Sunday, 20 February 2011

Project 13: A standard view

I’ve been through the question of ‘what is standard length’ before, both in TAoP and ItDP.  It’s probably somewhere in 30mms for my camera, but when it is interpreted as whatever makes the scene through the viewfinder and that with the naked eye look the same, it seems to get a bit vague.  Interpreting this project in the way that I think it is meant to be interpreted, I have been a little flexible, but looked primarily around the 24-44mm range, which is 36-66mm in full frame terms.  More to the point, these are images which, as the notes say, have the feeling of ‘normality’ about them – none of the flattening and unusual juxtaposition of planes associated with the telephoto lengths, and none of the visual distortion just noted in Project 12.
A standard focal length can be very effective as a simple ‘scene-setter’, as in these next two images.
Both are taken at around the 35mm point, and both give a ‘natural’ impression of the scene on view – particularly the first one, I feel.  The relationships between foreground and background look ‘normal’ and there is no distortion at the edges of the frame.
Introducing a more specific subject into the image, at standard focal lengths, also retains this naturalness.  The relationship between that subject and the rest of the items in the frame feels acceptable to the human eye, and any reaction is to what is being presented rather than, say to the sense of drama created, for example, by a close in/wide angle.
It is still possible to present something with a narrative quality to it, of course, but the viewer’s attention will be more likely to focus on that narrative alone, rather than visual issues created by the camera.  The following image is perhaps pushing things a little in the context of this project, being at around 36mm full frame equivalent, but it does not have major foreshortening or distortion.  What it does, hopefully, achieve is the creation of a relationship between elements of the image that did not exist in reality, but are in fact created by me pressing the shutter and framing them as I did.
Of course, the standard length can also be used to take natural-looking images of people, from a reasonable close distance.  The first is probably more towards the telephoto length, being 44mm on my camera, but doesn’t seem to distort to any great degree.
The second, below, is clearly not a shot of ‘people unaware’ but it has got to be worth a place here!  I met these two (or rather they introduced themselves to me) as I was returning to my car after last week’s Manchester shoot.  They asked me if I’d like to take their picture, so I agreed – here is the result!

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