Standing back

Philip—Lorca Di Corcia an American photographer used a long lens to take his images for Heads published & exhibited in 2000. His work is interesting as his street photography ” offers an extreme use of a pre-planned artistic strategy” pg 46 Charlotte Cotton,  “The photograph as contemporary art ” ,  new edition, Thames & Hudson, London 2009. For exercise 9 I discussed how street photography is not posed or pre-conceptualised but Philip-Lorca Di Corcia  ” actively disrupted the usual process of the genre ……..the end result looks both intimate and unreal as people are captured and brightly illuminated —-lost in their thoughts and daydreams. Here, the process is as important as the end result, which, intriguingly, is as close as street photography has come to studio portraitureSean O’HaganWhy photography is facing a moment of truth”  Observer newspaper, New Review, 18.4.2010 . Without the long lens  it would have been impossible for him to have achieved the same result, it gives the photographer anonymity .

 Using an extreme long focal length excludes the surrounding areas of clutter that I so disliked in some of my images, but does this somehow remove critical information about a street scene? I suppose it depends on what you–the photographer ——want to depict. I have a preference for using longer focal lengths, and I also like closely framed images with a shallow depth of field, hence I enjoyed taking the images for this exercise. Additionally there is the added bonus that your subject is usually blissfully unaware of your surveillance!  On  a comfort level this made it easier and I found I was able to take longer composing because of the distance between me and my chosen subject.  Unlike Di Corcia I did not have an intended strategy in tackling this exercise, but did hope to obtain some candid portrait style images. 

The image below is my attempt at his type of style, (without the lighting obviously) the focal length is great for taking portrait style images anonymously.Something to consider when shooting at this focal length is to either use a tripod, or use a fast shutter speed to prevent out of focus and blurry images.

F5.6 @ 200mm/300 full frame   ISO 100      1/640

65mm/97mm Full frame

As I pointed out in exercise 9 I usually prefer a long telephoto (up to 200mm ) for candid photography. I do not like to stand out and be noticed and by keeping my distance can be anonymous . However I have been pleased with the results using my 28—75 lens , admittedly on my cropped sensor this is still equivalent at 75mm to 120 full frame, but this is still considerably shorter than my usual preference. What I do like about using a longer focal length is how it isolates the subject in the frame, they are also, usually, totally unaware of being observed. A practical problem is keeping unwanted subjects from walking across the frame as you shoot. The background is less important in a shot like this, but it is still possible in this composition to see a reasonably  recognisable fairground location.

 F7.1          1/200         ISO 100         Daylight WB       @65mm/97.5 mm Full frame


70mm/ 105mm full frame

The background is of much less importance for these two images. This focal length is perfect for capturing  facial expressions unseen.

F6.3          1/320          ISO 100           Daylight WB          @ 70mm/ 105mm full frame



75mm / 112mm full frame

I like this image, I love his facial expression and clothing. This was taken towards the end of the day when I was feeling much more confident and comfortable taking candid shots. I know its still a telephoto length , but for me to feel able to use this length as opposed to my favoured 200mm I feel is progress! The shallow depth of field means the background does not distract from the subject or his rather bizarre outfit. 

F6.3         1/80           ISO 200      Daylight WB


163mm / 244 full frame

I was able to take 3 frames of these women and they were completely unaware of my presence. They were posing for their friend and I was able to frame as I wanted unobtrusively. On a practical note the focal length meant it was difficult to keep all three heads in the frame, I had to walk backwards to recompose .Any surrounding information is minimal and this is why I framed as I did to include the writing on the structure they were leaning against. This gives the viewer a visual clue to where this image was taken, but it is only minimal, at this focal length. A possible disadvantage of  standing back is the obvious lack of involvement and intimacy in the scene. It is less busy, more tidy. 

F7.1           1/800          ISO 100     Daylight WB     @ 163mm / 244 full frame

200mm / 300 full frame

Equivalent to 300mm this focal length is great for isolating the subject in the frame. I found the only problem of being such a distance from my subject  was not really able to see them very well ( I need glasses for driving but refuse to wear them otherwise—-vanity never dies!). Until I looked at  my images on the computer I wasn’t too sure if my subjects expression was what I liked, or wanted.This is not framed well, I have not kept all of her guitar in the frame, which is what I intended to do. This could have been easily solved by my moving further back. However it is not always practical to  keep moving  further away when using such a long lens.  

F6.3          1/200     ISO 100    Daylight WB

200mm /300 full frame 

Without the long focal length it would have been impossible to get these images.


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