Recently I've had the opportunity to do some travelling. In the last month I've been back and fourth to San Francisco, Puerto Vallarta, and Seattle by car. The trips are not transatlantic-long, but sometimes they sure do seem it. I used to listen to audio books to pass the time. Good ones are great, but I find the trips are not quite long enough to finish them. Then, unfortunately, time passes before I can get back to them, the momentum is lost, and I start something new. As a result, I started exploring podcasts.
I've been enjoying a podcast called WeShootFuji by Scott Bourne and Marco Larousse. As the name implies, they talk a lot about Fujifilm gear. However, I must say I do appreciate their honesty in that they also include their "Fuji rants" and talk about camera features that could be improved or changed. In addition, there are great guests, discussions of general photography techniques, tips, and exercises to spur creativity.
Between recent snowstorms I had the chance to get out and exercise the Husky. Winter flying can be challenging to say the least so, when a good-weather opportunity presents itself, it's good to get airborne. Besides, it keeps my flying skills sharp, splashes protective oil around the inside of the engine, and generally allows me to step back from the day-to-day and get a wider perspective on life.
Taking one of the WeShootFuji challenges to heart, I took only one lens. I have noticed, as Scott and Marco suggested, when we have many lenses to choose from - some of which may be zooms - we are not challenged to focus on framing a good shot. Instead our mind's eye relaxes and our lenses choices and differing focal distances do the heavy lifting.
As an illustration, imagine you are walking down the street and see a pretty daffodil and you decide to take its picture. But imagine the daffodil is behind a fence. In a hurry, you lean over the fence and simply zoom to fill most of the frame with the flower and snap its detail. Fantastic you think. You've captured the flower and the detail of the delicate stamens within. The flower is isolated and surrounded by beautiful soft bokeh. Now imagine you only have a wide-angle lens with you. You want the same close-up daffodil shot. Now you must walk to the end of the fence, enter garden, kneel, and get very close to fill the frame. You move into a point so the flower fills the same percentage of the frame as it would have with your zoom. Getting close you notice surrounding flowers have not yet opened and remain in tight bud. You can see the once beautiful garden is in demise; the house at the end of an overgrown walk is boarded up and abandon. The scene speaks of sad deterioration. One lone tenacious flower holds on with hopeful optimistic anticipation that one day there will renovation and neighborhood rejuvenation. You train you camera in close and take the shot. Since you are there, you take several shots of the yard, the house and other flowers. Later, when editing your one daffodil shot, you notice the surrounding flower buds have made it into the picture, the dilapidated house can be discerned in the background and blue spray-painted graffiti contrasts nicely with the yellow of the daffodil.
In both instances the daffodil is the subject and captured perfectly and fills roughly the same amount of frame. However, the wide-angle shot took more work to get. As a photographer you had to get into the scene and while there discovered more opportunities within. And, further, there is much more to the wide-angle shot. The flower is now in a setting. More of the whole story is told. And, possibly, none of this would have occurred had you only had a zoom.
Here are two examples of flowers both shot with both lenses set to f2.8. One is a 35mm and one is a 14mm:
Reviewing many of my pictures, I can see that many were taken with my favorite long zoom lens. Over time, I began to realize my shots all tended to have the same feeling. After more consideration, I could see most of the shots lacked the periphery. Yes, there was a lot of bokeh but there was no additional contextual information leaking in from the edges of the shot. Because of this, the photos seemed better when viewed in a slide show or series rather than stand-alone pieces. It simply took more photos to convey the scene. After this realization, I began to embrace wider-angle lenses.
Back to high desert snow and flying: The WeShootFuji guys inspired me to only take one lens on my flight. I decided on the Fuji XF 35mm 1.4R. It is a fantastic lens although it does occasionally hunt to find the correct auto focus. However, because it produces painful paper-cut sharp focus and pleasingly soft out-of-focus areas, and the color rendering is phenomenal, I can embrace it wholeheartedly. I simply love the lens.
Here are the shots I got from the flight using only the Fuji XF 35 f1.4 R. Although the concepts I talked about with the flowers above aren't that evident in these shots, I took the spirit of the challenge to heart.