Focal lengths and different viewpoints

Exercise 5: Focal lengths and different viewpoints

This involved finding a subject (with some depth) with enough space in front to allow a choice of viewpoint from near to far.  Two shots to be taken – one each with zoom at shortest and longest settings – and results compared.

For a subject I chose the Anchor pub a popular spot for eating, drinking and watching the world go by.  It is on the banks of the Wey Canal and not far from Wisley RHS Gardens.  It was a fairly quiet time, it being Friday and with very cold weather.

First shot

Focal length 73mm and subject distance 36.4metres.

This image appears much more compressed, with little distance between the tables so that the patio area looks cramped. The lamp on the wall behind the sign stand looks as though it is stuck on the side of it. For the first time though I noticed the badger on top of the pub sign.

Second shot

Focal length 18mm and subject distance 3.2 metres.

Wit the lens on wide angle I was surprised how much further forward I had to walk to fill the frame and, even then, more of the sky comes into view.   This view shows a larger foreground to distance range (cf M. Freeman, 2007 p. 52). The tables and parasols now look spread very wide apart and the round table is slightly distorted and looks much larger than it actually is, with its parasol appearing to be almost as high as the gable roof of the pub.. On looking at print again now, I am now also aware how the lightness of the wood of the table makes it appear to stand more forward from the dark brick of the pub walls,  and this provides a stronger sense of depth.

A week later (yes, I’m a bit behind on writing up this exercise!) We went on a photography trip to London.  Whilst we were on Tower Hill I decided to try the same exercise but it wouldn’t work because of the size of the buildings and the closer distance between them.  I took the following shot of the Tower of London whilst standing across the road in Trinity Square Gardens (which fronts the Port Authority Building).

Third shot

This is at a focal length of 73mm and my exif data hasn’t actually measured the subject distance (presumably it was too large).

The jpegs are all the same size of course but it is still obvious that the Tower London is a much larger building because of the sense of scale between the pedestrians on the lower left and the towers. Also I think that the compression of the longer lens intensifies the brooding nature of the building as it towers above the people.


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