Hyperfocal distance is bogus


I’m not sure I follow 100% everything in the article, but I know for a fact that hyperfocal distance charts are wrong, if you use them, everything at infinity will be unsharp.

Therefore, my advice for landscape photography is to focus on infinity, and use the highest f-stop you can get away with. You only need to focus closer than infinity if there’s something in the foreground that’s especially important to the composition and it’s not sharp if you use the infinity focus method (in that case the “double the distance” method in the article sounds reasonable).

Are eggs the secret to photography?

Successful photography blogger Eric Kim writes, “when I get home in the evening I will cook myself an ‘egg snack’ of 8-10 eggs to satisfy my hunger.”

That sounds like a pretty weird dinner. But then I read manly blogger Brett’s advice on increasing testosterone. He says that the secret is to eat lots of cholesterol, and he eats three eggs and bacon for breakfast every day.

So maybe the trick here is that Eric Kim has increased his testosterone by eating so many eggs, and the extra “T” makes him a more aggressive photographer and blogger.

I think that I’m going to have to eat more eggs in order to improve my photography.

An unanswered question: does this testosterone-boosting effect of cholesterol work on women?

Don’t use a telephoto lens

This photo was taken at 12mm on a Micro Four Thirds camera (which is equivalent to 25mm on a full-frame camera; see my blog post about the correct Micro Four Thirds focal length multiplier). You need a wide angle to capture New York City, or any other city full of tall buildings or narrow streets.

The gearhead types who frequent the message boards at dpreview love telephoto lenses. I read so many posts about people going on a vacation and not being able to leave their telephoto lenses at home.

But the truth is that telephoto lenses take ugly photos. Robert Capa is famous for saying, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” He meant that you need to get physically close using a wide-angle lens, he didn’t mean that you should get close from a distance with a telephoto zoom. Very few great photos are taken with telephoto focal lengths. If you visit a display of fine-art photography, you probably won’t see any photos with a telephoto look. Assuming you’re not a birder (which I consider to be a hobby distinct from photography) or a professional portrait photographer (I don’t dispute the value of using a short telephoto lens for a tight head and shoulders portrait), you don’t ever need more telephoto than what you get with a standard zoom lens, and I recommend avoiding any focal lengths longer than the “normal” (which is 50mm on a full-frame camera).

The camera companies won’t tell you this, because they make money selling telephoto lenses. They want you to think that to be like a “pro,” ready to take any possible picture at any time, you must buy expensive telephoto zooms. Don’t fall for the marketing.

A good take on the benefits of wide angle lenses is found in Rafi Letzter’s article at Business Insider, except that he confuses telephoto with zoom. Zoom means that a lens changes its focal length, it doesn’t say whether you are shooting at wide-angle or telephoto. You don’t need to buy prime lenses to get the wide-angle look, you just need to refrain from using the long end of a standard zoom, or you can buy a wide-angle zoom. (Although some people have the belief that zoom makes you lazy and less creative, and maybe even there’s some truth in that belief.)

Photography advice for my younger self

I was looking through some of my older photos taken with digital cameras before 2005, and boy were they bad. From the perspective of subject, composition, focal length, lighting, etc, they were pretty bad.

I also noticed how few photos I took. How was I going to get any better if I hardly ever photographed anything? I spent more effort acquiring gear than I did taking pictures.

And technically, they were also pretty bad. Old digital cameras (tiny sensor cameras, back then I couldn’t justify buying an APS-C digital camera, and full-frame digital didn’t exist or was insanely expensive) were pretty awful compared to modern digital cameras.

But if I had any advice for my old self, it would be:

1. Take lots and lots of pictures. Every week, as many as possible, of as many different subjects as possible.

2. Look at a lot of photos taken by other people, and learn to distinguish the good from the crappy pictures, because if you can’t identify those qualities in other people’s photos, then you probably can’t make your own good pictures. (But don’t tell someone who posts a crappy picture how crappy it is, that just gets people pissed off and doesn’t help you.)

3. Don’t worry about whether the quality of your gear is good or bad. Until you spend at least a year or two taking a lot of photos, you won’t take any good photos anyway, so it doesn’t matter if they have digital noise or aren’t sharp or have low resolution. A lousy photo taken with the best gear is still a lousy photo.

Especially don’t worry about gear in 2017. Even the cheapest Canon DSLR that sells for less than $400 has far better quality than 35mm film.