Here are three recent frames that are trying to convince me to do a series about solitude. Last year I came to hate my Photo-A-Day project, but I have to admit it forced me to produce. Thinking it through.
Tag Archives: Nikon 85mm f/1.4
I suffer from gear-itis, and while I’m not seeking a cure, I do need to treat some of the symptoms. I’m grateful to have a collection of cameras, lenses, and flashes sufficient to tackle whatever assignment comes my way, but it also makes me lazy and indecisive, making technical rather than artistic choices.
As I described in the previous post, I’m testing myself (luxuriously) by trying to limit personal work to one camera body (Nikon D610), one lens (Nikon 85mm f/1.4), and black and white output. This is great gear – better than anything I’ve owned before, but this “deprivation” exercise helps me rekindle the passion I had as a teenager who could only afford one camera body, one lens, and black-and-white film – and had the time of his life learning how to SEE things photographically.
I don’t choose lenses just for focal length and speed. Oh no. Each lens has its own character. Technically, a Nikon 85mm f/1.4 lens is at its best stopped down to f/5.6. But you don’t buy a 1.4 lens to shoot it at f/5.6. So for July, my assignment is to shoot the 85mm f/1.4 wide open, in black and white.
Okay, experiment is a generous word for what I did, because “experiment” connotes careful documentation of processes, whereas I just tried some different things and then couldn’t tell which was which by the time I got the images onto a computer.
But it still worked out pretty dang well.
I tried it on a couple of hasty macro shots, and marveled at its potential.
But I like to photograph people (which is ironic, considering how effectively I avoid contact with other people), so I asked author Jennifer Brown to help me test three basic uses of the Orbis: 1) as fill light in a multi-light setup, 2) as key light on lens, and 3) as “soft box” off lens. First, let’s look at my extravagant studio space:
Jennifer and I conducted this test in about fifteen minutes so I could get a basic understanding of the Orbis unit, and I’m very excited about incorporating this into my work. Most of all, I’m eager to get the unit out on location where I’ll have to adapt to light I cannot control.
In the eyes of the IRS, I’m a professional photographer because I get paid to make photographs. In the eyes of certain friends and coworkers, I’m a professional photographer because I’m “good enough” and the right price. In my own eyes, I am an eager-to-learn amateur who lacks certain qualities I associate with professionals, including the presence of mind and resourcefulness to walk into any situation and find a way to accomplish the mission.
That sort of professionalism comes from experience, and nothing in my photographic past prepared me for two hours as the sole photographer at a reception for Journalism and Feminism icon Gloria Steinem.
I had shot in the room before – unsuccessfully – so I came into the situation nervous but with a plan. There is no ceiling to speak of, and the eastern and southern exposures are picture windows. Ms. Steinem would be backlit for the entire event, but I would have no ceiling on which to bounce flash. I chose to shoot the entire event with on-camera flash units and diffuser domes.
I had liberty to roam the room and shoot at will, but I had a responsibility to Ms. Steinem and the attendees too, didn’t I? I couldn’t just keep clicking and firing flashes during their discussion, as much as I wanted to. Ms. Steinem is one of the most photographed people in the world – I wanted my chance to make a special image of a special person, but it was a reception for her, not me.
I made one photo that I like (at the top of the post) and several that will serve the purposes of my employer and possibly help some of the other community members who participated in the event. I got to spend several hours listening to a fascinating person. And I got experience, which is sometimes defined as what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.