Awake The Light Photo Tours and Workshops was founded by Mollie Isaacs and Mary Lindhjem, professional photographers and skilled educators. Photo tours are designed to make each day informative and creative while placing you in magnificent locations. The customized workshops are a gentle blend of humor, creativity, and technical knowledge designed to educate and inspire all levels of photographers.
Thursday, May 23, 2013
Telephoto Lens Compression
focal length 300mm
focal length 135mm
focal length 50mm
They say pictures don’t lie, but they can certainly fib a
little. No, this has nothing to do with using Photoshop or any other form of
manipulation or distortion. Depending on the focal length of the lens, a
picture of the same scene can look completely different because of the inherent
nature of optics. Understanding this principle can help you select the best
lens and focal length for the look or the mood you want to achieve.
Telephoto lenses tend to compress distances, making the
nearest and farthest portions of an image appear to be closer together than
they are, thereby decreasing the
apparent space between them. Wide angle lenses do the opposite-they increase the apparent
distance between the nearest and farthest objects.
These three shots were taken on the same morning from the
same vantage point, within about a 30-minute time span. It was a very windy day
with a raging sea in the aftermath of a large storm. I wanted to capture the
mood of the raw ocean and the ferocity of the waves.
The bottom image was the first in this series, taken with a telephoto
zoom lens set to 50mm. A focal length of 50mm provides a more or less “normal”
view of the scene. While I like the pier and the sky, the ocean does not appear
anywhere near as threatening as it was. This image does not provide the mood I
wanted to convey.
For the middle image I zoomed the lens to 135mm. That
compressed the distances in the scene, making the waves look closer together
and larger than they appear in the first image. The ocean looks a little more
violent, but still not as fierce as it actually was.
Finally I zoomed the lens to 300mm, shown in the top image. At that focal length the
compression of the scene from front to back is far greater than in either of the
other two images. Because of the compression, the waves look larger, closer
together, and much more threatening. That is in fact how it looked and how it
So by controlling the focal length of the lens, I was able
to create an image that reflected the true nature of the ocean that morning.
All of these shots are authentic representations of reality but only the one
shot at 300mm shows the scene as it felt, and conveys the mood of the day.
[NOTE: Two things to keep in mind when photographing in these
1. When photographing in high winds at the ocean or
elsewhere, the wind can kick up a tremendous amount of sand or dust, and can
also create water spray. To protect your camera and lens, I recommend using
your camera’s rain cover or a plastic bag to cover as much of your gear as
possible. When you return to your car or a sheltered place with no wind, remove
the protective gear and shake it out to remove as much sand as possible.
2. It is important to keep your personal safety in mind when
photographing near a raging sea or in a storm. I was standing safely on the
beach, about 30 yards from the water itself. With high waves, it is always
possible for a rogue wave to crash much higher up the beach than you
anticipate. Standing at least 30 yards back from the edge of the sea puts you
on slightly higher ground and improves the chances that you and your gear will stay
safe and dry.]
TOP IMAGE-Shutter Speed 1/320
sec.Aperture f/14.ISO 400.Lens focal length 300mm.