18 February 2011

Prime lens

It's an autofocus Sigma 30mm 1.4.  A very nice, easy to manage fixed (or prime) lens.  On the advice of a photographer I trust, when I invested in a digital SLR I bought the lens and camera body (a Canon Rebel XT) separately.  My friend's reasoning was that I needed to learn to see and that I needed to learn to gauge where I needed to be, where my person needed to be, in order to see the best.  For the first year that is precisely what I did.

Then, I invested again.  This time in a 24-105mm Canon zoom, image stabilized lens.  Heavier than the Sigma, but awfully fine.  It turned -- instantly -- into my workhorse lens.  I put the Sigma in the camera bag and there it has stayed for years.  Until yesterday. 

While I was in Charlotte, the three photographers I heard speak talked about photographic equipment and stressed finding ways to get the shots one wants with the equipment one has.  There are times to upgrade, to purchase better cameras, longer lenses, but the time is not now, not when you first think about it.  The time might be after you know exactly what every piece of equipment you currently own will do and when you are able to get the best out of it.  Sounded like good advice to me.

So, the Sigma's out of bag and I'm going to try to use it exclusively for the next month or so.  It will mean more exercise!  To zoom in or out I'll have to use my feet instead of the lens.  It will mean my being more mindful of what I am doing.  I'll have to have in mind clearly, and in advance, what I want the end result to be after the shutter is released.  It will mean there will be some things I won't be able to do, but that's part of the point of this exercise.

One big advantage of the Sigma is that it is a fast lens (that 1.4 designation means it has a large aperture), meaning it does well in low light.  I took this photograph of Whitby this afternoon in the kitchen -- handheld with available light. Probably wouldn't have been able to do that without a tripod using the 24-105.  The downside here is that the image had to be cropped.  I was leaning way over the counter and even with those contortions Whitby turned out looking pretty far away.  Why didn't I get closer and try again?  I did.  Whitby, however, came to me when I crouched down with the camera.  He's cute, but a most uncontrollable subject.      

While we were in the doctor's office last Tuesday, I read an article about aerial photography in an issue of AOPA Pilot (Aircraft Owners and Pilot's Association).  One of the three photographers featured, a Mike Collins, offered this thought on not obsessing about equipment:  "A photographer's most important tools are his eyes and his brain."

All righty then. 

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