The second photo from this years fall desktops is a classic in the sense that photographs such as this with a shallow depth have quickly become a defacto approach to shooting in an abstract or seemingly delicate way. To some cynics out there it is seen as taking a shortcut to getting a photo with apparent depth or a sense of awe. If you have been following 50ft for any length of time then you are well awaret that I have an affinity toward a shallow depth of field. I use it as a means to create negative space while composing an image where there often is none. I don’t think I have ever used shallow depth of field as a gimmick or because I was feeling lazy. For years now I have explored it as a means to simplify an otherwise complex world.

That said, I would like to share my point of view while shooting this way. If you stand and stare at an empty forest in the fall it is but a noisy, colorful blur, or to me, a blank canvas. As you wander forward through the leaves and branches, particles of light start to solidify and ideas bloom in your mind. Then as you explore different angles and viewpoints patterns begin to emerge and interesting shapes will form. You start to connect the dots into a beautiful self realized constellation of sorts and the forest comes alive. Using a wide aperture I can mimic this play of shape, light, and color with the lens and exploit the beauty that hides among the noise.

For years I have been discovering these sorts of hidden forms and using a wide aperture as means to pull forward details. Early on I came to realize that there is a large difference between abusing shallow depth simply to get all those pretty shapes and using it to a true advantage. The rules of composition still apply even when dealing with such abstract forms and a healthy amount of experience and exploration still has to go into the process to become refined. At any rate, pardon my musing on the subject, I hope you enjoy the fresh desktop!


  1. DavidR - November 18, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    I 100% agree.

    I’ve used a shallow depth of field in my photography for a long time. At first, I think it was partly because I just thought it looked cool and a bit dreamlike.

    But as I’ve done it more and more, I’ve come to very much the same conclusion as you — it allows you to draw extremely sharp focus (pun intended) on your desired subject. Your photograph above is a prime example (pun intended. Man I apologize). Your eyes are naturally drawn to the leaf on the right side of the photo, and then perhaps to the leaves on the extreme left or right of the image. You aren’t distracted by a house or piece of trash buried in the dirt in the background — your subject is for all practical purposes the ONLY subject in the image, which is a very good thing.

    Thinking outside the lens, human eyes are absolutely amazing creations. With their stereoscopic view and incredibly dynamic exposure range they can allow the brain to focus exclusively on any subject, completely ignoring surrounding objects (even if they’re close enough to be “in focus” to your eyes.) Using a shallow depth of field on a static image simply imitates the incredible accuracy and exclusion the eye is capable of by “washing away” details or objects that are superfluous to the subject. That’s my opinion at least.

  2. Brett Chartier - November 18, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    Wow, amazing thanks.

  3. Laurie - November 19, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    Dude, you’re knocking it out of the park! Just spectacular. Every morning I awake to one of your desktops appearing on my 32″ monitor. Sometimes I just enjoy the photo and skip checking my email…

  4. Neil - November 19, 2011 at 11:35 pm

    Yeah it’s kinda interesting this idea. Sometimes I find myself looking at something (not with a camera) then you realise the background is out of focus if you catch a glimpse of it – I can’t explain it. Maybe this is why the shallow dof shots appeal to us to much as it’s a way of quantifying how we see when we’re focusing on an object or subject.

    You’ve always used it in a creative way, it’s not like you’re just doing the same portrait shot of a model with an 85mm lens.

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