A Pair of New Lenses, A Great Shoot, and Upcoming Classes

The week in review, in a nutshell:

Not one, but TWO new lenses! There’s nothing like a new chunk of glass to revitalize the creative juices. Each new lens is, literally, a new way of looking at the world – a new way of interpreting what’s around me, a new set of strengths and challenges for framing stories.

First I got a Sigma 105mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro, which was very highly rated for distortion and CA. I have to concur with the reviews online. I really like the lens; it is sharp, it is vivid, and it focuses well. I did some product shoots with it, and shot some pictures of the cats. No complaints with either. The only complaint I have, and it’s minor, is that the lens really wants a lot of light for the autofocus to work as fast as it can. I’ve found that if I’m trying to focus on something that’s more than about 1.5 stops under my camera’s meter, it will hunt for a while. I found shining a flashlight on the focal point solved the problem. I only noticed it shooting products, where I was at 1/200 and relying on flash for my entire exposure. Outdoors, it has a nice bokeh and handles contrast very well. I feel that with this lense, I’ll never need to carry the Canon 55-250 again – the Sigma may not have all the reach, but it makes up for it in quality.

A couple of days later, I got a copy of the classic Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM. And not a moment too soon. If you own a camera with an EF/S mount, you need a copy of this lens. I’ve already used it more than I ever used my niftyfifty. The depth of field is much easier to work with and the bokeh is… dreamy, fantastic, soft, creamy… all the reviews everywhere else are correct. This is an amazing lens for shooting people and cats. I do get a bit of CA when it’s open to 2.8 or more, but only against strong backlight. It’s nothing that can’t be easily taken care of with the usual PP tricks.

I’ll do some posts with example pics later this week.

Working with these primes has really been pushing my ability to conceptualize the frame before I bring the camera to my eye. The hoary old “back in the days of film…” guys are correct; fitting a prime on your camera will make you a better photographer. Firstly, it’s easier to control depth of field because I only have to learn one curve, rather than constantly recalculate for different zooms. Secondly, with less stuff to fiddle with in my hands, I have more mental energy to think about what I’m shooting, what’s behind it, how wide the tonal and exposure range is and what story am I trying to tell. I very useful set of excercises, and I’m a confirmed fan of primes as of now.

Opposable Model spent the afternoon with us Saturday, and we did an Absurd Couture shoot. She’s amazing to work with; she brings a very strong sense of how to relate to the camera, a fearless attitude and a ton of creative ideas. I’ve got some pics up already, with some more trickling in over the next couple of days. I did this in a way I’ve never done before. We homebased at our house, where my amazing wife helped with wardrobe and did an amazing job with makeup, then we jumped in the car and drove around the neighborhood taking advantage of some spots I’d been eyeballing over the last few months. I only used one light, no reflectors, and used the sun mostly for backlight. It felt very run’n’gun, but in a preconceptualized and well thought through sort of way. Opposable Model and I always finish our time together with about a million ideas for our next shoot, but unfortunately we’re both so busy we only get together every couple of months or so.

I signed up for another class at PCNW, and I’m very excited about it. I think In Ruin: Architecture and Photography will be a great opportunity to let my constructivist aesthetic shine. It will cut into some of the best outdoor shooting days of the year, but it’ll be worth it, and I may be able to combine the classwork with some of my own projects. I truly enjoy exposing my work in the classroom setting; I can learn more from 15 minutes of class critique on one image than I can in two months of posting stuff online hoping for some “likes”.

Finally, I spent Sunday morning at Richmond Beach with the Seattle Photography Club shooting pictures for a seminar on diptychs. It was dark and cold, but a great opportunity to put the 105mm through it’s paces in the real world. I shot a lot of pairs based on lines and color, scale, and themes but eventually I decided I liked this play on negative space the best.

Diptych - Negative Space

A play on juxtaposed negative space I did at a seminar by The Seattle Photography Club