April 25, 2013

The Canon 35L. Or, If We’re Being Honest, the Love of My Life

I say that last part of the title with a bit of sarcasm.


I rented the 35L when I went to Portland, Oregon for my brother-in-law’s wedding in December 2011. I fell flat on my face crazy in love and cried big, fat, juicy tears when I had to package the lens back up and ship it to the company I had rented it from. Three months later, my husband slipped this baby into my Easter basket and I nearly had a heart attack as I pulled it out of its little white box with black and red writing. I could say it over and over: I LOVE my 35L.

To put it bluntly, the 35L was a complete game changer for me. Yes, there is distortion and no, it hasn’t been upgraded as recently as the 85L and yes- I did read somewhere that they will soon be releasing a Mark II. But! This lens is like magic! It’s sharp as a razor, relatively lightweight, and an awesome price. When I buy a new lens, I am always looking for reviews and, more importantly, pictures, so I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite photos taken with my 35L- mainly just for fun but also because I am often asked about my lens lineup.

So! Let’s get started! Here’s a whole bunch taken over the course of the past year. All of these were taken with a 5d Mark II.

Review of Canon 35 1.4L by Lissa Chandler

Image One: Aperture: 1.6 | Shutter Speed: 1/1250 | ISO: 2000

This photo was taken after sunset a few weeks ago (you can see that post here!). I wanted to create some drama in this photo since, well, a dancer dancing in a winter field with a red cape on is already dramatic. I actually shot most of this session with my 50 1.4 and my 135L since I shot it with another photographer and wanted to give her space, but decided that the 35L would be a better fit for this shot since I wanted something that would frame my subject but still leave a lot of story. I love how this one turned out! The way her cape is flowing in the middle of the frame is beautiful. This is one of my favorite shots so far from 2013.

Review of Canon 35 1.4L by Lissa Chandler

Image Two: Aperture: 1.4 | Shutter Speed: 1/640 | ISO: 400

This photo was taken at golden hour in the middle of a small creek. It was July, so it was super sunny, and warm, but the focal length gave me just the right amount of room to place my subject in the middle of the creek (she’s sitting on a rock) as I squatted on a rock a little closer to the shore. This shot would not have been possible with an 85 or 50 focal length. There is a slight bit of distortion here, but not as much distortion as there would have been if I had used a 24.

Review of Canon 35 1.4L by Lissa Chandler

Image Three: Aperture: 1.4 | Shutter Speed: 1/1000 | ISO: 100

This image would be stronger if I had closed up my aperture a little bit, but in the moment, all I wanted in focus was her arrowhead ring. This was taken during the afternoon at the end of June.

Review of Canon 35 1.4L by Lissa Chandler

Image Four: Aperture: 1.4 | Shutter Speed: 1/640 | ISO: 320

This photograph was actually taken by my husband. This is me at, like, thirty-six weeks pregnant with Henry. Andrew didn’t switch any of my settings when he took this (I shoot wide open or under 2.2 eighty percent of the time and he likes to shoot closer to 2.8 and 3.2 and sometimes, like, 16, so it’s pretty obvious when he doesn’t switch anything), but the wide aperture worked here because I love the way my arm is cradling my belly. If the arm and belly were in focus, some of the emotion would have been lost in this image- not because the action was any different, but because of where the focus lies. The 35L creates dreamy, personal images because of the short focal length. I think that could be easily seen here.

Review of Canon 35 1.4L by Lissa Chandler

Image Five: Aperture: 1.4 | Shutter Speed: 1/160 | ISO: 3200

One thing I’ve noticed about the 35L is how it seems to pull me toward center compositions. Now, I am a big fan of center comps and have to remind myself NOT to place my subjects in the very center of the frame, but when I use the 35L, center compositions just feel right. I love how much of the kitchen the 35L lets in the frame in this photo. This lens is an amazing storytelling lens and I love using it for photographing our everyday. Also, I should mention that our apartment is pretty dark and the 35L handles it like a boss- the wide aperture is amazing.

Review of Canon 35 1.4L by Lissa Chandler

Image Six: Aperture:  1.6| Shutter Speed: 1/640 | ISO: 3200

Again, this lens is an amazing lifestyle lens. This photo was taken in my dad’s office. His office is in the basement and has a tiny window behind his back. There is a lot going on with ambient light in this photo- there’s natural light coming from the small window, the overhead light is on, and his desk lamp is on, too. However, the 35L gave me the right focal length to be able to kneel down a little so that the desk lamp light flooded my dad’s work and face. While this could have been possible with another lens, this office isn’t huge and it would have been hard to get this exact moment if I were standing farther back.

Review of Canon 35 1.4L by Lissa Chandler

Image Seven: Aperture: 3.2 | Shutter Speed: 1/800 | ISO: 640

This photo was taken as the sun was setting on a late April evening. They are backlit and no reflector was used. I had only had the 35L for a few weeks when this photo was taken, but I chose the aperture of 3.2 to make sure both the bride and groom were in focus. Since 35mm is a short focal length, it is wise to close your aperture a little tighter when you are shooting multiple subjects at a close distance. This shot was taken mere minutes after these two were proclaimed husband and wife and I love how the 35L gives the viewer the feeling of being right in the moment. While all lenses do this, lenses with wide and normal focal lengths enhance this feeling for me (this may not be true for everyone, but it is for me).

Review of Canon 35 1.4L by Lissa Chandler

Image Eight: Aperture: 2 | Shutter Speed: 1/640 | ISO: 6400

Did I mention this lens is awesome for lifestyle? This photograph was taken at sunset- the window in the room faces west, providing amazing light. I started to shoot this with my 50, but switched to the 35L to give myself some extra wiggle room. I cropped this photograph pretty severely in post, so my 50 would have worked, but the 35L gave me extra space for unique compositions. If I had used a standard focal length rather than a wide lens, the end product would be a little more compressed and would not feel quite as open as this photograph does.

Review of Canon 35 1.4L by Lissa Chandler

Image Nine: Aperture: 2.2 | Shutter Speed:  1/160| ISO: 3200

Mostly I included this because it’s one of my favorite photographs from this year. There’s a window behind them, a window to the side of them, and a lamp on. No overhead light was turned on. I was kneeling on the floor about a foot away from their bed. Their closet was another foot behind me, so no other focal length would have worked for this shot. I initially tried to capture this with my 24L TS, but it gave too much distortion.

Review of Canon 35 1.4L by Lissa Chandler

Image Ten: Aperture: 1.8 | Shutter Speed: 1/640 | ISO: 640

Again, this photograph proves how necessary a 35mm  lens is. While this gorgeous bride put her jewelry on, I slipped in front of the mirror and snapped a few frames before slipping right back out. I was so close to her that a 50mm lens would not have worked unless I manually focused it and, since I was so close to her, a 24mm lens would have severely distorted her features. A 35mm lens (or a zoom that covers the 35mm focal length), in my opinion, is a must-have for weddings!

Review of Canon 35 1.4L by Lissa Chandler

Image Eleven: Aperture: 1.6 | Shutter Speed: 1/1250 | ISO: 125

Shooting on-the-ground shots can be difficult. Some photographers use step-ladders or climb on trees to get them, but I just whip out my 35L. Photographs shot like this feel so personal and the slight distortion that the lens will give at a close distance, I feel, enhances that closeness. I shot this in a greenhouse (more of that session can be found here!), so there was no wiggle room and my feet were right next to her elbow. But! It worked and I love it!

Review of Canon 35 1.4L by Lissa Chandler

Image Twelve: Aperture: 2 | Shutter Speed: 1/500 | ISO: 400

If it’s not already obvious, I love shooting people as if I am standing there talking to them (which I am!). I often tell my clients, “I want you to look at me and tell me about your day.”, or “I want you to look at me like we’re talking over coffee.”. It’s a hard job, right? With families, I love to just have them interact. I push them as close together as possible and, while I do use different lenses consistently, I love to put on my 35L and walk around them as they share small conversations. I’ll be honest, it can be a little bit awkward because it feels like someone is eavesdropping on you, but it ends in these kind of shots. In the image above, I am standing on the entrance of a dock opposite of this beautiful family. There was no room and I had to bend my back over the railing to let a little bit of extra scenery in behind them. I centered their son in the frame and did not do any posing instruction in this photo- it is all natural. What I like about this photo and all lifestyle photos with this lens is that it shows you what you would see if you were with the subjects in real life, only it’s wide enough to let in extra bits of the background, which is awesome for an added context.

So, to wrap things up, I’ll just say that if you don’t have a 35L and you shoot Canon, you NEED one! It is AMAZING!

Lissa Chandler is a portrait and wedding photographer in Northwest Arkansas who specializes in capturing authentic, beautiful moments in everyday life and special days, too. Lissa lives in Fayetteville with her family: a husband who looks really good in flannel shirts, a two year old who has recently fallen in love with the Backyardigans (quick! send help!!), a six month old who has the biggest smile on earth, and a shaggy dog, Napoleon, who she frequently mistakes for a teddy bear. Lissa often travels to the Greater Kansas City area and is available for travel nationwide. *