I had planned to spend 2014 shooting almost nothing but my Pentax ME. In preparation, I had been quietly buying K-mount lenses in various focal lengths, including one at 135mm. I’d made only a few photographs with a prime telephoto lens before, just fiddling around. I decided it was time to get serious.

Nikon F2AS

But then a Nikon F2AS walked into my life, followed quickly by a few Nikkor lenses. I immediately abandoned my K-mount plans and set about Nikoning. Most of my efforts this year have involved my 50mm f/2 and 55mm f/2.8 macro lenses, because they’re just great fun to use. Meanwhile, a 135mm f/3.5 lens patiently waited its turn. At last, late this summer I clipped it to the F2AS and loaded some Fujicolor 200.

But then I realized I had no idea what to do with this lens. I wasn’t used to seeing the world at 135mm! I aimed it at a bunch of stuff, including my new grill, and pressed the shutter button to see what happened.

My new grill

I’ve taken the F2AS on a lot of walks this year. I live pretty close to Indianapolis’s great Broad Ripple neighborhood, where I photographed this detail of a larger sculpture mural. One of my Flickr followers thinks he sees the 1970s advertising character from Quisp cereal in here; do you?


The Indiana Central Canal cuts through Broad Ripple. I stood on a pedestrian bridge next to College Avenue to photograph the canal and the 1906 concrete-arch bridge at Guilford Ave.


Margaret and I took an evening walk along Main St. in Zionsville and stopped for ice cream. I focused on the sign, but missed somehow. A few other shots on this roll suffered the same way — the in-focus area fell right behind what I thought I focused on. I had this and a few other photos printed to give to Margaret, and interestingly the sign lettering is as crisp as can be on the print.

You can't buy happiness

Dark clouds gathered while we walked, and shortly we were caught in a downpour. We waited it out on a bench under an awning. But I got this photo first.

Threatening sky

It appears to be conventional wisdom that 135mm is the focal length for portrait photography, and so naturally I gave it a try. It worked out fine.


I took this photo of Margaret at about the same time I schlepped my sons to the Target portrait studio for our annual sitting. I know the mass-market portrait mills are a roll of the dice, but we’ve had good luck at Target for years. But this year, even after making the photographer take us back into the studio four times to get it right, we still got wooden poses and plastic smiles. But now that I know I can do work like this, I think I’ll just photograph my sons at home from now on.

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14 responses to “Life at 135mm”

  1. tina Avatar

    Very nice portrait!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar


  2. Dani Avatar

    Margaret has a beautiful smile to go with her twinkling eyes.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Aww yeahhhh!

  3. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    It’s fascinating how a new focal length changes the way we see the world. I shoot my 85mm Nikkor more than any other lens I own. For me, it’s my “normal” lens. Nice images here Jim. Love the red building shot!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      At 135mm, I felt like I was looking at the world through a toilet paper tube. Very constrained – and I had to stand way back. Interesting. But I really liked this lens when I had Margaret on my deck for her portrait sitting.

      1. bwc1976 Avatar

        I feel that way looking through any focal length from about 50mm on, but I definitely love the portrait results. Wish more of my family would take the time to stand outdoors and let me take their portrait. I have an old Minolta 50mm f1.7 lens and an adapter to use it on my digital Olympus camera, and on that camera the effective focal length is 100mm making it perfect for that sort of thing, the only drawback being the lack of a split-image focusing aid like on the old cameras.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          I never thought about it, but I guess you’re right – you lose the focusing aid with a modern digital autofocus camera. Hunh. What a bummer.

  4. Carole Grey Avatar
    Carole Grey

    That does look like the Quisp character!
    Great photos. Loved the sign, as well as it’s statement.
    Margaret is a beauty! What a wonderful photo! Dang, what a super smile.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      :-) Yeah, I think so too.

  5. Mike Avatar

    Perfect lighting and exposure in that portrait. Just enough directionality in the light to provide good modeling without causing distracting shadows. My own framing preference in such portraits is to place the top of the head nearer to the top of the frame. Otherwise, I feel like the subject is slipping downward out of the frame.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Good point about the composition. I meant to put her eyes on the 1/3 line but didn’t manage it. I suppose a crop to 8×10 would help.

  6. pesoto74 Avatar

    That is a nice portrait. I think you may have found the best use for this focal length. I remember years ago when I used to do weddings that I got some very good what was called candid shots with a 135. It seemed to get me far enough away that people lost their camera consciousness.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yeah, that’s what I like about 135mm too — it helps people forget you’re there.

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