Tomorrow I’ll spend the afternoon and evening photographing a charity event at a downtown bar.
I’ve spent the last four days agonizing over which lenses to bring, because I need to pack light. The venue is small and the crowd will probably be large. I don’t want to haul a lot of glass on my shoulder for seven or eight hours in a crowded room. I did some reconnaissance (with beer!) and confirmed the usual two types of bar lighting: too little and too much. Low overall levels, with areas of extremely high contrast. Difficult, but exciting.
Next week I’ll go over some of the details – and results. But tonight I remembered a valuable lesson I want to share with you.
I want to use a medium telephoto lens for the performers, and I actually own four lenses that could fill the role. I devoted several pages of a legal pad to comparing and contrasting the choices. On paper, all of the lenses seem to come out even. This one has vibration reduction, but that one is 1.3 stops faster. These two focus faster, but these other two are smaller and lighter. Etc. Etc. The list kept getting longer, but the choice was no easier.
Then, I took some pictures, and I realized that this wasn’t a job for my brain. I chose all of these lenses for very rational reasons, and they are all versatile and capable. But the twenty-plus-year-old Nikon 85 f1.8 creates a look that just gets me. I cannot quantify it. And that’s the lesson: a picture is worth a thousand technical specifications.