Updated: Nov 23
Last year I had my hands on the Sigma 35mm f1.4 rental lens. This year I decided to have it in my lenses arsenal for good and continued my challenge with this lens in various scenarios. And here we will go over these scenarios along with camera settings in the shooting process.
Wide Aperture f 1.4 - f4
Wide apertures give us a possibility to focus on the main subject and throw the background out of focus. This eliminates the distractions during the shooting and adds artistic bokeh. Moreover, it allows us to shoot in the low light conditions.
If we position ourselves close enough to the subject and the background is further away, we will get our subject sharp and background blurred. And remember to always focus on the nearest eye, since eyes are the most essential in the portraits. Best time to shoot such portraits is during golden hour in the shadow area where lighting is diffused and even.
In the street we will often be capturing a wider scene and when subject is further away from us, wide aperture will not give the same shallow depth of field. We can still have an accent on our subject whereas the rest of the scene will be relatively in focus as well. The bonus here is that wider aperture here gives us an opportunity of faster shutter speed to capture an important moment.
Low Light Conditions
In low light conditions we can take advantage of getting closer to the subject to have the background blurred with a touch of artistic bokeh.
Favaios Traditional Bakery, Portugal - ISO 400 f 1.4 1/250 sec
Closed Aperture f5.6 - f11
Any sort of "scapes" usually require a good depth of field and to achieve that we use more closed apertures. The sweet spot for good depth of field is f8 and f11 as shown in the examples below.
The below example was shot handheld at the time of setting sun and f5.6 was enough to keep subjects sharp.
This was yet another technique I tried with this lens, mounting my 6-stop NiSi ND filter to create the light trails effect. Shooting this type of scenes requires a steady tripod and ND filters to stop down from excessive light. It also requires some patience, as desired story may not come out from the first attempt. Overall long exposure photography is a lot of fun and has a lot of space for artistic expression so I urge to come up with your ideas on how to apply it with 35 mm lens.
The below image includes a person with tramways leading to him and has everything in focus starting from foreground to background. This kind of scene can potentially be shot with f2.8 and f4, adjusting to higher shutter speed.
After the golden hour in the morning and before golden hour in the evening there is a period of so called "silver hour" that produces beautiful counter lighting which is less soft but works great for siluettes and contrasts with shadows.
Applicability of this lens doesn't end with the city and streets. I had an opportunity to take it with me to the Dolomites for an Instameet and used it instead of Sony 24-105 f4 which stayed at home.
When focal length doesn't allow to capture the wider scene and location doesn't allow to step back far enough, stitching panoramas comes in very handy. The below image is a panorama made of 8 vertical images with enough overlapping.
Another example of using panorama method to capture the almighty Tre Cime peaks.
As you can see there is a lot to play with varying aperture numbers, ISO, subject distance, single shots and panorama method. Being a wide aperture lens, it made into my camera backpack more times than I thought it would, winning over Sony 24-105 f4 I had been using on so many occasions over the past 3 years.
This limit of the focal length teaches us to think outside the box, be more creative and look for solutions to surpass the limitations. Let me know how you can apply this lens in your shooting experiences.