Learning Photography: In These Wide Angle Cat Portraits, LeelaCat Becomes a Part of the Abstract Background Bokeh

I already knew I loved the wide angle 24mm focal length. It’s wide enough to capture the full scope of a room, or a street scene, or a landscape, while still minimizing distortions. I love my tiny XF 16mm f2.8 prime lens and like using both my XF 16-80 f4 and XF 10-24 f4 lenses at the 24mm focal length. Still, when Fujifilm offered a promotion on the XF 16mm f1.4 lens, I couldn’t resist the temptation to buy it.

The 16mm f1.4 is often called Fuji’s best lens because of a combination of a few special characteristics: its wide-angle 24mm focal length, its fast f1.4 maximum aperture, its short 15cm minimum focus distance, its high 0.21x maximum magnification and its flare-resistant Nano-GI coating. I resisted buying it because it has the older autofocus system, but it has quickly become my favorite Fujifilm lens, along with the XF 50mm f2.

With the 16mm f1.4, I’m enjoying that I can focus on a subject really closely (short focusing distance) and get it big in the frame (high magnification ratio), and still capture a lot of the background (wide angle field of view), but blur the background into almost abstract painterly bokeh (fast aperture), even when I’m shooting straight into the light (Nano-GI coating).

I shoot a lot of photos of LeelaCat, and most of the time, she is the subject. Sometimes, it’s fun to focus on another subject and make her a part of the background bokeh. I have been taking a lot of these almost abstract photos around the house, with a ball of string or a candle or a cup of dessert in the foreground, and LeelaCat or a 8” x 8” blank canvas in the background.

LeelaCat is not a part of all these photographs, because it’s impossible to pose her and get her to sit still. But, these still life photographs feel like they are missing life when she is not in them, and I’m always delighted when she wanders into the frame. Even when she is out of focus, a part of a painterly background bokeh, I think of these photos as LeelaCat portraits.

My house is filled with desaturated oranges and greens and blues, with pops of saturation provided mostly by books and board games and candles and plants. As part of the blurred background bokeh, these colors look beautiful in the soft Kodak Portra 400 colors. The canvas adds an unexpected square pop of white, like a painting within a painting, except that it is still to be painted.

I think I’ll be taking a lot of photographs that are variations on this style, and experiment with different subjects, different locations, different backgrounds, different film simulations, and different photo editing techniques. Perhaps, I’ll take out the grain, soften the contrast even more, and switch from Classic Chrome to Provia for more vibrant colors. And, I can’t wait to take my 16mm f1.4 lens outside to discover how this style translates to street photography.

More tomorrow.

By Gaurav Mishra

Learning to see the #beauty, #play and #vitality in #quarantinelife, mostly by learning to make photos and learning to write about them.

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