I am in many ways a creature of habit. There are certain foods that I regularly order from my favorite restaurant. There is a particular route that I travel to get to and from home. And when it comes to photography, I have long favored the use of the 35mm lens.
Whether it was with my Nikon, Canon and now my Fujifilm X-series camera, a 35mm focal length has been at the heart of most of my picture making. I have trained my eye to see the world from that particular perspective and it has greatly influenced the way that I compose photographs. Seeing from a consistent field of view has allowed me to see what a picture might look like even before raising the camera to my eye.
Increasingly though, I noticed that I was enjoying the field of view provided by my iPhone's camera. I found that the equivalent 28mm focal length created images that were distinctly different than what I was accustomed to. It challenged me to make different choices and considerations when making photographs.
So, when I had the chance to use a Leica Q with its fixed 28mm lens, I welcomed the opportunity. This was a chance for me to shake things up photographically and challenge my own way of seeing, composing and making photographs.
One of the more obvious challenges was that the lens offered a wider field of view and was more inclusive. There were more things in the frame that was provided with a 35mm lens. The increase in elements in the frame demanded that I be that much more attentive to everything that found a home in my composition and not merely my subject. I not only had to be aware of what was within the frame but how those elements played off of each other.
The other issue was that I needed to get physically closer to my subject and scene. The wider field of view not only allowed more in the frame, but it also made my subject and other key elements smaller within the scene, less dominant. If I wanted to maintain an emphasis on my subject, I needed to get closer . I could not hang back at shoot at the distance that I was accustomed to doing with my 35mm. Whatever distance I was accustomed to shooting with had to be cut in half for me to even begin making compositions that I felt worked for me.
The fast f/1.7 aperture of the Leica Q lens provided me an unexpected benefit in that I would produce a shallow depth of field despite using a wide-angle lens that normally enhances the depth of field. The use of the wide aperture in combination with close proximity to my subject helped me to produce images that I was not accustomed to producing with my 35mm equivalent and moderate aperture of f/5.6. It demanded that I reimagine what a subject or scene should and could look like.
Though the lens in close proximity to the elements in the frame could produce distortion along the edges of the frame, I embraced them rather than tried to avoid them. I would get incredibly close to my subjects to enhance the contrast between foreground, middle ground, and background elements. It often resulted in my making the choice to shoot from positions other than eye-level to create a dramatic perspective.
Lastly, the shooting experience of using a less than familiar focal length offered me a challenge every time I set out to make a photograph. I would ask myself whether I could make the image work despite not having the absolute assurance that I often felt with my trusty 35mm. Instead of feeling intimidated by this, I embraced it. The thought of going out with a 28mm was often the inspiration that I needed to get out and make some new photographs. Each time I wanted to see how far I could push my own limits and discover yet another new way of seeing.
I am still in the process of seeing with a 28mm and I look forward to seeing what more is possible with it. Though my life will always include a 35mm focal length, I have little doubt that a wider focal length is going to be a regular part of my approach to street photography.
To see more of the images that I have been producing, follow me on Instagram.