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.
There’s a scene in Limitless in which the main character takes a drug that allows him to use 100% of his brain. In one scene in particular there’s a transition shot, in which the camera moves through the world. I recall them using still photographs and digitally zooming for this particular scene with different layer masks to give an illusion of movement. For this sequence they had a technologically advanced process to sell the illusion of movement through the scene with different images.
A similar effect was also utilized in Blade Runner as well there is a scene in which he uses a memory card to enhance images and zoom into environments at an almost microscopic level. Being a film from the 80s it’s said they used a combination of measurement systems that allowed them to use a sequence of still images one after another to create an almost flawless effect. Obviously the effects aren’t as impressive today as they were back then, that doesn’t take away from the level of craftsmanship and knowledge it takes to create a scene like this.
Creative Uses In My Own Photography:
‘See Yourself’ – 2017
For this sequence I wanted to carry the weight of the images to create an effect similar to the one seen in Blade Runner, as you can clearly see I picked the mirror scene in particular as a foundation for this project. I wanted the allure to continue throughout these three individual images, also displaying the importance of different focal lengths. As you can see in the first image it’s a dark portrait shot, perhaps a quick snapshot through a window. As we move out the scene is slowly revealed, I loved this effect in particular as it builds on that idea that photography is merely a 2 dimensional artform, I like to see past things, see through things. I shot this image with a Panasonic G7 with a C mount soviet lens from the 1960’s – This lens had an almost ‘vintage’ quality, the bokeh swirl was so intense it would smear the outside of the images leaving only the middle in perfect focus. I used this particular crutch as a strength as I would then be able to move through images to create an almost 3 dimensional space.
‘Bad Bird’ – 2014
These examples from my first book ‘States’ in which I shot America from an alternate perspective, instead of visiting landmarks -we headed to backstreet diners, I wanted to capture the essence of their everyday lifestyle. For the images above, we rented a boat and drove out towards a suspended pylon almost completely covered in bird poo. These birds were everywhere, pecking and squawking their way through everyday life, I remember shooting these two pictures and not being able to choose which angle I liked more – I ended up combining the images in a sequence, I shot these images at 17mm right down to 110mm to almost engulf the entire frame. These two shots sit nicely beside each other in the book and work well together.
The artist Nikolaus Baumgarten takes this effect to the ultimate extreme, combining painting after painting to create an almost infinite loop which transitions seamlessly without breaking the illusion. His collaborative paintings take an immense amount of time and patience to create. This is known as a zoom effect.
In the images above I used the zoom effect to create three individual images. I placed the camera on a tripod at the entrance to a tunnel. I then, starting at 18mm slowly turned the lens to zoom in further, the maximum zoom on the lens is 55mm – this is not impressive by any means but it was suitable enough to for fill the experiment. The central line of the lights offer a straight path to the centre of the images and as you can see a car drove past – this does break the continuity, but again, this Is a simple experiment to show knowledge and understanding. Keeping a consistent aperture was hard though, considering a lot of zoom lenses don’t have what’s called a ‘constant aperture’. A telephoto lens like the one above actually lets in a lot less light as you zoom in – this is normal. As you can see I didn’t edit the image too much either, I don’t like to over edit course work images as I like to show an accurate representation of what I captured on the day.