# Long lenses do NOT compress perspective.

Always the contrarian, let me explain why I argue against conventional wisdom that “long lenses compress perspective”.

The reason: They don’t actually do that. They only cause blurry backgrounds.

What compresses perspective is your vantage point.

Before I explain: let me just show you. here’s two shots I took from the same position. Same position, same camera, and using 24mm and 200mm lens focal length, respectively.

Same picture: the small Christmas tree, with the jewellery store behind.

Now let’s crop the heck out of that first shot, the 24mm picture. No other changes – just a *(pretty extreme) crop:

Now compare the last two photos, and ignore the blurry background in the 200mm shot.

Other than that, the photos are identical. The background (the jewelry store window in the background) is no larger in the 200mm shot than in the 24mm shot. It is not closer. It is not a “compressed background”.

The only thing that determines the “compression of the perspective” is your position. And in particular, the ratio of the distance to the remote object to that of the close object.

If that ratio is large (say, 10:1, meaning the remote object is ten times farther away than the close object) then, well, that remote object will look smaller. If the ratio is small (say, 2:1, meaning the remote object is only twice as far as the close object), then it will look less small – i.e. it will appear to be closer.

And that ratio is only determined by where you are. Imagine I am looking at a tree, and some distance behind it, there is another tree. If I move back an infinite distance away from the first tree, then the ratio approaches 1:1, meaning the objects look the same size if they are the same size. If, on the other hand, I move infinitely close to the first tree, then that ratio approaches infinity, meaning that the second tree looks infinitely smaller.

So why do we say “long lenses compress perspective”? Because using a long lens almost always means that you will not be close to objects. So the ratio decreases. So the background appears to get closer, compared to when you use a shorter lens (or your eyes). So in practice it appears to work this way.

But in fact, it is only your position that determines compression. Simple math. So if you had a 10mm lens, you could take every single photo with it – if you had the ability to crop crazily. So those of you with a 500 Megapixel camera: all you will need is a wide angle lens (and some patience to do all that cropping.

You now know more than a lot of professional photographers.

You’re welcome.

# Spare time…

…of which right now I have quite a lot. My store/studio (www.michaelwillemsphoto.com) is still open, but only for passport/ID photos and curbside delivery/pickup, so the days are super slow.

So I get to do some hobby stuff. And my hobby intertests are wide. They also include electronics and computers, and the other day, I bought an Arduino-based Altair 8800 simulator kit (from www.adwaterandstir.com). An excellent kit, by the way, highly recommended.

The Arduino is a modern microcontroller, and the Altair 8080 was really the first personal computer, way back in 1974.

After seeing that article, a couple of young students from Harvard decided to write a BASIC interpreter for it, and the rest is history – you may recognize the names in the Altair BASIC manual:

Anyway, the Altair looked like this…:

And the simulator I built looked like this:

And then it looked like this:

And now, after seven hours of soldering and constructing, looks like this:

And it works! So now I can watch blinking lights (loom up “blinkenlights“). And I can program some BASIC to calculate primes:

..and I can rum CP/M, play Othello and Star Trek and Zork, and in general, do the things you could do in 1977.

Why on earth would I want to do this?

Because it’s a cool conversation piece. And it looks super cool: the Altair with its lights and data/address switches was based on the Data General NOVA.

And because it’s a special thing to run the original Bill Gates/Paul Allen Basic (even “Micro-Soft” did not exist yet) – the project that made Gates \$100 billion, and that is responsible for most computer stuff you have now. And to type the same “PRINT 2+2” command that Paul Allen typed in New Mexico to demonstrate the project to MITS, the makers of Altair, and to see the same “4” appear that impressed them enough to buy this BASIC, is quite an experience too.

And above all else, because just like photography, this takes me back. Back to the 1970s and 80s. I feel like I am 20-odd years old again!

And it’s always handy to know prime numbers. I guess.

# Another useful tool for beginners

And here, with ,y compliments, is another useful learning tool for beginning photographers who want to move to Manual mode. Everything summarized in one table: Enjoy!

# “Mastering Your Camera”, 4th Edition

Of my seven books, the one you should read first if you are a beginner or intermediate user, is “Mastering Your Camera”. It starts from zero, and will make you a competent photographer technically, and it also starts you off in terms of composition and subject selection.

The FOURTH Edition of this e-book has just been released. It contains many corrections, some clarifications, a few new flowcharts and tables, and general updates. As before, it is a PDF that you can use on any device, and you can also print a copy for personal use. The new edition’s ISBN is 978-0-9950800-8-9.

And if you do not have it yet, I have some great news: for one week only, it is available for just C\$4.95. After that week, the price will revert to the usual \$19.95.

Check it out here: www.michaelwillemsphoto.com/ebooks.html

# Setting ISO, Aperture and Shutter

Yes, for beginners it can be confusing: ISO, aperture and shutter all need to be set. But how?

This flow chart may help. With my compliments! (And if you want to learn more, come to the studio or contact me to set up a lesson: see www.michaelwillemsphoto.com).

# More video

Another video tip for you on the YouTube channel – and please subscribe to the channel if you haven’t yet. Today’s tip is on focus points.

# Quick Tips

As you will know, I do quick tips – until the store reopens, I am passionate about helping you all get the best out of photography. So… do not forget to check out the new videos on the YouTube channel! But here, for your convenience, are the last two–and there will be more in the coming days and weeks.

# Quick Tip Video #1

I aim to produce some “Quick Tip” videos, mainly aimed at beginning photographers – though some will be advanced. Tip 1 is now on my YouTube Channel – link on the right, or direct here. Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

# COVID Self-Portraits, day 33: Much Of The Day.

In my continuing series of interpretive self-portrait, Day 33: “Much Of The Day”. These portraits are staged, but real: they reflect both what I am doing on the day, and the mood—not just my mood, but the way I think the world’s mood is developing as we all realize that the world we know will not return for a long time, if ever.

Apart from cropping plus some desaturation and an increase in presence, I do minimal editing. Doing self-portraits is not easy, both in technical terms and in terms of subject and composition, but with some training and some equipment, it can be done.

If you are interested in honing your skills, do it now, while you are stuck at home. I now teach my courses online, live, interactively, in very small classes: just like at the store, really. Contact me if you are interested: details on http://www.michaelwillemsphoto.com.

Stay well, everyone!

# A portrait a day

And I continue to do a COVID-19 period self portrait every day. Here, for example, is yesterday’s:

Rembrandt-type light, using two small flashes. One, in front of me, with a small 8″ Honl Photo Traveler8 softbox; the other right behind me, using a “chocolate” Honl photo gel. Both in manual mode at 1/4 power; both driven by simple (manual-only) pocketwizards.