Oct 10, 2010

Nifty-Fifty Monday Mornings

The 50mm lens is probably the most prolific in the world. For decades, it was the lens included with 35mm SLR cameras from most manufacturers. My Dad's Yashica had a 50, I believe, and it was the first camera I ever used; enlargements from that camera are still hanging in my house.

Now, I use that lens almost every day. In my digital work I started with a 50mm f/1.8--these cost around $100 for both Nikon and Canon and are the sharpest lens you can buy for that little money. I always tell my students that if I could have only one lens this would be it.

Now, I use a 50mm f/1.4, but I'm not sure it was worth to the money to upgrade from the f/1.8. Nevertheless, more than 50% of my pictures are made with this lens. I walk around town with it, I board airplanes with it mounted and sitting in my lap, I shoot at night with it, and I usually start my portrait sessions with it.

Why do I like it so well?

It's small, light, and has a very wide aperture which allows me to make good pictures even in lowlight without a tripod, and it's not too obtrusive when working with people. Did I mention that it's light?

Nikon D90, 50mm f/1.8 lens, f/3.5, 1/500s, ISO 200.

Several things have come together for me the last few weeks. I was assisting Aya Photography with a shoot yesterday afternoon. I was only assisting, so I wasn't even carrying a camera, or doing lunges up and down all day--I was just holding a reflector for most of the day. Granted, it was usually over my head and was a sail in the breezy afternoon, but it was light. Even so, by the time we spilt at the end of the day my shoulders were tired and I had to crack my back into place.

Last week in Korea I was walking around with my D700 and 70-300mm VR lens. I carry this combo on my home-made R-strap, which takes the weight off the neck, but leaves it on one shoulder. 3.83 pounds is the approximate weight of this tool dangling from my neck. A few days before in Hong Kong I was toting this around the islands, and at night I added my Manfrotto tripod with a ball head. another two pounds, and the 14-24mm lens that's even heavier. 

This stuff takes it's toll. It makes your shoulders hurt, and you get a kink in your neck almost constantly. After a wedding, you've got sore legs for a while, and forget doing kids portraits all day. If you want incredible wildlife and landscape photos, be ready to lug a lot of heavy stuff over difficult terrain in the dark and cold. It's rough on the body, as Scott Bourne reported yesterday.

Nikon D700, 50mm f/1.4 lens, f/16, 15.0s, ISO 100.

I've been thinking about what to do to preserve my own health and how to help other photographers, too. 

The best I've come up with is to preserve the health of my body through exercise. I've started exercising many times, and it usually goes well for a couple of weeks, but then I end up being tired, or lazy and don't get up in time. One day skipping breaks the habit. But, if there are people I'm supposed to meet, a commitment to people then I can keep a habit going.

So, this is an open invitation: meet me Monday mornings at 6:45 with your camera and 50mm lens for a little physical and photographic exercise. We'll meet for now at USU, at the parking lot at the cul-du-sac on 700 East, just south of 400 North (head east on 400 north and turn right after the light at 600 East).

I am not a personal trainer or dietician or any other kind of health or fitness professional. I cannot offer advice on health or fitness. I plan to meet there, doing some stretching, and start walking the hills of the campus. Later in the year, I'll meet you at the Studio and see what we can do.

See you at 6:45!


  1. The two photos on here are AMAZING, Levi. I'm so impressed with your work. I cannot wait for you to shoot Emerson and Tennyson sometime SOON! (November?) You truly have remarkable talent. I love this blog!

  2. Thanks, KimberLeigh! It'd be a pleasure to work with your boys--they're good lookin' kids. Lets set something up.