Depth of Field

Photo by Simon Abrams on Unsplash

I used to be really into photography. Like with film, and darkrooms, and chemicals and all that fun stuff.

There are some basic concepts that you learn early on: contrast, composition, subject matter.

And then there’s depth of field. More specifically, how the light changes how you perceive things.

Cameras have apertures, which work a lot like the pupils of your eyes. Your eyes naturally adjust to the light. Your pupils will narrow if it’s very bright and they will widen as the light decreases.

When using a camera, you control how much light you’re letting in by adjusting the aperture (f-stop). If you’re in a bright situation, you would want to keep the aperture narrow (a higher f-stop).

The result is an increased depth of field. You can see a lot of detail. Close by. Far away.

While this makes sense for some images, it can introduce a new problem:

When you emphasize everything, you emphasize nothing.

When you are trying to see everything, you aren’t seeing anything.

Let’s say you have less light to work with. In this case, you would widen the aperture (a lower f-stop) to let more light in.

Once you decide what to focus on, the rest becomes a blur (also known as bokeh).

The bokeh helps add clarity to this one plane of the image. The bokeh is filled with its own beauty and mystery. The unknown. The imagination.

In order to focus on something, you have to be willing to let some things fade into the background.

You need to trust that the mystery will help make things more clear.

If there is no light at all, something different happens. You not only need to have the aperture open as wide as possible, you need to have the shutter open as long as possible. (Imagine that your eyelid is the shutter.)

When the shutter is open that long, anything that moves becomes blurry. (Did you know that most things are moving?)

So you will need a tripod and a remote shutter release because even pushing the button on the camera will disturb the image.

When there is no light, you need to widen your perspective and stay open (and very still).

The longer you stay open, the more you will see.

We aren’t talking about photography anymore.

We are talking about the times that we are in, the tragedies that are touching us, the issues in our own lives, the challenges we might be facing.

It might feel dark, like we can’t see. It may feel blurry and out of focus.

We don’t have to try and see everything, to figure out everything, to have all of the answers.

Sometimes focusing on one thing at a time is enough.

Sometimes we need to adapt to the darkness, to see what emerges.

Sometimes we need to let our other senses come forward.

As we move through another week on this timeline, I encourage you to reflect on the following:

  • Where in your life would you benefit from having a wider perspective
  • Where does your energy need to focus right now? What can go out of focus?
  • What do you need to keep your eye on, for perhaps longer than you think?
  • Ask yourself, what am I not seeing? What is there for me to see?

You are a visionary.

This was originally published in my weekly newsletter. Subscribe here: newsletter.rozduffy.com

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design strategist + researcher, coach, fun. she/her.

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roz duffy

roz duffy

design strategist + researcher, coach, fun. she/her.

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