Changing Lenses or Maybe Not?
One of our readers, Antoine, raised the important issue of changing lenses (thank you Antoine for sharing this with us). He writes:
“How do you handle the lens changes during such trips? Do you prepare so much by scouting that you don’t have to change lenses too often during the trip? Especially if there is dust around, you may not want to change the lens on a mirror-less.
I always hesitate so much between focal lengths (I have a X100s with the two converters) that I sometime think zooms are probably the only solution… but it’s probably coming from a lack of experience and skill in “seeing” the picture before taking it, I guess.”
We don’t have a special formula for changing lenses other than always trying to be careful, especially in dusty environments. However, this dilemma goes deeper that one would initially think.
Many photographers, especially those who have always shot with zooms, struggle with lens choices. In fact, constant hesitation and doubt about the right focal length could overwhelm or even paralyze the entire process. What is the root of this problem and how can it be overcome?
When you look back at the history of photography you can see that most famous photographers shot their entire body of work with just one or two prime lenses. For example, Henri Cartier-Bresson shot most of his work with a 50mm lens. And there is good reason for that!
We believe that the “one camera–one lens” philosophy should be the starting point for every student of photography. Only then, should an additional focal length be introduced but no more than three (of course there are some exceptions, like zooms for wedding photography).
After years of shooting with a zoom and different primes, we settled on the following solution: we always leave our house with the Fuji X100S (in fact we shoot most of our work with this camera).
For our professional work our setup is as follows:
For events and photographing people (wedding, family photos, etc): Fuji X100S with its 23mm lens (35mm in FF) and Fuji X-T1 with the 56mm F1.4 (84mm in FF). Those two focal lengths coupled with our legs and creativity cover almost every single shooting situation.
Our other fine art landscape setup is Fuji X100S and Fuji X-T1 with the XF 14mm F2.8 (21mm in FF terms). It covers most shooting situations.
The benefits of minimizing your gear are enormous. Here are some of them:
Pre-visualize – one lens allows you to master your vision and pre-visualize a scene before you actually take a photo. Pre-visualization is a very important aspect of photography, which not only allows your creativity to flow freely but also activates your artistic senses to create a great photograph. If you think you can pick up your camera, shoot and expect a great photograph – you are on the wrong track. The road to seeing is much longer and tougher than that.
Focus on details – using one lens forces you to evaluate every inch of your frame. Focusing on your main subject and ignoring the background is one of the most common mistakes made by new photographers. The difference between a good and great photograph is often in the far corners, the little things in the background. In real photography, every single thing on the photograph, or rather what you leave out, matters!
Get creative – one of the most common sights is a photographer standing in one spot with a huge zoom lens. Sure, s/he may be impressed by the size of the glass but s/he may not realize how much damage is done using this approach. One lens will get you to look for different perspectives and get you moving to see something fresh and unusual.
Remove the burden of lens-envy – what a burden it is! Not only does your heavy bag takes a toll on your shoulder but much more damaging is the constant burden of wondering: “Which lens should I use?” You will always want the lens that is not on your camera. This burden of lens-envy distracts you from what’s important. Believe me, more lenses won’t make you a better photographer.
The best way to tackle the lens-envy disease is to venture outside your home with one camera and one lens. After a few weeks you will no longer feel the need for more. The road to a great photograph leads through a rigorous elimination process, both in terms of seeing and with regard to your equipment.
© Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.