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Join photographer, author, and teacher Ben Long on location in San Francisco as he explores the creative options provided by the kinds of lenses and lens accessories that don't always make it into most camera bags.
The course begins with a look at several common and inexpensive lens attachments, from polarizers to neutral density filters. The course then explores ultra-wide angle and fisheye lenses as well as ultra-long telephoto and macro lenses. The course concludes with a look at tilt-shift lenses, which are useful for architectural photography and special effects, and at offbeat lenses, such as Lensbaby and Holga attachments.
The course also contains Photoshop postproduction advice and examples that illustrate the creative possibilities that an expanded lens collection provides. And because some specialty lenses are extremely expensive, the course also contains advice on renting gear.
Somewhere behind me is the Golden Gate Bridge. You might notice it. We're here. This is your lighting guy comes to town, you want to show him around. You take him out to the Golden Gate Bridge and he decides he wants his picture taken in front of it. So, Greg is standing here. I've just got this incredible vista in front of me. We really are lucky with the weather today. There's no fog. I can see all the way from the bridge to Alcatraz. And a lot of times in a situation like this, your first impulse is wow, look at all this. I got to get it all! And so you reach for your ultra-wide lens.
Now, watch what happens when I use my ultra- wide lens to get a shot of Greg here. All right! How about a smile Greg? There we go! All right! I get this. Boy, there's a lot here. Yeah, I've got the bridge, and I've got Sausalito behind me and a little bit of Angel Island, and a lot of bay. But there's all this stuff on the right side that I don't need. There's this tree that I don't need. What's the subject? Is it Greg or is it the bridge? This is not a very good picture.
So, my next step would be to go to a different lens. Ultra-wide is not going to work. So I've changed to my mighty 100 to 400 millimeter lens. You didn't even see me do that. Wasn't that cool? This is an extraordinarily super-telephoto lens. This might actually be more telephoto power than you need for most situations. But I want to show you something that you can do with a lens this strong. You can also do this with 200 millimeter, 300 millimeter, even 150. You're going to get some of the effect that we're going to see here. So, I'm going to start thinking very differently about this shot.
Before I had way too much in it; I want to get it down to Greg and the bridge. So, I'm going to zoom my lens in all the way to 100. Now, where I'm standing right here, I would have to really move around a lot. And even still here, I've got way too much extra stuff. I have another problem in this image that we'll talk about in a minute. So, the great thing about this telephoto lens is I can go farther away. So, I'm going to come back here somewhere. I am still zoomed out to 100. I'm going to see what I can get here.
I need to go back a tiny bit more. I get this. I'm shooting with a deep depth of field here, f/11. This is getting there. I've cut out a lot of clutter. It's down to Greg and the bridge, but the composition is kind of dumb. I've got Greg standing there, and then just up in the corner is the Golden Gate Bridge. It's a weird place for it. We can actually put a little thought balloon around it, and it would like he was thinking about the Golden Gate Bridge because the placement is just kind of strange. And then I've got all this extra space above his head.
He is the subject of the image. I want to fill the frame with him, but I still want people to know he is in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. So I'm going to try something different here. I'm going to keep my same focal length. I'm going to keep my same camera position, but I'm going to get down here because this will change the relationship between Greg and bridge. From here, he and the bridge are sharing the space a little bit better. I actually need to get a little closer. And this is very often the thing with a telephoto lens--I'm sorry, a telephoto lens. You're going to have to move around a lot because you can really control, as you see here, the relationship of objects in the frame, how they relate to each other. So, this is great.
Now, I've got Greg is plainly the subject of the image. He is filling the entire frame, and the bridge is still back there. Now, you may think, well, but you're not seeing the whole bridge. You can trust your viewer to understand certain things in your image. The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most recognizable icons in the world. They know what this is. Even if they think, oh! there he is standing in front of the Bay Bridge. That's okay. It's still a big bridge. You're still getting the bridge in there. They're going to understand it. You don't have to finish the entire thing for them. That said, this shot is still not quite right as far as I'm concerned.
If you've ever been to the Golden Gate Bridge, then you know that one of the things that really gets you about it when you first see it is it's enormous. It's difficult to explain what it feels like when you kind of walk up over the hill and there's just this giant orange bridge there. I'm not getting that in this shot that we just took. If you look at it again, you see Greg looks like he has grown to 80 stories tall. That's not really what I'm going for here. I want to capture the grandeur of the bridge, which is that it's enormous. It dwarfs everything around it. And right now I've got him dwarfing the bridge.
So, as you know, if you've watched my Foundations of Photography: Lenses course, as focal length gets longer, the sense of depth in your scene gets compressed. Things that were far away seemed to be closer. I'm going to try and use that to my advantage here. We often think of a really long telephoto lens as being just about shooting things that are really far away. I'm using it here to shoot something that's pretty close up. Greg is not that far away from me. The reason I'm choosing this lens is that by going to a longer focal length, I can really squish the depth in my scene and perhaps restore the bridge back to something that feels more right about its size.
Again, when I come out here, I need to think about, what is it that's really striking me about this location? It's the size of the bridge. So I want to take images that are going to convey that scale. So, what I'm going to do now is move further back because as I zoom in, I'm going to need more distance to my subject. And as I change camera position, a few different things are going to happen. So, I could take this shot standing up like I did before, but if I do, I'm going to have the same problem with the headroom above my subject, above Greg, and I can see all that through the viewfinder. So I'm going to go ahead and just assume that I need to be back down here, like I was earlier.
So, one thing that happens as you change camera position is that the relationship between you and your subject and the background gets all screwed up. So, I'm going to need to make some changes here. I'm going to have Greg move. Greg, could you move to your right a little bit, please? I'm just going to tuck him in. Tiny bit more. I am going to just tuck him in there up against the bridge. That's looking good. So, now I'm going to take my shot, and I'm going to stick with deep depth of field here. I'm going to stay with a smaller aperture. I'm going to frame the entire tower, and I get this. Okay.
This is very different than what we had before, and I think we're zeroing in on the shot. The bridge is back to its true grandeur. It looks much larger than Greg does, but Greg still looks like my subject. I've cropped the bridge a little bit, as I did before. I'm trusting that the viewer is going to understand what they're looking at. I've still got all that empty space above his head. I'm not sure that that matters, but I want to try working my shot here. I'm going to try a few different things. I'm going to go in tighter. I'm going to really fill the frame with Greg, and I'm going to need to get him to move again.
Greg, could you move a half step to your right? Yeah, that's it. I'm not really sure how much a half step is, but apparently it's about that much. So, I'm cutting the top of the bridge off here. But again, I think that we can trust the viewer to understand that this is the Golden Gate Bridge. And by cutting it off, it actually makes the bridge look even larger. Now, if you're wanting to take a picture of the bridge, that's a different thing. I'm trying to take a picture of Greg with the bridge in the background. So, it doesn't matter that I'm losing a lot of detail. There are some other things that I can do here.
I'm going to switch to a shallower depth of field. I'm going to go down to f/5, which is as far as this lens will go, and grab that same shot again. And now I've got a nice soft bridge in the background. Now, this is a weird situation to be shooting, and Greg is way, way over there. I'm way, way over here. If there were a lot of people around, I might feel self-conscious. Here I am out by myself here. Here he is out by himself. Don't worry about that. I promise you those people are not going to go home, and be talking about, wow! We saw these two people taking a picture in front of the Golden Gate Bridge and they were really far apart.
Can you believe it? No one is looking at you. They're dealing with their own stuff. Don't worry about what you have to do to get the shot that you want in a situation like this. And remember that telephoto lenses are not just for shooting things far away; they are very often useful when shooting close-up subjects because they allow you to manipulate the relationship between your subject and your background.
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