Hyperfocal Distance – A required technique in Landscape Photography

Hyperfocal distance can be a confusing topic, both for beginning and expert photographers. However, if you want to take the sharpest possible images, particularly landscape photographs, it is simply invaluable. In this blog I will try to demystify this topic.  

Please Note : Please note: Although the methods I present in this Blog are quite easy to understand, hyperfocal distance itself can be a complex topic. If you are a beginner, I highly recommend reading about aperture and depth of field before you delve into this Blog. Please read about exposure , aperture , shutter speed and ISO  here!

What is Hyperfocal Distance?

  • Hyperfocal distance, at its simplest, is the focusing distance that gives your photos the greatest depth of field. 
  • Hyperfocal distance is a distance beyond which all objects can be brought into an “acceptable” focus.
  • Hyperfocal distance is the focusing distance that provides equal sharpness between the foreground and background.

Role of Aperture

  • Hyperfocal distance of your lens will vary with aperture. Why? Think about it like this – if your aperture is wide, such as f/2, you will need to focus quite far away for objects at infinity to appear in focus. However, at a small aperture of f/11 or f/16, distant objects will continue to be sharp even if your lens is focused more closely. So, in this case, hyperfocal distance moves closer to your lens as you use smaller apertures.

Role of Focal Length

  • Hyperfocal distance of your lens will vary  with your focal length ,Your focal length also has a huge impact on hyperfocal distance. As you zoom in, your hyperfocal distance moves farther and farther away. For a 20mm lens, you may need to focus just a few feet from your lens to get the horizon (distant background at infinity) acceptably sharp. On the other hand, for a 200mm lens, your hyperfocal distance may be hundreds of feet away.

When to Use Hyperfocal Distance?

Not all photographs require that you focus your lens at its hyperfocal distance. Consider, for example, an overlook of a distant mountain. If you are standing on the top of the overlook and there are no objects in your foreground, it would be silly to try and calculate the hyperfocal distance, since your nearest object is effectively at infinity. Just focus on the distant mountains! And your aperture does not really matter either – since the closest object is so far away, you could shoot wide open if you wanted to (probably not a very good idea, since most lenses aren’t as sharp at wide apertures, but this is just in theory). Hyperfocal distance is only important to calculate when you have objects both close and far away from your lens that need to be sharp. Since you are actually focusing between these objects, neither is “perfectly” sharp; they are both simply close enough, or “acceptably sharp.”

Using a Hyperfocal Distance Chart.

One way to calculate Hyper focal distance is to use a chart , here is the chart for calculating hyperfocal distance

15mm at F16, HyperFocal distance of 2.5 FT

Here the Idea was to use stones in the water to be in sharp focus along with subjects in infinity . Shot at 15mm at F-16 made sure the stone was beyond 2.5 ft ( Refer the cart above )

Using Apps.

FotoTool ( Android ) :

FotoTool is a free application that contains several useful tools for both amateurs and professional photographers, This includes a tool to calculated HyperFocal distance.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.alfbishop.software.fototool&hl=en_US&gl=US

Simple DoF Calculator (iOS)

Simple DoF Calculator allows photographers to calculate the depth of field and hyperfocal distance for any given settings.

https://apps.apple.com/us/app/simple-dof-calculator/id301222730

How to use Hyperfocal Distance

  1. Choose a lens, and be sure to note the focal length that you are using.
  2. Pick an aperture value.
  3. Find the hyperfocal distance that corresponds to your chosen focal length and aperture.
  4. Focus your lens at the hyperfocal distance. This can be done by estimation, or by the focusing scale on your lens (if you have one).
  5. Now, everything from half that distance until infinity will be sharp.

Some Pictures using Hyperfocal distance

11mm at F22 , Hyperfocal distance of 1 ft

This is 11mm at F22 , Hyperfocal distance of 1 Ft .. So made sure the leaf is one feet away from the camera

15mm at F8, HyperFocal distance of 5 FT

This is 5mm at F8 , Hyperfocal distance of 5 Ft , so made sure the rock is on5 feet away from the camera


Credits

https://photographylife.com/landscapes/hyperfocal-distance-explained

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperfocal_distance

Thanks if you like the blog, you can leave a comment at Home Page

Cheers

Goutham Ramesh

Switzerland by train

My travels to Switzerland has always been on business , however when you plan your business trip carefully you can enjoy the most breath-taking landscapes by train.

The clients that I used to consult for were either in Lausanne or Geneva , which is south west part of Switzerland and in order to enjoy my Journey , I used to land at Zurich ( North East) and take a train from there! I believe this is one the best ways to see Switzerland.

Trains from Zurich to Geneva are operated by SBB – the main rail operator in Switzerland – who offer plenty of different options to make your journey as comfortable as possible, including one-way, multi-journey and day pass tickets that let you extend your adventure even beyond these two enchanting cities.

Zurich to Geneva

Train details

Journey timeFrom 2h 43m
PriceFrom €23.15
Distance139 miles (224 km)
Frequency37 trains per day
First train03:32
Last train02:34
Departure stationZurich Hb
Arrival stationGeneva
ChangesDirect trains available
Train and bus operatorsSBB CFF FFS

There are lots of places to see and do in this Beautiful Country , However I can only speak about my Journey


Zurich to Lauterbrunnen and Murren:

Lauterbrunnen is a municipality in the Swiss Alps. It encompasses the village of Lauterbrunnen, set in a valley featuring rocky cliffs and the roaring, 300m-­high Staubbach Falls. Nearby, the glacial waters of Trümmelbach Falls gush through mountain crevices past viewing platforms. A cable car runs from Stechelberg village to Schilthorn mountain, for views over the Bernese Alps.

Mürren is a Swiss mountain village at the foot of the Schilthorn peak, which is accessible by cable car. Featured in a James Bond film, the Piz Gloria revolving restaurant contains the Bond World 007 exhibit and has views of Mont Blanc. Near Mürren is the Lauterbrunnen Valley, with its subterranean, glacial Trümmelbach Falls. Themed trails on the Allmendhubel peak include the Flower Panorama and North Face paths.

Start at Zürich : Take a Long distance Intercity train to Geneva or Bern   (56 min non-stop) ->  Bern   

: Take another train to Interlaken OST ( 54 Mins ) -> Interlaken OST : Take a train to Lauterbrunnen (20 Mins ) -> Lauterbrunnen : Take a cable car to Murren (10-15 Mins )

Lauterbrunnen Road
Lauterbrunnen Falls
Eiger and Monch from Murren
Eiger
Jungfrau from Murren
Swiss House Murren
Myself at Murren

Bern to Geneva:

This is one of the most scenic train journeys that take you through amazing countryside and as you get close to the destination, you will see Lake Geneva; some of the pics below were taken from train.

Swiss Scape from Train
Swiss Scape from train
Swiss Home from Train
Swiss Village from train
Swiss village from train
Swiss village home from train
Scape from train

Chillon, Montreux  and Glion:

Chillon Castle is an island castle located on Lake Geneva, south of Veytaux in the canton of Vaud. It is situated at the eastern end of the lake, on the narrow shore between Montreux and Villeneuve, which gives access to the Alpine valley of the Rhône.

Glion is a village in the municipality of Montreux in the canton of Vaud, Switzerland. The village is located 700 m.a.s.l., overlooking Lake Geneva. The position of this village above Montreux and the Chauderon Gorge made it a touristic destination in the 19th century.

Start at Geneva : Take a Long distance Intercity train to Lausanne  (37 min non-stop) ->  Lausanne  

: Take another train to Villeneuve VD ( 30 Mins ) -> Villeneuve VD: Take a train to Veytaux, Château de Chillon (4 Mins ) -> Walk to Chillon Castle

Chillon Castle
Myself at Chillon
Court room , Inside Chillon Castle
Dungeon Inside Chillon Castle
Lake Geneva from Chillon Castle

Chillon to Glion

Start at Chillon: Walk to Veytaux, Château de Chillon (4 Mins ) -> Veytaux, Château de Chillon :  Take a train to Territet, Gare ->  Territet, Gare: Take a Funicular to Gliion

On the way to Glion
Funicular to Gilion
Gilon
Chillon from Glion
Glion
Myself at Glion

Lausanne :

Lausanne is a city on Lake Geneva, in the French-speaking region of Vaud, Switzerland. It’s home to the International Olympic Committee headquarters, as well as the Olympic Museum and lakeshore Olympic Park. Away from the lake, the hilly old city has medieval, shop-lined streets and a 12th-century Gothic cathedral with an ornate facade. The 19th-century Palais de Rumine houses fine art and science museums

Start at Geneva : Take a Long distance Intercity train to Lausanne  (37 min non-stop)

Lausanne from Ouchy
Myself at Olympic headquarters
Lausanne

Geneva :

Geneva is a city in Switzerland that lies at the southern tip of expansive Lac Léman (Lake Geneva). Surrounded by the Alps and Jura mountains, the city has views of dramatic Mont Blanc. Headquarters of Europe’s United Nations and the Red Cross, it’s a global hub for diplomacy and banking. French influence is widespread, from the language to gastronomy and bohemian districts like Carouge

St Peter Cathedral , Geneva
Ferry on Lake Geneva and Jet d Eau
River Rhone , Geneva
Jet d eau
Jet D Eau
St Peter Cathedral

Thanks if you like the blog, you can leave a comment at Home Page

Cheers

Goutham Ramesh

Magical Munnar with Vismaya group

I have been part of team Vismaya, which propagates the thought of helping the needy using our photography skills.  We do conduct photography exhibitions of our pictures and entire income from sales is donated for a cause.

As part of process of making pictures we do go on trips to make pictures; One of our annual trips is a to a beautiful place called Munnar ( We started visiting this place in 2012 ) and this blog is about Munnar and some of the pictures that I have taken at this beautiful place.

Team Vismaya in 2012 AD: ( L-R) Amar, Vinod Balan, Myself, Murali, Venu
Team Vismaya in 2020 : (L-R) Harish, Myself, Amar, Venu, Vinod, Murali ( Sridhar is missing )
Team Vismaya in 2020 Munnar trip : (L-R) Amar, Murali, Harish, Myself, Venu, Sisir)

Munnar

Munnar rises as three mountain streams merge – Mudrapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundala. 1,600 m above sea level, this hill station was once the summer resort of the erstwhile British Government in South India. Sprawling tea plantations, picturesque towns, winding lanes and holiday facilities make this a popular resort town. Among the exotic flora found in the forests and grasslands here is the Neelakurinji. This flower which bathes the hills in blue once in every twelve years, will bloom next in 2030. Munnar also has the highest peak in South India, Anamudi, which towers over 2,695 m.

Trip Route:

Our trip usually starts with a date and checklist by Amar which gives a fair indication of what to carry and what to do. We start from Bangalore and reach Munnar on the same day. The route we usually take is shown below

  • Take Hosur Rd, Bengaluru – Chennai Hwy/Electronic City Flyover/Hosur Rd in Bommanahalli.
  • Follow NH 44 and NH544 to Mangalam Rd/Tiruppur – Vanjipalayam – Avinashi Rd in Avinashi. Exit from NH544.
  • Follow Mangalam Rd and Udumalpet – Palladam Rd to Munnar – Udumalpet Rd in Nullatanni, Kannan Devan Hills.

Team’s Kit:

Apart from our equipment considering that we shoot pretty much whole day starting  as early as 3.00 AM we do carry portable kitchen with stove , table, chair water and lot of ready to cook stuff ( These not only help us survive very cold temperatures , it also fills our stomach and is fun )

Maggie on the road
Chef Sisir and Harish, Munnar
Refreshments on the way

Our Typical Day in Munnar

3.00 AM – 6.30 AM, Top Station: Subjects include Milky way, Sun Kissed peaks , Mist and dawn.

Milkyway , Tops tation
Milky Way Top Station ( There is also a head light lit mist which looks like fire in the distance )
Sun lit peak, Top Station
Above the clouds , Top Station
Top Station after sun rise, we are still above the clouds

6.30 AM – 11.00 AM, Kundala Dam: Subjects include curvy roads, Misty Lake, Misty Canopy and Mountains.

Mist Covered Kundala Lake
Vinod Balan , contemplating a composition
Boats at Kundala
Mist Covered Canopy
Early Morning Mist and Mountains
Sisir thinking about composition
Venu Shooting Lone Tree
Myself at Lone Tree
The result!

11.00 AM – 2.00 PM, Hotel: This is where we cook our own food and discuss the day’s shoot mistakes and what we can do better next day and plan for next day and catchup with sleep

Harish and Murali reviewing images and discussing next shoot

3.00 PM – 7.00 PM:

  • Travel to Devikulam tea gardens, scout for places with sun rays and also shoot sun set.

OR

  • Shoot The sunset at Kundala Dam or Echo point
Tea gardens of Devikulam
Rays and Tea Garden
Rays
Trees and Garden
Sunset on the way to Munnar from Devikulam
Sunset and Kundala
Boats during Sunset at Kundala

7.00PM – 12.00 AM, Top Station: Shoot Star Trails.

Star Trail Munnar
Star Trail Munnar

Link to Star Trail Photography Blog

https://gouthamramesh.com/2021/08/star-trails-photography-method/

12.00 AM – 3.00 AM, Hotel: Much needed rest.

Usually we repeat this every day and plan to shoot differently every day and being in mountains the weather is unpredictable, so we do spend good 3 days doing the same thing.

Heading Back

Our drive back is also fun filled with a customary Masala dosa at Asai Dosa at Saravana Bhavan , Salem.

Harish with his Topi Dosa ( A type of South Indian pancake from a fermented batter of rice and lentils )

If you want a personalised photo tour and workshop at munnar in December/January you can contact me from home page!

Cheers,

Goutham Ramesh

Star Trails Photography -Method

Star Trail Munnar

What is it?

A star trail is a type of photograph that uses long exposure times to capture the apparent motion of stars in the night sky due to Earth’s rotation. A star-trail photograph shows individual stars as streaks across the image, with longer exposures yielding longer arcs.

Points to ponder:

Some important points to ponder for making a good star trail image are:

  • Camera settings
  • Equipment
  • Shooting locations
  • And more

Camera Equipment for Star Trails Photography.

  • Any camera with manual mode is great for star trails photography. The nice part of this mode is you can use the exact same camera for star & Milky Way photography too; By using manual mode, you can independently control shutter speed, f-stop, and ISO by hand.
  • I recommend a full-frame camera, a full-frame sensor in the camera can “collect” more light over the exposure time, increasing image quality, and reducing noise.

Best Lens for Star Trails Photography.

A wide-angle lens with f-stop values ranging from f/2.8 to f/5.6 will work best for star trails photography.

  • Focal Lengths – Full Frame: 14mm – 20mm are recommended.
  • Focal Lengths – Crop Sensor: 10mm – 18mm are recommended.

Aperture.

The larger the aperture diameter, the more light the camera can collect over a standard exposure. Opening the aperture increases image quality because you can reduce the ISO, thus inducing less noise in the image.

I shoot with the Laowa 15mm, Tokina 11-16 or Samyang 8mm for all my night sky images.

Tripod.

A carbon fiber tripod, with a sturdy, stable adjustable ball-head is the best for star trails photography. Carbon fiber reduces tripod vibration providing sharper images.You can try cheaper tripods the most important thing is a sturdy tripod.

Intervalometer.

An intervalometer connects to your camera allowing you to take exposures longer than 30 seconds. It also allows you to take multiple images, one after another, all at the same settings, for an extended amount of time.

Any intervalometer will work, so long as you can control:

  • Shutter speed
  • Time between shots
  • Number of shots total

Some camera’s come with an inbuilt intervalometer ( This is what I use )

Nikonians refer this link

https://onlinemanual.nikonimglib.com/d7500/en/24_menu_guide_03_24.html

Planning

Doing some basic planning before the shoot will greatly improve the chances of coming home with a good shot.

  1. Determine the moon phase : You can shoot star trails under any moon phase, but the results will drastically differ. During the full moon, it’s almost too bright to shoot star trails at all, and you can barely see them in the sky. When the moon is at half or less is a great time to shoot star trails photography, Ideally new moon day is best.; however half-moon can also provide some nice lighting to the landscape at the same time it does does not dominate the brightness of the scene.
  2. Find a Location without Light Pollution : Choose darker areas, you can use this map ( https://blue-marble.de/nightlights/2019 )
  3. Find the Best Weather : This all depends on the shot you want. You can get great results when there are perfectly clear skies, where the star trails scene dominates the sky. However sometimes It’s also great to shoot on nights with 20-50% cloud cover in the sky, which means fewer trails, but move cloud movement.
  4. Determine Moonrise & Moonset Times : It does not matter if you shoot under moonlight or not, It’s best to shoot during a time when the moon will not be rising or setting during this time the light stays fairly constant on the landscape during your exposure and leads to better results. Tip : Start your shoot at least 2 hours before a moon or sun, rise or set event.

Focusing Your Lens at Night

Always focus your lens before changing any other settings, this makes all the rest of the steps easier. Since the distance between us and the stars is very large, focusing at or near infinity works well for star trails photography . However lens may have an “∞” symbol on it, this is not always the ideal place to focus , so understand your lens and do some infinity shooting (Focus on object > 50mts ) in day light with manual focus to understand the point of focus on your lens

Star trail Himalayas
Star trail Himalayas

Method to madness

  1. Mode : Manual
  2. Image Format : RAW
  3. Metering Mode : Not applicable as settings are manual
  4. Colour Balance : Kelvin Values between 4000K-5500K work best for night photography settings, If confusing use auto white balance and correct it during post processing.
  5. Focal Length : Widest ( 11- 50mm is the best range )
  6. F-Stop : f/2.8 to f/5.6
  7. Shutter Speed : Shutter speeds ranging from 20-90 seconds are the best for star trails ; Full Frame (30-60 seconds ) ;Crop Sensor (30-120 seconds ). I use a technique that takes a few hundred-star images, without trails, and overlays them on top of each other, creating a star trails image.
  8. ISO Settings: between 500-1200
  9. Noise reduction and long exposure settings: OFF
  10. Number of exposures : The more exposures you take, the longer your star trails will be; This is where intervalometer help; you can also use a single exposure only thing is you might have to keep the exposure open for minutes (30-60 minutes)
  11. Camera pointing : Always point towards North star or in exact opposite direction ( Use Skyview app to track North star )
Champaka Sarasi
Champaka Sarasi

Merging many images to get star trails :

Once you take multiple images you can use Photoshop to merge multiple images to create a star trail :

Steps :

1. First, load all your base images into Photoshop into a single stack (File -> Script >- Load Images into Stack from Photoshop, load from Bridge, or Lightroom, etc).

2. Second, scroll to the bottom of your stack and select the second to the bottom layer – the first layer you want to set to Lighten, and set the blend mode.

3.Next, Right-Click on your newly set ‘Lighten’ layer, a context menu will open up and scroll up and find ‘Copy Layer Style’

4.Select all the remaining Layers above your current lighten layer – all those annoying many images + layers you want to quickly blend together.

4 .Now for the magic, right click again on your selected layers and find that menu item that says ‘Paste Layer Style’ – try not to fall out of your chair at this point

Conclusion.

This was a long read and hope this blog helps fellow photo artists who want to shoot star trails

Credits

https://www.davemorrowphotography.com/2012/03/StarTrailsPhotographyTutorial.html

https://blue-marble.de/nightlights/2019

https://onlinemanual.nikonimglib.com/d7500/en/24_menu_guide_03_24.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_trail

Cheers,

Goutham Ramesh

Hoysalas skilled artists of India

Hoysalas (1026 CE – 1343 CE) were a dynasty that ruled present day Karnataka, parts of Tamil Nadu and south-western Telangana; Their contribution to art especially sculpture and temple architecture is unparalleled! Their era was marked by illustrious achievements in art, architecture, and culture. The nucleus of this activity lay in the present-day Hassan district of Karnataka, India. Their  intention of surpassing the Western Chalukyan Empire (973 CE – 1189 CE) in its own sphere provided further impetus for excelling in the field of architecture.

History of the Hoysala Empire

The Hoysala rulers began as local chieftains in the hills of Western Ghats. With time, their fortune began to prosper and within a few decades they achieved the status of a powerful feudatory under Western Chalukyan Emperors. Early in the history of Hoysala dynasty, the capital of their nascent dominion was shifted from the hills of Western Ghats to Belur. The military conquests of Vishnuvardhan (1108 CE – 1152 CE) against the neighboring Chola Empire (c. 300 BCE – 1279 CE) in 1116 CE marks the first major development in the history of these dynasts. A new age ushered with Vishnuvardhan as he built the Chennakesava temple (1117 CE) in Belur to celebrate this victory; furthermore, he decided to shift the capital almost 20 km to the east to Halebidu or Halebid.

The Hoysalas gained their political freedom in 1192 during the reign of Veera Ballala II (1173 CE – 1220 CE). They soon became a leading power in Southern India and enjoyed territorial supremacy and economic well-being over the next century or so. At its height, the empire consisted of present-day Karnataka, parts of Tamil Nadu and south-western Telangana. However, invasions of sultanates from Delhi and Madurai, from 1311 CE onwards, proved fatal to the then reigning monarch, Veera Ballala III (1292 CE – 1343 CE). He eventually succumbed to these repeated onslaughts in 1343 CE.

I have tried to capture some of their architectural marvels in the following images, I would like to call this as poetry in stone.

Poetry in stone

Credits :

https://www.worldhistory.org/article/898/hoysala-architecture/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoysala_architecture

Cheers,

Goutham Ramesh