See And Think Like Your Lens
Monte Zucker• Posted Aug 1, 2000
For the moment think about what the lens is doing for us, what it's seeing and how it's reacting. By doing so we can eliminate surprises. We know what to expect before we even see the picture. Why? Because it's there in the viewfinder of our cameras.
First of all, you've got to be able to see what is in your viewfinder. Thanks to some of today's marvelous inventions like focusing screens, I am able to see, compose, and focus my camera--even when using wide angle lenses.
In order to think like a lens, one has to see like a lens. There's really only one place to be looking when you're refining your photographs--right through your lens. I'm always amazed at how many people spend so much time refining a picture, never knowing what the lens is seeing. Once you and your lens see the exact same thing, it's easy to be the think tank for your lens.
Photo 1 clearly brings that point home. Light wall, light suit, you see the subject! But to see the subject in a three-dimensional form on a flat piece of paper is still another story. What I did here was to select an area where I knew that I would have a simple background. A background with depth--one on which light would fall all the way to the back. I went under the cover of a long porch. Light was coming in from my left side all the way down to the end of the background up to where I was posing JJ and beyond. I couldn't go wrong.
I exposed the photograph with my meter pointing toward the lens, measuring the light falling on his face with the reflector in place. I could feel my 150mm lens smiling back at me when I saw JJ's face smiling through it. It liked what it saw and so did I.
For Photo 2 I posed the couple only 6' from my camera and hit them with a strong flash all the way to my right, so that the light on them would not only be as bright as the sunshine behind them, but at the same time it would also seem to be coming from the same direction as the sunlight.
Photo 3 is part of my favorite family to photograph, JJ, Danielle, and one of her sons. What lens did I pick here and why? The 150mm again, because it selected them and threw the rest of the photograph completely out of focus. I positioned them as I had done many times before in that same location, because I knew it would work. There was an opening in the arches, camera right, and a little light coming in on both sides from more open arches behind them. I positioned them to split light their face with daylight, using a Quantum bare-bulb flash bouncing off the wall, camera right, two f/stops less than the ambient light. The bright light behind them created the high-key background effect. Not bad, huh? That's what you get, thinking with the lens!
So, what lens do you pick when you want to show the whole scene in which you're posing your subjects? The wide angle 40mm on my Hasselblad always works best for me. Look at Photos 6 (Paris Hotel from the Bellagio, Las Vegas), and 7 (Bellagio Hotel atrium staircase).
Still, with all the magnificent settings the people stand out as the most significant part of these pictures. That's because they're only a few feet from my lens. In situations like these I'm again exposing for the background and raising the light on my subjects up to the f/stop for the correct exposure of the background. See what happens when you truly begin thinking like your lens!
My new Hasselblad and lenses are all automatic exposure, but I'm still a little afraid of combining ambient light and flash with TTL metering. I'm a little slow making big changes like that. In the meantime, my thinking is becoming more and more automatic. Guess I'm getting closer and closer to being "one" with my lenses! <
In Photo 6 the backlight on her veil adds a lot to the depth of the picture. There's a backlight in Photo 7, too, because lenses (and I) like to see some separation between the subjects and the backgrounds.
Outside, I exposed for the ambient light throughout the scene and brought in a flash slightly under that, just to give me detail in their eyes. Too strong a flash would have made the cloudy, bright background go too dark, of course.
I just couldn't resist a few more of my recent photographs where my lens simply captured my heart.
Photo 9, of another Florida sunset, was a direct steal from another one of my sunset pictures at the same beach with the same Kodak 800 Portra film. Why not? If it worked once, why not try again. This time with another slight twist
The sky was great and I knew how to handle that. After the sun went below the horizon I took an exposure meter reading of the ambient light where I was standing. I even had a volunteer from my class go into the water behind them and to my left to create a little kicker light coming from behind. Of course, for a final print I could have cropped out the light where it flared slightly into the lens, but I purposely left it in, so that you could see where it was coming from.
All in all, I am really thinking and feeling like my lenses. How could I not? I see the image in my mind, and feel it in my heart. With these simple techniques, I'm sharing with you my statement about living, loving, and laughing. My lenses and I enjoy sharing our excitement with all of you.