Why 35mm?

I felt the 35mm focal length would be best to fulfil my brief for Assignment 1 – Documentary for a number of reasons. I took into consideration the space I would be working in for the majority of the project: namely the brewery and its surroundings. I knew from photographing in the brewery before that it was quite small as breweries went, even I imagined for a local brewery. Therefore I envisaged a longer focal length would not suffice as this, while providing subject separation, would also typically only isolate particular parts of the brewery. I wanted the viewer to identify that the space was a brewery and because the space was confined I felt a wider field of view and so a shorter focal length was more prudent. However, I still felt it would be beneficial to take some portraits/group shots so some subject separation from the background of the portrait subjects was desirable. I settled on 35mm on a full frame camera eventually because in my eyes it offered a good compromise between portrait/group shots and wider, setting-establishing shots. With this focal length I saw the potential shots as having character while still making clear it was a brewery setting.


Another, less obvious reason was that I already possessed a 35mm prime lens which was quire fast in maximum aperture setting (f/1.8) and so I could open up the aperture if needed for the aforementioned subject separation in portrait/ group shots and/or for the likely low light levels within the brewery at night. I had to take the low light levels into consideration because of the time of the year -winter – where the nights arrived earlier and when the brewery was open on Friday night and on Saturday day and night. Nevertheless, regardless of whether I possessed a 35mm lens or not, I would still probably have utilised the 35mm focal length for this assignment. I did consider other focal lengths like 50/85mm when considering at one stage to take a series of portrait shots only (one for each member of staff at the brewery), although I decided against this when I changed my mind on producing a set of such similar and therefore not very varied photographs. Also I considered a much wider focal length like 24mm because I knew the brewery to be so confined in space so I could fit more in of the brewery but I felt this would restrict me to environment/setting shots only because of the amount of distortion evident on a wide angle lens in the corners for people shots. Of course I could have decided to keep the people in these potential 24mm shots in the centre of the frame to avoid the distortion but because the brewery was often full of people I didn’t think this would be very feasible.


Lastly, I had been looking at why I found the 35mm focal length to appear so natural when rendering subjects to the viewer’s eye and it seemed I wasn’t the only one. While 50mm (or 45mm if you wish to get technical!) is the focal length closest to the human eye in terms of perspective, this isn’t taking into account the peripheral vision. I discovered this after reading Making the Best of a 35mm Lens – (Gampat, C. 2015). The link for this article can be found at: http://www.thephoblographer.com/2015/05/07/making-the-best-of-a-35mm-lens/#.WFFeauGLQUF and was accessed on 13/11/2016. Here, Gampat argues that: ‘The 35mm lens is arguably mort akin [than the 50mm lens] to the human perspective since it focuses on what’s directly in front of you but also includes your peripheral vision’. I found the rest of the article useful in preparing me for this assignment too with regards to thinking in the 35mm focal length field of view and its attributes.

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