Laura Macky Photography

Journey of a body on this earth


Expanding Horizons – Hyperfocal Distance

Lately I’ve been concentrating on composing my pictures with some depth.  It’s nice to see a sweeping landscape but images have a lot more impact when your eye is made to wander over the image.  Here I wanted the viewer to see those beautiful ferns and then to look out at the beach, the Sutro Baths ruins, the rock and finally the sunset.

This focusing technique to ensure the entire image, back to front, is within an acceptable sharpness is called a hyperfocal distance.   For this image I focused 2.7′ out because I had an aperture of f/22 and I was at a focal length of 24mm on my 16-35mm lens.  How did I know this?  Well, there is a long and a short explanation.  I’m going the route of the short explanation. 🙂

There is a very succinct webpage that has a chart where you can enter your aperture and focal length so you can find out how far out to focus to ensure an acceptable sharpness back to front.  The interactive chart can be found here.  If you scroll down you can see the chart which supports both feet and meters.  You just enter the format of your camera in the box above the chart, select feet or meters, and then find your aperture and focal length.  You’ll see there if you enter my data for this image, which is a 35mm full frame camera, f/22 and 24mm, that the table says I should focus 2.7′.

I included a screen shot of my result.  (Note that the narrower your aperture and the wider your focal length, the closer you will focus to the front of your image.)

I hope this helps you achieve sharper images!

Hyperfocal Distance @ Sutro Baths

Hyperfocal Distance @ Sutro Baths


Hyperfocal Distance Sample for this Image

Hyperfocal Distance Sample for this Image





Expanding Horizons – Pleasing Sunsets

Some of you may wonder how to capture a sunset so that the foreground (in this case the water) and the sky are properly exposed without one or the other being too dark or blown out.   There are a few different ways of doing this.  Below are some common ways of achieving a properly balanced sunset.

  1. Graduated Neutral Density Filter
  2. HDR, take bracketed photos and merge them using an HDR program
  3. Take two pictures, one exposed for the sky and one exposed for the water, blend in Photoshop

I use Method #3 mostly because I really don’t like the look of HDR for sunsets anymore and I don’t have an ND Grad Filter.  But all is not lost!  Method #3 works really well. 🙂

In short (because it would be a horribly long post if I tried to go into detail), when you take each shot as described in #3 above, it’s important to look at your histogram after a couple test shots to make sure the highlights aren’t blown out in the sky and the foreground is not too dark.  I no longer rely on my preview image on the camera LCD mostly because I can’t see it too well when the sun is up.  A histogram is a way to ensure you’re getting the proper exposure.  Don’t be afraid of the histogram.  I was afraid of it for a long time.  I’m not even sure why except it could’ve been to much information as I was learning.

One thing to remember is that it’s easier to recover shadows than to dial down blown highlights.  In fact, you really can’t dial down blown highlights lol.  Also, when I take sunset photos, I slightly underexpose for the sky (using my exposure compensation button on my Nikon) to allow the colors to be more saturated.  I can then brighten the sky and clouds as I wish in post processing.

Once you’ve taken your photos, they are now ready to be blended in photoshop via layer masks.  After I come up with one blended image, I then heal, clone and/or adjust the image as desired.  My suggestion would be to shoot in RAW because the images contain a lot more information than jpegs, and it gives you a lot more flexibility in post processing.  I always shoot in RAW unless I mess up and inadvertently change my camera settings which has happened!

Hope this was helpful!

Over to the Sun - Miller/Knox Regional Park

Over to the Sun – Miller/Knox Regional Park



Oh Say Can You See!

Yes I can!  I can’t help it…over and over again lol.  Even though I’m not a tourist, for some reason I absolutely LOVE taking pictures of this bridge!  Well this one and the SF-Oakland Bay Bridge.  🙂   The other night when I was at the Presidio (see my previous post if you have no idea what I’m jabbering about), I took a few different pictures and thought I’d share them over the next few posts.

This one is not the zoomed out version of my previous image.  It’s a separate click all together and was taken slightly earlier than my last image while there was still blue in the sky.  I really love images where my eye wanders across the image.  Two things I did to make that happen was to get the shoreline in the lower left-hand corner so that it’s a leading line and the second was to include that sailboat so the water isn’t just there as a big empty space.  It would’ve been fine with the empty space but I think the boat provides a bit of interest and makes the eye dart across the image.

Now I can’t get the Star Spangled Banner out of my head.  Ugh!  I need to listen to some American Idol songs hahahaha.

Oh Say Can You See - Golden Gate Bridge

Oh Say Can You See – Golden Gate Bridge