I had such a good time experimenting with my telephoto lens last time, that I decided to give it another try. Today while running some errands, I took my Canon AE-1 with the same fd 70—210mm f4 lens as last time. I had some time to spare and managed to get some nice shots at the market square of Helsinki.

It is ok to shoot street photography with other than 50mm

You know they always say that street photography should be done with a 50mm or a wide angle lens? 50mm is known to be somewhat of a standard among purist and I agree too to some extent. For me, 50mm is THE focal length and I’ve been too brainwashed by the idea that true street photographers use only it. For that reason, I’ve always laughed at tele zooms and counted them out from my arsenal. I don’t think I’m ever going to carry a tele zoom lens as my main lens, but I have to say I have changed my mind about them for sure. I’ve enjoyed tremendously shooting with a large lens and I’m loving the results I’m getting with it in terms of street photography. Some famous photographers has used teles too of course. I believe that Saul Leiter used a lot of 150mm focal length for some of his famous images.

Adjusting my tele setup

This time I adjusted my setup slightly though. Last time I shot Tri-x that I pushed to 1600 in order to get faster shutter speeds. That resulted in very heavy contrast and a lot of grain. Just a bit too much of contrast and just a bit too much of grain. I only have Rodinal in the cupboard at the moment, which tends to give very grainy result. Don’t get me wrong; I love grain. That’s the reason I dig film so much. But — the amount and style of grain has to be just right. Pushed Tri-x souped in Rodinal can be a bit too much. I decided to go with T-max and Rodinal and I didn’t push it no more than one stop, shooting it as iso 800. That still gave me fast enough shutter speeds and I was able to shoot without getting any telephoto camera shake. Most of the following photos are shot with 1/500 shutter speed, which is more than enough to give non-shaky images with 210mm lens. T-max is less grainy than Tri-x and looks really good with Rodinal — if you’re into grain. I think that combo produces a nice grain balance. Pushing adds grain and contrast too and last time, when I pushed to iso 1600, it was clearly too much. Shooting at 800 seemed to give nice results. Even though these images are shot on T-max, which is a rather modern black and white film, I got very classical look. Which is exactly what I’m after.

Some pros and cons

Large lens give a huge amount of freedom for a shy person, who has trouble of getting close. Tele lenses are often criticised for giving a tight composition and compressed look. With a wide angle lens, you can fit a lot of the background into the image. Telephoto lens on the other hand has such a narrow angle, that it can be very hard to give enough context. It’s more for very subject oriented compositions. I have noticed this too, but it wasn’t as bad as thought. I was actually quite surprised how much of background information you can actually include with a large lens.

But anyways, Here are the images. Not all of them are shot with the 210mm focal length. At least one or two has been shot with the 70mm end of the zoom range. I never seem to use any of the focal length between the extreme ends… it’s either the 70mm or the 210mm.