Monday, April 23, 2012

Approaching a Composition

This photo is an example of a struggle. Walking along the railroad one morning, I saw in the distance a great composition consisting of the signal, the crumbling old remains of the hotel I had photographed many times before, and the local roadhouse beside it. At a distance it was perfectly arranged, but too far away. As I got closer and closer, I could see my composition falling apart as the space between the signal and the buildings increased, the relationship between them became less and less significant. If I had a telephoto zoom lens with me, I could have easily done it from the greater distance, but all I had was my 17-70 zoom. I got up close and made several attempts, and this is the best I could accomplish with what I had - standing back along the tracks and zoomed all the way to 70mm. It still did not capture what I had originally seen from the greater distance.

It was the very first time I actually needed a telephoto lens. I don't own one, but my wife has a Canon 75-300 that would've done the job, albeit with a loss of image quality, because it's Canon's cheapest telephoto, and quite well known for it's less than stellar performance.

This made me realize why I'm seeing so many telephoto zooms for sale in the local classifieds. Unless you're a wildlife or sports photographer, you really don't need a long lens - I think people buy them, thinking just in case, and then find they never get used. Another point to be made here is that the pictures I take are always about the composition, and very seldom would a long telephoto lens be used with strong composition in mind; rather they are used for the purpose of capturing a subject at great distances when it is impossible to get up close to that subject. In this case, I could have used a longer than 70mm focal length to get the composition optimized the way I wanted it. The next fine day, I'll borrow my wife's lens and post the results of what caught my eye on this same Blog and continue the discussion. In the meantime, I want to talk about what lenses a typical "realist photographer" really needs.


As it turns out, I didn't need to borrow my wife's Zoom. I just made an amazing purchase consisting of 6 lenses and 3 film cameras, and one of the lenses was the legendary Pentax Super Takumar 1:4 200mm Telephoto! (I also got, among others, a Super Takumar 1:1.8 55mm, Bushnell 1:2.8 28mm and a Bushnell Telephoto Zoom). For this article, I figured I couldn't do better than the 200mm, so above you see my best effort result for what caught my eye originally. Looking at it now, I realize how I actually prefer my first shot, taken much closer with the 70mm, but yet, this second shot shows perfectly what I was composing with my mind's eye. We're still learning here aren't we?

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