Nikon Know-how

Your choice of lens helps to de­fine your pho­to­graphic style, as Michael Free­man ex­plains

NPhoto - - Contents -

Think you know all about lenses? You’ll know a lot more after read­ing this!

Choice of lens is a mat­ter of per­sonal vi­sion and

com­fort”. Those are the words of Amer­i­can pho­to­jour­nal­ist Mary Ellen Mark, and pretty well echo the way in which most ex­pe­ri­enced pho­tog­ra­phers feel about their lenses. And I do mean ‘feel’: the glass in front of the cam­era has more to do with defin­ing a pho­to­graphic style than it does with sim­ply be­ing con­ve­nient for a type of sub­ject. It’s true that there are prac­ti­cal con­sid­er­a­tions in need­ing a wide an­gle for an in­te­rior view or a tele­photo for wildlife, but for the vast majority of reg­u­lar shoot­ing, your choice of fo­cal length de­pends on the visual ef­fect it gives, and on what you feel com­fort­able with.

Most of us have some sort of re­la­tion­ship with par­tic­u­lar lenses, and in some cases the lens has be­come very much a part of a pho­tog­ra­pher’s dis­tinct style. Henri Cartier-Bres­son, the master of street pho­tog­ra­phy, used a se­lec­tion of lenses when he was on paid as­sign­ments for clients, but for his own work, which con­sists of his defin­ing pic­tures, he used only a 50mm, for the sim­ple rea­son that he firmly be­lieved that his cam­era was “the ex­ten­sion of my eye”, and that 50mm gave him the view that he con­sid­ered eye-like.

Other pho­tog­ra­phers have dif­fer­ent styles. For in­stance, An­nie Leibovitz said, “I look for images that are a bit dif­fer­ent – a lit­tle surreal. The nor­mal lens is a chal­lenge to me. I have to work to avoid get­ting nor­mal-look­ing pic­tures. My favourite lens is the 28mm be­cause it gives me a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive with a min­i­mum of dis­tor­tions.” Oth­ers go longer, and as we’ll see this month, lenses are per­sonal.

Cam­era mod­els come and go, but your choice of lenses is a part of your own par­tic­u­lar way of mak­ing photographs. Fo­cal length is usu­ally the decision-maker, though as we’ll see in a later is­sue, there are also dif­fer­ent de­signs of lens that can make the dif­fer­ence.

This cor­morant close-up was cap­tured at the wide end of a 12-24mm lens on a Nikon full-frame cam­era

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