Note: Post edited 10/2/15. Removed three examples in first photo section to make post less cluttered and added 35 mm focal length equivalents to photo captions.
Cee has started a new weekly challenge on her blog called Compose Yourself, and the subject will be photographic composition. She briefly discussed a few different topics in her first post, but the challenge is to post pictures of your focal length comfort zone, then post pictures of attempts to get out of that zone and discuss it.
I don’t really fit into that part of the challenge, because I don’t think I have a focal length comfort zone. I adore zoom lenses and whenever I’m taking photos I give mine a good workout. I like closeups, I like wide-angle vistas, and lots of the between too, as these first examples show.
Though I’ll note it’s rare I’m in a situation where I feel I can freely use my lens at its widest angle. In the city, or even out in farmland, it seems like there’s always something I want to avoid like a fence, power pole, or vehicle that will only add clutter or distraction, so I frequently have to zoom in at least a little. It can get frustrating at times.
I was eighteen when I bought my 35 mm film SLR camera and I did have a comfort zone. It was a bad one. I liked macro photography, but for the rest I was stuck in a rut of the uninteresting middle. It took a long time before I started learning to step forward or back in order to take more visually appealing photos. (I only had a 50 mm lens to start with, so I had to move, rather than zoom.)
However, even though I understand more about composition now, it doesn’t mean I always, or even usually, get it right! I can’t count the number of times I’m looking at photos after downloading them to my computer and think, “Nuts! I should have X,” where X is either getting in tighter or going wider.
To compensate for my unending tendency to hastily compose, I’ve tried to get into the habit of taking more than one photo, using different zoom amounts in the hopes of getting a picture that is just right. But I don’t always follow through, and still end up with a lot of those nuts moments. (Cropping after can help, but it’s always best to get it right in-camera.)
Cee’s Compose Yourself Bonus Challenge this week is to post pictures of the same subject at different focal lengths, then say which you like best and why. My photos for the bonus challenge are an example of when I did think to take several shots recently. (They aren’t particularly good photos, but serve as good examples.)
The final photo is my favorite of the four. Zooming in enough to only have one building in the frame makes it feel more intimate. And surprisingly to me, chopping off part of the barn makes it visually more interesting I think. I was near the limit of my zoom, or it would have been good to have an even tighter shot to compare.