The uncommon perspective

Today we are bombarded by photography. I wouldn’t want to guess how many photos we see on average per day. But if we just considered photos shared by phones on social networks we may be unawares of significant commonalities… In general, they would be taken from head height (often at arms length) and using a focal range roughly between 30 to 50mm (in full frame terms).

This (sub-concious) saturation of commonality no doubt has a lasting effect on how we think photos are meant to look, and how we then continue to take them. But our amazing human eyes see the world quite differently from how its commonly being recorded by cameras.

Gathering of friends

I had a strict Roman Catholic childhood, and in such a home, typically adorned with a particular set of imagery and artwork, I specifically remember a copy of Da Vinci’s Last Supper in our dining room. I loved the dynamic geometry, the colours, but most of all, the variety of events that were occurring in the one picture. They were all doing different things whilst doing the same… If you get what I mean.

The Last Supper was afforded such breadth of activity through its wide perspective. A perspective actually more aligned with our own angle of view. This painting, in my childhood has manifest itself in my photography and almost purely by accident.

I remember the very first time I used an 8mm fish-eye lens in a social situation… A pub. It was a Samyang 8mm f2.8 full manual lens, attached to my Sony Nex 5r. I rarely chimp, but on this occasion just made a quick focus check and was instantly blown away.

Pirates in a pub

It set me free in so many ways; Horizontals no longer mattered as lines curved and swirled around the frame. The scope and breadth meant I could capture EVERYTHING and with the slightest tightening of the aperture could easily put everything in focus. If you’re familiar with zoom compression (when the telephoto aspect of a lens effects the perceived relative distance of objects at differing planes distributed into the depth of a view), you could imagine that a super-wide lens would “blow” everything outward deep into the frame, creating depth in the third dimension also.

Fish eye view of the Eiffel tower

This freedom embraces the agility first enjoyed when cameras came off the tripod; turning and twisting the camera as you raise it up an down, and in particular choosing when and how to move horizontals and verticals away from the center-frame to hide or exaggerate distortion. For example you could keep a horizon dead straight across the middle of the view, but the more you move that above or below the center, the greater that distortion becomes… it’s all part of exploring and enjoying that new perspective.

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