Going on a manual focus journey
World in miniature on a conifer stump

It’s increasingly easy to take a picture. Point the camera, peer through the eyepiece, half-depress the shutter, watch the fifty plus autofocus points spring into green and beeping life and fully-depress the button to review on the screen. Job done. Next subject please.

Perhaps you might want to focus on something particular in the scene so you read up on how to use back button focussing and turn off the beeping as it destroys the atmos. Now, rather than taking the scene as a whole you place the single focus square on the area or object you want to focus on, press the back button, hear the lens shuffle as it acquires focus and the square go green. Press the shutter button. Job done. Next subject please.

These techniques, although perfectly fine, especially the back button single focus point combination which is great for tracking a subject with continuous autofocus can miss a lot of hidden detail in a scene. Sometimes a scene may have one or more subjects in it. Even if it’s only a few inches wide. On a walk recently I had the 40mm macro lens on the camera and I was exploring the intimate world of moss, lichens, fungi and plants as they grew on the airy summits of felled conifer stumps. Autofocussing with a single point was a smash ’n grab affair that pushed the point of focus deep into a clump of moss, picking out a particular subject while ignoring other interesting viewpoints which could have revealed new subjects within the scene.

So I switched the lens to manual focus and through the eye piece worked my way through the scene, turning the focus ring and taking a visual walk through an exotic miniature landscape. Using manual focus revealed so many more participants in the scene. The marching stalks, the subtle changes in colour from the edges to the centre, the moistness variations and air traffic of insects coming and going in and out of focus. Rather than a snapshot in time, it was a journey through the subject. With the macro lens I was literally inside the tiny jungle, getting to know its contours, colours and inhabitants. By the time I’d settled on an interpretation I liked I felt I’d left the big world for a holiday in the small. It was a very refreshing experience. Sometime it’s good to turn off as must technology as you can, slow down and journey through your subject.