2021 Week 25: Creative Aperture

“Sunflower Fields” by Tonya Bender: f/13

It’s time for a new technical challenge this week!! So far this year we have had challenges on the Exposure Triangle, Intentional Exposure, and Creative Shutter Speed. This week we are going to focus on another very important element of the exposure triangle, aperture. If you recall, aperture is the size of the opening at the end of the lens which allows a certain amount of light to enter for exposure. We are now going to define the importance of different aperture settings and how to utilize them creatively.

In order to accomplish aperture creativity we need to know how different aperture sizes or settings affect the exposure and overall outcome of your image. To have a better understanding of this it is first important to explain some aperture “terminology”. If you remember from the Exposure Triangle Challenge that aperture settings are measured as fractions called f-stops such at f/4, f/5.5, etc in which “f” is the focal length of the lens. Because of this fractional measurement, a small aperture is actually a large number since it is the bottom number on the fraction such as f/22. Shooting at a small aperture creatively produces an image with a deep depth of field, or dof, meaning that it is sharp from the front to the back of the image. Small apertures are most popular in landscape photography, where the desire is for every detail to be sharp and in focus as illustrated in the above image “Sunflower Fields”.

Alternatively, a large aperture is a smaller number such as f/2.0 and additionally the term “shooting wide open” is when the aperture is set to the maximum size available on the lens such as f/1.2 or f/3.5, etc. For lenses with different focal lengths, such as zoom lenses, the aperture is listed as a range such as 3.5-5.6 in which the maximum aperture would be 3.5 when zoomed out and 5.6 when zoomed in. The maximum aperture information is typically found on the lens, see below.

The maximum aperture is 1.2 listed after the focal length (50mm) as 1:1.2

Photographing at a large aperture will creatively produce a narrow dof in which the subject is sharp and the background and/or foreground are a smooth blur. This effect is most popular in portrait and macro photography in order to draw the viewers eye to the subject by preventing background distractions. Note: smaller apertures may achieve a shallow dof in macro photography due to the large magnification as depicted in the image “For Giving”, below.

“For Giving” by Tonya Bender: f7/1

One last photographic term referring to aperture is shooing at the lens’ “sweet spot”. This is defined as the aperture setting of a lens that produces the highest possible quality of sharpness in the final image. Each lens has its own sweet spot and is generally found at a mid-range aperture setting. According to Digital Photography School the rule to finding that mid-range sweet spot is to count up two full f-stops from the widest aperture. They claim that there is some wiggle room of a few additional f-stops which would define mid-range. (Click the link above to read more).

The Challenge

“New Year’s Resolution” by Tonya Bender: f/2.5

This week your challenge is to creatively use aperture to produce an image of your choice. You may choose a large aperture to photograph a portrait of someone or something by isolating them from the background like the above image “New Year’s Resolution”, or for macro photography to also isolate the subject or create a bokeh effect as illustrated in the image “Whispering” below. You may click the following links to read more on bokeh: 2019 Week 19: Bokeh and Four Ways to Generate Stunning Bokeh.

“Whispering” by Tonya Bender: f/5.6

Instead you may choose to photograph using a small aperture to create a deeper dof in order to capture all the details of a beautiful landscape or a large group of items or people. Another creative way to utilize a small aperture is to create a starburst effect shown in Eric Minbiole’s image “Backlit Leaves” below (click for more info on Starburst effect).

“Backlit Leaves” by Eric Minbiole: f/22.0

Lastly you may decide to experiment with the sweet spot of your lens this week in order to achieve that highest quality of sharpness in your image. This would be a great choice for those who are most interested in a technical challenge.

The Challenge Summary

  • Take an image of your choice that creatively utilizes aperture.
  • Post your newly taken photo during the week of Sunday, June 20 through Saturday, June 26.
  • In your write up explain your creative process and include what aperture and/or technique you chose and why. Also include your camera settings (aperture, shutter speed, and ISO).
  • Please remember to comment on at least FIVE photo submissions this week by answering the question “why?” in your comments. In other words, “why do I like (or not like) this photo?” or “why did this photo catch my eye?” Thank you!

The friendly community guidelines are pretty simple:

  • Take a new photo for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • Post your photo each week to our active communities on Facebook or Flickr(or both). Tag the photo:  #2021photochallenge #photochallenge #tempusaura
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2021 Trevor Carpenter Photo Challenge is fun and easy.

About Tonya Bender

I am a self taught photographer from Allegany County Maryland where I reside in Little Orleans with my husband. My interest in photography began 20 years ago when my husband gifted me with my first film camera, a Canon AE-1. I dabbled in nature photography as well as portraits for a few years until shortly thereafter I put photography on hold to pursue my education in laboratory science and Chemistry. Upon graduating I combined my passions of learning and photography while exploring, practicing, and fine tuning my artistic style. With the use of my creative eye, my camera, and my processing skills I seek to create images that inspire emotion, thought, and interest. I first joined and started participating in The Trevor Carpenter Photo Challenge in 2014. From the moment I submitted my first photo I knew I had found a new home. The members were so accepting, informative, and encouraging. I spent the next 6 years participating, learning, and creating in ways I never thought possible. I became more confident in my work which encouraged me to enter photography shows and competitions in which images I have created as a result of The Trevor Carpenter Photo Challenge have won top prizes. A few years into my journey at The Trevor Carpenter Photo Challenge I became a Guest Contributor and have written several of my own photo challenges for the group. I am honored to now take on a more permanent role as a contributor and administrator in hopes that my story and my challenges help inspire others just like this group has inspired me! If you are interested in seeing more of my work please check me out on Flicker at https://www.flickr.com/photos/tonyajbender/

One Reply to “2021 Week 25: Creative Aperture”

  1. Danny Morrison

    Nice job Tonya. Love “Whispering”