I can’t help but post one more image from the sunset shoot that I photographed last week. In one of my earlier posts from that shoot, I mentioned that I wouldn’t have minded a wider focal length (~35mm) to get a little more of the beautiful sky into the frame. With this shot, though, I chose a composition that I felt worked really well with the 53mm focal length.
There are a lot of details in this scene that, while small and certainly secondary to the sky and water elements, I feel really add something to the image. These are the elements along the horizon: the birds (both in the water and taking flight on the left edge of the frame), the houses and their interior lights, the mountains, and the silhouettes of the trees. These elements are a bit small in the frame for my taste, but if I had shot this with a wider focal length they would become so small they’d virtually disappear.
I really feel like the 53mm focal length is a great happy medium for this scene: it forcibly emphasizes the sky and then the water, but it also includes just enough of those elements mentioned above to make them an additive factor without detracting from the primary elements. If I hadn’t been restricted to using a single lens during this shoot, my shoot probably would have consisted of wide angle shots and telephoto shots. I probably wouldn’t have even touched something in the 50mm focal length range, and I would have totally missed this shot as a result. I’m sure I would have come up with some very enjoyable shots with that approach, but I’m very happy that I did this shoot with a single lens. It was a great lesson in adapting your vision to the gear that’s available to you.
When I was first starting off in photography, I’d have an image in my mind and then I’d often get disappointed when my equipment either let me down or my inability to use my equipment let me down. This project is teaching me to, when I hit those sticking points, adapt the image in my mind and still come away with a “successful” image.
It’s been snowing quite a bit in Colorado over this Thanksgiving weekend. Since I’ve not yet returned to work and my actuary mindset, I’m doing my best not to consider what the combination of the weather with all the holiday traveling is doing to auto frequency…Instead, I’m trying to just enjoy the beauty! And take a few pictures, of course… :)
After I moved to Chicago, I realized how much I had taken snow for granted growing up in Colorado. Sure, there’s still plenty of snow in Chicago, but it’s very much “unproductive” snow in that it mostly just screws up traffic patterns and doesn’t create many opportunities for fun winter activities. Now that I’m back in Colorado, I’m excited to take advantage of and fully appreciate the skiing and snowshoeing and beautiful views of snow-capped peaks. And since I work from home and have no commute, I don’t even have to worry about the road complications!
Ok, enough gloating — back to the image. The snow was falling lightly when I took this shot, and I wanted to make sure I used a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the falling flakes. Finding the right shutter speed for this can be a little tricky, but it’s much easier than trying to freeze rain since snow falls so slowly. Since I also wanted to blur the background to further emphasize the fish (as though they needed any help with those vibrant colors of theirs…), I was able to just open up to f2.8 and achieve both goals easily. I could have opened up all the way to the lens’s max aperture of f2, but doing so would have been pretty unnecessary given that the falling snow was already frozen in the frame at the f2.8 aperture’s auto shutter speed and there was already plenty of background blur. Also, like I mentioned in my last post, the maximum sharpness of the lens usually occurs in the middle of the aperture range (around f8), so I wanted to keep as close to that aperture range as possible to preserve sharpness while still achieving my primary goals of frozen snow and background blur.
We’ve got another minimalist image today. For whatever reason, I’ve always loved shots looking straight up with airplanes in them. I’ve seen quite a few of these types of shots set in cities with skyscrapers framing the edges of the sky with an airplane (and sometimes its contrail) situated neatly in the center. I’ve never had the patience to seek out one of those shots (or felt comfortable faking one by combining multiple captures), but the other day I was coming home from a photo walk and sort of stumbled into this view that reminded me of those sorts of shots. The skyscrapers have been replaced by a tree, but the feel of the image is similar.
As I was taking this image, I was encountered with one of the downsides of using this lens (well, not so much the lens as the focal length): depth of field. In landscape and street photography, unless I’m deliberately trying to create bokeh, I’ll usually aim for the an effective depth of field that will keep everything in the frame in focus. A smaller aperture (larger f-number) improves the effective depth of field, but if you choose too small of an aperture the lens will start to soften a bit and you’ll lose sharpness. So, even if everything is in focus, everything may not be very sharp. Usually, the sweet spot is around f8, and that’s what I try to stick with in my landscape photography. Another factor that affects effective depth of field is focal length, where the longer the focal length results in a narrower depth of field for a given focal length. This is one reason why wide angle lenses are so popular for landscape photography, it’s very easy to get everything in the frame in focus with a sharp aperture. I do a lot of my photography at 35mm and wider, and with those focal lengths I would have been able to stick with f8 and get both the tree’s branches and the airplane in focus. With a longer focal length of 53mm, though, this wasn’t possible. I stopped down to f11 to increase depth of field, but I didn’t want to go much farther to preserve sharpness. Even this wouldn’t allow me to get both the branches and the airplane in focus, though (I know this because the Fuji X-T1 has a nice effective depth of frame indicator), so I had to decide whether to sacrifice some sharpness for depth of field or just live with the fact that not everything would be in focus. I chose the latter, primarily because the airplane is so small in the frame that you wouldn’t ever really know that it was out of focus unless you were super zoomed in (or if I told you that it was out of focus in a lengthy rambling about focal lengths and depths of field).
“It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.”
It’s Black Friday, and advertisements enticing me to acquire more have been constantly peppering my consciousness. Advertisers are good. They have succeeded in making me lust after shiny new things, including new lenses and cameras and filters and memory cards and shutter releases and L brackets and tripods and…well, everything.
Today, I’ve successfully beaten back the advertisers and their imploring cries for acquisition, but I know Cyber Monday is just around the corner and the battle will begin again. I suppose the battle really doesn’t end until after Christmas. Advertisers start in the holiday season by convincing us that we’re selfless, thoughtful people and help us find an outlet for our inherent generosity through buying their stuff for our loved ones. We feel pretty good about that, and somehow we end up buying ourselves a little something as a reward… Like I said, advertisers are good.
This year, I’m realizing I have a secret weapon in the battle, though: this project. One of the goals of this project is to internalize the lesson that what you have already is plenty. I don’t need more gear to make great art. I may need better vision or better post-processing skills, but I don’t need better THINGS. So, when I get the itch to add something to my seemingly ever-growing collection of stuff (photography or otherwise) this consumerism season, I’m going to do my best to return to this project instead. I’ll go for a photo walk or consider a different style of editing or brainstorm how I can test this lens in a new environment.
So, for today’s post, I selected an image that embodies the minimalist attitude that I’m trying to carry with me over the next month. Some may not think there’s a whole lot to this image, but there’s plenty in it for me! :)
After yesterday’s nature shot, we’re back with another street photography shot on day eight. There’s a great quote about photography that comes to mind when I past scenes like this:
“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”
— Elliott Erwitt
While it’s easier to find something interesting when you past scenes like this (that are out of the ordinary), like Erwitt says, it’s important to adopt that mindset when you pass ordinary scenes. So, when I pass these sorts of interesting scenes I try to use them as cues/reminders of Erwitt’s quote and do my best to hone my observation.
A lot of my shots so far during this project have been from street photography walks. I’ll probably be using the lens primarily for street photography, so this isn’t too surprising. But one of my goals for this project was to use the lens in a variety of settings, so I set out this afternoon to see how it would perform in landscape work.
This focal length (~50mm full frame) isn’t very common in landscape work. Wide (<35mm) and telephoto (>85mm) are definitely more suited to these types of shots, but I’ve used 50mm lenses for landscape work in the past with some success and I’ve found them to be plenty adequate. In cases where I really need something wider, i’ve been able to take several shots and stitch them together. But most of the time I can simply work within the 50mm frame without too many issues. The sky was pretty dramatic tonight, so I wouldn’t have minded having something wider to capture even more of tits beautiful colors…but I’m pretty happy with how this turned out nevertheless! :)