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Archive 2012 · Learning to use prime 35 mm.

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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Learning to use prime 35 mm.

Hi guys,

Finally got myself a D90 and a prime 35 mm. I am still learning to fully use my equipment, so I would appreciate your comments and critiques. I will give you what I think when I shot these pictures.

1. Dry-and-wither. 1/125 at f/5.6.

When I shot this, I was thinking about color contrast: the blue sky and the color of the dry leaves. I am not sure if this has any wow-factor.

2. The view from my window. 1/50 at f/1.8

Okay, so there was this small hole on a bridge that I could peek through, I guessed it used to be for water to flow out or something... Anyway, I tried focusing on both the "outside" and the "inside" but somehow I find focusing the picture "outside" makes the "looking-out-from-the-window" story unclear. What do you think?

3. A hidden jewel. 1/5 at f/1.8

I personally love this picture. The frozen water droplet made it look like a jewel... A hidden gem in the place where people don't usually look. I have another version of this picture which I shot using flash. I want to hear your opinion about it. :-)


Jan 30, 2012 at 03:17 AM

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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Learning to use prime 35 mm.


1. I have been trying to frame that picture without the twigs on the left, but cannot seem to get the right angle. I will try it again the next time. You are right that my center of interest is that twigs in the middle. Now, for the right twigs at the back that becomes focused at the same time... would you suggest for larger aperture to thin the DOF just to the focus on the CI?

2. I made another shot that somehow shows the outside, but could not get the strong feeling I had for the one that blurred the outside.

What do you think of this one?

3. This one is shot with flash.

Doesn't work too good for my eye. Anything that can be done to enhance the "jewel"-look with post-processing?

Jan 30, 2012 at 12:45 PM
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Learning to use prime 35 mm.

The photos are good studies in the characteristics of the lens and how to control it, but not out of the park home runs in terms of using those characteristics to tell and interesting story a stranger seeing them will understand an enjoy.

The "keyhole" gimmick works best when something interesting is seen through it. The first one in the second batch finally puts something it the hole, but a railing, rocks and do not enter sign isn't particularly interesting.

Apart from allowing shallower DOF a wider lens allow for creative distortion of the near/far objects. You can use that creatively to either make the near objects a stronger focal point than "normal" (seen by eye) as here...
... or background objects smaller and less dominant by comparison as here...

I didn't use shallow DOF for ether because I want the viewer to explore every nook and cranny in both and find the hidden surprises they didn't notice immediately, like the ducks hidden in by the similar colored water reflections. In terms of compositional cause and effect the goal is the same as using selective focus, creating contrasting size relationships in a photo also which tells the viewer what you the creator of the image feels is most important. Contrasts of tone, sharpness and relative size in a photograph are the perceptual dynamic that tempt the viewers eye to one part of the frame or the other. You edit the visual narrative by trying the best you can to control what content they focus attention on and when they see it.

For example in the first shot the elephant is hard to miss. That's true in person when you walk into the National History Museum because it's huge and right inside the door. You stand there and take in the space and all the signs for the exhibits deciding where to go first. That's what I tried to convey with the near/far distortion, not the literal seen by eye perspective but the feeling of being in the space.

If you live in the Washington, DC as I do you develop a love/hate relationship with the tourists. I worked near the National Mall for years an would walk where took the photo of the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool 2-3 days a week at lunch time, not to see the sights but for exercise and to watch the tourists. We don't hate them, only the traffic congestion. Helping them when you see them looking at a map and lost and overhearing their comments make me remember what it was like 40 years ago when I first arrived an marveled at the place. The ducks? The are the ones who really own the place

While it appears that focal length creates the near/far distortion it is actually the shooting distance. Wide angle lenses by virtue of optics have shorter min. focus distances. For example with my 200mm min distance is 1.4 meters. With my 10-22mm it is .24 meters. When I got my 10-22mm I did this test at 10mm at different shooting distances to understand how it would distort perspective and how it changed with shooting distance.


So for your next learning exercise look and find some interesting detail and try to build an interesting story around it by using both the near/far perspective to make it larger or smaller than normal in relation to the background context. Then having "edited" the scene that way to predict what the viewer will think more important, use your DOF control to make that thing sharply focused and the less important context blurred so as not to be distracting, not an unrecognizable blob of Bokeh either.

The goal should be a balance of seeing the background context, but not having it compete with the star of the show you define via larger size and sharper focus... See this thread and the edit I did on the OP's photo..


The woman is made the focal point by virtue of being sharper an bigger. Had it been taken closer with a WA lens the pot of joss sticks would have been smaller as would the guy seen behind her changing the compositional dynamic by making the context of the pot of sticks less important. For that photo I think the balance is good because the pot full convey the idea it is an oriental temple, not just some oriental lady with a dud sparkler on at a 4th of July parade.

Start with a story idea, use the choice if shooting position, distance and lens to edit it first, then DOF to make the less important elements less distracting.

Jan 30, 2012 at 03:13 PM

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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Learning to use prime 35 mm.

Wow cgardner, you are the man. I don't expect such an awesome and constructive comments.
But to be honest, it will take me a while to fully grasp all that you talked here.

I will start with what I could understand from your posting and build up from there.
1. The elephant photo. My eyes are brought right away to the elephant. I suppose you shot it with a UWA lens so that you can create such barreling on the picture. Now, if I pose myself taking that picture with my 35 mm on a half-frame camera. To be honest, I am not sure how I will frame it. I might just frame it such that only the elephant will be in the picture. I might soften the background by using a smaller aperture, but other than that I am not sure how I will make the "wow" factor out of the picture.

2. The Lincoln memorial. I love the contrasting big/small perspective in the picture. I feel the red "construction cones" on the right are a little bit distracting, but I love how the pond actually leads to the white building in the middle. I think this photo will not give the same effect if the building is off-center. But, I would never see the duck until I carefully scan it. That's a very nice twist, but I am not sure if every viewer will catch it. Why did you choose this particular twist?

3. Thanks for your suggestion for my next exercise. I think I will start simple with things I find daily, build a story from there, play with perspective. How would you suggest choosing what aperture, shutter speed to shoot things? How do I make the experiment with these settings more a guided journey rather than trial-and-error?

4. With regards to making use the DOF as a way of blurring the background... There is one more shot that I took

What do you think about it?

Again, thank you very much! I really appreciate it.

Jan 31, 2012 at 03:33 AM

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