On Perspective and naturalness

Photography offers a lot of tools and ideas to help you express your vision. The process of applying these seems to follow a pattern;

We start out with a simple kit, using probably just the standard lens for a while, later trying the second zoom that came in the kit and as we grow in confidence more and more good images are produced.

Next we explore the other lenses that are often recommended by a salesman, discovered on a blog or in a book or maybe at a course. These are usually a wide angle (zoom), something for close ups (macro), a fast lens (50mm) and possibly a longer lens. Careful shopping may even net a lens that does 2 of those jobs in one. 

 Exploring the merits of a new macro lens.

Exploring the merits of a new macro lens.

This is the period where extreme, often signature looks become dominant. I have seen many budding photographers (I am sure I was one of them) who adopt with glee the super shallow depth of field, super wide, extremely close or very long and compressed looks as their own. 

Gear, technique and knowledge are suitably honed, often to the detriment of all other styles. The birder or sports fan carries a long tele and maybe a standard zoom just in case. The landscape specialist often tends towards the wide or super wide and again something middle of the road for back up, while the portraitist may settle on a single prime lens for the bulk of their work. Which ever direction they take, the style they are cultivating can be equally defining and restricting.  

Possibly the last stage for many is to specialise in one or two areas, but also rekindle some semblance of their "jack of all trades" or everyday kit, often in the form of another camera format or style. Changing work process can free up thinking allowing more creativity and an occasional holiday from well trod routine.

This photographer will have seen enough to state truthfully what their preferred focal length range is and why. They know that the only way to come to this conclusion is to do the work. Hundreds of hours of composing thousands of images and some times pressure to perform are the best ways to "find your voice" artistically. Any serious and successful artist will tell you, talent gets you started, but only hard work counts in the long run. 

So, what happens if one day you discover that the only style you like is "Natural".

I am not there, but I think this is where I am headed. At some point in the transition from film to crop frame digital I grew averse to the exaggerated wide angle perspective. I only found this out when wide angle lenses were nearly impossible to find for crop frame cameras and I realised I did not miss them. It felt like something must be missing, broken even. When I went full frame, I actually disliked the regained width, although my 35L was far too big to be a 50mm, I still preferred it that way. I tried to get back on board with wides, but each time I tried, my images felt flat. Same old wide angle look, that only a few years before was a staple technique.

Recently I have started to notice again in a negative way, telephoto compression. Am I just sick of looking at far too many images over the years? Is familiarity and the loss of mystery stealing the wonder, or am I simply looking for premium composition and subject matter presented in it's purest form? Maybe I am paying the price for not having a specialty. 

 Taken with a 50mm lens.

Taken with a 50mm lens.

What ever the reason, I am finding it harder and harder to justify the use of any lens wider than a 17mm (35mm equiv.) or longer than a 45mm (90mm equiv.). The gentle and comfortable angle of our vision produced by a 35mm (not our full peripheral vision, that is an optical marvel, something like two fisheye portrait lenses that is beyond us) or the equally harmonious slight compression of a short telephoto 70-90mm, that mimics our eyes magnification are where I feel most comfortable. I am sure the odd, slightly longer lens will slip in, but I have nothing wider, so no straying there. Maybe a normal lens panoramic? Still not sure what my issue is with the Olympus 25mm?

 Olympus 45mm. Natural compression, plenty of (practical) blurring and good close focus (6" tall model).

Olympus 45mm. Natural compression, plenty of (practical) blurring and good close focus (6" tall model).

I may yet get a 20mm panasonic, simply for the angle of view and the Pana colour (different to the Olympus and missed for it's added variety), but nothing wider entices and the 75-300, although I love it, is starting to loose it's appeal. 

What is your focal range of comfort?