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What You Can Shoot With 35mm Lens

Updated: Nov 23, 2023

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.

Dog Portraits

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.

Dog Photography - JZeppelina - Mane
Mane, Lisbon - ISO 100 f1.4 1/1600 sec

Dog Photography - JZeppelina - Luna
Luna, Los Angeles de San Rafael - ISO 100 f2.8 1/320 sec

Street Moments

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.

Travel Photography - JZeppelina - Tramway Walk
Tramway Walk, Lisbon - ISO 200 f2.8 1/800 sec

Travel Photography - JZeppelina - Wash And Reflect
Pink Street, Lisbon - ISO 200 f4 1.250 sec

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.

Travel Photography - JZeppelina - Mercado Timeout Through The Smartphone
Mercado Timeout Through The Smartphone, Lisbon - ISO 1600 f2 1/250 s

Favaios Traditional Bakery, Portugal - ISO 400 f 1.4 1/250 sec

Travel Photography - JZeppelina - Blue Hour Moment
Blue Hour Moment, Porto - ISO 640 f4 1/100 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.

Travel Photography - JZeppelina - Chiado District
Chiado District, Lisbon - ISO 100 f8 1/100 sec

Travel Photography - JZeppelina - Miradouro Porto do Sol
Miradouro Porto do Sol, Lisbon - ISO100 f11 1/160 sec

The below example was shot handheld at the time of setting sun and f5.6 was enough to keep subjects sharp.

Travel Photography - JZeppelina - Harpa Reflections
Harpa Reflections, Reykjavik - ISO 400 f5.6 1/125 sec
Long Exposures

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.

Travel Photography - JZeppelina - The Ghost Of Oriente Station
The Ghost Of Oriente Station, Lisbon - ISO 100 f11 6 sec

Street Moments

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.

Travel Photography - JZeppelina - Bica neighborhood
Bica Neighborhood, Lisbon - ISO 250 f8 1/160

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.

Travel Photography - JZeppelina - Rua São Paolo
Rua São Paolo, Lisbon - ISO 100 f13 1/200 sec

Travel Photography - JZeppelina - My Reflected World
My Reflected World, Vila Nova de Gaia - ISO 100 f13 1/250 sec


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.

Outdoor Photography - JZeppelina - Sunrise in Alpe di Siusi
Sunrise in Alpe di Siusi, Dolomites - ISO 100 f11 1/40

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.

Outdoor Photography - JZeppelina - Val di Funes
Val di Funes, Dolomites - ISO 200 f8 1/125

Another example of using panorama method to capture the almighty Tre Cime peaks.

Outdoor Photography - JZeppelina - Tre Cime
Tre Cime, Dolomites - ISO 100 f8 1/200 sec

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.

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