The Weekly Margs by

F is for Focus

"Is that Portrait Mode?"

Focusing on What Matters

There’s something about pictures with a shallow depth of field, the blurry background says in a posh voice, “I am a high-quality picture” and then adjusts its monocle and top hat.

Because of physics and optics and the sizes of lenses and sensors (that I only slightly understand), most point-and-shoot cameras and phone cameras, with their small sensors, aren’t able to get that “look” unless the objects are really close to the camera. It’s why newer iPhones can only imitate this look with Portrait Mode—not to shit on Portrait Mode too much, it’s great for getting that look using the Camera You Have With You™. I feel like that makes photos with a “real” depth of field look rarer and fancier, so I’m leaning in to photos that showcase that look for real (but still remember from C is for Candid that even if it’s fake, it’s real).

Coincidentally (and a little bit intentionally), all of this week’s photos are of cameras and screens. Maybe I’m supposed to say something about how in 2019, we live our lives through little screens, so trying to focus on what matters is all for naught, blah blah blah. How we’re just projecting our desires onto blank slates when we should be experiencing the real world? Whatever. At the end of the day, these photos are really about people enjoying their own small moments in their own ways and trying to save their moments to remember later. Live your life! Enjoy it! Take a photo or two or three! Whatever, the Margs abides.

November 2015. Lower Haight (San Francisco, CA)

At Friendsgiving, the sunset was perfect, so everybody started taking photographs of each other. The photogenic couple, Vanessa and Chris, posed for Katherine and Brielle to take pictures of them, and I was able to get the meta picture on film (there’s something about a film picture of a digital screen that makes it extra meta, maybe). With its perfect focus on just Katherine’s screen and fingers, this picture turned out incredibly well. In fact, I think this is like a top ten photo out of all the ones I've ever taken, and I’ve been been imitating it and trying to re-enact it ever since.

March 2017. Santa Barbara Harbor (Santa Barbara, CA)

Mandy and I drove from LA to a Model UN conference in Paso Robles and we stopped in Santa Barbara to take some photos. We parked downtown and wandered out to the beach, and I caught this photo of Mandy while she was shooting the footprints in the sand. Mandy told me it was one of the first pictures of her photographing that she actually liked.

March 2017. Pepper Saint Ontiod (London, UK)

Grant had been traveling for almost a month away from his fiancée Jen. At this pub in London, there was wi-fi and the timezones lined up so he could talk to Jen over FaceTime. Before she picked up, Grant’s phone showed himself, so we got this tired, excited, maybe slight tipsy, intimate view of Grant. All the little lights on the patio made for an awesome bokeh in the background too.

June 2018. Blue Moon Ranch (Temecula, CA)

At Jen and Grant’s wedding, Amanda and Raj took a selfie together in the sunset. Of course, I made sure to document it. They’re earnestly being their goofball selves, and hamming it up a little bit more because they knew I was taking a picture. The two of them liked the picture I took so much that they printed it for guests to sign at their own wedding a month or so later.

October 2019. Ocean Drive (Long Beach, CA)

Mandy’s dog, Montgomery Beauregard Wigglesworth (Wiggles for short) made an appearance at the house before Mandy’s wedding while we were getting ready for the dress rehearsal. Wiggles became the center of attention for a bit, in the middle of the hubbub, I got this shot of Adam photographing Wiggles.

Thanks for reading The Weekly Margs! This closes out 2019 for the newsletter! Please let me know by replying if you’d like to see more of (or less of) anything in is this newsletter for next year!