Shooting a gold medallist with one of the world’s rarest lenses

On a cold November morning in 2012, I attempted something that arguably no-one had ever done before.

I was given an assignment to photograph a portraiture session with an extremely wide-angle and rare lens; Nikon’s 13mm f/5.6 rectilinear marvel, often dubbed the ‘Holy Grail of lens design’.In simple terms, this is a wide-angle lens that has almost no distortion, a problem that most wide lenses suffer from. The distortion can cause a kind of warped feeling, as if things in the edge of the image are stretched. This $30,000 behemoth employs some glass to counteract this effect. It is designed for architectural photography and has wide applications in landscape. Proving difficult and expensive to manufacture, only about 350 of them were ever sold. The lens is no longer in production.

It’s unusual to shoot portraiture with a lens such as this, it requires me to be very very close to the subject, not made any easier by my decision to shoot part of the editorial on the rushing river Thames after heavy rain.

We chose to base our shoot in rowing because the long lines of oars, boats and the riverbank would demonstrate the capabilities of the lens.

Double Olympic Gold Medalist Pete Reed (Beijing 2008 & London 2012 in the Coxless Four) was kind enough to undertake this crazy task with us. Pete is a keen photographer himself and was an absolute sport despite the low temperatures and challenging conditions.

It was definitely an unusual shoot – my full thoughts are expressed in the latest issue of Nikon Owner Magazine and the behind the scenes video (scroll to the bottom to see it). Some of the images are included but I recommend all photographers read my article linked below.




Photography: Felix Kunze for Nikon Owner Magazine
Styling: Krishan Parmar
Hair/Make-up: Samantha Hosker
Assistants: Matthew Richards, Rob Senior
Video: Mark Gibson for Nikon Owner Magazine
Equipment 13mm f/5.6 kindly loaned from Grays of Westminster
On location coordination: Robert Treharne-Jones of the Leander Club
Look 1 (tartan trousers): Shirt & Trousers by GANT : Jumper & Jacket by Burberry : Boots by Rockport
Look 2 (red Jumper): Shirt, Jumber & Coat by GANT : Trousers by Burberry : Shoes by Oliver Sweeney