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Posts published in “About Photography”

Prime lenses

Prime lenses are a total inconvenience. Not being able to zoom is a complete pain in the ass, and having to switch lenses to change the focal length is even worse. I have to carry around multiple lenses to cover a variety of settings, instead of just throwing one zoom on and going for it. They are a real hassle.

If so, then why do I love them so much? It is so much nicer taking photos with my 300 dollar 85mm f/1.8 prime than it is with my 1100 dollar 24-105 f/4 zoom that I almost never even reach for the zoom anymore. The only instance when I throw the zoom on is when I know I’m not going to have time to switch lenses, which itself doesn’t take all that long and can be accomplished with light weight primes one-handed with a little practice. The rest of the time I just leave my two primes, a 28mm and a 85mm, on the body and go from there. I also have the 50mm f/1.8 in my drawer, but I never use it not because it’s inconvenient, but because it feels cheap. I just don’t like it. I’m going to purchase the 50mm f/1.4 in the next few weeks and then retire the f/1.8 version.

I think that what I like most about the primes is that they are solid, sharp as hell, and wonderfully bright through the viewfinder. If you’ve never seen the difference between a lens with an f/4 maximum and a lens with an f/1.8 maximum through a viewfinder, trust me the difference is remarkable. It goes from a dingy, dull image at f/4 to a bright, clean image at f/1.8 which unconsciously gives me a better feeling for the moment happening in front of my lens. It’s just a lot nicer. I feel more connected to my subjects, better equipped to capture the moment as it happens.

The ability not to change focal lengths is freeing from the endless possibilities of a zoom lens. Too much choice is no choice at all. For all the time spent while I’m dicking around zooming in and out trying to get a good composition, the moment has passed. Remove the option to zoom altogether and you find yourself unfettered by choice, able to take the photos presenting themselves to you. Besides, if you really want to get closer, just move your ass. It’s not hard.

Of course, there are times when you need to be run & gun with your photography or for whatever reason you can’t move forward or backward to get the right shot, but for the majority of the time I feel like shooting with primes is just better. That is really true for all the shooting-in-the-dark I do. Every little bit of aperture counts.

As a side note, I took my first daylight photos with the 5d Mk II today, after more than 800 photos in the dark. It does just as nice a job outside in daylight as inside in artificial light.

The Theme of 2009

In theory, New Year’s resolutions are a good idea. It is in the realization of these resolutions where we discover that, in fact, they don’t always work out. How many New Year’s resolutions have you made in your life that you’ve never followed through on? How many people have you heard make resolutions to do whatever the hell it is they think they should be doing but then never do? If you’re like me, the answer to both questions is “A lot”. Sure, some people have success, but I’m willing to bet that the ratio of successes to failures is skewed toward the latter.

What are some of the problems with New year’s resolutions? Well, for one, they are often short sighted, setting a goal for the immediate to near future and not often considering 4 or 8 or 12 months from now. They are also generally too specific, not allowing for the person making resolutions to change their minds or to adapt to changing situations throughout the year. People and things change, so it’s stupid not to be able to adjust your goals accordingly.

A few years ago I decided to pick a theme for the upcoming year (2004, I think?) and stick with that for the whole year. The idea was that the theme should be broadly applicable with recognizable short term goals. That might sound contradictory, but hear me out. I wanted something that would provide many opportunities to express itself in easily accomplished situations, something that could apply to many things yet all fall under the same heading. Thus the idea of a “theme”, rather than a “resolution”.

Since putting this into motion, I have had a few years of success and a few years of not-success. Let’s look at some examples, shall we?

  • The Year of Trying New Things—This was my first theme and esaily the most successful. It exemplifies everything a year’s theme should be. Broadly applicable to many things (what new thing am I trying? It doesn’t matter, so long as it’s new) and provides short term goals (try it).
  • The Year of Writing—This year was moderately successful for a while but ended up being too broad. There were no goals to set except “to write”, which was enough for a while, but not strong enough for me to keep my focus.
  • The Year of Finishing Things—What? Serious? I broke both my guidelines here. Too specific and too long term. No good. Next!
  • The Year of Self-Care—Again, moderately successful since it was focused mostly on figuring out what I needed from my life, but not a great theme since it lacks clear short term goals.
  • The Year of Focus—Seriously? What the hell? Horrible.

For 2009 I am determined not repeat my past mistakes, but to really work on keeping myself occupied outside of work with personal creative work. And now that I have this blog running, I have something to keep my honest and not let myself slip into complacency as I am prone to do.

After a lot of thinking, I have decided that 2009 will be:

The Year of 5000 photos and 50 Short Stories

Right? It’s good, I think. It has short term goals (stories, photos) and is broadly applicable (stories about what? Photos of what?). It’s also enough to keep me busy throughout the whole year, but not so much that it is daunting. Originally, it was going to be The Year of 10,000 Photos after I was inspired by Bryan’s photo count on his site, which, if you have not seen, you should. But then I realized it didn’t carve out a space for the other craft which is important to me and not addressed professionally—writing. So a little bit of calculation was done to establish reasonable goals and the theme was changed.

But, you ask, what constitutes “a photo” or “a short story”? Well, I’ve thought about that too and here’s what I think.

Photo – a photo is counted when it is part of a set that was deliberately taken. I am not limited only to my selects from a given shoot, but at the same time, test shoots do not count toward the final tally.

Short story – a short story is any piece of narrative writing between 1500 and 10000 words. It can be about anything at all, but needs to fall roughly within those two limits. The upper limit is looser than the lower. 1500 words is a bare minimum, but ok since, once I get rolling, I’ll bang out 1500 to 2500 words in a sitting.

And you, Black Laser readers, will help to keep me honest! Follow my progress over the next calendar year. I will be posting every photo and every story to this site for you to enjoy. I also hope to make periodic comments on my status and how I’m feeling about my progress. Stay tuned, intrepid readers!

You can check my progress with this link: The Year of 5000 Photos and 50 Short Stories. It will link you to every post with that tag, which will be every post I make with a story or photos. Let’s do this.

Guess what arrived today!!

After some strange misinformation from a UPS robot and an inquiry on my part to a UPS human being, my long-awaited package has arrived. Yay!

Here are a couple of photos of the box taken with my unbelievably shitty phone’s camera. Ironic!

The Box.
The Box.
The camera on top of the box.
The camera on top of the box.

I actually have my old camera here at work with me because I need to take photos of the insides of some arcanely constructed wooden boxes filled with wires of cyclopean dimensions. But, you know what? Fuck taking pictures with the old camera! I’m using my new one.

I guess I could have taken photos of the new body with the old one, but that would not have been nearly as funny taking photos of my new hot-shit camera with my miserable camera phone.

Look for photos in the next few days!

Now, where’s my Lightroom update?