Fascination for open aperture – Lars Müller focuses on essential details using a combination of sharpness and blur
Lars Müller has always had a fascination for optics and its practical applications. He first trained as an optician, and is a qualified optometrist. Now, as regional sales manager at ZEISS for Berlin/Potsdam, he is responsible for the distribution of testing devices and lenses to opticians. In addition, he regularly studies the "natural optics" of the human eye. As a keen amateur photographer, he relies on the Makro-Planar T* 2/100, and was recently given an opportunity to try out the new Otus 1.4/55.
Lars Müller likes to photograph people, and has created a number of highly atmospheric portrait photos that illustrate his dedication to his hobby. The subject has to appeal to him on both an optical and emotional level. His aim is to bring out every last detail by adjusting the sharpness and depth of field. For him, the portrait represents the starting point for exploring other areas of photography. As a rule he is interested in any subject that can be effectively highlighted using an open aperture.
"I love having a shallow depth of field and focusing on the essentials. The Makro-Planar T* 2/100 allows me to do both using the open aperture. This adds an emotional layer to a photo – whether it's a portrait, a detail in the depths of a pedestrian subway at the ICC, or an appetizing plate of fruit. With this ZEISS lens, the perfect sharpness is quite exceptional up to the very edges – and for me, as a photographer, it's just great fun to use."
So Lars was understandably excited when he was given the opportunity to try out the new Otus 1.4/55. The "perfect SLR standard lens" (ZEISS) is considered particularly powerful with a large aperture: "When I attached the Otus 1.4/55 to my camera, my immediate impression was that this is clearly an exceptional lens. At the same time, I was fascinated at how soft the image is around the sharp image plane. It's a kind of 'crisp' sharpness embedded in a 'soft' blur. The tree bathed in autumnal light in the background of this portrait of my wife was close enough to create a really fabulous bokeh. The high-quality bokeh is clearly visible when you photograph in darkness with lights in the background, as for example in the image of the warning light on the construction site at a street corner in Berlin. The bright points of light behind almost appear to be floating."
However, his fascination with the creative options offered by open aperture photography owes as much to his professional eye as to his passion for photography: "While I was studying and later when I was an optometrist, I worked extensively with a vision-testing instrument, the ZEISS i.Profiler®. This is a specialized device for measuring the lens strength a customer needs for twilight and night vision. For me, this is where you have a direct bridge to photography, because with this device, you work with both small and large pupils. So I was dealing with depth of field on a daily basis and I should explain that this is reduced when you have a large aperture – in other words when the pupil is dilated."
The first thing Lars did when he bought his Makro-Planar T* 2/100 was to take some test shots to demonstrate to his customers the principle of depth of field. This gave them a better idea of the focusing process in the eye, which he illustrated by way of an example: the principle of the "camera obscura" in third world countries. In regions where people cannot afford spectacles made of glass, they use pinhole glasses instead. These are eyeglasses with a grid of adjacent small holes that act as pinhole apertures, sharpening the image received by the eye. The aperture principle is used in this instance to provide affordable help to people with sight defects.
As a photographer, Lars Müller employs his knowledge of aperture theory and its effects to create atmospheric photos: "I want to inject life into an image, and I can't achieve that with a large depth of field. This makes the image seem flat. A photo needs to have impact and in my opinion it does this if it has different levels — one sharp and one blurred. In this case, a wine bottle with interesting lighting or a wire mesh fence in sunlight can have just as much impact as a beautiful portrait."
About Lars Müller:
Lars Müller completed an apprenticeship program in Germany to become an optician. He spent some years working professionally in a retail outlet, and then studied optometry (Bachelor of Science) at the Beuth Hochschule für Technik in Berlin. Today, he is regional sales manager at ZEISS for Berlin/Potsdam, responsible for the ophthalmic optics unit. When he is not at work, he indulges in his photography. He has a particular interest in portraits and photographs of people and is fascinated by open aperture photography.