My Dream Lens: Max Vadukul

The look produced by a fast telephoto lens is rather unique, especially the way it renders the background. Photograph/Max Vadukul

The look produced by a fast telephoto lens is rather unique, especially the way it renders the background. Photograph/Max Vadukul

If you were allowed to use only one lens all through you life, which one would that be? Which is the lens that defines your vision and style of photography? Raj Lalwani posed this question to five internationally renowned photographers and got some interesting insights. Along the way, they also gave some great tips on using different kinds of lenses. Here is what they had to say.

The Exotic 300
Max Vadukul
is a great fan of the distinct look produced by a fast telephoto lens like the 300mm f/2.8.

Strictly speaking, I am not too obsessed with technicalities. Yes, sharpness and optics are important in a commercial sense, but the thing that helps me determine what equipment to use, is the final photograph that I have in mind.

All About the Mood
The mood of the image is all that matters. Do I need to make the subject look dramatic with respect to the background? Or would I rather blur out the background completely by using a telephoto lens? Depending on the answer to this question, I decide which lens to use. But yes, most of my iconic photographs have been made at an extreme telephoto focal length, which is why I would say that the 300mm is my most preferred lens.

Not Easily Accessible
In a way, this is a great lens for me because it is not very common. It is not easily available and few can afford it. The lens produces a rather unique look that works for me and my style of imagery.
Also, you need to be careful while shooting with such exotic telephoto lenses. They are heavy and if you are using a cheaper or older version that cannot autofocus, you need to have great skills in order to get a good picture with it.

Isolate the Subject Easily
My philosophy has always been about targetting only what I am interested in. For instance, if the background does not add to an image, I would rather throw it out of focus. The 300mm focal length is great for isolating the subject.

Let Them Free
There are two ways in which you can get great pictures while photographing people and more specifi cally, models. You can be closely involved—standing up close, talking to them all the time and directing them to the last detail. Alternatively, you can brief them what you have in mind and then trust their posing and modelling abilities. Once they understand your concept, they will improvise on it on their own.
I prefer the latter approach. With the 300mm, I am almost always standing at a distance. So, while the model is within my guidance, she cannot hear any specific instructions from me. She is free to express herself. This detachment automatically spurs her to add her own feel and inputs to the picture-making process.

When You Cannot Get Close
When I am not shooting fashion, I have done a few photojournalistic assignments as well. There are times when you just cannot get close—it may be dangerous or there may be way too many people in the way. A telephoto lens like the 300mm is a very powerful lens to use under diffi cult conditions as it beats the mob of paparazzis and helps me capture impactful images. Actually, you can use a telephoto lens in any daily situation that has a lot of people shooting at the same time.

About Max Vadukul: Born to Indian parents, he is currently one of the most famous fashion and editorial photographers in the world, having done a lot of iconic work for magazines like New Yorker and Rolling Stone.

This article originally appeared in the August 2011 issue of Better Photography.

Tags: Raj Lalwani, Lens, may 2011, Shooting, 300 mm lens, Max Vadukul