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Thursday, July 23, 2009

A matter of perspective

O Hai (2)
© 2009 Simon Hucko

Zoom lens 101: You see a scene, but only want to capture part of it. Zoom in, and voila. This is very useful, especially when photographing something where you don't have a lot of room to move around.

Zoom lens Advanced: Deliberately use your zoom to influence the perspective of the picture. I do this a lot when photographing animals - I set my zoom to a wide setting and hold the camera close and below their eye level. It gives a very unique perspective that you don't usually get in person. For the shot above, I employed this technique to capture the bull. My lens was literally inches from his nose, somewhere my face has never been, and it produced a dramatic, almost comical effect. For the shot below, I shot at a more 'normal' focal length, resulting in an image that looks very natural:

© 2009 Simon Hucko

Same bull in essentially the same place, but two very different feeling photographs. It's not the exact same shot because I wasn't thinking about this as an exercise at the time, but I think it illustrates the point well.

Wider angles will really emphasize depth and distance from the camera. In some cases this is desirable, but in others (portraits, for example) it can result in unpleasant distortions of the subject. Telephoto lenses are said to "compress" distances, and will produce a flatter looking image. This is generally considered more flattering when photographing people. It can also be used to compress a landscape with a lot of depth to emphasize the lines (a series of rolling hills, for example).

If you haven't played around with this before, I suggest you give it a try. Find a subject that won't run away from you. Set your zoom to its widest setting and get in close so that the subject fills the frame. Grab a shot. Zoom in a little, and move back so the subject is the same size in the frame. Grab a shot. Repeat until you're at your longest focal length. (You can even switch lenses if you want to experience the full range of your kit) Notice what effects the focal length had on the subject and the background.

Next time you're out shooting, try to use focal length as an artistic tool, not just a way to frame the scene.


[title of blog] on flickr

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