Saturday, November 12, 2022
Saturday, August 20, 2022
The Great Zoom Experiment proved to be what I'd always thought it would but hoped it wouldn't, too many options and not enough creativity inducing constraints. The positive takeaway was a reassessment of my photographic tools.
|X-T3 w/ 18mm f1.4 WR|
|X-T3 w/ 23mm f2 WR|
Those thoughts led me to the following question. What camera and lens combo would bring me the most joy to use? The answer was simple. A camera with the exposure triangle controls (shutter speed, aperture, and ISO) visible at a glance on the top of the camera and changeable without accessing a menu or looking through a viewfinder. That narrowed it down to Leica and Fujifilm and prices being what they are, Fujifilm was the clear answer.
|X-T3 w/ 33mm f1.4 WR|
|X-T3 w/ 50mm f2 WR|
|X-T30 w/ 27mm f2.8 WR|
In the end I sold all my Sony gear and bought two Fujifilm X-T3 camera bodies. For the slower and smaller lens pair I went with the 23mm and 50mm f2 Fujicrons. The bigger and faster pair consists of the 18mm and 33mm f1.4 Fujilux lenses. I also added a tiny Fujifilm X-T30ii with the equally tiny 27mm f2.8 pancake lens for EDC and when I need to keep things as absolutely small and discreet as possible. It looks like a miniature version of my X-T3 bodies and is a dead ringer for my old Pentax MX film camera with it's 40mm 2.8 pancake. The nostalgia is real!
I could see buying a telephoto zoom for certain special circumstances someday as I'm a big fan of the way André Kertész and W. Eugene Smith used those type of lenses but otherwise my equipment is set and I've been thrilled with my Fuji gear thus far. My focus the last few months has been on images as the tools have quickly become second nature in a way my Sony's never really did.
Monday, November 15, 2021
I recently wrote about my fondness for the 35mm focal length and preference for prime (non-zooming) lenses. It was that post plus the release of two new, compact, f2.8 zoom lenses that has caused me to reconsider using them again.
There are several reasons to prefer fixed lenses. For starters they are generally sharper, faster (let more light in), and smaller than their zooming counterparts. The biggest reason, however, is actually their limitation. By not being able to change focal lengths with the twist of the wrist it forces you to look at things in ways you might otherwise have never considered. I've frequently discovered compositions by simply panning around and looking through the viewfinder or at the screen (or ground glass in my view camera days). If you want to bring something closer you either have to physically move closer or take the time to change lenses. After enough practice it's also easy to visualize how a certain scene is going to look with a given lens. However, I typically try to avoid that unless I'm in a hurry as I can usually discover something better than I initially imagined.
I've found that when using a zoom lens many beginners, myself included, tend to remain stationary and simply zoom in to fill the frame with whatever they perceive as their subject. That is a sure recipe for boring pictures. Exploring through a camera with a fixed lens reveals relationships between the initially recognized subject and it's surroundings which can themselves become the real subject of the photograph. These relationships combined with, and sometimes created by, a certain type of light are the key elements from which my best images are derived. And of course it's always the right light to photograph something.
So after all this, why go another round with zoom lenses? The obvious reason is having multiple focal lengths available without carrying more or changing lenses. Swapping lenses is a bit of a pain in good weather and during bad weather I generally won't even bother. The biggest obstacle, lack of creativity inducing constraints, I believe I'll manage simply through experience. I have been approaching photography with a zoom as though I were still using primes. I imagine what lens would be best for a given scene and zoom to that focal length before I look through the viewfinder and then proceed as usual. If it's not working and I need to "try a different lens," only then do I change the zoom position.
This also allows the added bonus of using the zoom in a more traditional way when I'm stuck in a certain spot and unable to move around. I've also found that when I've exhausted my traditional approach I have the option of exploring through the camera with the added dimension of zooming in and out both on and around the subject.
I've only just begun this process so I imagine there's more to discover and I'm looking forward to using these zoom lenses on a day to day basis. Of course there's no replacing my 35mm 1.4 when shallow depth of field or shooting in low light is required and the tiny size of my 2.8 primes makes them indispensable when traveling as light as possible... but I anticipate using them much less now.
Saturday, October 9, 2021
When I'm doing my best work it typically begins with being calm and quiet enough to allow my surroundings to speak and then responding in an intuitive way. Though not my only recipe for good photographs it certainly produces the highest percentage of keepers. It can also be an exercise in restraint and good practice for dealing with other challenges.
Exposing the above image was a perfect example. Immediately after arriving in this tranquil autumn setting the construction crew widening the nearby road showed up. While their arrival didn't affect the scene visually the mood definitely changed and I struggled to compose a picture.
In moments like this I find it helpful to focus on my routine and not the freshly broken calm, so I looked to simple advice I've heard countless times over my 23 years of photography. "If you're having trouble composing; get higher, get lower, move closer, move farther away, or change lenses." I only had a 35mm lens with me and the tiny peninsula I was on restricted my ability to move around. An exposure from full height didn't feel right so I lowered the camera to a couple of feet off the ground and found a composition that worked.