Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Photography experiment

In the never-ending quest to improve my photography, I did a little exercise while we were in Burgundy. No, not jumping jacks. I only used one lens (with one minor exception). I have four lenses for the camera: an 18-55mm zoom (which is the lens I use most often), a 70-300mm zoom for long shots, a fixed 100mm macro for close-ups, and a fixed 50mm/f1.4 lens. On one of the online photography sites I read, the author talked about prime (fixed) lenses and why she prefers them to zooms. For instance, she noted that fixed lenses often have better quality glass because there is less of it in the lens. Zoom lenses force light through several layers of glass and sometimes a fixed lens produces sharper, better quality images. She also noted that fixed lenses can have wider apertures allowing for more versatility in low-light situations. My 50mm prime, with it's maximum f1.4 aperture, is the widest of the four lenses I've got. The author suggested forcing yourself to use just a prime lens for a period of time to get a feel for it, so that's what I did on this trip.

La Fosse Dionne, Tonnerre, Burgundy.

All of the photos I'm posting from our Burgundy trip were made with the 50mm prime lens. It was a bit of a challenge as I'm very used to being able to frame a photo by zooming in and out, and I can get wide photos in tight spaces with the 18mm wide angle; 50mm is not a very wide angle. With a fixed lens, zooming has to be done on foot, walking toward or away from the subject to frame it the way you want it, and that is not always possible in narrow streets, inside buildings, or at scenic overlooks.

Today's picture was taken in the town of Tonnerre at the site of a source, or spring, called la Fosse Dionne. A circular enclosure was built around the spring in the 18th century to serve as the town's public laundry. The spring and its enclosure are nestled tightly in the old neighborhood with buildings all around, so getting back for a long/wide shot was not at all possible. This image was the best that I could do with the 50mm lens. One of the points of the exercise is the challenge to take an interesting shot without relying on the zoom. In this case, I tried to capture the feel of the spring and its circular enclosure without being able to get it all into the frame.

Ken used his wide-angle zoom and got some really nice shots of the whole place. He'll probably post some of them on his blog soon.

11 comments:

  1. Walt, I started with only prime lenses... a 50mm and a 200mm telephoto...
    and shot only in B&W
    but in the darkroom I would alter the framing to suit...
    I still use the same techniques...
    although I shoot exclusively in colour and do the B&W on the machine.
    I am currently judging a monthly competition on the Pentax site and...
    for me...
    this would be in contention for a subject based on water...
    mine isn't tho', it is "October"...
    I like this picture...
    you just dont need everything you can see crowding details...
    like the colour of the water... the pattern of the tiles....
    the timbers.... the water flowing out....
    lovely. Prime is nice...
    and the smaller apperture you were able to use because of the light gathering of a prime....
    means everything is sharp!!

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    1. Another Pentax fan? :)

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    2. Yes and no...
      If I hadn't had so much Pentax K glassware and accesories when the istD came out...
      I most probably would have gone Cannonnista Crazy!!... like my brother...
      But still... they take very good pictures and I'm happy with them...
      just want the 100mm Macro tho'...
      they never seem to come up second-hand!!

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    3. I understand what you're saying about having so many K lenses that it becomes silly to jump ship. I started out with a K100D Super and now have a K5 and I'm very happy with the quality of the pictures and (usually) the hardware. But I also think Pentax has been a bit slow in certain respects compared to the Big C and N. I'm not sure yet Ricoh is going to be an improvement.
      As to the 100mm Macro: I've seen a few second-hand for sale here (the Netherlands) fairly recently. I'll keep an eye open for you, shall I?

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  2. Well, I think the framing of this shot is terrific. I'll be interested to hear whether you think the improved quality is worth the loss of flexibility. Of course, one way to "cheat" is to take multiple shots with your prime and stitch them together on the computer.

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  3. Back in my SLR days, I used primarily a fast wide angle lens (for 35mm a 24mm 1.8.) I liked the wider angle, I can move in or crop, but I can't always move back.

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  4. I really like this shot. I think the exercise will teach you a lot about framing and cropping. Creativity is always at its best when there is a restriction to work around. I love the colour of that water -- must be full of calcaire to be that turquoise.

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  5. What a beautifully composed photograph. And what a snazzy laundry!

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  6. tim, I'm so used to zooming that I needed this exercise to look at things a little differently. I think it helped.

    stuart, it's a mixed bag. Some of the images are better, but I can't see any difference in others.

    travel, I'm trying to decide if my next lens will be a prime wide-angle. Possibly...

    susan, thanks. Yes, the water color was amazing, but only detectable in the deep basin.

    gosia, I agree.

    chris, well, I wouldn't want to hand-wash my clothes there... ;)

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