Sunday, 8 March 2020

And another thing...

What I forgot to mention in my rant about ultrawide lenses was the way that they get used in close but still manage to distance the viewer from the subject. Sure they 'get it all in' but in so doing the space is expanded. With a shorter focal length there is more compression making the picture look more intimate. I see this a lot in news photographs where the forced perspective is obvious and distracting.

It's a pet peeve of mine when I see this approach used routinely for documentary story telling. I have done it myself in the first flush of enthusiasm for the ultrawide zoom when I got it, but the novelty soon wore off. As does the novelty of using a fisheye lens. Although the extreme distortion of a fisheye can be useful, and if held horizontal can be hardly noticeable.

28-35mm is wide enough for me except in rare situations. It strikes me that the limitations of the Leica's lenses (28mm to 90mm, 135mm at a push) in the early days of 'small camera photography' were sensible as a way of representing the world. Outside that range focal lengths become specialised. Great for their intended purpose, but not for general consumption.

If I were starting out again I'd tell myself to get a 24-120mm zoom and a faster 35mm for low light and leave it at that. Whether I'd listen to myself or be tempted by shiny things is a moot point!

In the meantime, here are some frog photographs taken with my ailing compact camera. The widest the lens goes is the equivalent of 28mm, but the small sensor gives a greater depth of field making it ideal for contextual close ups of frogs.

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