In this second article, I would continue to discuss the use of 50mm lens in travel photography. I have taken out from my recent article that I wrote for International Leica Society (LHSA) which published in their Journal: Viewfinder Volume 52, Issue 1, June 2019.
Norway’s landscape is famous for giant fjords, rows of mountains, and vast tundra wilderness. In the past, I would always use my 28mm Elmarit to capture landscapes, being satisfied with the fact that I could capture everything in one frame. But this changed after my trip to Norway capturing the landscape using a 50mm lens. There are many lessons I learnt during the process but in this article I will highlight the two most important: Essence and Unique-ify.
In the beginning, I had difficulty fitting the landscape into my 50mm frame line. Naturally when I saw a grand landscape I wanted to capture all of it with the hope that it would show the grandeur of scale of the landscape. However, using the 50mm forced me to think and find the core essence of the landscape. What is it that makes this particular landscape special or grand? What is it that I want my audience to feel?
1. Finding the essence.
Often I found that there is some particular spot or composition within the whole landscape that gives me the sentimental feeling about the whole. For example, see the picture taken in Djupvasshytta in the early morning (picture below). Although the season was summer, it was a cold morning and the warm sunlight had just started to hit the surface of the mountain. The moment was quiet and the mountain felt calm. I used the 50mm frame line of my Leica M rangefinder to look around the landscape, and found the composition that somehow also represented the intimate experience of being in that place at that time. The picture shows that I am standing close to the wooden hut and seeing bits of warm morning light sparkling around the edges of the grasses. A bit of icy water touches the mountain in the background.
Compared with the image at the begining of this article, which I took at the same location; the image below giving more personal feeling.
2. Unique-ify the landscape
The second important advantage that I found using 50mm in landscape photography is that it allows me to “unique-ify” that landscape, setting it apart from other pictures taken at the same place. In the example of the image on the below-right, I was trying to capture the beautiful fjords and the rows of fishermen’s cabins with plants growing on their roofs. In the past I would use my wide angle lens and capture all of it. But since I chose to fit this within the 50mm frame line, I now have to walk around and find the point of view that somehow captures the essence of both picture elements. I found an interesting POV where somehow the fishermen’s cabins are “watching” the magnificent fjords from a distance. Certainly this gives unique identity to the picture: compare this with the image above which shows the whole thing.
A 50mm lenses have a viewing angle that is very close to that of the naked eye. Thus it produces pictures that are easy to look at and that somehow we are all familiar with. The limit is that it also forces us to re-look and re-think to find the essence of a landscape through better composition. That in turn will lead us to produce more personalised photographs.
As a matter fact, most of the compact cameras and mobile phones are equipped with wide-angle lens; thus, having a narrower lens such as 50mm will help to set your photograph apart from the rest.