Exercise 2.1: Zoom

The Brief

Find a scene that has depth. From a fixed position, take a sequence of five or six shots at different focal lengths without changing your viewpoint. (You might like to use the specific focal lengths indicated on the lens barrel.) As you page through the shots on the preview screen it almost feels as though you’re moving through the scene. So the ability to change focal lengths has an obvious use: rather than physically move towards or away from your subject, the lens can do it for you. But zooming is also a move towards abstraction, which, as the word itself tells us, is the process of ‘drawing things away’ from their context.

Zooming also allows you to capture details at higher resolutions and this has been memorably explored in cinema. The film Blade Runner (Dir. Ridley Scott, 1982) provides a prescient vision of the future of photography from just before the dawn of the digital age.

The blade runner Deckard (played by Harrison Ford) treasures his old, silver-based family photographs but, like us, he uses a screen for viewing images at work. With his ‘Esper’ machine he can navigate around an image in virtual three dimensions by using voice commands. The resolution is incredible (think Google Earth) but at maximum resolution where you would expect to see pixels the image just dissolves into film grain.

In Michelangelo Antonioni’s film Blow Up (1966), David Hemmings plays a disaffected young photographer (based partly on David Bailey) who accidentally photographs a murder. Hoping to understand the situation that he’d unwittingly witnessed, he frantically ‘blows up’ the negatives to the limit of intelligibility, but the result is inconclusive. The frustratingly unresolved situation is a favourite motif of Antonioni as a comment on modern life.

‘Google Arts and Culture’ offer a digitally immersive exploration of cultural institutions around the world through a combination of very high-resolution images and Google’s own ‘Street View’ technology. While Holbein’s ‘The Ambassadors’ shot on a gigapixel camera is admittedly impressive, zooming in to it ultimately just resolves to craquelure and dust. https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/about/users/


Taking inspiration from the examples above or from your own research, create a final image for your sequence. In EYV the important thing is to present your work in context, so make it clear in your notes what you’ve been looking at and reading. The focus here is on imagination and research skills rather than the technical aspects of zoom.

Note:

07/02/2020

I have had to revisit this exercise after finding the original incomplete, when I did the test photos for the original shoot, I had meant to revisit the site and take another set of exposures with either laminated word cards taped to various parts of the scene I wanted to photograph or have some family members hold them at various focal lengths. Sadly I was not able to return due to an ongoing knee injury made was by actually losing my footing again on this visit and landing on the same knee. So for the purpose of this exercise I have posted the original photos I had taken along with  a new set to illustrate my interpretation of the brief above.

Response

The visuals in Blade Runner were absolutely stunning for a film that has stood the test of time even against todays mind blowing visual effects. I loved the scene in question where Deckard is looking for clues through a set of old photos in his quest to track down the replicants. This film serves to remind me of  other videos I have seen, such as Fleetwood Macs Big Love which pans slowly outward to reveal a new scenes, before zooming rapidly back in at the close of the video.

My final interpretation of this brief is below and I have placed the exposures in order of panning out at each stage revealing another element within each exposure. Throughout the shoot my focus was on the moon in the first shot and this would remain my reference point as I panned out.

  • Aperture: ƒ/6.3
  • Camera: Canon EOS Kiss X4
  • Taken: 7 February, 2020
  • Focal length: 250mm
  • ISO: 6400
  • Shutter speed: 1/200s

  • Aperture: ƒ/6.3
  • Camera: Canon EOS Kiss X4
  • Taken: 7 February, 2020
  • Focal length: 120mm
  • ISO: 6400
  • Shutter speed: 1/160s

  • Aperture: ƒ/6.3
  • Camera: Canon EOS Kiss X4
  • Taken: 7 February, 2020
  • Focal length: 80mm
  • ISO: 2000
  • Shutter speed: 1/125s

  • Aperture: ƒ/6.3
  • Camera: Canon EOS Kiss X4
  • Taken: 7 February, 2020
  • Focal length: 43mm
  • ISO: 400
  • Shutter speed: 1/80s

  • Aperture: ƒ/6.3
  • Camera: Canon EOS Kiss X4
  • Taken: 7 February, 2020
  • Focal length: 28mm
  • ISO: 1000
  • Shutter speed: 1/50s

  • Aperture: ƒ/6.3
  • Camera: Canon EOS Kiss X4
  • Taken: 7 February, 2020
  • Focal length: 18mm
  • ISO: 640
  • Shutter speed: 1/30s

Below are the original test shots taken last year:

 

  • Aperture: ƒ/6.3
  • Camera: Canon EOS Kiss X4
  • Taken: 7 February, 2020
  • Focal length: 250mm
  • ISO: 6400
  • Shutter speed: 1/200s
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