View Full Version : Lens selection for composition - large format advantages

Roger Rouch
17-Mar-2000, 00:25
As an beginner + LF person Id like to throw out an observation for discussion (or possible for someone to tell me Ive be thinking about this too much). I hope this isnt too remedial.

The general concept is that the lens person likes in 35mm will likely translate to its equivalent affinity in LF. As I am thinking more of composition, this rule may or may not hold true for me, and seems to offer more flexibility in com position by reconsideration of this concept. By adding the advantages of better tonality and finer detail in enlargement, the objects a person chooses to empha size may not be the same for the formats and the selection of lenses for the sam e scene in large format vs. 35mm may not be the same.

Let's say that one has a typical scenic vista with a pretty flower to compose a typical near-far photo. In 35mm the choice is obvious to go for the scenic vist a and the flower with a wide angle. But in the background there is the first f all snow on the trees far away. This fine texture of the trees will be lost reg ardless the lens selection in 35mm. But with LF the texture can become a more i ntegral part of the photo by using normal lens which by spatial relation will no w appear closer. The near flower can still be within the focused depth of fiel d by using camera movements. But with the 35mm normal the DOF may not have been sufficient to allow to the near and far to be in focus.

In another case, a prairie butte is reflecting a great sunset. With a 35mm, the tendency would be to allow the butte to be the center of attention with a narro w angle lens. But off to the side is a pretty orange cloud. With a wide angle it can be included in the picture. The 35 will get the pretty orange cloud just OK but the LF with a wide angle will really bring out the subtle colors of the various areas of the cloud and compliment the butte to a greater degree . Again , the lens preference will be different.

Would it be possible that depending on ones person style, that lens equivalents among the different formats may have quite different preferences and become quit e different, even for identical scenes? Any ideas along these same lines you c an offer a beginner +? Thanks. Roger

17-Mar-2000, 00:58
Roger ; when I first saw Ansel Adams' "Mount Williamson, from Manzanur" several years ago, I automatically assumed that this was taken with a wide angle lense, and was very surprised when I discovered that this was taken with a 24" (i.e. 600mm) lense (I think). The use of movements enables lenses to be used much more creatively ; in 4x5 land, I often use a 300mm lense for near/far shots just as you have described above, and it bears little relation to its apparently equivalent 85mm focal length in 35mm.

Pete Caluori
17-Mar-2000, 10:23
Greetings Roger,

I think you're getting more into the "artistic" aspect and will get many different answers. FWIW, I tended to gravitate to wider than normal lens' in 35 and 4x5, but find that 375mm works out nicely in 8x10. Keep in mind, when comapring 35mm to either 4x5 or 8x10 the aspect ratio is different; 35 mm has an aspect ratio of 6x9.


Roger Rouch
17-Mar-2000, 20:30
I found a fun excercise by going to the photo gallery of Rodney Lough who does nice LF landscapes. His galleries load pretty quick and you can scan through them guessing what lens he uses, then check to see if you're right. http://www.spiritone.com/~loughrd/mainmnu.html It's interesting to see what works for different people.

Julio Fernandez
18-Mar-2000, 00:23
Hi Roger: Glad you are asking this kind of question, after all this is what photographic equipment is for. The best suggestion I can offer is the you look at,or better, purchase David Muench's newest book, "Plateau Light". Here for the first time, (for any of his 40+ books) DM reveals the focal length of the lens in each picture and other technical detail. There are 128 images in that book, and the lenses used are 47mm, 55 mm, 75mm, 90mm, 210mm, 300mm and 500 mm. The images are all landscapes but the subjects and styles are quite varied. I think this is a marvelous learning tool, which careful study will teach lots about landscape photography and about the art of one of the great living photographers. There are other great photographers of course, but only rarely do these people take the pains to enlighten us about how they took each picture. Back tou your question, you are already focused on what is important in photography and not likely to let equipment get in your way; not bad for one that calls himself a beginner. julio

Paul Schilliger
18-Mar-2000, 15:15
Roger, If you like Julio's suggestion and I think it is a very good one, there i s another photographer who gives details on his takings: Shinzo Maeda, japanese photographer ( A Tree, A Bl ade of Grass ; The Nippon Alps Kamikochi; Oku Mikawa). In addition to visualizing different lenses results , you will be able to compare 6x6 cm, 4x5" and 8x10" and how they come out in the printed book.

19-Mar-2000, 23:45
Managed to check my references over the weekend - "Mount Williamson from Manzanar" was taken with a 19" lense, i.e. about 480mm.