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Many of the creative options available to a photographer hinge on an in-depth understanding of lenses. In Foundations of Photography: Lenses, Ben Long shows how to choose lenses and take full advantage of their creative options. The course covers fundamental concepts that apply to any camera, such as focal length and camera position, and shows how to evaluate and shop for DSLR lenses. The second half of the course focuses on shooting techniques: controlling autofocus, working with different focal lengths, and managing distortion and flare. The course also examines various filters and contains tips on cleaning and maintaining lenses.
In addition to the technical considerations we've been talking about, there are a number of practical concerns that you need to weigh when you're considering a new lens. First of all what does it cost? Second, how big is it? Will it fit in your bag? Is it going to break your neck if you carry it around on your shoulder all day long? But, maybe one of the most important decisions is how does this lens you're considering fit into the collection that you already have? Is it redundant? Does it add something new? What kind of assortment of lenses do you need for the type of shooting that you do everyday? Lens selection gets easier as you become more experienced and learn more about what types of images that you like to shoot.
Typically though, you're going to want a walk-around lens. That is, a lens that offers a good focal length or range of focal lengths for everyday shooting. I keep a 24-105 millimeter on my camera for everyday use. That gives me a range from a nice wide angle to a slightly telephoto. Now, I'm not going to do any wildlife shooting with a 105 millimeter lens, but the fact is I don't encounter a lot of wildlife in my day-to-day shooting. If I'm heading out for a day of shooting, I'll also carry a 16-35 since I tend to err more on the wide angle side of things for the types of images that I shoot than I do on the telephoto.
Because it's nice to have a really fast lens, I also carry a 50 millimeter 1.2. That gives me the option for shooting in low light and shooting with really shallow depth of field. When you're considering the size and weight of a particular lens, remember that it's not just the size and weight of this one lens that matters, but of all of the lenses that you might carry at the same time. While this one slightly heavyish lens might be manageable on its own, what about when you stick it in a bag with two or three other slightly heavyish lenses? This is the bag that I use for my everyday shooting.
It's not huge, but it's big enough to hold these three lenses that I like to have with me for just my normal walk- around shooting. I can get these three lenses and my fairly large full frame sensor camera all in this bag. I've also got a couple of extra pockets here which is handy for carrying additional memory cards which can be very important. Let's see. I've also got a white balance card in here for ensuring that I get good white balance and I keep a remote control because a lot of times I'm shooting in low light on a tripod and want to be able to attach a remote control to keep from having to shake my camera while I'm shooting.
All that goes on here and this is a shoulder bag. I can sling it over one shoulder or put it all the way over my head. I prefer this to a backpack because a lot of times I'm shooting in the backcountry and I'm hiking, and I want to be able to also carry either a backpack with food and supplies in it or a CamelBak with some water in it, something like that. So this allows me to carry a couple of bags at one time. What I also like about this is I can get to it without having to take it off. I've got full access to everything right here, unlike a backpack which I have to take off and turn it on and open up and pull stuff out.
This is a very practical day-to-day shooting bag. If I'm going on a trip somewhere though, I'm probably taking more lenses than just these. These are the lenses that I use for my everyday stuff. But let's say I'm going somewhere where I know this is going to work for most days, but on some days maybe I'm going on safari, so I want to be sure that I've got a long telephoto lens with me. Maybe I'm going to a friend's wedding and I know I'm going to be shooting indoors a lot, so I want to take some flashes with me. That's a lot of stuff to carry, too much to go in here. So sometimes you need a separate bag just to get all your gear to where you're going.
Then maybe you cherry-pick the gear you want for that particular day and put it in your carry around shooting bag. This is what we have here. This is a nice big photo backpack that I can take with me and I can put a lot of stuff in here. If you open it up, you'll see that this is actually a camera specific bag. This is not just a big backpack. This is a bag that is designed for carrying camera gear. I've got movable panels in here that I can use to custom fit my exact selection of stuff. So I've got a body in here, I've got a couple of big lenses, I've got this nice long telephoto, a couple of primes, a flash. I've also got lots of compartments here for carrying memory cards, white balance cards, remote controls, those can all zip into there, and I've got some external pockets.
If I'm going somewhere where weather might be a concern, not so much water but dust. If I am going to go somewhere very sandy, I want to look at a bag that's got sealed zippers. If I need any waterproofing, that's about an entirely different category of packing. That's not so much a day-to-day shooting thing. This is a backpack. Because it's so big, it's got a hit belt, which is nice because that will put some of the weight on my hips and take it off of my shoulders. However, if I'm going on a long flight where I'm making a lot of connections, carrying this on my back all day long is going to be pretty tired, particularly if it's big airports that I'm having to run from terminal to terminal through.
That's where a bag like this scores. It can hold as much stuff as that bag, but it has the benefit of these two wheels back here which is very nice. It's like a rolling suitcase. I can pop this up, roll it around, but I've also got these backpack straps. So if I've got to go up an escalator or run to catch a cab or something, I can just throw it on my back and take off. Both of these bags I packed with the intention that I'm going to carry them on. I don't want to check this kind of photo gear, particularly in a soft bag, and especially on an international flight where a lot of times things from checked bags can tend to disappear.
So you want to before you go ensure that your bag is the right size to go in, in an overhead compartment. More important possibly is weight. International air flights especially, going through international airports, they're going to be very picky about weight. If this is just a pound or two over, they're going to ask you to take something out of it, and suddenly you're pulling your $1000 lens out of your bag and wondering what to do with it. So find just a cloth shopping bag or something that you could stuff in one of the outside compartments. You can pull that out, put your extra stuff in there, and at least you've got a way to carry it around until you can get it back in the bag.
Remember too that you are not just carrying camera gear and this goes into your gear selection considerations. You're probably possibly going to take a computer with you. That might require some extra hard- drives, a computer power supply, and maybe extra batteries. Of course you're also carrying camera batteries, camera chargers, all that stuff adds up. So that goes into possibly your lens selection. You might think, boy, I'd love to have that 15 millimeter fisheye with me, but realistically I'm not going to use it that much and it's better for me to have more batteries. So it's a constant kind of multidimensional problem of what gear do you take and how do you pack it.
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