Sunday, February 6, 2011

New Lens

My passion for photography and the creation of interesting photographs is matched by my dark side, an obsession with the technology that underpins digital imaging.  I sometimes wish that I could step away from this and focus more on the art of photography, the photographers, and their work, however, I am always drawn back to the "gear lust" side.  I appreciate that good equipment helps to make good photographs, however, people still manage to create amazing work with very basic technology.  My personal obsession is not with cameras it is with lenses, ever since purchasing my first Canon L series lens and seeing the quality they can achieve I have slowly been adding  to my collection.  Fortunately sometime in the past I was very fortunate to receive some share options; now cashed in I am putting them to use to build out my lens collection.

Like most photographers today I typically have a zoom lens mounted on my camera and these do a good job of enabling me to capture the moment or explore an area enabling different framing options.  However, I much prefer to use single focal length prime lenses for work that I consider important for some reason or another.  These lenses bring 2 significant advantages over zooms, firstly they are much sharper, but more importantly they are typically a lot faster. Another effect of using a prime is that framing becomes far more important, it forces me to think about where I shoot from, I cannot simply twist the zoom ring to alter what fits in the frame.

In my last assignment I exclusively used a 24mm Tilt-Shift lens, the best lens I have, but far from the easiest to use, especially hand held.  I wanted another wide angle lens, but one that combined auto-focus for street work with a very wide maximum aperture, to shoot in low light.  Playing around a little with my zoom lenses I found that 35mm was a good focal length for what I currently want to shoot, combines slightly tight landscape framing, with good close in shooting capabilities.  I could use my 24-105mm f/4 IS zoom at 35mm, the IS provides around 3 stops of extra hand-holding ability, however, this is at the expense of a low shutter speed and so any movement in the photograph will cause blurring, fine for landscape or buildings, but not if people are in the frame.

So after much introspection and bank account analysis I finally purchased a new Canon 35mm f/1.4 prime and took it out for a walk.  First of all I waited until after sunset, just as the cloudy sky turned blue and the light level plummeted.  The following two images are both shot at ISO400 and f/1.4, the first got me 1/60s, the second 1/30s, just within my ability to steady the camera.

I am going to need more practice taking these shots and also perhaps bump the ISO to 800, to improve sharpness, but so far I am very happy to now have a lens that I can shoot in very low light.  I am also very happy with the framing, in the city 35mm is wide enough to capture the buildings, but narrow enough not to leave too much negative space.  Turning to the lenses use as a landscape, I shot the following two frames in my local park:

Again the framing is good, wide, but not massively so.  The next image is a tough test, I shifted the exposure down by two stops and was pretty pleased with the lack of flare in the image

In all of the daylight shots here, I have a polarizing filter on the lens, helping to deepen the blues.

I have become more and more interested in architectural photography, thinking of it as an extension of landscape:

In both of these shots of the Arabella Sheraton the lens has done a good job keeping everything straight, there is no detectable barrel distortion.

Finally I took two images of more classical buildings, again very pleased with the colour and detail.

In the introduction I mentioned that I am overly obsessed with equipment, a problem for which I have yet to find a solution, however, in this case I think I made a good investment and have a lens that whilst fixed in focal length is very versatile.  I am now more or less covered in prime lenses: 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, 100mm, 135mm, 200mm, and 300mm.  As I said it has become an obsession, fortunately these things hold their value well.

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