I had no assigned topic this week. I more or less tried out a lens that I’ve had for around two years and never really used. Summer of 2009, I was in the South doing an academic internship on an independent film. A group of us were out at a local secondhand store when one of my friends found an old 50mm Nikon lens. It was cheap and appeared to be in good shape, so it came with me. I tried it out just enough to know that it works, but since then, it’s been confined to the depths of my camera bag (except for being featured in my post on imagination). Not this week. Little lens, your time has come.
The goal was to work with one focal length only, as I fear the zoom lens is robbing me of some sort of discipline. The real challenge was focusing a wider prime. Yes, technically the 50mm is longer than a normal lens on my DSLR, but I like the 70-100mm range, so it is wider than my comfort zone. For years, I’ve been zooming in and focusing with SLRs and using magnifiers on large format. Not to mention that it’s obvious when I’m off on the macro. Fortunately, I met with some success this week.
First of all, I paid a visit to my old faithful test subject: the snowball bush. Admittedly a bit green right now. Really, the 50mm is a bit wide for this subject. It only focuses so close, forcing me to move back.
I moved on to some trees with interesting features, such as this “eye” of sorts, for more focusing practice. Success. Autofocus and zoom lenses haven’t completely ruined me.
Lastly, I focused on my sister’s car. It has some styling details I find attractive. Unfortunately, the paint isn’t so good, forcing me to give the car a Photoshop makeover. My sister was glad that I was painting her car, even if it was only in Photoshop.
Since I could use to spend more time with this lens, I may do a part 2 to this post, but not right away.
Next Week: Time
There are so many directions I could go with this. My hope is to use timepieces and objects around them to say something else about time other than, oh, half past seven.
Last week, I returned to the town of Polo, which I did a post on two weeks ago. This week, the quaint downtown was invaded by a carnival. The reason? Like so many small towns in the area, Polo has an annual festival. Such festivals include rides, food, and often a parade. Polo’s even features fireworks, which is one reason my sister and found ourselves in the town last week, other than visiting family. Photographing fireworks can be difficult, especially considering that the Polo show was no more than half an hour this year due to the financial strain everyone is facing. Getting a clean shot can also be tough because of houses, trees, telephone wires, and crowds. Polo may not be big, but the town generally puts on a good show, so people from surrounding communities often show up for the event.
Photographing fireworks is tricky business. A tripod is mandatory for serious work. My first attempt at firework photography was in highschool, and I used film. Not very many shots and no ability to see what the previous shots looked like. However, I did have one or two OK shots. Since then, I’ve shot digital. The first step is to make sure you have a fresh memory card in your camera and another one easily available. Shoot a lot. You never know what it’s going to end up looking like. Why? To capture any spread of fireworks, you need to press the shutter release before the shells blow. I set my shutter on bulb, my ISO on 200 or so, and adjust the f/stop for exposure (using at least f/16). Timing comes with experience and some guesswork, but a rule of thumb is to expose from launch till the blasts disappear. This is not always practical, especially during the finally when there is non-stop launching and photographic visual chaos. Generally, I focus and frame on the first blast, but I may decide I need to move the entire tripod. Also, you may need to change framing frequently during the show. Since the Polo fireworks presented a range of heights and there were some vehicles and trees I had to shoot over, I had to change framing frequently. Since it was a short show, I only took around 70 shots. Here are some of my favorites:
The fireworks are the kickoff for the weekend festival. Next morning, I headed downtown to get some shots of the carnival warming up for its first afternoon of operation. The same downtown block I’d photographed just weeks before was now in party mode and ready for the fun to begin. It just needed a few more people. And they’d be there.
Next Week: 50mm Project I’m giving myself a challenge: shoot all the photos for next week’s post using an old, manual focus prime lens. It can only be good for me. The lens is a bit wider than I’m used shooting at, but it wouldn’t hurt me to limit myself to just a tad longer than a normal lens.