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Thread: Your method for matching lens to landscape composition

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jan 2009

    Your method for matching lens to landscape composition

    Chicken or the egg? Could someone suggest key words to put in the search engine in order to find pet methods of matching lens to the shot composed in your mind.

    Does one use their legs to zoom to a point selected by ... what? ... degrees, two right angled "L" composition aids, the Force young Skywalker, a coin toss?

    This is a serious question: my wife and neighbors cast unfriendly looks when I'm out in the yard practicing with these L's. But the L's permit me to frame the shot's boundaries, and a compass reading on the boundaries gives the angle, and the angle can be matched to the lens. This seems the quickest, accurate way of getting the image on the ground glass.

    Another method I've been using that is fast is to hold a tape measure out in front of me (both hands extended) with my thumbs on the boundaries of my composition i.e. the L and R vertices of a triangle (the third vertice being my eyes). I've marked the lens's length of the opposite side on the tape measure.

    (The tape measure doubles when measuring reciprocity correction due to bellows extension)

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Jun 2009

    Re: Your method for matching lens to landscape composition

    I move around until I find all the compnents I want into (our out of) the composition then decide how I want the foreground and background to relate. I move to that position and select the lens that fits the need. I don't try to complicate composition with formulas.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Aug 2000

    Re: Your method for matching lens to landscape composition

    Always use a viewing (composing) card. If a string is attached with knots at appropriate distances it will not only frame the scene, but prescribe the appropriate lens.
    If this solution was good enough for AA, it is good enough for me.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    May 2006
    Calgary, Alberta

    Re: Your method for matching lens to landscape composition

    Dear emo supremo,

    Cool name...

    I use a viewing card too, but without the strings and knots. An 11X14 8ply matte board with a 4X5 hole cutout in the middle works well, where the matte board is black on both sides to minimize my confusion, and to block any extraneous background information. Age taught me how far away to hold it from my eyes for each lens. My board could be smaller, but I have never made it smaller.

    I hope this helps...

    jim k

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Dec 1997
    Baraboo, Wisconsin

    Re: Your method for matching lens to landscape composition

    I use the 4x5/8x10 Visualizer sold by B&H, Adorama, et al. It's a black plastic card about 8x10" with a 4x5 cutout in the center and a tape with 4x5 and 8x10 focal lengths marked. You hold the tape up to your cheek (the one under your eye, not the other one), extend the Visualizer out with your other hand until you see the composition you want in the cutout, then check the tape to see what focal length lens iis needed for that composition. I've been using this method for years and have always liked it. I think the Visualizers cost about $10 - $15 if they're still sold.
    Brian Ellis
    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do criticize them you'll be
    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

  6. #6
    Large format foamer! SamReeves's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2006

    Re: Your method for matching lens to landscape composition


    Put in the first lens, see the ground glass…if it sucks, change it for another lens.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    May 2009
    Kihei, HI

    Re: Your method for matching lens to landscape composition

    I use a homemade card. Basically, I took a piece card stock and cut out a 4x5" hole, and affixed a piece of string coming from just beneath the bottom of the cutout. Then for each lens, I held the card out at a distance to match the ground glass focused on some landscape scene. I place a small tab on the string that I could bite on, and labeled it the focal distance of that lens. So, in essence, the string will have as many tabs as you have lenses, and you can walk around looking at things through the card. When you find something, just pull the string to your teeth and pick the closest one, selecting a shorter focal distance if in-between, and crop.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Minneapolis, MN

    Re: Your method for matching lens to landscape composition

    I look for a scene that will fit inside my camera. If it's too big, I move back ...

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Frisco, Texas

    Re: Your method for matching lens to landscape composition

    I usually use my thumbs and forefingers to form a rectangular shape, similar to the size of the format I am using, to scope out the scene.

    When it looks right, I then set up my tripod, aim my camera, and mount a lens of a focal length that I feel will best cover the scene. If the image in the ground glass looks too large, or small, I replace the lens with one of more suitable focal length.

    The ground glass tells the story. That's the place to crop.

    If you don't have a choice of different focal length lenses, either move forward, backward, or don't shoot the scene.

    I have a friend that shoots almost everything with a wide angle lens then crops the image in Photoshop. He has a variety of lenses to choose from, but he prefers to do it the easy way.

  10. #10
    Vaughn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Humboldt County, CA

    Re: Your method for matching lens to landscape composition

    After 30 years of using just a normal lens for each format as I went from 120 to 4x5 to 5x7 and now 8x10, I pretty much can place my pod where it should go. Perhaps with some fine-tuning, as Robert suggests, so I'll move until the image fits on the GG. I have never used a viewing card, but sometimes I use my fingers to frame a scene.

    And sometimes the desired image never fits the GG -- changing focal length won't help, though perhaps changing focal length will help one find a different image. I have expanded my range of lenses for the 8x10, and generally can predict what will show up on the GG, except the long lenses. They never seem to be long as I think they are (19" and 24"), so they fool me sometimes. So it goes, perhaps I will get better with them as I use them hurry. Ninety percent of my images are still made with my normal lens (300mm).


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