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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