Some final thought on this intriguing 24:65 aspect ratio, using a longer lens.
After my first posts about the X-Pan crop (24:65) available on the Hasselblad X1D, both using photos made made using the XCD30 lens, two readers asked me what this might look like with a longer lens. Given this overwhelming demand, how could I resist trying? 😉
The XCD90, my natural XCD30 companion for any 2-lens walkabout, seemed like the obvious choice to test this. But, given my permanent infatuation for all things film, and the movie-like format of the crop, the Otus 85 felt like a better choice.
The lens has been used a lot in filmmaking circles, for its organic, refined and analog look. So, noticing fun cloud formations and a lovely diffused light, I popped it onto the X1D to start testing.
To make this even remotely useful, I had to keep processing comparable to my previous series, and mostly stick to colour.
So, the above shot are just here to cleanse my system, to rid me of my urge for over-contrasty monochromes, and allow me to get back on chromatic track.
So, how does the format look with a longer lens?
As with any format, bringing in the longer lens adds some compression and makes management of depth of field more important than with a wide angle. In panoramic format as well, I feel those are the two most noticeable differences. Let’s tackle them separately.
The depth of field aspect brings with it the usual question of bokeh (the subjective aesthetic quality of the blurred areas of the photograph). But, my main takeaway from this brief shoot is that the combination of a narrow format and a shallow DoF helps to isolate the subject even more than usual.
This makes DoF an important tool in composition, in this combination of lens and aspect ratio.
Now, I realize the limits of my environment and natural talent restrict how much can be said from a single 30 minute walk. But the two most balanced compositions that stand out, from this brief experiment, are: framing of the subject, and arangement of parts within a generally sharp frame.
This is visible in the 2nd and 3rd of the 4 warm-toned, house-centric, photos above. The second frames the house with trees, the third aranges parts. To me, both could be straight out of a movie. Both are simple and soothing.
But shallow depth of field can throw a spanner in this dichotomy by bringing focus (and attention) on a subject in any area of the frame. See the very first image on the page, and the first image, below. In both, we are forced to look to the side by the placement of focus, and to switch with a more vibrant or larger background. So, the serenity of subject framing or a balanced arangements of parts can be broken through the use of shallow depth of field.
Taking this to extremes, as in the first photograph on the page, can allow you to make use of all the width of the frame and swing the viewer’s eyes from one end to the other. Akira Kurosawa was a master of this sort of composition with very distant focal points keeping the viewer’s mind very … occupied 😉 even in largely still images.
Compare that first image to the cabbage & butternut photo above. The first is a whole lot more dynamic than the second.
So, my hunch is that the elongated format’s intrinsically dynamic feel can be accentuated, or sedated, based on the use of centric / eccentric compositions and a of a shallow depth of field that isolates a small subject and gives it as much weight as larger ones further out of focus.
As for compression, to my eyes, it gives the photograph a more abstract quality. See the 4 above. A tight crop around a subject, or a group of subjects that have been compressed by the focal length, gives little context and little space for the frame to breathe.
This can lead to an increased appreciation of the compositional usual suspects – rhythm, curving lines, colour patches – or, rather, it can bring more attention to them, by putting the spotlight on them.
Combined with layering, it can also bring a feeling of peeping Tom paparazzi photography. But, mostly, I think it brings out abstract shapes and repetitions of shapes, through the compressed perspective.
And that even works in the now legendary bookmark format 😉
Now, don’t ask me for a more scientific explanation 😉 Those are my thoughts and ideas on the topic, based on short experimentation. What do you think of the longer lens with this narrow slit of an aspect ratio? Do you see any noticeable difference with a shorter lens image?
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Way too intellectual for me to venture any thoughts I might have. But I love the images it has produced.
I don’t think I appreciate the point as much with the monochrome images, but that might well because I basically ditched B&W in favour of colour, when I switched from film to digi, because for the first time in my life I could do my own colour processing! Focus on one thing for too long, and it’s hard to see anything else!
The other images – the colour ones! – illustrate a technique which you could use to create a whole new genre of images.
I don’t have the 85mm Otus – I have the other two, and I love them to bit – for showing the world exactly as it is, without a camera. Any departure from that is due to the innards of the camera, not the lens!
Too intellectual? Don’t believe that 😉 Bartes is up for the next post, so Brace Brace 😉
I find most of the colour ones very “cinematrographic” for a lack of a better word.
Hi Pascal, splendid photos – especially in B&W & the houses in colour . The compression of perspective/depth as well as focus on essential elements/excluding detractions + causing a filmic curiosity makes it for me with that Hassy/Otus combo.
An unfinished feeling…wonder what more to discover outside the frame 😉
Ohh, Them Otii are wonderful – especially the 85mm’s artful drawing style, (which I’ve tried)!
The turquoise/blue coloured blankets on the horses are beautiful…
Thank you Michael 🙂
Yes, I also find the 85 artful. And the 28. To me, the other two (50 & 100) are more neutral and less interesting, though still excellent lenses.
This is so interesting to me, Pascal, for a couple of reasons. One is that I have been having some very successful image captures using a vertical perspective with a 500mm lens on my D850. I am photographing birds at about 12 to 14 feet distance on a slanted vertical pole and cropping them to a 9×16 aspect ratio. With some images I have used a lot of black negative space while some have had that space filled with a bokeh of colorful out of focus flowers. In both cases the bird is accentuated. Gallery sales have been very encouraging.
I love what you are doing with the Otus 85 on your X-pan. Much more than the wider angle lens. The 85 not only gives me the opportunity to get into your image and move around, but it also gives me definition and detail that I need to make the image come alive. The 85 seems to be a natural fit for your X-pan.
Thomas Heaton recently made a trip from London to Sweden to buy an X-pan and posted some night time street photography pictures of his travel on his YouTube channel. They were interesting, but now I would love to see some of those same images done with an 85. I feel like they might have more impact.
Anyway, I’ve really enjoyed this issue of Dear Susan and I think you are going to have some fun with that X-pan now. BTW, you can view my bird images by scrolling down on my FB/Clifton Whittaker page.
Thank you, Cliff. The 85’s drawing and compression does seem to add a lot to the image 🙂
I’m actually cheating ,this is not a real X-Pan but an X-Pan crop in the X1D’s menu 😉
I’ll have a look at your bird photographs. And congratulations for the gallery sales.Wish I could get a few of those 😉 And, if you want to share some on DS, it’s always an open invitation, though no pressure 🙂
Cliff, your vertical photographs are superb. There’s one with a nuthatch at top right and the rest of the frame below it, with flowers at the bottom, that is mindblowing. Fantastic work !!
The vertical images are the ones I made after determining that I needed a change from basic bird photography. I wanted to make art. Not every image lends itself to this interpretation but the ones that do are in a distinctly different category from my previous work. They are mostly vertical format cropped to 16×9 aspect ratio. I have made three bird shots this year that I consider true art. That nuthatch is one. That’s out of hundreds and hundreds of bird captures. The satisfaction is reward enough to keep trying. Gallery sales are simply affirmation.
Clif, I’ve had a lifetime passion for wildlife (much more interesting than humans! – no offence, to those present here!) and so I belong to a heap of groups that post wildlife photos.
Heaps from keen amateurs, some from serious amateurs and some from pros.
So there’s a range of image quality.
And I waver between “like” or “love” on each and everyone of them.
But the disappointing feature that commonly results in me being unable to say I “love” the shot is lack of separation from the background.
A variegated parrot against a riotously coloured background of small flowers? Ye gods! It was like camouflage paint!
Image after image after image where there was no separation – not in tone, not in colour, not in focus. Almost like a splash of grey paint and – hang on a sec, is that a bird in that frame? – OMG, yes there IS one – I wonder what it could be?
Frankly on a bad day it would be tempting to speak out. But I’m not in the habit of dishing out negative criticism, so I bite my tongue and plow on, looking at other photos.
And looking at the separation Pascal has been able to achieve here, I fell to wondering – would it help amateur birders?
Most of them shoot with a fairly powerful tele, surely – why isn’t that giving more of them “separation”, like we’re seeing here?
jean pierre guaron, getting separation from the background is sometimes lack of experience. I know at first I was happy to capture an image of a bird that was in focus and that I could identify. Later I learned to try to modify my position and use some patience to get the bird against a better background. This summer I was unable to get out much to go after the birds so I built a “Hollywood Set” for them on our back porch. Now I arrange props and perches and food in a manner to entice the birds to come to me and go where I want them. But these are wild birds and they do as they please. But it’s fun trying and I enjoy enough success to keep me coming back day after day. And besides, I’m retired and having some health setbacks. What else am I going to do? Might as well try to learn to do it as well as I can. :))
“And besides, I’m retired and having some health setbacks. What else am I going to do? ”
LOL, moi aussi – me too!
I have a friend half my age, who has volunteered to come with me when I try exploring with my heaviest gear – helping me lug it from the car to the set up point.
It’s also a security issue – even if I don’t have the most expensive setup in the world.
Interestingly the XPan 90mm lens tended to be very much less favoured, as people seem to feel than Panoramic format must equal wide angle. Personally I disagree, and my 90mm saw a lot of use. (These days it sits in the shelf along with the rest of the XPan kit. There’s little point in using it when I have an X1DII).
Very true. The more modern Hassy offers the best of both worlds experience, if the digital look appeals to you. There will always be supporters of film, and I do see why, but the limitations do not outweigh the benefits, in my mind.
The 90 is supposed to be an excellent lens. But smaller fields of view are scary to some people. They require a different approach and mindset. And yet, they can produce such wonderful results, it’s a shame more photographers don’t try them … Cheers