Sunday, 8 May 2011

The Frame - Focal Lengths and different viewpoints

This exercise is used to show the changing perspectives seen when viewing the same scene with different focal lengths. I chose to photograph a simple still life using some interesting stones found at Widemouth Bay in Cornwall. The first image was taken at 18mm, f/11 and shows a reasonably square grouping of stones.

The second image was taken at 200mm and the differences are clear to see. The longer focal length has compressed the distances between the stones making the grouping much more rectangular in shape. The shapes of some of the stones also appears changed as well as their relationship with each other.

Photographers can use this 'compression' for creative effect, for example making a portrait more flattering of making a subject stand out from a background.

The Frame - Focal Lengths

The idea of this exercise is to use a telephoto lens to show the effect of changing focal length for which I used my trusty Nikon 18-200mm lens. While not as good optically as some of my other lenses, it's a cracking lightweight 'travel' lens and with such a wide range of focal length, it was perfect for this exercise.

I travel frequently to North Cornwall and the scene in these images is typical of the coastline in this part of the world.

Image 1 was taken at 18mm with a polariser filter and shows the wider scene of the fields leading to the cliffs. The vingetting on the LHS is pretty obvious but I decided to leave it alone.
ISO 200 18mm f/11 1/100
 The second image was taken at 35mm, which starts to bring the island in the background into the picture.
ISO 200 35mm f/11 1/80
 Image 3 taken at 70mm starts to show the detail of Long Island (looking like the Matterhorn?) with Saddle Rocks before it. The stone in the field in the near foreground is an ancient marker stone that the local cows use as a scratching post!
ISO 200 70mm f/11 1/80

I jumped to 200mm for image 4 because I felt the views in between added nothing to the scene. The detail of Long Island is the obvious focus of the image and the GCHQ radar station at Morwenstow can be clearly seen in the distance.
ISO 200 200mm f/11 1/80
Learning outcomes
I frequently use telephoto lenses because they give the photographer a really wide choice of framing options very quickly. I find I have to plan and think more about my position when using a fixed focal length lens - not a bad thing sometimes!

The Frame Ex 3 - A sequence of compostion

I learned a few practical lessons on this exercise. I decided to take my camera to Cirencester on a rather overcast Market day to try to get some interesting sequences and thought I'd use my 70-200mm long lens to avoid getting in people's faces. Practical lesson 1 was that people are instantly suspicious of a long lens. I certainly got to know some of the traders quite well but first impressions weren't good as they were all very hostile to me taking pictures of them. I have my theories on why this is but won't discuss them here. Anyway, here are my efforts at a sequence of compositions.

The first sequence is based around the hat stall. The owner of this was happy to let me take photos but the stall was a bit messy. I got a sequence of a chap buying a cap to keep his (rather hair free) head warm then closed in on some detail of the hats for sale.

Next came the seafood stall which was rather lacking in produce but again, tight images with shallow depth of field produced some interesting images.  

The fruit and veg stall was quite colourful despite the dull day. I have to say the owner was particularly hostile when he first saw me but relented when I said I was a photography student rather than with the Revenue. The wider shots were too busy and uninteresting, but as with the other sequences, got better when I focussed in on the produce. Overall, I think this is my best sequence although there are better individual images elsewhere. The spelling on the description boards make these images more interesting!

My final sequence was of a stall selling local produce and ends with my favourite image of the day. The rest of the sequence was pretty uninteresting to be honest, but I like the final image of the stall holder, who was a very friendly local farmer and having spoken to him at length I think the image captures his personality well.

Learning outcomes
This was my first try at 'reportage' style photography and I did learn some valuable lessons about taking photos of people here. Next time I do this I will definitely NOT take my large professional 70-200mmm f/2.8 lens as this really seemed to upset people. A smaller 'travel' lens would have been more subtle even if the image quality isn't as good in theory. I would also engage with the people I am photographing much earlier. Once they knew what I was doing, most people were very friendly and willing to let me take images of them but there was initial hostility and I should have done more to dispel people's fears earlier. With lots going on, wide images tend to look very messy so I felt the more detailed images worked better here. However, the wider images in the sequence give context and tell more of the story so they are still important. A very interesting exercise!