Making of 40 Photographs #22

This is #22 in my series ‘Making of 40 Photographs’. I think too much equipment is a bad thing and I’ve often found that having less, is actually more.

Fox at Lago Grey, Torres del Paine, Chile

I shot this on a workshop in 2009 in Torres del Paine national park in Chilean Patagonia. The reason I bring this up is that others on the tour had access to some telephoto zooms while I did not. My Mamiya 7 system is very basic - a 50mm (wide angle), 80mm (standard lens) and 150 (75mm lens). I find the system simple, but ultimately restrictive at times, especially compared to SLR systems which have so much more scope.

Or do they?

I had my 80mm standard lens on at the time when I was composing a very basic landscape shot - the Fox hadn’t arrived yet so when he actually did pop up - I was torn. To shoot at 75mm wasn’t that powerful enough to get closer to the fox, and I would have ended up being in the middle of nowhere - not wide enough to capture the entire vista, and not close enough to isolate the fox either. Plus, it isn’t quick to change lenses and I felt that doing so would jeopardize the potential that was rapidly unfolding in front of me. So I decided to stay with what I had on the camera and work with that.

I felt at the time frustrated because my instinct was to get close in on the Fox, yet I’m now glad that the limitations of the system I was using meant that I had to work with what I had and I think the resulting image benefitted from that. It has that nice landscape vista, and simply by adding the fox into the foreground, as small as he is, gives a sense of context and scale that wouldn’t have been present if he wasn’t there. Plus, I feel it has turned what would have been a boring landscape image into something a little bit more interesting.

Had I access to a range of focal lengths, I feel I would have not opted for this composition and I personally feel that the image would have suffered. So like I say - having less equipment can be less of a hindrance and more of a benefit.

Most objects in a scene should be there as supporting actors to the main point of interest. A bad photograph often has objects competing for attention. This image perhaps breaks that rule because I’m not entirely clear if the Fox is there to add support to the mountain vista in the background, or whether the landscape is there to support and give context to the Fox. I guess you’ll have to decide for me.