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Using 28mm lens

Street Portrait of young khmer man in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Photo by Lorenz Berna

Using 28mm lens

– Street Photography with a 28mm lens

[  Photos by Lorenz Berna, text by Lorenz & Florence Lepavec  ]


I love Cambodia, I love Phnom Penh.
Since my first trip in 2007, I went back to the kingdom at regular intervals until I finally decided to live there for about two years (2015-2017).
I think Phnom Penh is a sort of Mecca for travel and street photography. A city that never ceases to astonish you, for good and evil, overwhelmed with exoticism and situations out of the ordinary.

I took this photo on the Streets of Phnom Penh, with a 28mm focal on a Fuji xe-2, one afternoon during the celebrations of the Bon Oum Touk, the water festival held every November in Cambodia. I love photographing during these events, as usually the streets are filled with happy, carefree and open people. And I love doing it with my favourite lens for Street Photography : the 28mm. 

Here are some of the reasons why I love using the 28mm focal length :

Cambodian public transport in Kampot, Cambodia

Challenge, dynamism and reportage look of the 28mm

I really like shooting street photography with a 28mm lens. I like the challenge of breaking my comfort zone to get closer to the subject and fill the frame. Also, I think the 28mm honestly retransmit the dynamism and the energy of the streets more efficiently, giving a lot of informations about a place.

I find it to be the best way to feel a place and its people, taking the time to observe them in their daily life. It sheds light on the beauty of the ordinary. It is also very creative as it gives a lot of opportunities for the photographer to play with the lights and colors, lines and perspectives, faces and actions. Especially with the 28mm because you have a big frame to fill!

Street Photography in Naples : an old man walking with a cigarette on lips.

Fill the frame and place your subject centrally

When we photograph in the streets with a 28mm and want to portray somebody, we must remember to approach the subject centrally.
Otherwise, a side approach would lose intimacy and strength.
In general, the length of the arms should be an ideal distance from your subject, to fill the frame and bring the observer into the scene.

Street food stand in a Yangon Street

Breaking out the photographer’s comfort zone 

Mastering the 28mm focal length requires a lot of willpower and self-control not to remain panic or even paralyzed when we shoot unknown persons at a very close distance.
All depends on us, actually! And how we deal and react with the situations.

The street photography is a beautiful way to portray local life, the most authentically possible.
Either we get good pictures interacting with the people, either people have no idea they are photographed so they keep natural and the scene flows. In this case however, it means for us to accept the risk of being seen, refused and maybe even disgraced. If this was the case, remember to be fairplay : we didn’t ask them before so it is their absolute right not to be ok with it. Be humble and politely apologize with sincerity. 
This is how we actually get to know the reactions of local people with pictures, which will be helpful for the rest of our stay.

Be quick and discreet so you probably won’t be seen and will get the whole beauty of the scene.
If you were seen, just establish a friendly eye contact, kind of asking the permission to shoot the scene : you’ll get the answer straight away. In my own experience, people generally react well if we stay cool and respectful! Respecting people’s dignity and privacy, we are likely to get more than what we would have ever thought.

A seller of birds seeds waiting for customers in a street of Yangon, Myanmar

Be thoughtful and responsible

Because street photography with a 28mm lens and the proximity it requires can be quite intrusive, we have to be careful using it. Not losing our empathy nor sensitivity in the euphoria of getting great shots. We should always keep in mind the impression we will leave in a place and people’s mind.
That means, being attentive at our impact on a place and how locals will then see foreigners in the future. We do have quite a responsibility indeed, first towards the people of the place, by trying not to disturb much the traditional way of living, then towards our fellow travellers and photographers who will come after us. 

Train & Enjoy

Get in touch with the 28mm focal length by using only this lens for a while. Thus, you will feel familiar to the distance and the attitude to have as well as the efficient composition of the picture with the 28mm. Train with family and friends, internalize it and start composing with intuition, automatically, quickly. Soon you will get great pictures in your travel and street photography.

That’s it for now, hope this has been helpful in some way.

Keep the spirit of travel photography alive, enjoy and be happy!