Tag Archives: field of view

Your frame on life

“Mindfulness itself is the ultimate frame within which to perceive the actuality of things as they are” Jon Kabat-Zinn

Photography allows us to frame a moment in time, recording the scene in front of our camera’s lens at that exact moment in time.  OK, some techniques allow us to record the movements and changes that occur over a period of time, but by and large, most images represent one moment out of time.

Our language makes us of ‘frames’ in a metaphorical sense as well as a literal one.  We talk about our frame of reference, putting someone in the frame, providing a framework for a project.  The idea of creating frames is used as a metaphor for dealing with problems; when issues arise in life it can help to see them as part of ‘a bigger picture’, to ‘reframe’ them in a broader context.  Sometimes when a problem seems unmanageable it helps to break it down into smaller parts that make up the whole, creating frames within a frame.  These may allow us to see aspects of the issue insolation whilst retaining an understanding of their interconnectedness within the greater whole.

When making a photograph we have many choices; what to include and exclude from the frame, what will be in focus and what will be blurred, whether to convey what we actually see in a situation, to create a particular mood or to convey a specific idea to the viewer. The moments we frame in time contain elements that tell the story, through the creation of tension or harmony, by what is revealed and concealed.  Framing is not just about what is in the image itself.  We can frame the main subject by the use of shallow depth of field to isolate it from the background or maybe by judiciously angled lighting to cast other parts of the scene into darkness.

As we heighten the process of visual discernment we become more aware of the choices we make in our images – and also in our lives.  Reflecting on how we frame our images can offer insights into how we frame our lives both in the subject matter we choose and how we approach the process.  We often frame an image intuitively without being present for that process. Are we in such a rush that we miss being in the moment?  Do we want to snap ‘record shots’ of everything or do we consider the scene more carefully before pressing the shutter button?

Taking time out to consider your habitual framing choices can be quite illuminating.  Do you have a preference for landscape of portrait orientation?  How do you use space between the elements within the scene?  Are the subjects totally within the scene or do you like to crop part of them out, giving connection to the wholeness outside the frame?  Bring mindfulness to these everyday choices and see what you can learn about your frame on life.

Spending time at 50mm

My latest project has been to spend time using my 50mm lens – on a full-frame camera, so it really is 50mm.  I tend to use longer focal lengths so this is the start of a move towards working with shorter lenses.  This has been a considerable challenge for me for a number of reasons.  Firstly, on a crop sensor the focal length is equivalent to about 75-80mm, and using it on a full-frame sensor makes it seem positively wide-angled!  I have to move much closer to fill the frame with my image and sometimes this just isn’t possible.  I realised I often see an image within the broader landscape and pick it out using the longer lens rather than showing the landscape in its entirety.  I don’t paint with a broad brush!  My next problem is that I like to get up close and personal to small subjects, often using a macro lens and I just can’t get close enough.  The extension tubes are tempting but that is kind of cheating!  However, on the plus side I do have a nice wide aperture of f/1.8 to play with, and my little ‘Nifty fifty’ Canon 50mm f/1.8 stays pretty sharp even wide open.

50mm is often considered to be a contemplative focal length as it is said to give the nearest to the viewpoint you get with the unaided eye.   I have however also seen this claim made for slightly shorter lengths and slightly longer ones as well, in the range 40-80mm, so I decided to test it out.  Rather than using different lenses I decided to try my 50mm lens on both a full frame and a crop sensor camera, (because I had both cameras to hand but not more lenses!).  After some serious squinting through both viewfinders trying to assess if the image in the frame was the same size or bigger/smaller than that seen with my other eye, I came to the conclusion that for me, the image created by the full frame canon 5D mark II was smaller than that seen by my eye, whereas the images I saw doing the same test using the APS-C (1.6 crop factor) Canon 550D were pretty similar in size.  So, for me at least, a slightly longer lens, about 80mm equivalent, is nearer to what I see with the naked eye.  It’s hard to define, as of course the end result then depends on the size of the final print, or how much you zoom in on screen.  So is there a contemplative print size as well, to go with the contemplative focal length?