In a way my time spent downtown yesterday with a single camera and a 50mm, normal lens was a throwback to my early roots when I only had one camera and a 50mm to start with. How many things was I able to shoehorn into the frame with those limitations? More than you might think.
At least, when you are walking around with a very limited kit you don't have to choose which other lens to pull out for this subject or which different lens to use for something else. You either make the lens at hand work or you pass up shooting said scene and move on and photograph things that fit in your "frame". If you have only one camera you shoot with it and make allowances for any weaknesses it may have.
This time out I was paying attention well enough that I could see the differences in camera processing between the S1H I was using in the moment and the Sigma fp I'd been using earlier in the week. But the two cameras also influenced how I was shooting. With the Sigma fp and the 45mm lens, with its f2.8 maximum aperture, and a small screen on the back for focusing and composing I found myself not trying to constrain images into exercises aimed at creating ever more narrow depth of field. I was happy to shoot at f8 or f11, but that was also a result of shooting in brighter light. With a lens like the 50mm f1.4 you subconsciously really want to see for yourself if the maximum aperture you paid dearly for is really as good at resolving and being sharp as it's promoted to be.
I learned from both experiences. With the Sigma fp + 45mm at f11 I learned just how amazingly sharp an image out of the new generation of camera could be. Once you head toward the conservative side of the aperture ring all the "good" lenses you've collected become great image makers. In some cases, with no added sharpening stuff like letters on signage seemed almost laser etched. I filed those capabilities away in my head for future projects. The same attributes surfaced last Sunday evening when I shot some trial video on the Sigma fp and used the same lens at f11. Depth of field with moving subjects in a dark but also patchily spotlit environment were a revelation to someone used to shooting video with lenses much closer to wide open.
But the secret for video shooters with cameras like the fp is that they are low light monsters. Very capable of shooting well above 6400 with little noise impact on the files.
When I shot with the S1H and the fast 50mm I was reminded that shooting at wide open apertures is most rewarding when the lens is more than acceptably sharp, at least in the middle two-thirds of the frame, when used there. The S1H was capable of giving me files that looked appropriate even at f1.4. And I was reminded once again of how little depth of field there really is when you are shooting close and with a fast aperture. You needn't lust for fast 85mms or fast 105mms to get the universal, zero depth of field look. If you are wide open with a 50mm and within five feet of your subject you're going to be amazed at how few things are really in focus.
On another note... I share images with you here in a different way than I do with clients. I don't consider this to be a portfolio site and I'm not trying, here, to make one perfect shot of an idea or a scene I've found and then move on forever from that photograph. Instead, I'm sharing my process with you. And just as I do with people I find interesting and beautiful I might visit an idea or a tableau I find fun or captivating or a good companion for written text, again and again.
That's the case with the image below. A dinner jacket and bow tie on a mannequin against a red, velvet curtain in a shop window. I love the contrast, color and nod to a more elegant social time. I've shot this in black and white, in the middle of the night with the illumination coming totally from the display lighting and again yesterday with a mix of late afternoon light and the lights inside the window. Eventually, they'll change the display and I won't get to practice seeing in this way again. The store owners might display something equally fun or it might be something that doesn't resonate with me at all but until then I'm going to drop by and practice (almost like playing scales on the piano) until I get it perfect. And as we all know that will probably be never. But then again for Weston to label his famous "Pepper" shot "Pepper Number 30" you have to know that he tried at least 29 previous shots before he got what he wanted.
The secret to all work in a creative career is to keep changing and experimenting. Someone who has mastered a technique or vision in a year and then does the same vision for the next 20 years hasn't garnered 20 years of experience and reinforced talent. They've just lived through the same first year twenty times.
Don't begrudge older photographers their experience; it's all they have. And some of it is valuable.
I keep working on this one. The more subtle the effect becomes the better I like it.
I find this one hilarious.
I guess with the arrival of a vaccine the bar owners realized that getting more people vaccinated means more people back through their doors. Enlightened self-interest.