Crafting a Photographic Vision: Part 1 / by Felix Wong

American Muscle Leica M8 with Voigtländer 15/4.5 Ketchikan, AK Felix Wong © 2014

American Muscle
Leica M8 with Voigtländer 15/4.5
Ketchikan, AK
Felix Wong © 2014

Hello readers!
I hope you have been out and about being creative and trying something new. Speaking of new, some of you may find the following content new and useful. As for all you seasoned photographers, feel free to chime-in at the comment section so that maybe I could learn something new too!

One aspect of photography that I find so appealing is the power we yield to force the viewers' eye to see our point of view of the story. With that in mind, let's talk a bit on perspectives and maybe touch on surrealism a bit.

I am sure many of you may have come across a picture of something common, or even mundane in most cases, and say to yourself: "huh... I've never looked at it this way before, that's pretty cool!"
Ok so it may not be word-for-word, but I am sure you get the gist and you've experienced that before.

"What's going on? What makes this more interesting than usual?" You may ask. More often than not, you have been forced outside of your frame of reference. Forced to see something in a different light, or different angle, or different situation. Analyze this; everyday, we are either on the move, seated somewhere for a meal and if we have to lie down, it is usually to close our eyes and snooze off. So our typical daily view of the world, our eye levels, are from a standing or sitting position... and usually in the day. At night we're probably at home, out and about socializing or something else that doesn't involve saying "wow just look out there, this would make a nice night-shot." 

Now that we've established an analytical process what's usual for a good majority of the population, of your viewership, let's take a moment to think of what's unusual. 

  • Foreshortening 

For this first part of the series, we'll talk about foreshortening.
Foreshortening is the act of increasing or decreasing perception of depth by using different shooting distances relative to the subject thereby highlighting its relationship with the background / foreground. The use of different focal lengths help to enhance or even exaggerate this effect.

NOTE: The most important aspect to harnessing the power of foreshortening is to move and/or vary your shooting position relative to the subject

For the opening picture above, I used an ultra-wide angle lens to get right up-close to the subject (an arm's reach from the moving vehicle), in a bid to isolate it from everything else in the frame. Doing this allows me to have the subject absolutely dominate the scene, since it is the only thing that is closest to me at that point.
Taking 3 steps onto the street may not make much change to the distance between you and some buildings a quarter mile down the street, but it makes a big difference between you and the car on the street.
Notice how the distortion makes the car look like it is just about to pop out of the frame? Here's where the use of specialty lenses come to play.
Wide-angle lenses (35mm, 24mm, 15mm or smaller the number) happen to be great at exaggerating the perception of depth; it makes things that are nearer appear much bigger, it makes things that are a little farther much smaller.
Increasing the distance difference between you-to-subject vs you-to-background, along with a wide-angle lens allows you to make very animated and dynamic pictures that threaten to pop out of the scene!
So instead of leaving the wide-angle lens in the bag for everything else except sunsets and sunrises, try using it on your friends or other subjects!

In the picture below, I used a long (75mm, 85mm, 100mm or bigger the number) lens to photograph the moon. I also used parts of the cityscape to frame the moon and put some scale to size the moon with. 
The reality is that no matter where you are and where in the sky the moon is, it remains the same size. So how do you "make the moon bigger without photoshop"? You shrink everything else down.
Unlike with the previous example, the goal here is to stand as far away as possible from the secondary subject (landmarks or landscape that occupies the horizon). The farther away you are, the smaller things appear to you... but remember that the moon remains the same size no matter what ("ah hah!"). So you've shrunk the stuff at the horizon, but there are things that are near you which you need to exclude in your scene.
A long, telephoto lens, would do just that; discarding stuff near you to frame just the stuff far away, netting the effect of "pulling all the far away stuff closer" to view.

Sony A7 with Leica Elmarit 135/2.8
Ketchikan, AK
Felix Wong © 2014

Phew that seems like a long post huh?
I hope that it has enriched you and your shooting experience somewhat. Feel free to tell us about it in the comments below!
Until next time, keep creating art and don't give it up for anything!

Felix Wong