Swiss woman in Mexico. Palenque, Mexico. 1982

With a tip of the hat to Ruth Orkin, here’s a photo of a Swiss woman I met in Palenque, Mexico, on “sabatical” from her family.

This sort of street photography is one of my favourite types of photography.

When I used to shoot film, one of my preferred lenses was a 135mm f2.8. The 135 is perfect for this sort of shot because it’s small and fast. Since I’m going to Europe very soon, I ordered a 50mm to 150mm f2.8 lens so I could take photos of people on the street unobtrusively.

I didn’t want to buy a zoom (I hate them because they are big and slow) but nowadays one is almost forced to, because the average punter wants a lens that does everything and doesn’t give a damn about quality. Nikon makes a 135mm f2 prime lens but it’s a monster (front element 72mm) and costs a small fortune. Another reason why I didn’t want to buy the Nikon lens was because it has a built-in soft focus control that’s aimed at portrait photographers with no taste.

I can’t tell you how much I detest those schmaltzy and sickly soft focus shots ones sees in some portrait photographer’s displays. 


I took the shot above on Kodachrome 64

9 thoughts on “Swiss woman in Mexico. Palenque, Mexico. 1982”

  1. My buddy owns that 135/2, and, yes, it’s a beast.

    Of course, one of the traps of getting a really fast lense, no matter the length, is that you feel compelled to shoot wide open. When I first got serious about photography, I made the mistake of shooting wide open a lot of the time. It wasn’t until I began shooting with more depth that my photography began to improve dramatically. It’s amazing how many shooters don’t realize that shooting wide open produces inherently softer photos.

  2. Iheartfilm

    The lack of depth of field is also an issue, particularly when used for close ups. When I used to use my old 135 f2.8 I took plenty of head shots with the eyes in focus but the nose out of focus.

    I imagine the 135 f2 would be an annoying lens to use on a regular basis. You’d constantly be having to check the depth of field and that hardly makes for spontaneous photography.

    My other favourite lens is my 10-20mm as it’s great for putting subjects into a context instead of isolating them with a blurry background. Horses for courses.

    I tend to use either extreme in my photography and I’ve noticed that I take very few shots in the mid range focal lengths.

  3. Remind me to get out my yellow boots, will ya? I loveeed the 135 Nikon. I used it all throughout the seventies and eighties as well. This is a terrific shot for so many reasons.

  4. Great interlacement of gazes.

    As for zooms, I guess I like them because my first lens was a 80-300 zoom and I kind of got fond of the “flexibility”. Plus it played on my shyness for approaching people and keenness on details.

    It’s true I didn’t do any really serious work back then but zoomlaziness and fixed lens price factor just stuck with me.

  5. Pat

    The yellow boots were nice. There was some nice to come out of the eighties. Glad you like the shot, it’s one of my favourites.


    An 80-300 is just the sort of lens that a beginner would buy. I don’t mean that disrespectfully but people just starting off in photography love the idea of getting everything in one lens when in fact, when they learn a little more, they find out that it wasn’t such a good choice after all. Too slow, unsharp and low contrast due to all the elements and difficult to use at 300mm without a tripod if you want to avoid camera shake.

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