Telling different stories with depth of field

DoF on the MTR
DoF on the MTR

I have a lot of luck shooting on the MTR East Rail Line. In the first class car there are big windows, few people and quiet. It’s a great place to shoot candid street photos. Rarely do a have a ride to or from Shenzhen, China that doesn’t net a couple of sweet photos.

The odd couple sitting beside me just after Christmas last year were grist for my photographic mill. She, younger, attractive and hip, played on an iPhone 6. He, older, bespeckled, looked occasionally at his phone and stared absently out of the window. 

There’s two stories here – or three – depending on what’s in focus. The photo above – the girl using her phone while the older gent stares out the window tell us one story. Generation gaps? Age differences? The Hong Kong socio-economic divide? You pick. That’s subjective.

DoF on the MTR
DoF on the MTR

The photo at the top, focused on the older gent tells a different story. Beside him is youth using youthful appliances, oblivious to him. He stares at the landscape beyond the window, and maybe considers past train rides and how things used to be? Again, very suggestive. It’s the writer in me coming up with these tales, maybe he was just bored.

Depth of field is powerful. Sure, it’s an important element in exposure, the building block of photography. It’s creative uses cannot be understated. What’s in focus, what’s slightly out of focus? Paired with creativity and composition skills it’s extremely important to understand to give your work emotional depth.

Or its all just bullshit I’m making up to sound wise. That’s probably closer to the truth.

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