For the majority of my work I generally use a 50mm or 35mm lens, but recently I gave in to temptation and bought a Voigtlander 21mm f/4 Color-Skopar. This Leica screw mount lens came with an M-mount adapter so I can use it on my M4, but I decided to try it out on my iiif first. Even with the addition of a 21mm viewfinder in the camera’s cold shoe this made for a lightweight and compact kit. All of the images here are from the first roll of film I shot with this lens. For those who may want to know, I used good old Tri-X and developed it in FPP-110 (an HC-110 replacement from Film Photography Project), dilution B.
I consider 21mm an extreme wide angle lens. There are some pros and cons to working this wide. One of the pros is that the depth of field at f/8 or better lets me zone focus and quickly grab shots on the street without having to take time to align the images in the rangefinder. In some instances I don’t even bother with the 21mm viewfinder, I can just shoot from the hip. Such was the case with this image of the child strapped to his mother’s back. This literally happened “in the blink of an eye” as I noticed them walking by.
The corresponding “con” to having extreme depth of field is that background details can be intrusive, and can lessen the dimensionality that makes an image “pop.” I must confess to sometimes artificially blurring a background using Photoshop so that my foreground subject stands out more prominently.
This second image from my stroll through Baltimore’s Inner Harbor promenade allowed me to slow down and compose, as this dude stopped me and asked me to take his picture. He was disappointed when he asked to see it and I showed him the back of the camera, sans LCD screen. But I did get his contact info and sent this to him.
Before leaving downtown Baltimore for my next destination I made good use of the ultra-wide perspective to capture this urban architecture composition.
Next stop was the cemetery near my home. I’ve been photographing there for over 20 years, and it seems like there’s always something new to catch my eye. This study, a simple rumination on shape and tone, illustrates another “pro” of shooting wide: this was a dimly lit scene but the 21-mm optic allowed me to shoot handheld with good sharpness and depth of field.
I like how an extreme wide-angle lens’ exaggerated perspective allows me to isolate my main subject and push everything else back, where those secondary subjects can play their supporting role. This plinth could not have been captured so predominantly in the frame with a longer lens.
It’s so much fun to explore a new focal length. This isn’t likely to be my (or most people’s) go-to lens, but occasionally going out in the field with a lens like this is a great way to refresh one’s vision.
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