Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2010/01/02

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Subject: [Leica] Wide angle
From: lrzeitlin at (Lawrence Zeitlin)
Date: Sat, 2 Jan 2010 17:14:06 -0500

Mark writes:

"Things get wider and wider every year.

The whole mindset of the photographing world.

The Leica 18 is the new 21.

And you could be shooting with a 15 or a 12. And plenty do all the time.

Lots of them are the top people."

- - - - -

Why are ultra wide angle lenses becoming so popular?

In 1966, Edward Hall wrote, in "The Hidden Dimension," that  people space
themselves at a distance that is appropriate to the degree of relationship
to the "other." People interact at a greater distance from strangers than
with friends and at a greater distance from friends than with lovers. There
are very specific visual cues for each distance. With strangers, the
distance, usually about two arm's length, does not emphasize small aspects
of appearance and there is little perspective distortion. Sort of like using
the often recommended 90 mm lens on a 35 mm camera to shoot portraits. At
the closer friendship distance, say about one arm's length, there is a
moderate visual distortion. The nose of a person looking toward you appears
slightly magnified compared to the ears. Perhaps equivalent to the 50 mm
lens perspective on your film Leica when shooting portraits. At the intimate
distance, less than 18 inches, there is considerable visual distortion. The
nose appears much larger than the ears and the face fills most of the visual
field. We grow accustomed to these visual effects and often use them to
gauge the degree of relationship between people from photos.

A few years ago there was a spate of TV commercials shot at ultra close
distances for hawking personal use products. I guess the producers read
Hall's book and concluded that you would believe an intimate friend rather
than a make believe doctor in a white coat filmed at the formal distance.

There is a reciprocal aspect to this relationship, often triggered by the
visual cues. If we are forced into anintimate distance by seating
accommodations or by crowding, such as close seating in an airplane or at a
bar, we soon act as if  the relationship was appropriate to the distance.
Thus we may hear or tell of personal life stories to seat mates or bar
buddies that would never come up in casual conversation between strangers.
The tortured mental logic is as follows:

1. The visual cues tell me that I am within the intimate distance from this

2. I would never get this close to a casual acquaintance therefore he is my

3. Since we are on intimate terms, I can confide my personal secrets.

Needless to say, this bond is broken when the plane lands and the distance

In photographic terms ultra wide angle lenses, especially in close ups,
create the same form of visual distortion as personal spacing at the
intimate distance. Pictures taken with these lenses have the same sort of
psychological relevance as sitting close to a stranger.They are attention
grabbing because of the pseudo intimacy. But ultimately these pictures are
disturbing because we realize that we are being fooled. Our attention has
been hijacked, not by the pictorial content, but by the illusion of personal
relevance. As we become accustomed to the visual trickery the effect
lessens. That's why the TV commercials lost favor.

Ultra wide angle lenses depict a travesty of life. Ultimately we will all
return to sanity and use normal lenses. Even the top people.

Larry Z

Replies: Reply from jbm at (Jeff Moore) ([Leica] Wide angle)
Reply from michiel.fokkema at (Michiel Fokkema) ([Leica] Wide angle)
Reply from ricc at (Ric Carter) ([Leica] Wide angle)
Reply from tedgrant at (tedgrant at ([Leica] Wide angle LARRY Z.)