Posts Tagged ‘viewfinder’

Seeing Wide

30 October 2008

Dear J-

You’ll see it in the pictures from Palm Springs, aside from the zoo pictures; frustrated with having to stay far from my subjects, I picked up and started using the adapted 16mm Fisheye-Nikkor for a good portion of my shots.  The distortion is actually pretty subtle — it looks like a lens with noticeable barrel distortion, but as long as you keep the lines running through the center, they’re not bad at all.  It made it easier to grab some of the group shots in San Jose, too, where quarters were tight and the adapted 35mm Elmarit-R was a touch too isolationist.

So that’s why, for my first autofocus lens, I chose a wide zoom.  It’s fun to stick the manual glass in front of the 4/3rds sensor, but ultimately limiting; short of exotic focal lengths and lenses (without the Fisheye, I’m not sure that I would have stayed sane for much longer), there’s no easy way to get the angle of — let alone focus — anything much shorter than a true f=35mm lens.  Even that’s a mild telephoto when put onto the 4/3rds system, and while it helps isolate the attention onto what you want, it’s a crutch for composition.  Let me explain.

I once read an interview with Jay Maisel, where the joke was that a f=300mm lens (in 135 film terms) served as his wideangle, and knowing the arsenal he had (reputedly the longest lens Nikon ever made in regular production — the f=2000mm Reflex-Nikkor), I can believe it.   Seeing wide is a matter of editing your views; you have to be able to make sure that everything in the frame strengthens the picture.  The point is that it’s relatively easy to isolate and cherry-pick some interesting detail with a telephoto; Maisel had the trick of finding patterns and geometry in those details as well.  Peeping through the viewfinder now is a revelation; I used to say that the first time I held up a f=35mm lens on my old film cameras, it encompassed pretty much exactly how I saw the world.  With the adapted lenses, I think I’ve gotten a bit of tunnel vision, and the new lens has been like taking that cone off my head.  It doesn’t mean that I’ve got the hang of it again, but I’ll keep at it.

Mike

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