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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Art from a Lens

This week I've been trying to spend a little time in my mini-studio shooting a bunch of "objects" - mostly on white backgrounds, so not the sort of thing one would really consider to be photographic art in the classic sense. Just everyday objects, like watches and rings, or paperclips and newspapers. The sort of thing you find website owners and advertising companies using to illustrate an article or caption. Useful stuff, but not what most of us would consider "art".

There's a bit of a long story with this. My studio has been taken over by a bedroom set that my mother-in-law uses when she comes to visit, so I really don't have a studio any more, but I have my backgrounds set up, and my studio lights ... except I have to stand on the opposite side of the bed to avoid shadows and get my 200mm lens to focus properly.  But yesterday, while looking for my Gary Fong diffuser, I ran across this little 50mm lens I'd bought a few years ago at Henry's out of their "used" bin.

I think I've taken two pictures with it - right when I bought it to make sure it was okay. Then put it away and forgot about. This is a fully manual focus lens with no chance of autofocus, so using it for outdoor work like birds and animals is cumbersome ... I tend to set my big lens on auto when I'm trying to shoot moving things because it's just easier.

What pushed me to buy this little lens in the first place is that it has a wide f-stop of 1.4, and was in new condition. It really looked as though it hadn't been used at all ... and the price was right at about $100.  Anyway, when I came across it in my photo-closet I pulled it out and stuck it on my camera and ... bam. I fell in love with it. Beautiful little thing with a nice sharp focus and the manual options make you work for what you get out of it. Adjusting your f-stop and aperature and then focusing manually, being able to get close the subject when you want ... all of these things can work to create art from your photo.

And while I know that photography in and of itself is an art, being able to get something different every shot by making small adjustments with a manual lens brings a pleasure that you just don't really get using auto-focus option. Maybe it's just me. I've always said I'm a bit of a control freak, and while I can still just shoot an ordinary shot of an everyday object with my nice little lens, I can also turn that little lens into a purveyor of artwork, like these two shots.

Anyway, today, I just really wanted to remind all of you photographers out there to consider spending more of your time working with both manual lenses, and the manual settings on your camera.

As we get busy in the world of photography, most of us don't really have the time needed to stop and think about manual settings and manual focusing, and there are situations where those just don't work. But they do work, and work really well when you just want to do something different.

And, one more thing ... don't pass up a good buy on a lens just because it's only got a manual focus. That manual focus can be very satisfying.

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