As someone who enjoys capturing landscape images, I am often asked how I manage to get everything in the photo nice and sharp. Obviously, there are quite a number of factors that come into play. Things like using a tripod, proper aperture, etc. One of the most important requirements is knowing where to focus.
In the image above, the temptation would be to focus on the are where the hikers and the large trees are located. If we did this, then most likely, the root ball and the tree in the foreground would be out of focus. The question becomes where should the focus point be?
The focus point should be on the hyper focal point. This is the closest spot where we can focus where everything from half way between the camera's sensor and the focus point, all the way through infinity will be acceptably sharp. The two most important factors when determining this spot are the focal length of the lens and aperture. There is a mathematical formula for determining the hyper focal point.
The good news is that there are smart phone apps that allow you to look up the hyper focal point. The one I use is called Simple DoF Calculator, but there are dozens to choose from. They all work pretty similar. The screen shot below shows the Simple DoF Calculator App.
The settings that you need to provide are the aperture, focal length and camera type. Since we are only interested in the hyper focal distance, it does not matter what we set for the focus distance. What the app is telling us is that for a full frame Nikon, with a 24mm lens at f/8 the hyper focal distance is 7 feet and 11 and 3/4 inches. By focusing the camera at that spot, everything from a distance of 4 feet from our camera's sensor to infinity will be in focus.
The good news is that you do not need to be exact. If you focus a little further into the image, everything from half way to that point all the way to infinity will be in focus. Just make sure that the area in front of the camera that is out of focus, is outside the frame.
Here are a few more examples of photos taken using this approach.