Varanga is a small sleepy village located in the Udupi district of Karnataka at a distance of 25 Kms from Karkala and 43 Kms from Moodabidri on the way from Karkala to Agumbe. I reached Varanga just before sunset to capture the nice evening light. I had visited Varanga many a times and each time the experience is unique and exhilarating. The Kere Basadi of Varanga is unique Jain temple situated in the midst of a gentle green lake. Serene lake contrasts well with the sharp quadrilateral architecture of the temple and gentle swaying hills at the distance.
I used Canon EOS 5D mark II fitted with Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L USM Lens and Hoya circular polarizing filter to get these pictures. I used various focal lengths from 16mm to 35 mm take these photos. What you can notice is use of hyperfocal distance to get both foreground as well as background in sharp focus. I had mentioned in the earlier blog about use of hyperfocal distance to catch flying kite as well as moon in sharp focus. Unfortunately hyperfocal distance will not work effectively for a 600mm focal length I was planning. It really is effective in normal to wide angle lenses.
So what is the definition of this term Hyper focal distance? The hyperfocal distance is the closest distance at which a lens can be focused while keeping objects at infinity acceptably sharp; that is, the focus distance with the maximum depth of field. Digital cameras with tiny sensors have almost eliminated need to get the calculator to get this hyperfocal distance. Tiny sensors which you find on most point and shoot cameras will give you a universal focus right from close up to infinity. Many manufacturers have eliminated the scale displaying a zone of focus on their digital lenses all together in recent years. So is it just meant for film cameras and not relevant to digital? No. As more people start venturing into larger sensors (35mm or larger) they will come to face with the hyperfocal distance.
When you focus your lens there will be a zone that is in focus and areas that are out of focus. The area that is in focus is called the focal plane of acceptable sharpness. The interesting thing about this focal plane is that, when you focus on a subject, one third of the distance closest between subject and camera is in focus; secondly, two thirds of the zone that stretches out from and behind the subject is also in focus.
In a landscape photography you want maximum area in focus (foreground to background), so if you keep your lens focus to infinity your focal plane stretches 1/3 in front of infinity and 2/3 beyond infinity. What is is the use of the focus infinity? it is a waste as it is supposed to be focus anyway. So trick is to focus little in front of the infinity mark so as to stretch the focal plane just into infinity. That will give you a sharply focus foreground and sharply focused background too.
There are 3 rules to get best out of this trick.
- Use wide angle lens which inherently has greater depth of field.
- Use smaller aperture like f/8-f/16 which give you a great depth of field.
- If you don’t have depth of field calculator handy, focus on a point about a third the distance between you and the subject and use depth of field preview button to check the focal plane.
If you want to be accurate and mathematically inclined there is a formula to calculate this hyperfocal distance. It is dependednt on several factors. The focal length of the lens, aperture, sensor size etc. I don’t want to confuse you with all that jargon. If you are interested to know the calculation check links below.
Learn more about hyperfocal distance at these links.
- Digital Photography school has a nice article Hyperfocal Distance – Photographer’s Friend
- Cambridge In Color also has a calculator and shows an excellent example of it in use http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/hyperfocal-distance.htm
- You can calculate exact hyperfocal charts with http://www.dofmaster.com/charts.html.
- Martin Bailey has the following podcast on hyperfocal distance – Understanding Hyperfocal distance , DOF Explainedand the pdf-file to the DOF Explained
- Apple iTouch/iPhone/iPad has a free hyperfocal distance calculator called Field Tools
- Android phones have a similar app called Photo Tools
If you need more info on Varanga check this nice article on Deccan Herald – Basadis are testimony to rich Jain culture.
10 thoughts on “Hyperfocal Distance”
Great info! never went tru the technical side of it so far, you expalined it so well!
Fantastic shots and very informative! Thanks for sharing! 🙂
Excellent shots…identifying the best plot for a wide angle composition is not so easy… I realized it since I bought Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens, thanks for sharing the info too.
Thank you for the info.
I liked the the first shot, right choice of polariser .
Good info krishi! I have one small doubt. I was under impression that to get hyperfocal distance we should keep focal length at infinity mark and use manual focus. How you have used different focal lenghts from 16-35 and keep focus at or near infinity? Pl excuse me if the doubt looks silly. But I have not understood this part .Thnx
I feel you have confusion with the focal length definition. Let me explain a little. My 16-35 lens whatever magnification I use to take the photo it is the focal length. Say if I turn the zoom ring to 23mm then the resultant photo will have a focal length of 23mm. You can create Hyperfocal distance with any focal length. May it be 16mm, 23mm or 35mm You just need to rotate the zoom ring to that setting.
Normal tendency to shoot landscape is to keep the focus ring at infinity as we want the far object to be focused properly. But what about the near object. That will not be focused if we keep the focus at infinity. Rule of the focus says 1/3 in front of point of focus 2/3 behind. So when we keep the focus ring at infinity we end up 1/3 in front of infinity & 2/3 behind it. To include sharp fore ground you need to focus in front of the infinity so the behind 2/3 rule just enters into the infinity. For adjusting Hyperfocal you don’t meddle with zoom ring. But since the Hyperfocal length is different for different focal lengths you need to adjust them when ever you change the focal length. I hope this will clarify your query.
Thank you very much for blogging this
Tilt shift lenses enable photographers to transcend the normal restrictions of depth of field and perspective. Many of the optical tricks these lenses permit could not otherwise be reproduced digitally
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Dr. Thanks for the detailed info. This helped me a lot to understand Hyperfocal Distance.