Here’s something I picked up at the Zoo. Most of the animals are in cages, so it can be hard to take pictures of them. the cage always seems to get in the way. There is a way to take pictures “through” the cage and give your subject a more natural look. I’ll use my favorite Red tailed Hawk from the Rochester Zoo as an example.
All three of these pictures were taken on the same day, about two hours apart. None have been cropped or manipulated. When I first got to the zoo that day, the sun was striking the front of the Hawk’s cage. The only picture I could get had the fence prominently in the frame. The middle picture is a little better, the cage doesn’t obstruct the hawk anymore, but it’s still obvious. The last picture was taken later in the day when the cage wasn’t in direct sunlight. So, the first part of this trick is to make sure that the object you want to erase is dark compared to your subject.
The second part of this focusing trick is more complicated. It has to do with aperture and depth of field. When you set your camera’s aperture to its lowest number, say 2.8, you’ve opened up a door in the camera, letting in the maximum amount of light when you take a picture. This shortens your depth of field and speeds up your shutter speed. By focusing past the fence, you move the depth of field past the fence. The further past the fence you focus, the less it shows up in the final picture.
So, to focus past an obstruction, find an angle where the obstruction is not brightly lit, then try to position yourself with the sun at your back. Lower your aperture to narrow your depth of field. Focus past the obstruction and take your picture. Try to take your picture from a position closer to the obstruction than your subject.