Hut and Tree on Hill

Hokkaido Winter Landscape Tour 2020 Travelogue 1 (Podcast 693)

In this post, we start our travelogue series covering the 2020 Hokkaido Winter Landscape Photography Adventure Tour & Workshop.

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Martin Bailey
Martin Bailey is a nature and wildlife photographer and educator based in Tokyo. He's a pioneering Podcaster and blogger, and an X-Rite Coloratti member.
  • Paulo Silva
    Posted at 07:37h, 24 January Reply

    Hi Martin.
    Congratulations for the magnificent photos you’ve published in this post, as always. They’re really striking out.
    I do have a question. Wy do you use apertures so small as F/16 with such wide focal length as 22mm?
    For the longer I understand if you want to keep everything in focus but as wider than 22mm or 35mm, wouldn’t you get the lens best performance (keeping everything in focus) and using a little bit wider aperture (say f/8 to f/11), having in mind that diffraction usually starts to show with f/11 and smaller? I know that it depends on the lens you’re using, and my experience is only with APS-C sensors in which diffraction happens sooner than with FF,
    Another question if I may is where did you put your focal plan? At the trees or did you use some kind of hyperfocal distance?

    All the best

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 09:37h, 24 January Reply

      Hi Paulo,

      Thanks for the kind words, and great question.

      My settings are usually the result of thinking through what I want to do with the elements of the image, and also based on testing my gear to understand what it is capable of. There is also a hint in the above text with regards to these particular scenes.

      The main reason here is because I wanted to get a shutter speed of between 1/20 and 1/40 of a second to cause the snow to streak slightly. It’s hard to see in the web versions, but it makes a beautiful pattern over the trees at these shutter speeds. If that requires me to stop down to f/16, I’m fine with that, because I test my lenses as described here to see where diffraction starts to kick in. I built the functionality into my Photographer’s Friend app to also display diffraction warnings when calculating depth-of-field, which I also reference, but I’ve found that my gear does not start to visibly show the effect of diffraction until I stop down to f/22, but the depth-of-field does increase.

      For example, for the hut and tree shot with the dark sky, that was shot at 91mm, and at f/16 the close foreground snow is starting to come out of the depth-of-field. For the snow pillows shot, I was trying to get a slow shutter speed to record the water movement.

      For the dawn mist in Biei shot, you’ll see that I opened it up to f/11, because, firstly, I was hand-holding, but also because the foreground snow was not going to be important, so I didn’t need to stop down so much. For the blue waterfall, I opened up to f/11 and adjusted my ISO to get a 1-second shutter speed, again, so make the water look the way it does. For the raven’s in the tree shot, I opened up to f/11 to get a shutter speed of 1/100 of a second, but I didn’t want to go any faster, because I wanted the flying birds to blur slightly when flying.

      I have to admit, that these are perhaps better examples of my thought process because the low light causes me to decide where the trade-offs will be played out. With brighter scenes I generally just shoot pretty much everything at f/14, but this is more out of habit. Before I really tested my lenses I used f/14 as my soft-ceiling, and f/16 was pretty much the highest I would go, but that is no longer the case.

      I am aware that some people like to shoot at f/8, mostly because they’ve read somewhere that this is the sweet spot for the lens, but this in my experience is generally completely unnecessary, and often causes them to have to focus stack, etc. I rarely focus stack, and I mean like, almost never, and the thought of having to do that to overcome an obstacle that does not exist turns me completely cold. Before anyone makes a decision like that, they need to test their lenses and find out where diffraction starts to become visible for all of their lenses.

      Also, as you said, crop factor cameras will start to see diffraction at wider apertures, so you do need to test, but my app also shows the warnings accordingly when crop factor sensor sizes are selected. In case you haven’t see this, check it out here:

      People also, in my experience, have a very poor understanding of depth-of-field, and very few people understand that depth-of-field is directly affected by the megapixels (resolution) of the sensor in the camera. You get shallower depth-of-field with higher resolution cameras, if, as I do, you check critical focus at 100%. This is what I enabled with the Pixel Peeper mode that I built into my Photographer’s Friend app. When enabled you can clearly see the difference in depth-of-field as the sensor resolution increases.

      Regarding your question about where I focus, most of the time I am focusing on the main subject, to give it the clearest pixels. I occasionally focus around a third into the screen when I need more depth-of-field, but I generally feel that the main subject is best. With the shadow of the tree shot, for example, I recall focusing on the middle of the shadow, as it was about one third into the scene, but also because the shadow was the main subject of this image, not the tree itself. This also helped me to get more focus on the foreground snow.

      I hope this helps some, and by all means, let me know if anything is unclear. If I’d had more time, I would like to have included much of this in the original text, so I think I’ll add this in reply to your question at the start of the second episode in this series. Thanks for pulling this extra information out of me. 🙂


  • Paulo Silva
    Posted at 03:52h, 27 January Reply

    Hi Martin,
    Thanks for your reply. As usual, your answers are crystal clear and it makes me better understand the why and how you did it to get the intended results. It’s really good to have your feedback, as we’re always learning something new every day. Once again, thank you for sharing with us your knowledge.
    PS: Whatever reason I don’t no why, I didn’t get the email notification with your reply. I just saw it today when I received podcast 694

    Have a good week with your Japan Wildlife trip.
    Best regards
    Paulo Silva

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 07:05h, 28 January Reply

      Hi Paulo,

      You’re very welcome, for the reply. Thanks for the great questions! 🙂

      To automatically receive a reply to comments, you have to turn on the check-box below the comment that says “Notify me of follow-up comments by email.” Do you know if you checked that or not on your original reply? If you did, I’ll try to look into this more in case something is broken.


  • Angela
    Posted at 06:39h, 29 January Reply

    Thank you!!!! I must thank both Paulo for asking the questions and Martin for giving such a thorough and understandable response. In fact, I”ve marked this so I can come back and study the photographs again in light of the detailed response. I’m also going to review the link you have embedded to another post to take a more thorough look of your app.

    Thank you again. Looking forward to the rest of your travelogue. Cheers!

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