Why shooting with a prime lens will help you grow creatively

Discussion in 'Photography and Cameras' started by rhythmdevils, Aug 11, 2021.

  1. mBenPhoto

    mBenPhoto New

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    Using a single prime lens is a good advice to train creativity.

    I would add a practical hint for those who get disoriented without a zoom: get a 35mm.

    Why 35mm and not a 28mm or a 50mm ? Two answers.

    N1, the 35mm frames “almost” like a 28mm, but retains most of the geometry of the 50mm. In the sense that the 35mm is enough wide to frame context (and create a visual story) and is more tolerant versus camera tilt (the 28mm can create perspective chaos, must be learned: Webb vs Winogrand).

    N2, the 35mm has a 54 degrees horizontal framing angle, so that the framed width is almost equal to the distance to subject: that helps in establishing what is inside and what is outside frame when visually scanning for scenes.

    This is my first post on SBAF. I did not yet introduce myself, but this is a non-audio related thread. I will introduce myself as soon as I put together some sensible phrases: I am a nobody in audio, but have extensive experience in photography (my IG feed @mBenPhoto has some of my documentary work).
     
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    Last edited: Aug 13, 2021
  2. foo_me

    foo_me Friend

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    Definitely agree regarding Prime lenses, especially 35mm. I did most of my learning from an old Canon 5dmk2 + vintage Zeiss 35mm/1.4. One thing that also helped me was shooting manual. It forces you to focus and concentrate more. My best shots ever were with that combo though I had tons of out of focus shots as well. With 2 kids now, I can no longer afford to miss shots and much harder to get good shots with them running around so inevitably upgraded to a current Canon 35mm/1.4 to use autofocus. I do miss the old Zeiss lens though and would recommend getting one if they're getting into the hobby. Also cheaper too!
     
  3. archer88

    archer88 Friend

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    @shambles and @mBenPhoto make great points for the 35mm. Its great for environmental portraits where I can draw the eye to the subject without getting the frame too busy. Plus works great if you are shooting from the hip since it gives you some leeway if you can't get the framing just right.
    I don't know if there are many Fuji APSC shooters here, but wanted to give a shoutout to the Fuji 23 1.4 which is the most gorgeous lens I have used.
     
  4. padam

    padam New

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    I've started using a 24mm f/1.4 (AF) lately to capture kids and their environment and I find it a lot more fun that the 35mm f/1.4 (MF) I've used to use for most of the time, maybe it's a bit of new toy syndrome, but I feel that it is now one of my favourite lenses. I take more care with regards to framing and also to level my shots to avoid distortion as much as possible and I also prefer this to the 24-105mm f/4 that I use for video.
    My other favourite lens is a 75mm f/1.4 (MF), just has that right level of cinematic feel, I might just get the 85mm f/1.2 (AF) in the end since hitting critical focus is just very difficult at this focal length (although the results are worth it).

    But 28mm and 50mm can be equally interesting for the street (works as a pairing, too), I have those as well.
    Each of us seems differently and it is probably advisable to try every prime in that 24-50mm range to see which one works out best (pretty much the same with headphones, I came to the conclusion that it is hard not to have at least 3-4 at all times).
     
  5. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Rob, what lenses are you using? The reason I'm asking is that in CC, I have many opportunities to take photos of airplanes (I'm not far from the Naval Airstation and also the air show), birds, and baby turtles (not allowed to get close). For birds, I know a fixed 600mm prime would work based on my cheapy test setup right now. However, I can see with planes a prime being not flexible enough considering how fast they fly by. I'm starting from scratch - sold off my biggest lens (70-200) years ago. FF makes things different today.

    EDIT: Just read your prior post and saw your lens list. I figure you still need to do some cropping?
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2021
  6. Bobcat

    Bobcat Friend

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    Well, I also use teleconverters. I typically use a 1.4x on my 500 and a 1.7x on my 200-400 zoom. My 300mm F2.8 usually has a 2x on it. So I don't do as much cropping as you might think. The issue with planes (at least in airshows) is that they're either really fast or manuvering quickly and usually both. Which rules out the use of tripods. And swinging big, heavy glass all day is a physical challenge.

    The other issue with aircraft pictures comes with propellers. If you take a picture of a plane at high shutter speed with a prop, the picture looks weird; like the plane is going to crash. So you want to use low shutter speeds so the prop is ideally rendered as a disk. Usually that means hand holding a long lens at something like 1/60 of a second. Helicopters are the worst, you need even lower shutter speeds, usually while panning.

    In an airshow you want to be as close as possible and to hold your fire till the planes are the closest.

    Particularly with prop planes you end up throwing a lot of pictures away. Out of focus, blurred, etc. The average day at an airshow I'll shoot maybe 3-4,000 shots per camera (I normally have three). Then when I post I end up making a pass just eliminating the obvious losers. Then another pass looking for the best. Usually I end up with maybe 20 or 30 from each camera that I like and a bunch more that are just ...ok. A while ago I spend much of a holiday throwing away the less ...ok to get my storage under control :).

    If you want to take a look at some pictures, you can look at http://planeimaging.com.

    Rob
     
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    Last edited: Aug 31, 2021
  7. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    Hand holding a long telephoto. Aiming it at a fast-moving object. Shutter speed 1/60th.

    Sheesh, I'm glad I mostly photograph people who are sitting in the same place!

    I may not be interested in the subject, but I see and appreciate quite a lot of great plane pics on photo forums. I never stopped to think how difficult they were to get. After reading your post I'll appreciate them even more.

    :bow:
     
  8. Bobcat

    Bobcat Friend

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    I should dig around in my files. Somewhere I have a picture I took with an 800mm lens at 1/20 of a second hand held. Tack sharp wonderful disk on the helicopter blades. Between you and I, pure luck. But I drag it out every time someone tells me it's impossible :)

    Rob
     
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  9. Bill-P

    Bill-P Level 42 Mad Wizard

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    Interesting thread.

    Over the years, I've figured out the type of photography I do most (landscape + street + portrait + family) and... a 50mm lens is all I need. I can use panorama stitching if I need a wider perspective. It's not like the scene will "run away" within the span of the 30 minutes it takes to set up a tripod and shoot. If I need 75mm/85mm equivalent focal length, I just crop the photo. 24MP gives a hell of a lot of room for cropping already.

    Furthermore, most (if not all) of the most compact large aperture lenses in existence are 50mm.

    Hell, most (if not all) of photography lenses with large aperture in existence are around 50mm. We have 50mm f/0.95, f/1.0, f/1.1, f/1.2... available on most systems.

    Personally, I think the lack of large aperture options is the problem with zoom lenses. It's not so much that they make me lazy, but that in some cases, I'd prefer to shoot at brighter than f/2.8, and there are not a lot of zoom options that allow for that (except for Canon RF 28-70mm f/2.0, I guess). Zoom lenses on most systems typically don't have large apertures. Not only do they lock me into this mindset of not being able to get the DOF I want, they also don't allow for more flexibility in low light. In a sense, that's very restricting... creatively. I can easily stop a 50mm f/1.2 lens to f/8 to capture landscape, but I can't very easily shoot in ultra low light with a 24-70mm f/2.8 or f/4.
     
  10. Bobcat

    Bobcat Friend

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    Very true. For non-aviation pictures I love my Nikon 85mm f1.4. Just buttery backgrounds. But if you’re into it, my 300mm f2.8 is good that way too.

    rob
     
  11. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    You don't need large apertures with long zooms to get shallow DOF. With shorter lengths, it's easy enough to scoot forwards or backwards where one is better off with a fast prime. With FF, f/1.8 on 50mm can have too shallow DOF.

    With respect to low light and AF the latest stuff is getting really good. The Sony mirrorless viewfinder and AF is very good. The Canon R mirrorless stuff is even better - even with crappy kit lens at f/7.1 can track animal eyeballs in bad light at ISO100000.
     
  12. Bill-P

    Bill-P Level 42 Mad Wizard

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    Oh, sure. You totally can get thinner DOF with longer focal length as well, but then I'll have to stand really far away. Even if such a distance is not a problem, I need to make sure there is no obstacle in the way as well. 50mm is a lot more manageable in terms of distance and framing. If I need the effect of a 100mm lens, all I gotta do is stand at twice the distance and crop the resulting photo. Doing the inverse (turning a 100mm lens into 50mm equivalent) is quite a bit more involved.

    Also shooting at larger aperture at night is more than just AF. ISO 100000 can look very grainy even with the best mirrorless sensors. Shutter speed may also be less than ideal, so catching anything moving relatively fast is quite a challenge. Meanwhile, I can keep my shutter speed around 1/100 - 1/200 (pretty much freezes kids in motion) and ISO below 16000.
     
  13. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    I try to keep my ISO below 1600! Yes, those faster primes are great for that.

    My Sony a6500 is, as my standard, set to "Aperture priority; auto ISO 100-1600, but can you please try to keep the shutter speed up at 1/250." ISO 3200 is not very bad, but there will be some noise in the skin shadows.

    The venue where I usually (only, these covid days) photograph has put more light on the stage, turning on a couple of tungsten floods. This makes 2.8, and thus my zooms, perfectly usable, at the cost of further messing up what was never an even colour temperature. I like pretending that I have 105, 135, and 180 primes :) --- although I do twist the zoom ring for composition too.
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2021
  14. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    It's all relative. I shit the bed with today's sensors and processing that do higher resolution, dynamic range, and lower noise at ISO100000 than Fuji Velvia ISO50 slide. LOL, I still have a bunch of slides but no slide projector. I'm no luddite, but methinks people bitch too much about noise in digital photography, especially when the end product is for web.
     
  15. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Thanks for the tips Rob. I had never thought about the propellers - that we can stop motion and have them look odd. I've been on your site a few times already!

    I love seeing the F16 in real action. Saw on two occasions driving down from Mammoth to LA and at the air show here where the pilots could do their thing (made the Blue Angels look boring - but a different kind of exhibition). Really gave me some perspective on the "fighter mafia" advocates seeing how the F16 could do all those aerobatics without losing speed or having no problem getting back up to speed. The F-35 was ugh, a pig. It could turn all right; but it sorta just sat there a while after the turn. I just sort of got this intuitive feeling that sitting there would be bad if someone wanted to kill me. I guess all-aspect missiles and the tech on the F-35 is what is supposed to save your butt.

    The Viper attack helicopters scare me with how quiet they are. No they are not silent, but they are a helluva way more quiet than news or police choppers. I've seen them about over highways and urban areas - could always tell by their slim front profile (how does one shoot at that from the ground?). But when a pair of them crept up behind me as I was walking on the beach (crashing waves as background noise), my first thought was: I sure wouldn't want to be Taliban.
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2021
  16. Bobcat

    Bobcat Friend

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    The hardest thing about taking photo's of aircraft is leading them properly (kind of like dove hunting :)). I also find it a very perishable skill. In the spring I go down to DFW airport and take pictures of the relatively slow moving commercial airliners on final. I usually get home with a bunch of pictures of plane tails or noses cut off until I get back in the swing of things.

    Rob
     
  17. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    Web! I suspect that many of pics of mine that are seen by others only make it to a phone screen. At that size, much of the missed-focus stuff I throw away would look fine, and subtle depth-of-field stuff that is OOF because it is meant to be looses the effect completely.

    On the other hand, I know that some of the musicians want to see their pics on their laptops, at least, if not something bigger. And some of them are better photographers than I am.

    So, in the end, us complete amateurs who have no contractual responsibility to deliver (which is what makes a pro a pro) continue to do our best for our own satisfaction. We're free to set our own standards and progress at our own speed. I don't mind noise in the back curtain; I mind it on someone's neck. Even though they probably wouldn't.

    Aside:

    Taking a lot of photos at other people's events and giving them away results in a fair amount of praise in return. Which is nice. Their music made me happy; my pics made them happy; that makes me happy again! But I'm glad I took seriously a piece of advice from some youtube video to the effect, don't listen to your friends when they tell you all your pictures are wonderful. They can always get better.
     
  18. Bobcat

    Bobcat Friend

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    You might want to visit this thread on Fred Miranda. It's kind of a loose confederation of people interested in aviation photography.There's usually someone posting aviation stuff here (or other stuff for that matter, particularly due to covid).

    Rob
     
  19. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    At least you are honest about it!
     
  20. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    So far as I know, only one of my pics has made it to being hung on a wall! I did make a gift of it as a framed print, but was chuffed to find it hanging there.

    The shot was a chance success with a modest P&S camera. Just happened to capture an on-stage moment, in a nice composition, without any technical problems.
     

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