Sunday, July 15, 2012

One view

A long time ago I saw a kind of photo challenge to keep photographers on their toes.  The challenge was to approach a scene with just one lens.  Forget the multitude of zoom lenses, fixed focal length lenses and accessories that clutter a camera bag and shoot with just one lens.  Kind of an interesting idea.  I decided to put the idea to test on Saturday's hike and for an added twist I decided to shoot with  my least used lens in the bag.

When I bought my Canon 40D a couple of years ago one of the first lenses I bought for it was a Canon 10-22 mm f3.5-4.5 EF-S lens.  it is pretty nice and was a cheaper alternative to the 16-35 mm f 2.8 L series glass.  It is an EF-S lens the short back series so it can only be used on a camera body with a APS-C size sensor like the 40D or Rebel series.  I have taken it on several hikes but truthfully sometimes it never comes out of it Think Tank pouch on the trail.  I find the 24-70 mm f2.8 L series lens to be an almost perfect hiking lens.

So with a nice solo hike to Round Valley Preserve's Miwok Trail planned I decided to force myself to put the 10-22mm zoom to use.  I would have my own photo challenge and just carry the one lens attached to the 40D.  Granted the original photo challenge said if you used a zoom lens you could only set it at one focal length and the shoot had a 15 minute time limit.  To much like a deadline pressure at work.  I decide to let my focal length vary with the scenery on would be a 2 1/2 hike along the preserve's grasslands.

Round Valley is a nice little spot for an easy day hike.  Just a little hill to climb at the beginning and end of the hike with miles of flat land in between.  Perfect as a nice easy hike after last week's double Diablo summit adventure.  Heading out Saturday morning I practically had the trail to myself as I headed out on the dirt trail cracked and dry under the summer sun.

You might think an extreme wide-angle like the 10-22 mm lens to be very limiting on a hike but it does have a few distinct advantages to some of my other lenses.  The 10-22mm lens has a fantastic depth of field.  Remember the wider the focal length of the lens the more depth of field you can create when using the smallest aperture.  This allowed me to juxtapose items close in the foreground but still have a good deal of apparent depth of field through the frame.

The lens is a natural at landscape photography capturing wide, sweeping vistas with ease.  I had plenty of opportunity to shoot the sea of grasslands stretching to the hills.  Withered trees and oaks standing tall against the barren landscape are a good choice for the lens allowing me to frame them against the hills easily form the trail.

The one thing I wouldn't shoot a lot of with this lens is portraiture.  that wide of angle is going to distort a person features easily if the lens is tipped.  It would be too easy to create an unintentional distortion so I would shy away from using it for that but on the trail anything is fair game.  Who cares if a rusty wagon wheel comes out a little disproportionate looking and maybe-not-exactly round looking?  The lens has such a wide field of view it is easy to prefocus and then lay it on the ground for a different perspective of the scene.

One thing this particular lens does not handle well is lens flare.  The 16-35mm can have some very arctic looks shooting into the sun or a bright light source.  The 10-22mm lens has a tendency in my opinion to have to much flaring streaks and reflections when shooting towards the sun.  But overall it is a great lens, light, compact and easy to focus.  The maximum  f3.5-4.5 capture is a little slow for news work but on the sunlit trails I hardly notice the lack of a one more f-stop.

So I made my way around the trail snapping the various trail views with my one lens.  It makes you think about your composition more to tell you the truth.  I found myself debating a tighter or wider view or debating on the eye level or ground level camera angle more.  A picture of sunlight glinting through a tree branch shot with the camera held at ground level pointing up.  I framed the scene not by looking through the viewfinder but by placing the camera lens in the shadow cast from the tree branch.  The wide field of view allowed me a looser aim but still be able to capture the scene.

Sadly this lens will soon be relegated to the closet.  The EF-S series lenses are not compatible with full-frame señor cameras which I will upgrade to this fall.  I will likely buy a 20mm fixed focal length lens to use with my new camera as a the wide lens until I upgrade to a 16-35mm lens of my own.  But overall it was a good challenge to take just one lens on the trail and concentrate on the different views and images it can create.  Near and far, high and low the challenge to make one view look like many was a lot of fun and something I must do more often to keep sharp and creative behind the camera.