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

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Subject: [Leica] Wide angle
From: filippiniaia at (Matthew B. Filippini)
Date: Sat, 2 Jan 2010 17:36:44 -0600

Hi Larry-

I have not read "The Hidden Dimension."  While I agree with the
stranger/friend/lover distance concept you describe, I disagree regarding
the analogy with wide angle lenses.

The reason we perceive the distortion of very wide angle lenses, and why
they can be thought of as "depict(ing) a travesty of life" is that our
eyes do NOT have the "considerable visual distortion" of very wide angle
lenses at the "intimate distance" range.

Try it. Pick something up; move it close: no distortion for which your
brain does not compensate (mine anyhow).


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