Exercise 2.2

‘Select your longest focal length and compose a portrait shot fairly tightly within the
frame in front of a background with depth. Take one photograph. Then walk towards
your subject while zooming out to your shortest focal length. Take care to frame the
subject in precisely the same way in the viewfinder and take a second shot. Compare
the two images and make notes in your learning log.

As you page between the two shots it can be shocking to see completely new
elements crash into the background of the second shot while the subject appears
to remain the same. This exercise clearly shows how focal length combined with
viewpoint affects perspective distortion. Perspective distortion is actually a normal
effect of viewing an object, for example where parallel train tracks appear to meet
at the horizon. A ‘standard lens’ – traditionally a 50mm fixed focal length lens for
a full-frame camera (about 33mm in a cropped-frame camera) – approximates the
perspective distortion of human vision (not the angle of view, which is much wider).
A standard lens is therefore the lens of choice for ‘straight’ photography, which aims
to make an accurate record of the visual world.’


Example 1

Not a very inspiring shot. This was simply the first object I came across that fit the criteria of the exercise. As a photo, I can’t say I’m happy with this on any level, other than it demonstrates the difference between a 55mm shot at distance, and an 18mm shot up close.



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Example 2

Not really giving in to my goth roots… it’s just that the graveyard was quiet, and I don’t much like shooting around people.

Again, not a very inspired or inspiring shot, but it served a purpose.



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Example 3

Now we’re getting somewhere.



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(I couldn’t quite match the viewing angle of the 55mm shot, as the statue is above my head.)



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From this exercise I concluded 2 things.

  1. Shots with a longer focal distance do not look the same as shots framing the same object, closer up, using a shorter focal distance. The shorter focal distance shot fits more of the surrounding scene into the frame, but also causes distortion to the lines and objects.
  2. The 55mm shots look, to be blunt, flat, wooden and dull, while the 18mm shots feel fluid, full of space and life… though somehow kind of surreal.