It’s likely due to the fact that I cut my teeth as a photographer on a fixed focal length 35mm lens. It was the lens through which I learned to see when I started using my first DSLR. Some people diminished its value because it wasn’t wide enough or because it wasn’t a true “normal” lens. I didn't care. There was something about the view it provided that I’ve really enjoyed and thrived on.
Even before I began using the x100s which with its fixed 23mm lens provides the equivalent of a 35mm, I almost always had a lens that provided me that 35mm field of view. Back in the day of shooting film, I would proudly tote around a Nikon F3 with a 35mm and rolls of Kodachrome in my pocket and take to the streets. It was all that I needed.
The slightly wide field of view offered a challenge for me. Unlike a longer focal length that would allow me to isolate the subject, the 35mm demanded that I consider everything else in the frame and not just the subject. I had to think about the background and foreground and how I could create a photograph in which the composition was balanced and didn’t include distractions.
That was no easy feat as as I came up with many images in which distracting elements along the edges of the frame ruined a photograph. I was so focused on my subject, I didn’t see that red truck in the background or that tree branch from the edge of the frame. In the days before Photoshop and the clone tool such things could and did ruin many an image.
Though cropping might have been a solution for some, I was often shooting slide film. And if I were shooting negative film, I had filed my negative holders down to get that nice black edge around the image, for my prints. If I wanted it to be right, it had to happen in the camera.
Now, with digital I am still drawn to the 35mm focal length. Even with the amazing zooms that are available to me, I’m more than happy to hit the streets with just one lens. So, whether its the 35mm on my 5D Mark III or the x100s, I know exactly how I’m going to see the world and capture it.
I’ve taken two trips abroad where I was shooting with a 35mm focal length and only that and never did I feel lacking or at a disadvantage. It’s just become the way I see. Though there are certainly times when other focal lengths are appropriate and needed, most days I am happy enough to keep it nice and simple, my 35-mil and me.