More Love For Shallow Depth-of-Field

April 14, 2020

Crabeater Seal Paradise BayCrabeater Seal Paradise BayLate Season, Antarctica 2020

Weddell Seal, Paradise Bay, Antarctica
Fujifilm X-T3, XF200mmF2 R LM OIS WR, f2.5 @ 1/5800 second, ISO 160

I will probably never make it as a real nature photographer. For me, just as important as the animal depicted are the composition, light and gesture of the subject. I don't see my role as documenting an animal that is already very well known and extensively studied. Instead, I look for ways of depicting the animal as a part of its environment, without worrying about anatomical correctness or including the whole body.

What I loved about this opportunity was how the seal's face was tack-sharp, while the background was like an oil painting. So at the risk of repeating myself (as I wrote about shallow depth-of-field recently), this is easily achieved if you have three things working for you.

First, you need a telephoto lens. Telephotos produce inherently shallow depth-of-field. My 200mm on the Fujifilm X-T3 is the equivalent of a 300mm on a full-frame camera.

Second, you should use a wide aperture. In this case I used f2.5 and although I was using an f2.0 lens, my exposure at f2.0 (wide open) kept clipping with a maximum shutter speed of 1/8000 second and an ISO of 160. Thinking about it, I could have switched to the electronic shutter and then I could have had even shallower depth-of-field at f2.0 and 1/16,000 second.

Third, get in close to your subject. We all know how shallow depth-of-field is for macro photography and this is just an extension of the same optical law. The closer you are to your subject, the shallower the depth-of-field. The seal is perhaps five metres away from me and I'm sitting in a zodiac, floating past the iceberg upon which the seal was snoozing.

But I think the trick to remember is getting in close to your subject. You won't get this type of effect if your subject and focus are positioned a long way away at infinity. 

And for those who are interested, I'm off the Greg Mortimer and back in Australia, detained in a Melbourne hotel with a guard outside my door to make sure I don't leave for two weeks! So, I'm settling into the isolation period with lots of work to do and plenty to keep me occupied! And like everyone else in the world, I'm waiting to see what happens next!

Are you at home with nothing to do? How about signing up to my Landscape Photography MasterClass or my Lightroom Atelier. I'll put a 50% discount on them if you use the coupon code CORONA - for this week only! Visit our sister website at for free samples.


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