When it comes to wildlife photography the long glass rules – if you have it…
One of the reasons to crop we haven’t really discussed in depth is the crop to relieve a lack of focal length. Let’s face it, big or long glass is expensive. It is also cumbersome. Not everyone can afford to, or even wants to pack it, hoist it and hold it steady.
Here is the original capture from a Canon 40D with a Canon 300MM F4L mounted. Factoring in the ‘crop factor’ on the sensor we have an apparent focal length of 480mm. The composition in-camera was sacrificed to ensure auto-focus lock. A longer lens would have been nicer. Alas, I didn’t have one with me nor could I have wielded it inside the cockpit of my blind (a Toyota Prius).
Ultracropping the image to approximate 1:1 pixels, you see that maximum filling of the frame that can be accomplished. If you are looking for a bird ID shot, this suffices nicely. I attempted to compose this crop by grounding the fence post with a single wire strand and giving the bird space into which to look. This satisfies two rules: Grounding and Space.
If we imagine for a moment that I wasn’t carrying a 300 mm lens but rather double its focal length, this is the approximate image that results. Yes we are closer but compositionally, we don’t have enough space around the bird’s head to crop back to get more of the lower ground. This is a much more difficult composition to tweak.
Too much club?
Compositionally, this is the image I tend to favor. This was a crop down from the full shot and is roughly equivalent to a 400MM lens. The rule of grounding is satisfied satisfactorily. We have three wire strands satisfying the rule of odds. The image has a foreground, middle ground, background and sky. Rule of thirds places both the fence post and the bird.
Rule of space is a little trickier as the bird is body facing to the right but glancing slightly left. If the bird takes off, I can almost guarantee you it will leap upward and rightward. The bird’s gaze is less apparent in this view than in the ultracropped version. I was more concerned about movement space than I was about vision space. As the artist, I decided that space was more important in those directions. You might have a different interpretation. That’s OK.
Cropping is a great antidote to lens envy. As camera sensors become more dense and megapixels increase, the need for a ‘cannon’ of a lens becomes less important. In an era when so many images live only on the web displayed at sizes less than two megapixels, rare indeed is the image that requires a few thousand dollars more glass. But that doesn’t mean I still don’t need one…
Rikk Flohr © 2011