Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Which is the best lens?

It's an ever repeated question on photography forums; Which lens is best for landscape/portraiture/whatever? There's no one right answer. The answer I dislike most is when a wide angle is recommended for landscape. The next worst answer is when some would be 'street' photographer states categorically that you can't do 'street' photography with anything longer than 50mm on a 35mm sensor. Nonsense. The best lens is either the one you have on your camera or the one you feel most comfortable using, which suits your way of seeing the world.

I thought I'd take my macro lens for a walk around my local lake last night. I was full of good intentions to take close ups of nature. I even took my loathed tripod along. As it turned out I made a few fruitless locked down attempts at details of bark and so forth. I soon came to the conclusion that that isn't the way I see the world and abandoned the idea. I didn't abandon the tripod, for a change, because the light was going.

The first of the lily pads are starting to appear on the surface, which made me think of Monet and understand his fascination with them. When the water is calm enough to reflect the sky, be it cloudy or clear, the pads seem to float not on the water but in space. I was hampered, not by the lack of a 'landscape lens', but by the terrain. getting in a position where I could get a clear view of the lilies was limited. Admittedly, a zoom lens would have given me more framing opportunities, but I did what I could.

I even made a few attempts at wildlife photography. Of sorts. When reviewing the pictures on the screen it's apparent that a camera's metering always tries to expose so the picture looks as if it's been taken in broad daylight. That takes away the atmospheric qualities of the light at twilight and dusk. Everything looks too bright. A few notches of negative exposure compensation helps restore tha balance. It also ups the shutter speed for hand held shots like that of the duck

I overdid the compensation in the last shots of the night just a little. This was successfully rescued at the computer thanks to the amazing technology camera manufacturers use for their sensors. I remember shooting a roll of ASA 1600 slide film in the 1980s. The resulting images were a grainy, detail-less mush. Now it's possible to shoot higher than ISO 2000 and have clean images. And that's with 'old' technology from four years or so ago! Another advance is lens stabilisation. I played around with seeing how slow a speed I could use on the 105mm lens and got down to 1/30th of a second. I reckon I could have gone a tad slower too. Bang goes that reciprocal of focal length rule of old.

These photos here aren't part of a project as such, although I am amassing a collection of pictures from the lake. Is there a defining line between a project and a collection of pictures on a theme? Probably one of pretentiousness or maybe intent.

As ever the final shot above doesn't tell the whole story. Every picture appears to have been made in isolation. A one-off. It's rarely that way - unless you're William Eggleston who only ever takes one frame of anything (he claims). I initially saw a frame of tree and branches. The willow catkins signifying springtime, the sign highlighting the threat of fish theft. The evening light was appealing too. Then a fish dimpled the surface and I realised that the ripples would add an extra element to the picture - both formally and in terms of story telling. Waiting for more fish to rise and break the surface in a visually appropriate place resulted in a number of missed shots. In the end I had to give up as the light went. I think I got one reasonable picture though

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