L.A.-based photographer Chris Visser is relatively new to the photography world and yet did not show any hesitations or fear when asked to test out a prototype of a completely new lens, wider than anything he's ever shot and without the external viewfinder, the final Art Lens will come with. He wanted to give it a literal shot and looking at his first results, we're once again reminded why it's important to keep challenging yourself. To never question whether you're experienced enough, to experiment and try everything. Don't Think, Just Shoot.
Welcome to the Lomography Magazine, Chris! Can you please introduce yourself a little bit to our community?
Hi! My name is Chris Visser, and Iʼm an enthusiastic hobbyist photographer, whose day job is working in post-production in scripted television in Los Angeles. Iʼve been shooting film since 2017 when I found a Kodak Brownie at a thrift store in Ojai, and itʼs been nonstop fun since then.
What caught your attention and made you curious to test out our new Atoll Ultra-Wide Art Lens?
Iʼd never really shot with a lens wider than a 24mm before and my go-to lens for most things is a 35mm, but seeing the example photos from the Kickstarter campaign had me intrigued right away. It felt like a totally different way of seeing the world than my normal style of shooting with a 35mm or 50mm.
Compared to other wide-angle lenses you've shot in the past, was there anything that stood out to you about the Atoll?
This is the first ultra-wide-angle lens Iʼve used, so I donʼt really have anything to compare it to. But I did appreciate the weight of the lens. It felt solid, itʼs not just some toy.
Do you remember your initial thoughts when you took the first photos?
“Daaaannnnng this thing really is WIIIIIIDE!” But seriously, it was like seeing with a camera in a totally new way, and in a way that almost felt like seeing for the first time. That sounds kinda cornball-y, but it really did feel like a eureka moment. You could get incredibly close to capture detail shots; or if you stood at a more traditional distance, youʼd get this wide-angle view that really grounded you into the full environment. I was hooked.
What was your setup, what gear did you use, and why?
I mostly shot with my Leica M10P, but also shot a few rolls with my Leica M4. I used the M10P since I have a Visoflex, and the test copy I received didnʼt have a viewfinder attachment, so I wanted to use the Visoflex to properly compose my images. Iʼm excited to use the final copyʼs viewfinder. I shot with my M10P and M4 because those are the cameras I plan to use the Atoll lens with when MY copy arrives. Because, yes, I had to order one of my own after testing it.
How was the overall experience shooting with the Atoll Ultra-Wide Art Lens for you?
I really enjoyed shooting with the Atoll. I was able to walk the streets of my neighborhood (an environment I have captured more times than I can count), but it felt like I was seeing everything in a completely new light and perspective, almost like I was seeing everything for the very first time. I was shooting the space with this new lens that gave me a totally unique vantage point. It also gave me a completely different vibe for portraits, and I canʼt wait to shoot more of them with my final copy.
Do you have a favorite photo you took? If so, please tell us why.
Oh man, there are a few that I really love, all for different reasons. [photos below, left to right] I love the portrait of Kat I took where sheʼs sitting on the stool and flashing a peace sign. I was only a few inches from her, but I was able to capture her entire frame, including her feet at the bottom of the frame. It was wild to take my eye away from the viewfinder and see how close I was.
I love this shot of the cat in the window. I have passed this apartment in my neighborhood a million times, and have never seen this cat before. The moment was special, but I also like that we got this super wide view, almost like the cat is looking out on all this space it wants to explore, or already has.
I had watched this house be built over the last year or so and always wanted to capture it, but every attempt beforehand didnʼt quite work. It wasnʼt the whole house, it wasnʼt the right lighting or mood, there was a car in the driveway, etc. But on this day, the sky was overcast giving a wonderful mood, no cars were in the driveway, and the Atoll lens allowed me to capture the full scene in a way that gave the house an imposing presence that I really dig. It came out exactly like I had been wanting to capture it for months, and it only would have worked with this lens.
I have taken many shots of this liquor store before, but never was I able to give it the presence that this shot has. Plus, I love the figures walking past it. Just feels like a classic night noir shot.
Is there anything, in particular, you'd like to use this lens for in the future?
I really want to shoot more portraits with it. But I honestly feel like this can be an everyday carry kind of lens. When shooting with it, I felt like I could only use the Atoll for one month (or several!) as a challenge, and I feel like it would be a really rewarding experience. But itʼs not just about challenging myself: shooting with the lens felt like waking up a part of me. Like this was a part of my style and voice I didnʼt know I hadnʼt found yet but was glad to finally welcome home. Traveling with the Atoll will be awesome, as I feel like it will give a great alternative to the normal perspectives I capture.
Anything you want to tell the Lomography community?
If you were curious about this lens and can afford it, I would buy it. I feel like using it unlocked my creativity, and Iʼm excited to see what else I can create with it. I feel like others will feel the exact same way.