Politicians and business folk often pledge to get “back to basics,” or to the fundamentals of whatever it is they do. It reflects the fact that, over time, complexity can obscure what’s really important. In photography, I think this can happen when shooters become too encumbered by considerations of camera bodies, lenses, filters, flashes, gels, and post processing. And for me, since I’ve yet to venture into professional photography, I forget that the biggest reason I shoot is to have fun.
Over the past week, I’ve returned to the fundamentals of my own experiences with photography. And what draws further back into my experience as a photographer than anything else?
I bet when I bought my first little digital camera as a sophomore in high school, the first picture I snapped was of my cat Trudy. Every lens, every flash, every new camera body has been tried and tested on a family feline. In October, just around Halloween, we took in an orange-haired, orange-eyed new kitty companion — Pumpkin. He is possibly one of the most photogenic cats I’ve known, despite having spent his formative years living in a dumpster.
Another “back to basics” element of these photos is a newly purchased lens, which many adoringly call the “nifty fifty” — a fixed, 50mm lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.8. Though lenses offer a myriad of opportunity for creative expansion, they can tend to get in the way of pictures. Don’t get me wrong; a good lens selection is worth its weight in gold (and is priced as such), but it’s sometimes refreshing to shed any considerations of lens choice and focal length to focus more intensely on subject and composition.
After about a week with my new “nifty,” I’ve concluded one aspect that makes it such a likable little lens, in addition to it’s razor sharpness and awesomely narrow depth of field, is that no other lens seems to be better at not being a bother.
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