Thursday, March 24, 2011

At the Anvil

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: (On Lens Choice, part 2) The size of ones toolkit is directly related to ones need for mobility. Consistent with my need to trek backcountry, I question every addition to my pack.

I bought my first 18-200mm zoom as a street lens, not my usual beat, but it's terrific having that much range and vibration reduction (VR) instantly available when shooting in a crowd of people or at an event. Shooting landscape one has more time for lens changes, and I had the 18-200mm range covered by an excellent 18-70mm VR zoom, and an 80-400mm VR zoom. However, it didn't take long before I was leaving the 18-70mm at home and carrying the 18-200mm over the hillsides. I no longer skipped shots that I deemed not worth a lens change.

I don't do a lot of selective focus photography; usually I want as much depth of field as I can get. One lens covering everything from mild wide angle to deep telephoto is almost an all-purpose lens. Almost! I've now owned three different 18-200mm zooms and each one has been a love-hate relationship. The three previous images were taken with my latest 18-200mm lens.

A super-wide 10-20mm zoom is my newest lens. Even when I shot film I never had a lens so wide. It's not a fish-eye but it has lots of tricks, pushes the walls away, bends the horizon, and sees around corners. However, when all you want is a bigger bite, that dizzying magic has to be tamed. I used the superwide zoom here only because I wanted the shop, floor to ceiling. Once I had it, however, I cropped it a bit. Wide angle lenses don't simply capture more, they see differently.

I still carry the big, heavy 80-400mm, and enjoy using it. I love standing back and zooming for compositions in the tangled planes of a cluster of buildings or the patterns on a hillside, or among blossoms rising from the mud of a pond bottom. The lens has withstood abuse and is clear and sharp, and I see nothing affordable to persuade me to switch.

I carry a 105mm macro lens for when I really want to get close or create a smooth bokeh. Having a good macro was essential for me. Many needs all pointed to 105mm rather than 85mm or 200mm. Cost was a big factor, but I also knew that a bit of telephoto would let me keep my distance when stalking insects and similar wildlife. As a lens for wildlife it complements the 80-400mm zoom.

to be continued...