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Let your lens reshape you

From: The Practicing Photographer

Video: Let your lens reshape you

A lot has changed in the digital photography world over the last 15 years. This is not a technical change, but I would say ubiquity is a big change.

Let your lens reshape you

A lot has changed in the digital photography world over the last 15 years. At this point, we're so used to shooting digitally, we may pay lip service to the days of film and understand that it's there. But it's easy to take for granted just what has changed and how quickly. I've assembled here some images that I think were impossible to shoot Some of them even just ten years ago. Now, there's reason I've done and we'll, we'll get to that, but first I think this is just an interesting little exercise to look at some impossible photos.

Photos that I could not have taken 10 in some cases 15 years ago. First of all, there are changes that have come about because of lenses. Now, it's not that I could not have shot an image this wide 10 or 15 years ago But it's much easier now to shoot a high quality image this wide. Optics have improved so dramatically that extremely wide angle lenses are much higher quality than they used to be. They're cheaper, you can get them in more form factors, meaning they can fit on more different types of cameras.

Here's a great example of something else in addition to being sharp from edge to edge to not having vignetting. I don't get really bad flare out of a wide angle lens the way that I used to so this has been a big improvement in lens technology. Going even further, fish eye lenses, high quality fish eye lenses are now much less expensive than they used to be and much more versatile. They have less, same thing less distortion, less flare. Of course, the same thing is true on the telephoto end as well. Telephoto lenses are of much higher quality than they used to be. Again, it's not to say that there weren't great lenses in the past, but they've been democratized.

It's much easier to get your hands on a fantastic lens for much less money than it used to be in. I think a lot of that has to do with computer aided design and manufacture of lenses. This really changed things over the last few years and changed them for the better. Metering has really improved since the first auto meters started appearing in cameras a long time ago, decades ago. But really dramatic improvement. Meter's able to figure out very difficult situations like this extreme dynamic range or this scene with a lot of complex lighting in it.

Metering that works very, very quickly, very effectively so that I can shoot fleeting moments without worrying about my exposure. This is a huge improvement and this is one that's really difficult to appreciate if you've always had an auto mode. If you didn't have to calculate meters your meterings yourself or worry about it. it's difficult to appreciate just how great it is having these cameras that work well in dark situations, high dynamic range situations. And there's low light. Your meters work great in low light nowadays, but more than that. And digital image sensor is able to capture images in low light that no film could ever have captured.

This has opened up a vast world of subject matter. In some cases, more than half the day is now open to you when it wasn't before because light levels got too low. This has been and to my mind one of the most dramatic improvements of photography in the last 10 to 15 years. Brought about because of replacing film with digital sensors. Dynamic range has not improved at the same rate of acceleration as other technologies, but it has improved. Sometimes, I'm talking about improvements to actual sensors, but in other cases it's a possibility of post-production techniques, such as HDR imaging.

High dynamic range imaging, that allows us to capture texture, detail, and light in a way that we simply could before the advent of digital cameras. And even before, just 10 years ago. So this has been another tremendous change. This is not a technical change, but I would say ubiquity is a big change. There are cameras everywhere now. We all have cameras with us all the time. Here is a case where I'm on a plane flight. I spot my airplane shadow in the ocean, and sure enough, I've got a camera right there on my phone. I can grab the shot.

We can now take images anywhere we are, anytime we stumble across something interesting. even in locations where it would of been very difficult to work with a camera before. That's made a big change. If you've ever taken a series of imagines and stitched them together into a panorama. You have done something that was not possible before the turn of the 21st century. David Hockney made great use of collaging techniques, layering photos on top of each other. But we can actually stitch them together so that you have a single, unified point of perspective.

And that is a fantastic, again, digital-only change that has come about. Black and white photography has been a cornerstone of photographic craft since the invention of photography. And with digital, we now get post processing techniques that allow us a creative freedom and flexibility that we simply didn't have before. Yes, dark room technicians could do amazing work. Now more people can do amazing black and white work. And actually even push it farther than even the best dark room printers could have years in years past. So this has been a very important change.

Now who cares, so what, great, so we've come a lot farther than we w, than where we were before. I think this matters because the change that has been brought about has not just been a change in technology. The drastically under rated American Philosopher, Marshall McLuhan said, we become what we behold. More importantly he said, we shape our tools and then our tools shape us. I think this is particularly relevant to photographers. When I look at some of these images that I say were impossible 10 or 15 years ago, I'm particularly taken by the wide angle ones.

I see the world differently since I started shooting with an extremely wide angle lens. I have a 16 to 35 millimeter lens that I adore. And it's probably the one I use the most. And it's really changed how I recognize the world. It's how I change the world as I move through, it's how I perceive the world as I move through it. In other words, that lens has changed my nervous system. My sense of vision works differently because of that tool that I've been using. I think this is a very important thing to understand as photographers, because this is part of learning how to embrace a new lens or a different type of shooting.

If you've just gotten say a fish eye lens, or a super telephoto lens, or a macro lens, and you're feeling a little frustrated with it. It's possibly because your eye hasn't yet learned to see through it properly, or in the way that it needs you. You have to let the lens change your eye. You need to learn to recognize how it is that the lens works. You need to, as McLewin said, let the tool reshape you. And I would offer you this exercise. Take even, you don't even need a new lens, take a lens that you already have, a zoom lens that you already have And think about whether you shoot at one end more than the other.

Do you typically always shoot wide angle? Do you typically shoot telephoto? Do you only stand in the middle? Do you never go to the middle? Pick that area that is your weak spot and start shooting with it exclusively for a while. It's going to be difficult, it's going to be frustrating. Personally, I never shoot with a normal lens. I never shoot with a 15 millimeter equivalent on a full-frame camera. I need to do that Because I can't see the world that way. If I do that for a month exclusively, I will begin to see the differently because of that lens. Not only will that change my vision in the world.

It will make me a better photographer and a more flexible photographer because I will more lenses in my arsenal. So, give this a try. It's going to be a frustrating exercise, but its really worth it. Let a lens reshape you.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for The Practicing Photographer
The Practicing Photographer

75 video lessons · 46419 viewers

Ben Long
Author

 
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  1. 6m 25s
    1. Getting your project out into the world
      6m 25s
  2. 1m 35s
    1. Introducing The Practicing Photographer
      1m 35s
  3. 7h 16m
    1. Choosing a camera
      5m 27s
    2. Looking at light as a subject
      2m 22s
    3. Using a small reflector to add fill light
      5m 45s
    4. Editing photo metadata with PhotosInfo Pro for iPad
      6m 30s
    5. Let your lens reshape you
      7m 26s
    6. Compositing street photography images with Photoshop
      7m 44s
    7. Expand your filter options with step-up and step-down rings
      3m 56s
    8. Shooting without a memory card
      3m 6s
    9. Give yourself a year-long assignment
      5m 28s
    10. Working with reflections
      1m 26s
    11. Exploring mirrorless cameras
      7m 25s
    12. Batch processing photos with the Adobe Image Processor
      7m 30s
    13. Limiting yourself to a fixed-focal-length lens
      2m 13s
    14. Creating tiny worlds: Shooting technique
      4m 15s
    15. Creating tiny worlds: Post-processing techniques
      11m 41s
    16. Shooting macro shots on an iPhone
      3m 18s
    17. Using a tripod
      3m 33s
    18. Wildlife and staying present
      5m 58s
    19. Batch exposure adjustments on raw files
      6m 52s
    20. Why Shoot Polaroid
      11m 12s
    21. Seizing an opportunity
      4m 4s
    22. Four photographers do a light-as-subject exercise
      12m 24s
    23. Shooting macro bug photos with a reversed lens
      4m 54s
    24. Varnishing a photo for a painterly effect
      13m 36s
    25. Shooting wildlife
      7m 24s
    26. Discussion on how to shoot architecture
      12m 27s
    27. Using a lens hood
      4m 48s
    28. Working with themes
      2m 48s
    29. Setting up an HDR time lapse
      7m 55s
    30. Processing an HDR time lapse
      7m 55s
    31. Two perspectives on travel photography
      12m 28s
    32. Scanning Photos
      5m 37s
    33. Photo assignment: shooting an egg
      3m 13s
    34. Reviewing the egg shot images
      6m 47s
    35. Shooting in your own backyard
      4m 38s
    36. Jpeg iPad import process
      3m 17s
    37. Shooting a product shot in open shade
      9m 34s
    38. Reviewing the product shot images
      4m 5s
    39. Warming up
      3m 26s
    40. Taking a panning action shot
      10m 17s
    41. Scanning polaroid negatives and processing in Photoshop
      8m 17s
    42. Shooting a silhouette
      3m 9s
    43. Going with an ultra-light gear configuration
      5m 29s
    44. Working with masks and calculations in Photoshop
      12m 38s
    45. Working with flash for macro photography
      4m 55s
    46. Colorizing a black and white photo in Photoshop
      5m 10s
    47. Using duct tape and zip ties in the field
      4m 14s
    48. When the on camera flash is casting a shadow
      3m 4s
    49. Using Lightroom on the road
      6m 28s
    50. Listening to your camera to get good exposure
      2m 20s
    51. Shooting a successful self portrait with a phone
      7m 18s
    52. Switching to Lightroom from another application
      9m 48s
    53. Photographing animals in wildlife refuges
      6m 41s
    54. Shooting level
      2m 42s
    55. Photoshop and Automator
      8m 54s
    56. Shooting when the light is flat
      3m 23s
    57. Discussing the business of stock photography
      9m 48s
    58. Shooting tethered to a monitor
      3m 21s
    59. Making a 360 degree panorama on the iPhone
      4m 45s
    60. Understanding the three flash setup
      3m 34s
    61. Shooting a three flash portrait
      4m 6s
    62. Understanding the differences with third party lenses
      4m 43s
    63. Understanding why files look different on depending on device
      5m 25s
    64. Working with a geotagging app on the iPhone
      4m 43s
    65. Using high speed flash sync to dim ambient light
      7m 29s
    66. Using your iPad as a second monitor
      5m 46s
    67. Understanding exposure with a leaf shutter camera
      3m 28s
    68. Photography practice through mimicry
      8m 8s
    69. Canon wireless flash with built in radio control
      5m 59s
    70. Posing and shooting pairs of people
      5m 35s
    71. Shooting with a shape in mind
      3m 15s
    72. Shooting tethered to a laptop
      4m 40s
    73. Softboxes vs. umbrellas
      2m 55s

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