Project 1: The distorting lens – Ex. 2.3

Ex 2.3

Once again, I found this task uninspiring until I started thinking about it, until I started reading up about it.

The photos that I managed to take for this one also seemed uninspiring and bland; they do capture the wide angle lens distortion though and they do add some dynamism to the image; in particular shot 1 (below) where we can clearly see the first column on the right tilting away from the camera (I can assure you that that was not how it looked through my eyes!); so what on Earth is going on here?

Looking through some of my books, there doesn’t seem to be too much on the subject save good old Freeman again (2010, p132). He points out how “It is not simply the wider angle of view that exaggerates geometry, however, but the viewpoint in relation to near and far objects.” This is, in effect, exactly what we had to do with the task.  He goes on to mention that, “…it pays to experiment with a wide variety of camera positions, particularly strange ones, such as from below or from above.” Well, that sounds exciting!

The task brief points out that this type of low viewpoint, “…adds a sense of monumentality, making the subject seem larger than it is, and tilting the camera adds to the effect as vertical lines dramatically converge. Not the ideal combination for a portrait shot!” Sounds like something that Brandt would have smirked at when using his large format wide angle beast (16mm Eq) for his Perspective of Nudes series; and again maybe not the archetypical portrait set up, but it certainly worked for Josef Koudelka and his Gypsies series: an example of how chance, vision, and glory come together.

Not quite so glorious, or fortuitous , just my vision:

Shot 1. 1/200 at F/4, ISO 200 14mm (28mm Eq)

The wide angle lens ‘drawing us into the scene’, and creating what Freeman (2007, p100) calls dynamic tension (I just love that expression), had eluded me at first with these columns.
The column on the right, the one I focused on too, seems to almost bend as if the weight of the building is too much for it and it’s about to give way: we only have a few seconds to get our shot and then get out of there before it all comes crashing down on top of us!
(I remember trying to rectify, or reverse this Keystone effect by tilting the camera the other way to try to align the sensor plate to the intended image subject: Some examples from years ago one and two. Funny, now here I am doing the opposite!)

Shot 2. Distortion

Interesting also to see how the implied ‘lines’ (in yellow) continuing through the image appear to change angle as we look (or are pulled) further into the image following the depth of field (blue lines). At the bottom of the closest column the yellow line is horizontal, whereas, the columns to the right appear to be lifting up slightly (red line).
All this was accentuated by the wide angle, the low viewpoint and the slight tilting of the camera. I can only imagine what would happen to these columns with a nice 24mm or 22mm (although I draw the line at fish eye distortion, at least for the time being…).

And so, once more, a somewhat dull task transforms and reveals itself (after having given it some thought and after actually looking at the shot and trying to pry out the suggested tension and effect) to be a much more intriguing and instructive activity than I originally thought. It seems just about everything is a question of perspective, isn’t it?; a veritable game of perspectives even;  where ‘bending’ the rules or ‘crossing the lines’, seems to be, on occasion, an accepted and welcome norm.




Freeman, M, The Photographer’s Mind – Creative Thinking for Better Digital Photos, Focal Press, 2009.

Freeman, M, The Photographer’s Eye – Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos, Boston: Focal Press, 2007.

Encyclopedia Britannica. (2015). Bill Brandt | British photographer. [online] Available at: [Accessed 5 Apr. 2016]. (2016). Magnum Photos. [online] Available at: [Accessed 5 Apr. 2016]. (2016). Bill Brandt Biography – Victoria and Albert Museum. [online] Available at: [Accessed 5 Apr. 2016].

Encyclopedia Britannica. (2015). Josef Koudelka | Czech-born French photographer. [online] Available at: [Accessed 5 Apr. 2016].

Kim, E. (2013). 10 Lessons Josef Koudelka Has Taught Me About Street Photography. [online] Eric Kim. Available at: [Accessed 5 Apr. 2016].

Pictures taken but only one used.



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