Back Modifications (3)
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By paulmerhaba
Hi All,
Been trying to put into practice what i have been learning. Set myself the task of taking photos without tripod where i would never have considered taking one before cos it would be blurry.
Looking for sharpness, playing with ISO, matching shutter speed to focal length, and using back button focusing.
Is it acceptably sharp? I would have thought that on 7.1 it wouldn't be but was pleasantly surprised. Should i be?
As an aside whilst looking at some pictures I also took in lightroom i had room to move up from 7.1 to something smaller aperture wise should i have done. They were pictures similar to this one.

Tags: Help Landscape and travel

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chase Plus
16 2.2k 578 England
31 Oct 2019 6:55PM
I think your focus is ok, well done with the back button focussing, it does take some getting used to.
F7.1 has rendered the very back OOF which, I find quite attractive.
I do find the colours slightly wrong, a little too much blue and red, especially on the bushes and the biggest tree trunk.
I did a quick mod.
Slight crop from the bottom.
Used the hue/saturation slider to reduce the blues and reds, put back some of the reds on the woodland floor/leaves using a mask in Photoshop.
Difficult to judge colour as I wasn't there, if this is how you saw it, so be it.
I do like all that moss, almost luminous.
banehawi Plus
17 2.5k 4263 Canada
31 Oct 2019 8:00PM
There really isnt a strong connection between the choice of f/7.1 and sharpness; and it also depends on where you focused, - on which point did you place your focus point? At 41mm is possible the lens cant open wider than f/5.6 (a guess) so stepping down to f/7.1 makes sense. Lenses often start to fall off below f/11 - f/16 due to physical limitations. At 41mm and f/7.1, your total depth from near to far will be about 25 feet.

The lens you are using is a VC (vibration controlled) lens, so that, assuming its enabled will assist wt lower shutter speeds. The better test, if you want to see just how steady you are at hand holding at the lowest recommended speed would of course be to turn off VC.
If your VC is working correctly, you should rarely run into blurry images unless you shoot at extremely slow speeds and long focal lengths,

I agree the colours seem a little off, - dont know what post processing you did of course, and you started with AWB shooting JPEG which can often look a little blue.

Sharpness is reasonably good, however the edges are a little soft, which is not unexpected in zoom with such a large spread.

Its a little underexposed, likely due to the bright upper area influencing exposure.

The mod has colour tweaked, exposure increased, and is a little sharper.

Hope this is helpful,


31 Oct 2019 9:50PM
Thank you both for your comments they are very helpful.
The mods you have done both look better as did my original. Shot it in raw on neutral picture style. Used lightroom to edit and chose adobe landcsape for profile and did notice the red/orange tinge appear thought it looked more autumny. Got that wrong. Think I may over use dehaze as well.
It is a relief to know that it is sharp enough.If you were shooting that scene where would you focus? I used the left tree. Would a third into the scene work or is that just for front to back sharpness?
It is another thing that I find confusing. Read Peterson's Understanding exposure and If i am understanding him properly he advocates 22 or above for front to back sharpness 8-11 for 'who cares' exposures. I had to shoot at F7, without needing more ISO, wouldn't have normally shot at that but do like the result.
The vast majority of my blurry shots have been down to lack of correlation between shutter speed and focal length often due to a long focal length.
Thank you both again for your help on my journey, giving up your time it is very much appreciated
dark_lord Plus
17 2.8k 784 England
31 Oct 2019 11:27PM
Back button focusing works well when you get used to it, but the trick is to focus where you want to whatever method you use, back buitton, shutter button or manual, it's personal preference.
Here I'd focus on the fallen tree as depth of field will cover both the other trees, sufficient for this scene.

Matching shutter speed to focal lenght isn't a silver bullet either. So many variables. It's a helpful rule of thumb. Keeping the shutter speed above 1/focal lenght will help, but some people can hand hlod steadier than others. Throw in image stabiliosation and it's another variable. A proper comparison needs to be done with one shot on a tripod to establish the baseline, then other shots handheld at different speeds with stabilisation both on and off.

f/7.1 has kept the foreground and middle distance shar. As Janet says,the far distance is soft but that doesn't matter, it's only incidental and not the main interest.
That said, personally I wouldn't like to go wider than f/8, even if that meant using higher ISOs.

Picture style has no effect in Lightroom as those styles on a RAW file as it can't read the information. Canon's DPP on the other hand can. Yes, choosing the Adobe profiles will show differences, but they are Adobe interpretations. I'd go for Camera Neutral and adjust the parameters yourelf, for example contrast, saturation and so on.
I think that's what's caused that bright cyan/blue on the leaves in the background as Landscape styles tend to boost blues and greens. Those leaves, catching the light from a blue area of sky, then get boosted when they shouldn't. Image processing algorothms aren't intelligent, they can't understand a scene, you can.

And to be honest, this shot ois perfectly sharp, a good result from such a wide range zoom.
You've identified one of the main reasons for lack of sharpness (essentially camera shake), so get that sorted in terms of your technique and enjoy sharp results.
dudler Plus
18 1.7k 1877 England
1 Nov 2019 5:40AM
If you're interested in sharpness without a tripod, concentrate on technique in the camerawork. Don't overcomplicate the processing - that just puts the polish on an image, and won't make a picture sharp if it isn't shot sharp.

First, 'headroom' - most lenses do best when two or three stops down from maximum aperture. It's easy to overthink this, especially if you pore over lens tests, though!

Similarly, shutter speed/focal length - things don't magically go from blurry to perfectly sharp at one speed. They go from 'not quite good enough' to 'just good enough' at a speed that depends on your technique as much as on the focal length or whether you've got IS switched on.

So concentrate on technique, and use the camera as a sniper uses a rifle, rather than the way Jason Statham uses a sub-machine gun in an action film. Feet apart, elbows tucked in, breathe out just before you squeeze the shutter release. Your body needs to be a stable platform, and exertion before shooting makes it less so. Scrambling up a hill to catch a sunset will make for shake!

And, as Keith says, choose where you focus. It doesn't matter if you use back-button focus or manual focus, or a single AF point. The thing is that you need to choose what is sharpest in the frame. My feeling is that manual focus with a mirrorless camera and high magnification of a single area in the viewfinder is the most accurate way to do it, but your camera is a DSLR, and will do a very good job indeed.

Usually, the human eye finds it most reastful, easy to process, if the sharpest area is a major piece of foreground interest, so I'd probably have picked the nearest, dar tree on the left. If I wanted the bigger tree that's left of it as my subject, I'd have composed differently, but it really depends what picture you wanted to produce...
1 Nov 2019 6:12AM
Hi Both,
Thanks for great advice and feedback.
Shooting this way at the moment to force me to think about exposure triangle as I shoot. Until recently I wouldn't move ISO from 100.
Back button is very new to me, keep pressing wrong button and getting exposure lockBlush Starting to feel benefits as against focus and recompose though. Just need to remember not to move.
I understand what you are saying regarding focal length shutter speed as I do get blurred shots more than I would like. Technique plays a big part in this as I have read how to stand/hold/breath, try to carry it out, but forget to do it in the moment. Practice will make perfect I hope.
Thanks for tips on focusing it is somewhere i struggle to make the right decision, deciding where through composition will help a lot.
mrswoolybill Plus
14 2.9k 2457 United Kingdom
2 Nov 2019 8:09AM
I've looked at this several times. I'm not a landscaper but I will add a few thoughts.

First of all, sharpness is down to careful focusing and, if hand-holding, shutter speed. Aperture governs depth of field, ie how far back (and forward) of the focusing point is in acceptable focus.

I wonder why you would want more in focus here? The interest is in the strong lines of the trees, I would prefer to the background softer. The human eye does not naturally see everything in focus, and in shadow under trees the pupils dilate giving much reduced depth of field.

I have added a mod, cropped to make more of the trunks and b&w to avoid the distractions of colour.

I have only limited faith in stabilisation technology. Test yourself, find out how steadily you can hold at slower shutter speeds, remember that the longer the lens the further the centre of gravilty moves away from your hands and body.

2 Nov 2019 1:25PM
Hi Moira,
Thank you for the thoughts. Looking for sharpness is down to me not really understand acceptable sharpness. To me it as a landscape it MUST be sharp front to back. I am starting to realise this is wrong and focus is much more subjective.
Love the black and white mod. I feel so drawn to this type of photography but tend to do it sparingly because I am not sure how to get best results in camera or through processing.
Thanks for your time.
mrswoolybill Plus
14 2.9k 2457 United Kingdom
2 Nov 2019 2:38PM
Thanks for your feedback, it's great when we get this - it means that we have a conversation.

As I said, I'm not a landscaper. The desire for front-to-back sharpness does puzzle me, because it is not how our eyes see the world. So the result can be slightly surreal, detached from our experience.

With pretty well any subject I will focus carefully on the area of interest nearest to me, that's where I would be focusing my eyes in reality. Everything beyond that will naturally fall into softness. As well as being comfortable to the eye it also prioritises. It tells the viewer what the photographer considers important.

I would second John (duder)'s comments about posture and stability. I assume that you are using a single focusing point, and the viewfinder rather than the viewing screen. (A remarkable number of people dangle the camera out at arm's length in front of them... ) Hold it close to your face, tuck your elbows in, stand with feet slightly apart, lean against a solid tree trunk or wall if possible. It does make a big difference.
4 Nov 2019 6:10PM
Hi Moira,
Thanks for that advice, most welcome. Do use single focus point, think the thing with sharpness comes from some reading I have done. In lightroom 1:1 should image look sharp all over as opposed to fit or fill? If no I am worrying about nothing, if yes I am doing something wrong! Working on my stance, not perfect or coming naturally yet, It will though.
dudler Plus
18 1.7k 1877 England
5 Nov 2019 7:41AM
The image should look sharp where you want it sharp, and not elsewhere. Some images work when they are not sharp anywhere...

Tehcnically, the challenge is to master achieving sharpness at will: artistically, it's to decide where to make things sharp.

There are two strands to every picture.

On the one hand, reading widely is important - but there's often a drawback, particularly on the web, with rather opinionated writers who say there's only one way to od things.

I shall quote Julia Margaret Cameron (as Moira hasn't done so), a wonderful Victorian portrait photographer: 'I focus until it looks beautiful' - a good way to work.

Sometimes beauty requires sharpness, and sometimes softness.
7 Nov 2019 9:26AM
Hi Dudler,
Sorry for delay in getting back to you, but you set me thinking. I think where i have been struggling is with DoF. rather than with focus per se. Watched a you tube video, Chris Bray which gave me eureka moment. If, for example, I am doing a landscape photo i tend to focus on the far distance. I am then disappointed the if the foreground is not in sharper focus.
But it turns out I am wasting the Dof behind the subject and only have a smaller amount in front of it. He suggests focusing a third of the way into the scene, then recomposing.
I would value your opinion as to whether I am on the right track here.
This is not withstanding portraits etc, where bokeh is good.
Thanks Again
dudler Plus
18 1.7k 1877 England
8 Nov 2019 10:37PM
Definitely a Eureka moment!

I suggest buying a good book, because there's more scope for illustration of details, and going back and checking stuff.

I started with the Ilford Manual of Photography, which was very dry by current standards (but was accurate to several decimal places). Everything changed with The Book of Photography by John Hedgecoe. Currently, Tom Ang's books are excellent, and Michael Freeman's are the very best, on any topic he's written about. A quick way in is Read This If You Want to Take Great Photographs by Henry Carroll - a short book (you can real all of it in a single sitting, easily), because it's concise, but hits all the main topics.

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