Being There – The Case For Shooting Wide

October 30, 2015 ·

Patrick Ward
Young surfer and walker at sunrise on the Beach at Surfers Paradise, Queensland. The fair skinned boy has strong sunbblock on his nose and lips to protect him from the intense Australian sunshine
Young surfer and walker at sunrise on the Beach at Surfers Paradise, Queensland. The fair skinned boy has strong sunbblock on his nose and lips to protect him from the intense Australian sunshine

In his recent essay Michael Reichmann presented a compelling case to the newbie for shooting with longer lenses, especially when photographing landscapes. Because he is patently as fond of mankind as he is of the land many of Michael’s most powerful images contain people, thus giving both an added sense of scale to his landscapes as well as an often moving human element for the viewer.

Houseboat dweller practicing his flute playing on an Amsterdam canal
Houseboat resident on an Amsterdam canal, shot for a Time/Life book on the city in 1975

Let us assume for a moment that the newbie asking Michael which wide-angle lens might be best for landscape photography is a young man or woman starting out on the great adventure that is photography. Let me risk a further leap and guess that, like Michael, he might be as moved by the human condition as by the beauty of his surroundings.

Poor family living in Mexico City
Portrait in a Mexico City home for the Sunday Times Magazine in 1967

It’s at this point that I have to declare, passionately, please use a wide-angle lens. My single strongest reason is that this so closely approximates to how we actually see and experience life and that our photography should be a direct extension of our lives and who we are. When you shoot with a wide lens your images become as complex, and often as untidy, as life itself.

Master of Hounds of the Blencathra Hunt, a foot pack which hunts on the barren hills above Keswick, in the Lake District
Master of Hounds of the Blencathra Hunt in the Lake District, for the Sunday Times Magazine, 1996

But when they really work and the frame is full of well-composed movement and emotion, well what could be better! And here’s the thing, you are being there, you are committing yourself to what is going on, you are a participant as well as a witness, you can smell and feel the tensions and excitement and passions that surround you. Michael says, “Being able to see closely and capture that which is distant and fleeting is a thrill, and can capture some unique moments”. Well, I have spent the past fifty years agreeing with him and sharing with him that adrenalin rush that comes from capturing precious moments. However, trawling through my own better pictures shows that they were mostly made close in and with wider lenses.

Women praying at Taman Ayun at Mengwi
Women praying at Taman Ayun at Mengwi in Bali for a personal project on temple festival in 1992

Michael’s magnificent photographs are proof that long lens photographs can be tremendously powerful and moving but I am going to suggest that our newbie, heading out to explore both the world around him and himself, should choose the wide lens, say 28 or 35 mm, as his default position. Any wider and distracting distortion can set in, any longer and he’ll no longer be able to reach out and touch the people, and even the landscapes, he wishes to record.  Of course, shooting in close and wide suggests, perhaps even demands that he builds a bond of trust, often unwritten, with those he photographs. The corollary of this is that he has to believe in the essential integrity of his photography and that he deserves to have people let him into their lives, however fleetingly. This could be a rather longer journey than the trip to a camera store to acquire that lens, be it long or short.

The Pushkar Camel Fair takes place for a few days each year, usually in November, and attracts some 200,000 visitors, both to the sales and parades , but also to the overlapping Kartitika Purnima Hindu festival, where devotees take a dip in the Pushkar's lake to relieve them of their sins
Pushkar Camel Fair in Rajasthan, India, for Sabena’s in-flight magazine in 1996

Still, photography is a very broad church and that’s good, because it gives the space for Michael to shoot long and for me, and perhaps our newbie, to shoot wide

Carnival takes place in Venice during the week leading up to Shrove Tuesday in Lent, when the streets and squares are filled with Italians and tourists in fancy dress and masks
On the Grand Canal in Venice during Carnival Parade, for European Travel and Life magazine in 1998

Photographs were made, over the years, with Leica, Canon, Panasonic and Olympus cameras, Using 28 or 35 mm lenses, or their recent equivalents. Current mainstay in a Olympus EM1 with a 12 to 35 lens.

Visit Patrick’s Blog


Patrick Ward
September, 2016

 

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Patrick Ward

Patrick began his freelance career in the 1960s, shooting for the newly created colour magazines of the Observer and Sunday Times, and later for the Telegraph. In the 1970s he began his still continuing record of the English at play, which has produced three books, with the latest, “Being English”, published last year. In 1981 Patrick spent a year traveling and photographing across America on a Bicentennial Grant and these pictures led to assignments with the Smithsonian and National Geographic Traveler magazines. While Patrick has enjoyed a long career shooting for European and American magazines he still feels his best work springs from self assigned projects. He is presently photographing a book on Londoners at play and a second project on life on the River Thames, the latter inspired by the fact that his home is a houseboat on this great river. mail@patrickwardphoto.com http://www.patrickwardphoto.blogspot.com

You May Also Enjoy...

Featured Image

January 13, 2009 ·

Michael Reichmann

This page features one photograph from my portfolio taken each month so far this year with which I am particularly pleased and for which there is


Micro Payment Agencies – Some Alternatives

January 13, 2009 ·

Michael Reichmann

My earlier essayMicro Payment Agencies – A Force for Good or Evilresulted in an overflowing inbox and a strongly debated string in theLuminous Landscape Forum.