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.
Limitations & Frustrations
It may sound odd to you but the most difficult thing to do in my country is to be seen with a camera anytime anywhere – pandemic or not! Due to the lockdown, that has been extended yet again till the 31st May now, and interstate borders being sealed, there is no scope for going out anywhere. There is only one place in the residential complex that I stay in where I could find depth which is an ugly common porch area where one enters the tower from. I had done a quick shoot a couple of days before but had wanted to reshoot as it was interrupted due to the time of the day when many people kept crossing the area. I thought to return with my tripod for the lack of good light, a remote trigger and with time in my hand.
As I attempted to re-shoot it the second day, I saw a woman approaching after her morning walk perhaps. She was about 50 ft away when both I and the security guard moved to allow her a wide passage to the elevators. Instead of thanking us as she passed, this bitchy woman sarcastically told the security guard what a great example of social distancing he was allowing by blocking the common area! I was standing at least ten feet away from her at that time. I was just too shocked to even respond. I was so livid that I just left and informed the guard that I will come even sooner at the crack of dawn perhaps the next morning.
The third attempt was this morning at 6am and as I was setting up my tripod due to low light in the area, one old man who knows me – I have seen him and chatted with him on numerous occasions in the elevator – happened to be returning from his morning walk. Upon seeing me, he began to question the security guard as to what I was doing there? In response to him, since I thought maybe he hadn’t recognised me, I removed my mask and greeted him saying, hey, it’s me. Showing no signs of recognition, he got into an argument with me if I had permission to shoot and what I am shooting etc. My explanation of me being a student and am shooting a god-damn common porch of a nondescript middle class residential complex for a school study, fell on deaf years, him barraging me with questions that where am I submitting these images and he wouldn’t stop. It was so frustrating that I told him that this is not Area 51 in the USA and am not a spy stealing some high security images of a restricted area. I finally had to pack up my stuff and leave, not being able to do justice to this exercise and fuming at the mentality of people in this country.
You cant go on the streets with a camera. Either the cops will fleece you for money or people will start objecting. I hate this country and its people. Good luck doing street photography here! Everything has to be done in hiding. So very frustrating! Aaaaarrrgh!!! Now you know the reason why I prefer working with animals. This country and most of its people, a big majority are morons!!! They believe very strongly in not doing anything themselves and not letting anyone else do it also. It is seriously a curse to be born in this country and the same limitations that I faced so much during my FiP year too are repeating itself now. Ok, now that you have a background and a long rant, I will get to the exercise.
These shots were taken previously without a tripod, when I realised that I needed a different set up and therefore my attempt to reshoot it twice – and the above experiences that followed. Even though I am not very happy with the location it serves the purpose of the exercise and I have no choice at the moment to better this. I will re attempt this exercise again with a better location once the lockdown opens. Here are the images taken for this exercise in a continuous order in order to understand what the zoom is doing here.
The individual images can be seen below. The camera settings for this sequence is:
- Camera – Canon 1DX Mark III
- Canon EF24-105mm f/4L
- ISO 200
- Aperture Priority Mode
- Exposure – overexposed by 1/3 of an f-stop
- Shutter 1/60s
The above images are an example of optical zooming technique which simply means using a zoom lens to capture images at a distance, which gives you the versatility of taking images at varying focal lengths from the same spot, without compromising on quality like digital zooming does. The images shot at 105mm and 75mm focal lengths provide the maximum perspective than the others. The leading lines or the vanishing point is most visible in these two images as well as perspective. As you zoom in on the scene, you can see how it change with every variation in the focal length. As you quickly browse through the images in preview, you can feel a sense of movement.
The gigapan is an incredible tool for creating interactive and immersive 3D experiences with great resolutions especially in the field of scientific research, space and astronomy, arts and culture and spaces with high density of areas to be studied. The google arts and culture was a mind-blowing experience. I totally got caught in visiting all the art galleries. I particularly enjoyed going through some classic artworks like “The Night Watch” by Rembrandt and studying the beautiful play of light and shadows that one probably cannot see so well otherwise – this technique of zooming in onto an artwork at such great resolution is phenomenal. The second largest image produced by this technique, the enormous panoramic photograph of Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest mountain, a 365 gigapixels image, is just an insight into what technology can do. The first largest image by the The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera of the moon’s surface, a whopping 681 gigapixels image, is incredibly fascinating with remarkable close-ups showing the various textures of the moon’s surface, that must be extremely crucial for gaining more insights into scientific investigation and understanding. Their website has some great images including this gigapan, which is the largest image produced till date.
The world-famous multi award-winning wildlife film maker from India, Subbaiah Nalla Muthu, who’s films like the Tigers’s Revenge(2014), The World’s Most Famous Tiger (2017), Tiger Queen (2017) etc. have been showcased by the National geographic, BBC and the likes, offer to me a much better understanding of the zoom and its utilisation in the field. In one of my favourite shots from him, his incredible usage of zoom to show the movement of the tail of the Tiger as it moves within the tall grass while stalking is mesmerising. The Tiger is focused on its prey and where there is no way any human can move within that dense dry foliage without making a noise or moving the grass blades, the tiger does so without even touching a single blade of grass so that the prey does not get conscious of its presence. When watching such an event in the field with the naked eye, one cannot notice it as the scene is large and one cannot focus so acutely on any particular area. One can only notice these things through the power of the technology of the zoom.
More than the blade-runner and other movies recommended in the coursework, I rewatched these wildlife films with a new eye, from my private collection. The coursework specifies that our research should indicate our interests in photography therefore I chose to diverge a bit here and include what will aid me in my journey in the wild as well. It could be because my field of interest lies in the wild but watching these animal films, where one cannot go close enough to see the animal behaviour does make one realise the importance of the zoom technology. Nalla’s award winning wildlife documentary, Life Force- India’s Western Ghats tracks eight endangered species including the Lion-tailed macaque, Great Indian Hornbill, Slender Loris and Purple Frog. It documents some behaviours that haven’t been documented before thus truly are a treat for the eyes. His cinematography is nothing short than exceptional and because each frame is like a photographic still maybe that is why I can relate to his films and get inspired to take meaningful zoom shots to include sensitive detailing.
I could not find complete films of Nalla’s on the web except one, the link to which is in the bibliography below, but from the course on ornithology that am currently doing with Cornell, I wanted to show you these incredible displays of mating rituals in the almost impenetrable rainforests of New Guinea. This for me is one of the most incredible experience of zoom that I have seen. The following trailer gives a sense of the monumental undertaking that the researchers and film makers of this project undertook and the spectacular awe-inspiring footage that resulted.
The following video of the Club-winged Manakin, found in the forests of Ecuador, filmed by researcher Kim Bostwick, is one of the most unique animal behaviours on the planet. These videos are an insight into the extraordinary unknown world of birds that we would not have been able to witness without the incredible technological advancement of the zoom.
A few years back I had the chance to shoot from a gigapan mounted camera. I personally know Nalla and when we happened to meet during one of his stints in Ranthambhore National Park where he was shooting for a film, he was kind enough to offer me his Gigapan set up for an afternoon and it was a great experience. Basically it involved feeding in information about the number of shots that you want, its starting and finishing point. Upon pressing start it starts capturing images of your scene, for example a 100 shots starting at the top left of the frame and continue till it ends after the 100 shots at the bottom right of the frame. One can vary the number of shots to as many as you want depending upon the image resolution that you want as well as where in the grid you want to begin. Then it involved the stitching of these 100 shots by the stitching software available on their site – gigapan.com. Unfortunately I lost that exercise a long time back when I lost my drive due to an accident but nevertheless having experienced it was a unique experience.
Having gone through the various references given in the coursework and having taken images by the optical zooming in the exercise above, I have taken a previous image from my archives and on the model of gigapixel images, tried to extract different scenes from within a scene, by the means of digital zoom, which means that this kind of zooming is achieved by cropping and enlarging the image on an image editing software. This image was taken from a boat a few years back in Benares (Varanasi) – the Holy city of India, on a cold December morning at ‘The Ghats‘ (The Ghats are the steps in front of the holy river Ganges in Varanasi, in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The Ghats are a place of bathing to purify one’s soul of all sins as well as a place of worship. Two of the total of 88 ghats that the city has are reserved for the cremation of dead bodies).
The Exif info for the image above is:
- Camera – Canon 1D Mark IV
- Lens – Canon EF24-105mm f/4L
- ISO 250
- Aperture Priority Mode
- Exposure – underexposed by 1/3 of an f-stop
- Shutter 1/125s
- Date & Time – 14th December 2013, 8:46 AM
In the image above I have identified five areas of interest within the full scene and digitally zoomed and extracted five sub-images from it, based on the gigapixel images, where one can zoom in and see the details on to any part of an image. The following are the cropped shots from the image above.
In the cropped images above, whereas it does highlight the areas of interest, in terms of quality it has degraded quite a bit with pixelation leading to a grainy image – also the fact that mist in the air does not help either. This post is becoming too long and I will include examples of zoom in the wild from my personal archives at a later stage.
- Understanding what zooming does by shooting variations of a scene at different focal lengths and how zooming in on a scene changes the perception of a visual.
- Understanding the difference between optical vs digital zoom and how optical Zoom is better than digital zoom (at least in the cameras used by ordinary people – this is not true for gigapixel images where the size of the image is gigantic and hence details are preserved to a great extent).
- The awe-inspiring ideas and uses of the zoom and how it is so useful in documenting not only our world heritage but also to enhance our knowledge on previously unknown aspects of our world.
- Introduction to the marvels of technology and where it has reached is definitely a great lesson to enhance our knowledge.
- How zoom can be integrated in virtual and augmented reality projects to increasingly use technology like this to add to the realism and immersive 3D experiences, like the ones on the Google Arts & Culture website.