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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Telephoto lenses and crocodile compressions


When you want to make two things (or more) look really close to each other you want to reach for the telephoto lens. The longer the lens, the closer the objects will look to each other.

Which is exactly what I wanted to do here. This is the crocodile show at the Cairns Tropical Zoo. A guy in short shorts stands next to a shallow pool containing a giant crocodile and proceeds to feed it a chicken or two. All in the name of entertainment and giving the croc a feed.

Now this guy was pretty close to the edge of the pond. Much closer than any of us would ever want to be. And the best way to show that photographically, apart from standing right beside the guy and shooting with a wide angle lens, is to use the telephoto.

The only problem with the telephoto, and this is one that a lot of photographers forget. You have to walk away from your subject for it to work. You have to put some distance between you and the thing you're photographing for the telephoto lens to be truly effective.

If I was too close here you only would have seen the inside of the croc's mouth if I had zoomed all the way in. If I had zoomed back to fit the guy in I would have been at a shorter focal length and he wouldn't have seemed so close. So you have to move back. The more you move back the more you have to zoom in to get the framing you want, and the more you zoom in the closer the objects will appear to each other.

So to get objects looking closer together than they actually are in real life, walk back and zoom in with the longest lens you have.

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