WITHIN THE WITHIN
Wide lenses can capture a lot of data. Sometimes too much.
By MICHAEL PERKINS
A FULL YEAR AFTER SWITCHING FROM CROP SENSORS TO FULL-FRAME SENSORS, I am still getting my bearings on some elements of composition, at least as I had grown used to them. To greatly over-simplify, the focal length of my lenses has, for more than ten years, been magnified by about 1.5x, so that, for example, a 35mm lens would “read” on a crop sensor as a 50mm. That determined what I’d would or wouldn’t see in the frame, with the biggest cramping occurring in wide-angle shots, where I live about half of the time.
The result was that my mid-70’s 24mm, a real- go-to for me, was actually delivering the aspect of a 35mm; still wide, but not really panoramic. This was no big deal, since I got used to composing and cropping for what my camera was seeing and shot accordingly, as we all do. The real difference is being felt now, when my 28mm on a full-frame is really 28mm, meaning that a whole lot more…..stuff is being included in my wide shots than before, stuff that I must police much more stringently than I might have done in the past.
Take a look at the shot up top, taken inside a stable, empty except for a single horse. There is so much space within the frame, all chock-full of equipment, gravel (so much gravel) and other atmospheric elements that the purpose of the shot, right out of the camera, can easily be interpreted to be, aww…the poor horse is all alone in this huge building, as if that’s the “message” of the picture. Now, from my vantage point, I could not have framed any tighter; my location was dictated by barriers that held me back at quite a distance. And, since I’m shooting with a prime lens, I can’t zoom, so all compositional control defaults to how I will crop later.
The horse, not where he lives, is the real story.
Turns out that it takes very little extra space around the horse to sell the idea that he’s “all alone”, so I can easily cut stalls, hay bales, and other filler off on both sides and still easily convey his “solitude”. But here’s the deal; once I started cropping, I began to observe a different story emerging in the picture, since now I was actually seeing the small arm that’s coming in from the right to pet the horse. Now the image is about He’s Not Alone, that, in fact, someone cares about him enough to stop and offer a bit of tenderness.
Wide-angle shots can sometimes keep us from getting into our pictures, and, if we change the way that we see what we shoot, such as the revision of “what is a frame” that I’ve been dealing with recently, our viewpoint can be modified in subtle ways. Shooting wide is a great tool, but only if we reserve the option, upon further thought, to think narrow as well.
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