Zooming With Your Feet:


Size and Scale Relationship at a Fixed Focal Length.

In August of 2013, I created this post: Distance and Scale Relationships in the Tetons (and elsewhere) In that post, I captured images with a 70-200mm lens until I got close where I changed to a 24-70mm lens. I created a slideshow that illustrates how the barn appears to grow and the mountains shrink as you get close. In those images, I adjusted the zoom of my lenses so the mountains and barn filled the frame at about the same proportions. Click the link above and watch the slideshow and you’ll see what I mean.

Today, I returned to the barns for a slightly different approach. Using a Nikon D800 full frame camera and the same 70-200mm lens, I took a series of six images, all at 70mm. I could have used my 24-70mm for the same effect. To confirm distances, I used a “rangefinder”. I set up at 180 yards from the barn and waited for the morning light. I shot at ISO 100 and F/9 for all six images.

70mm at 180 yards

70mm at 180 yards: ISO 100, F/9

70mm at 150 yards

70mm at 150 yards: ISO 100, F/9

70mm at 120 yards

70mm at 120 yards: ISO 100, F/9

70mm at 60 yards: ISO 100, F/9

70mm at 90 yards: ISO 100, F/9

70mm at 60 yards: ISO 100, F/9

70mm at 60 yards: ISO 100, F/9

70mm at 30 yards: ISO 100, F/9

70mm at 30 yards: ISO 100, F/9

Observations: First, light was much better today than in my first post! The “teaching moment” in both sets of photos is the relationship in size and scale of two fixed objects—based on how far you are away from the closest subject. In this case, the mountains look huge when back 180 yards, yet appear to get smaller as I moved closer to the barn. Conversely, the barn looks small in the scene at a distance, yet appears to grow as I moved closer.

180 yards at 102mm

When set up at 180 yards, it might be possible to get a similar shot to the 90 yard shot by using a zoom lens and zooming to the appropriate focal length. A telephoto capture will compress a scene. This image taken at 102mm. It is possible to—as some people might suggest— “get lazy” and compose from one spot using a zoom lens. It is also possible to use the same technique for creative captures. Personally, I like the options available when using a zoom lens.

200 mm

This image was taken at 200mm from a different angle. I like the look and feel of the distant trees resulting from the tight telephoto capture.


380mm: I’d have to go back to get distances, but the fence row is probably 160 yards from the road and homestead buildings are another 160 yards. Even with the morning fog, these building are amazingly compressed. At 70mm, the buildings would have been very small in the scene. If I moved a lot closer to the fence row, the fences could have been very large and overpower the buildings.

Old Faithful

Old Faithful: There are numerous ways of photographing Old Faithful. I could have been on the front edge of the boardwalk and use a wide angle lens. There wouldn’t be much in the way of clues to establish the scale of the geyser.  I could have been at the back edge of the boardwalk with the same wide angle. The people would fill much of the frame and the geyser would appear smaller. In this case, I moved quite a bit farther back and shot at 98 mm. If back twice as far and letting the steam fill roughly the same area, the people would be much smaller, making Old Faithful appear much bigger. I included this image to illustrate the effect is NOT limited to the barns at Mormon Row! Or the Old Patriarch Tree! You have so much more control, whether by moving in and around with a fixed lens, or by zooming in or out with a zoom lens and moving closer or farther from the closest subject. And, it works with an iPhone, tablet, or point-and-shoot camera!


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