Focal points and different viewpoints

This exercise was to show me how changing my viewpoint and changing my lenses from telephoto to wide-angle would dramatically alter the look and feel of a photograph of the same subject. I needed a clear area in front of me so that once I had taken the first shot from a distance I could then walk in a straight line to towards the subject. The object was to try and frame the subject in the same way with both shots/lenses. I intentionally kept the setting for the shots exactly the same (apart from, of course, the focal length). This was to minimise the effects of any other interference to make the comparison between images more realistic. The first shot was taken with the telephoto lens at 170mm.

Viewpoint 1 – ISO200, f/9, 1/640, 170mm

The main sandcastle is pretty much dead centre. There is a little background in frame. There is also a fence in the foreground. This is what I would try to frame when I switched to my wide-angle lens for the next shot. I changed my lens at the point where I took the first shot and moved in a straight line towards the sandcastle. As I went I switched back to the preview of my telephoto shot to make sure I was getting a simliar framing of the shot.
It became clear quite quickly that the image was going to change quite severely from the first and indeed it would look very different. I tried for sometime to match the images a best I could, making sure I took account of the background and foreground. This was the final image taken with my wide-angle lens.

Viewpoint 2 – ISO200, f/9, 1/640, 16mm

The barrier of the fence (both physically and the fact that it had to be in shot) is what stopped me moving further forward. The first most obvious thing is how far away I still feel from the sandcastle. I was barely able to get any background in although there is some greenery, which wasn’t present in the first shot. I am right up to the fence and yet it is still dominant in the frame with much more appearing than in the first image. There is also a cloud in the background whereas the first shot is just flat in the sky. Also the slope is very dominant in this shot. In the first you would barley know it was there.

Things of note between the two shots; –

The first image feels like quite a natural balance and what I might expect to see with my eyes without a camera in between. The second feels abnormal and elongated. It puts the fence in charge of the image (is dominant in the frame), whereas in the first shot there is something of equilibrium with the sandcastle just winning out as it sits prominent against the sky. The first image is a lot cosier, almost like a picture postcard. No drama, it’s just what is there. The second image feels a lot more dramatic, even with such a mundane subject matter. The cloud I think helps towards this, but there is a feel of wanting to get closer to the subject and not being able to. Feeling a little trapped or shut out. It projects distance on to the viewer. On the other hand the first image does quite the opposite. All the focal fields are pulled very close together to the point where on a quick viewing of the two photos you might not think they were they same place and subject. The contrast has changed significantly between the two shots (with two different lenses). I feel there is more contrast in the first image (straight out of camera), making the sandcastles more picked-out and therefore more dominant. In the second shot the contrast is a little flatter. The simple explanation for this (I expect), is that I exposed for a different area of the subject in both shots. This is something I didn’t take in to account when trying to cut down the variables for examining the shots closely.

So, in the first image the focal point for me is the sandcastle. In the second, albeit unintentionally, the fence is most the focal point (although the slope does lead the eye eventually to the sandcastle on top).

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One thought on “Focal points and different viewpoints

  1. Pingback: Positioning the Horizon | BA Blog

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