A Lesson in Compression

I’m Back!

So, since my last post I have shot three weddings, an amazing knitting book, two short corporate films, a short documentary, a show reel, and baby.

Pretty freakin’ busy.

This does mean, however, that I have a billion and six things to blog about, so expect your inboxes to be bombarded with my ramblings over the coming months  – it’s a really exciting time in the world of Ferg – I hope you find so too.

Not only are the blogs going to come back more regularly, but the site is going to have a huge overhaul over the coming weeks too.  I have never been entirely happy with the website, and I have come up with a few idea that I think will help it stand out, and show off my photography a lot better than it currently does, time will tell.

Anyway in the mean time I thought it would be great fun to show you guys a little lesson that I learned early on in my photography career, and also get to show you the amazing location of one of the weddings I recently assisted Charlie on in Poundon House, over in Oxford.

Who’s Charlie? He’s awesome is who he is.  I used to work with Charlie whilst I was on the cruise ships, and he taught me a lot about my camera and how the whole photography business works.  As such I was doubly honoured when he asked us to shoot his and Tash’s wedding a few weeks back, which I promise will be coming to the blog in a few days!

Here he is running down the drive of Poundon house anyway.

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Gotta love Charlie.

So – the lesson, sorry, I was waffling.  When you first start out as a photographer and you get your first camera, you tend to go through a number of stages.  The first stage you go through is the zoom stage.  How far can my lens zoom?  For most of you with video cameras and point and shoots, you will think of this number as a 10x zoom, or a 20x zoom or, if you’re really flash a 50x zoom.  That’s mental.

So you look to buy the cheapest, and in your mind’s eye, the most versatile lens you can, which usually ends up being a kit lens like an 18-55mm, or 18-105mm.  In my case, our first ever lens was Nikon’s dreadful (and it really was dreadful) 18-135mm.  To my rookie, haphazard mind, this lens was awesome – I essentially had a 7.5x zoom on our spangley new SLR and it cost a tenth of some other lenses which only had a 3x zoom!  I soon learned about aperture, and sharpness and focus speed and grew up, but at the time I lorded it up with my cheapo zoom, thinking I was the bees knees.

Despite the inferior optics, slow focusing and diabolically slow aperture, the lens did teach me an incredible lesson in compression; how the focal length of your lens can completely change the entire make up of an image.

So, for example, this is Poundon house shot at 200mm.

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The image is heavily compressed.  See how the gates and the trees look very close to the house? It is obvious that the drive is long, but due to the focal length and the framing, the house is, without doubt, the focus of this image, and the trees and gate offer a great frame for it to sit in.

Now – same image, same exposure (albeit slightly different settings) but this time, taken at 14mm – so 14x zoomed out…

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Now, the drive has become the star of the image…look at how long it is!!  By standing up, walking a few meters closer to the gate, and zooming right out, I am able to convey a complete;y different image and perspective of this amazing drive way.

Which is your favourite?  I love the compressed image; it feels more ‘weddingy’ to me….but there is something about that 14mm that I love too…it feels a bit more foreboding…possibly not the best for weddings, but I still love the image.

‘So how the hell does this help me Ferg?’ I hear you cry. Well, quite a lot actually.  Whenever we are out and about with our point and shoots and slrs, when we take a snap of each other, we tend to just have it on the widest focal length, stand pretty close and take the picture.  Try this.  Step back as far as you can, and zoom in as far as you can.  You will start to see backgrounds appearing a lot closer to your subjects (compressed) but they will invariably be more blurred out, and will offer much less of a distraction to the photo than tack-sharp background you are more likely to get when shooting as wide as you can.

Give it a go, and let me know how you get on 🙂

In the mean time, I will leave you with my favourite image of Poundon House, and will get back to the editing room for the millions of jobs I need to get done!GUS_9081

Thanks for reading guys!

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