had the camera set for burst shooting so I quickly raised the camera into position and fired off a rapid burst of shots hoping the shutter speed was fast enough. My camera is able to shoot at eight frames per second and I shot seven frames. Then shot seven more frames. By then the engines had passed by and the shot was gone. When looking at the frames of the first burst, I noticed that the train moved about four feet for each frame! The train was moving, but I got the shot and was able to freeze the motion! Yea! The shutter speed was fast enough. The second series of shots the engine of the train was already moving out of frame.
The next problem I had was the surrounding elements in the frame were not all that interesting, and I really wanted to give this a look of importance, breaking through a barrier, or a saves the day kind of look. So I opened the selected image in photoshop, duplicated the layer and added a radial blur (zoom) at 90%. Then added a layer mask to the blurred layer and painted with a black brush over the areas of the train engine that I wanted to show through and be in focus (black reveals the layer below). The radial blur creates lines of motion radiating out from the center, and by painting back parts of the train engine I get the effect of the train breaking through a barrier and the surrounding uninteresting elements in the frame now add to the effect.
This demonstrates that the hyperfocal method of focusing can be used in situations other than landscapes, and that the optical gods smiled upon my choice.
About the Author
Bruce A Tracy is a professional photographer residing in Loveland Colorado. He specializes primarily in events, portraits, pets, and scenic photography. Bruce is a graduate of the New York Institute of Photography in Professional Photography. Go to www.bruceatracy.com to see his portfolio or purchase prints.