Normal views and wide views

Many photographers lust after new cameras and lenses.  Indeed, many spend more time lusting after new equipment than they do consummating – err… working on the relationship they have with the cameras and lenses they already own.

For my large format camera I have one lens.  It is a 180mm lens, and that roughly corresponds to a ‘normal lens’, i.e. one that has about the same perspective as the human eye, or, in 35mm terms, it is about the same as a 50mm lens.  It’s a very fine lens, but there are times when I want a lens with a wider view (say, 90mm), and another with a telephoto view, such as a 300mm.  It is simply(!) finances that preclude me from buying these lenses, I lust after them all the same…

So what to do when trying to make an image that would benefit from a wider view?  In July I made a series of photographs on a very foggy morning at Glen More on the Isle of Mull.  I was trying to photograph the glen near the edge of a lochan in the valley, whilst showing something of the scale of the valley – but the 180mm lens only covered about half of the valley.  So one of my studies involved a triple exposure, moving the camera round a little at a time to include one side of the valley, the bottom of the valley, and the other side.  The ground glass of the large format camera includes grids and markers for various purposes, so it was relatively easy to measure this out.  I think the resulting image manages to communicate something of my view of the scene that morning:

Glen More, Isle of Mull (Ilford FP4+, triple exposure)

Glen More, Isle of Mull (Ilford FP4+, triple exposure)

The use of a 90mm lens would have enabled me to capture the entire breadth of the glen, but the image would have been different: is it important that the image doesn’t ‘look like’ the glen did?  For me this communicates what I saw, even though the hills are not really this precise shape.  I would still like to have a wider lens, but my lusting after such a lens has lessened somewhat since seeing the interesting and rather pleasing result that can be achieved with just the 180mm lens that I already have – in this context it was perfectly possible to communicate the image in my head using the equipment I already had.



6 thoughts on “Normal views and wide views

  1. Alastair Ross

    An interesting (as ever!) article – the flip side of the argument is though, with your desired 90mm, you would have captured your view in one shot (and would it be any less a view?) and saved yourself 2 sheets of film. Workarounds are great, until the pennies are saved (or you “happen” to be passing Ffordes), but as photographers we shouldn’t be making things more difficult for ourselves than they already are 🙂

    1. Michael Marten Post author

      I agree that we shouldn’t make things more difficult than they are, but I actually did all three exposures on the same sheet of film here: having decided on an exposure, I used 1/3 of that for each shot, and so all of it was done in camera, on just one sheet.
      Of course, had I had a 90mm, I would have used it right away! 🙂

  2. Mike Green (@mikegreenimages)

    I think that’s a really fine shot, Michael. To be honest, I suspect I’d not have recognised that it’s a multiple exposure, unless I’d actively examined it with that in mind. Very evocative of how I imagine the day must have been and a good deal more interesting and artful than a simple, wide angle, representative shot.

    1. Michael Marten Post author

      Thanks, Mike.
      I would not normally have noted that this was a triple exposure, except that I wanted to comment on the thinking and process involved. I don’t think the multiple exposure makes or breaks the image at all, in that the outcome is not anything like e.g. Rob Hudson’s very deliberate multiple exposures.
      I’m very glad the image evokes just the kind of response I felt at the time, thank you for noting that.

  3. hoshisato2013

    Gorgeous image, and it is the result that counts to me. Having not a wide array of lenses to your disposition can also improve photos, as has happened to me several times as I was forced to use a different lens than the obvious choice and ended up with photos that were different and often better than the photos other people have taken of the same subject.

    1. Michael Marten Post author

      Thank you, I’m glad you like this.
      Yes, we need to not see the lack in lenses etc. as limitations, but as opportunities to think differently.

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