techniques

Shallow depth of field

Painted Goby (Pomatoschistus pictus), Loch Goil, Scotland. Nikon D200, Nikon 60mm macro lens with +5 diopter. 1/200s, f/18, ISO200

I was very pleased to be placed in the top four images in a recent BSoUP competition. The theme was “shallow depth of field”. My image was of a Goby taken a few years ago in Loch Goil, Scotland. This shot has been lurking in my catalog without being shown and it has been nice for it to see the light of day.

These tiny fish are found in large numbers in the very shallows of many of the Scottish sea lochs, flitting about on the sand.

I often spend time shooting these guys at the end of a dive. Although they look a little plain from a distance, when you see them close up, they have wonderful markings on their scales.

They tend to keep very still and then, without warning, dart a short distance. This means they are quite tricky subjects and you don’t get long to work an individual. They home in on any disturbed sediment, hoping for a tasty snack. The best technique is just to lie very still and let them move into range.

This image was taken with a 60mm macro lens with a Marumi dry diopter on the front. This provides greater magnification at the cost of depth of field. With lens alone, a wide aperture of around f/4 seems to produce pleasing shallow depth of field, but this image was shot at f/18 and still has a very shallow depth of field.

I don’t usually crop my images very much, but in this case I felt the image had more impact in portrait format than the original landscape orientation. I was very pleased with the pose, giving a nice curve to the fish with its mouth open, but unfortunately its pectoral fin on image left was not extended. This was why the shot has not been shown before, but for this competition, I wondered if it could be improved. I copied the splayed pectoral fin, gave it a mirror flip and then moved it into position on the image left. I was very pleased with the result and so, it seems, was the competition judge.

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