The lens as a tool

The lens as a tool in photography is like the type of brush used in painting. Different lenses “draw” differently or render the image in a different manner than other lenses. Neither choice is better. Rather, a specific tool (lens) provides a specific result. Once fully understanding the traits and characteristics of your tools, you can create a desired effect.

I will elaborate briefly with some follow up examples. As the Day Lilies were blooming around the house, I wanted some close portraits of the blooms with the background rendered blurred to isolate the subject. Now one can approach this in several manners. One can use a very “fast” lens and/or a lens with a longer focal length. Generally the combination of both is desirable for best effects. Generally. Other times a macro lens or lens with extension tubes can be used for a closer approach which may be advantageous for a subject as small as flower’s bloom. However, there are always trade offs. Using a longer focal length compresses the image. This leaves a flat, two dimensional feel. I wanted the blooms to express the depth, the contours, the robustness if you will of the bloom. A shorter focal length lens then is called for. However, I wanted an almost ethereal feel with just a very fine/small depth of field with just a portion of the petal in focus to create a dreamy image. This would require a lens that focuses closely, has a short focal length, is a very fast lens and sharp wide open. A tall order in deed. I chose a lens from 1971. I chose to shoot on film (negative/c-41 film). I chose the “chrome nosed” canon fd 35mm f2 lens. Not the “new” version but the concave front element first version with a slightly yellowed element from the radioactive Thorium in the lens. I will create a later in depth blog post about this special lens. I knew this lens would give me what I needed. It creates a very “3-d” image, sharp, with creamy bokeh and focuses very close. And, it is fast with an f/2 aperture wide open. It performed as expected. Here are three examples:

lily 1

lily 2

lily 3

Film used was some cheap Fuji consumer 200 iso film on a canon AE-1 developed at home in my sink and scanned on a Kodak Pakon f135+ with minor adjustments in lightroom 5. If you have any questions about this lens, don’t hesitate to contact me.

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