Photographing Abandoned Places: Depth of Field & Texture

"Wish You Were Here!" If you want to portray that statement, you need to place the viewer in that space and understand just how vast something is or how contracted. You want to give them the texture so they can almost reach out and touch the setting.

Depth of field--showing how much distance there is in your photo's view.

This shot was a no-brainer. This abandoned stone shop had lots of weird rooms and strange places and every angle was good, but the thing that got me about it was looking through the building--a door through a door through a door through a window to the distant desert.

Before and After. (Before upping contrast and lowering brightness to bring out texture) Using a doorway to frame this shot above. It shows so much depth in the building and interest. It's like looking to the guts of a gumball machine. There was so much texture and so much architectural interest. A distant shot would have lost all this precious complexity into a giant gray blur.

Climbing up on the rocks, the slick perspective down the granite slivers showed the texture of the precarious perch and the shadows within the rocks show their size and depth and the length of them points to the distance. I just asked myself while up here, what impresses me most and that was the fact I hadn't fallen flat on my ass to the rocks below because it was so tricky and damp from the rain. So, I found a shot that said to you "hey, isn't this fucking stupid?" So, I shared what was inside my head with you visually.

When you're in a scene, just ask yourself, "what impresses me?" Enhance it!!!

This long wall pointed to the desert, but more importantly, the wall itself was interesting and crumbly and so I got a shot that accentuated just how long and complex it is going to the beauty in the distance as if it's pointing with its hand.

I will be sharing more photographing of abandoned places for you, especially now that I'm doing Sunday Adventure days on the blog, I want to teach you how to document these adventures I will be advising you to take all around the country. If you want to see more lessons in photography, use my photography tab at the top of the page.


  1. That abandoned building was very cool to photograph. Everywhere I turned there was an interesting shot to take with my camera. I also liked that it was cloudy and there was water on the ground in some of the rooms which made for interesting relections. I will be posting my photos later this week.

  2. Using the appropriate f-stop for the depth of field you wish to achieve helps greatly. And, as you indicated, understanding the composition of the shot before you take it can really help by using leading lines or juxtaposing objects at different distances to exaggerate that sense of near and far.

  3. Cullan, dear, I am learning in increments, I admit. I really get the visuals of photography but not the mechanics. In fact, on this trip, I finally learned how to use my zoom and how to turn the flash off. I bought the camera and learned just enough to get the shots and put them on my computer and said "screw it!" for learning the manual because I was too busy. Now, I'm slowing down for a few minutes each evening to learn more about the mechanics of the process. I am sure I can do even more justice for the shots, even though I have a very mediocre camera.

  4. Regarding visual depth of field on your camera: since it doesn't have manual aperture/focus options it is generally an infinite field depth (hence why in your picture down all those doorways even the distant stuff is in focus).

    When you have a camera like my 7D that has interchangeable lenses and manual focus, depending on the lens and aperture you can make close objects in focus and distant objects really blurry (which is called shallow depth of field). Every lens has a focal distance or range of focal distances if it has zoom capabilities.

  5. Thanks for the techno-speak, Alex. For the more advanced photog's that's a good summary. I guess this would be a different lesson if everyone had really great cameras and lenses and knew how to use them, but they'd probably not be reading my advice on how to compose their pics. So far as what I'm working with, I figure there's no reason you can't show the dimension and proportions of a scene by simply choosing your shot wisely and making a few after adjustments in Photoshop. In preparation for everyone going on their adventures with their cell phone cams or their cheap digital cameras like mine, I will be pleased to see them come back with shots that portray the assets of the scene and what they were most impressed by or focused on.

  6. Good blog, I wait for next post.

    + followed:)

  7. husar;
    I'm glad. If you want to know what it's all about, check out the tabs at the top. It pretty much shows you the content to expect.

  8. Holy crap, great photowork. Is there anything you DON'T do well?

  9. L.I.I.
    I suck at running ever since I had my Achilles reattached. I also suck at being serious for any long periods of time. I am not perfect, I am simply living life full force and when you do that, even if you don't know what the fuck you're doing, you look like you do. That's the key--act as if.


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