Lenses - Focal Length Chameleons

Quick. At first glance what focal length was used for the above image? Would love to know if your first impression was correct. I will get to that in a second. Now if you cheat and examine things closely and take time to let your left-brain catch up I am sure that you will come really close to the correct answer.

I have mentioned that I really like 50mm or the equivalent focal length lenses and in fact they may be my desert island lens. I may have also mentioned that one of the reasons I like that particular lens category is that I find them to be chameleon like. Depending on how you use it it can give the impression of being wide or being a telephoto or neutral. I tripped over that little tidbit by accident a long long time ago and have been fascinated by what factors contribute to the wide/tele/neutral perception and how to control that.

Having explored it I have some degree of understanding but like a lot of things with photography little things like that can be a lifelong endeavor in mastering. I am by no means a master at manipulating that characteristic but I do tend to gravitate to things that have that subtle complexity from a visual tool perspective. I tend not to like things that are one-trick ponies. Just my bent.

I thought I would share the image above because I noticed that my impression of the image at the top when I was going through last weeks shoot was of a slightly wide-ish lens. I actually had to turn my EXIF info display on for a second just to be sure I wasn't crazy. I didn't recall switching glass to my 28-70 for this. In fact I didn't. Much to my surprise I am not crazy and/or senile. This was shot with an 85mm just like I recalled using.

Of course after I confirmed what I actually used and looked at it closer I could tell but I found it interesting that this chameleon like property that I love with 50mm lenses seemed to be partially present at 85mm. Never really observed that before. Most likely because I haven't used 85's in this manner. Typically I would have switched to a 50 or a normal range zoom or even a 35 for this type of framing and point of view.

I do know that at some point of the wide/tele spectrum you do cross a line where the focal length range will scream at you in terms of lens choice. For whatever reason those lenses don't interest me a whole lot - probably because I live my photographic life at 2ft to 20ft and don't shoot birds. Not a bad proclivity considering those extremes are big-bucks.


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