If you’ve been following us here long enough, you know that I love my toys. I get excited about using different lenses, filters (yes Jack I still use my blue/gold filter), and gizmos (like a child’s prism). You can probably imagine how I felt, when I found myself only being able to take one camera and one lens for a week in Oxford, England. I was there for work, and had to limit my photography to the transition time to walk between buildings. So here is what I learned, when I pushed out of my comfort zone of nature photography…..one camera, one lens, and the street.
I took my Fuji XT2 and the 18-135mm lens. Ok, well I actually took two cameras. I found enough room to pack my Canon infrared point and shoot. I was surprised at the variety of images I was able to make, and found that I had to be more creative in post-processing because I was often shooting in harsh light.
Lesson #1 – You don’t need a macro lens to shoot flowers
I know we all know this. But I like to use my macro lens for flowers; I see in telephoto – close-up. So this was a challenge, but I found I was able to improve the depth-of-field for elements that were on the same plane. I also had to work harder to separate the main subject from the background in order to blur out the distractions.
Lesson #2 – look for the extraordinary in the ordinary
I was in a college town, there were a ton of bikes, and yet they kept capturing my attention. I finally stopped and spent some time “working the scene” to figure out what made bikes here in Oxford so unique. It wasn’t really the bike, but the environment in which people bike….old buildings, fresh flowers, crumbling walls……If I was using my trusty telephoto, it would not have been wide enough to capture this scene.
Lesson #3 – Isolate, but make sure you include a sense of place
This was hard for me. I like to focus in, to isolate a subject (with a good telephoto). Isolating on the street you run the risk of losing the sense of place. This statue, for instance, I took 10 pictures isolating him against the sky. But the image I really liked was this one, where he is placed in his environment in front of an old majestic building. The challenge is to isolate just enough to remove distractions and yet make a declarative statement. I guess there is a need for wide angles.
Lesson #4- Look for patterns
I gravitate toward patterns in nature. I typically use my mega-zoom lens or a macro lens and isolate the repetition. In the street however, its one big chaotic jumble of life. When I found these boats, I was frustrated by not being able to zoom in enough (you will notice the unusual crop – I did this in post to get the image I saw when I was there). With one lens, sometimes you have to settle and do the undesirable, crop later.
Lesson #5- Focus on the moment, not the equipment
One camera, one lens…..no tripod. I was frustrated. It was dusk, the light was fading, I’m not steady, and I saw this street. Rather than lament, I didn’t have my tripod, I raised the ISO, tested the patience of my friends as they stood there waiting for me to find just the right moment, and finally this woman biked down. This was one of a handful of shots. The others had compositions that were distracting – I wasn’t focused in enough, big buildings on the side squeezing the viewer, way off-kilter placement of the light. Working with one lens forced me to work with what I had, to come up with a framing….as Jack would say….that’s not horrible.