Saturday, May 19, 2012

50 mm of Baltimore

This week I had to make a quick trip to Baltimore.  I wasn't even going to be there 24 hours.  But I was going to be downtown, near the Inner Harbor, and couldn't stand the thought of not bringing a my camera with me.  So, I ditched my camera bag, travelled light and found room for a camera body and one lens in my laptop bag.

The one lens?  The mighty Nikkor 50mm f/1.8.  The first year and a half that I owned a DSLR, I shot almost exclusively with the 50 mm.  It was sharp and performed so well in low light compared to anything else I owned that once I saw the results, I couldn't bear to shoot with a lesser optic. 

Of course using a fixed 50 mm lens brings constraints and limitations.  No zoom, no wide angle and no poaching street shots from the comfortable distance and autonomy provided by at 200 or 300 mm.  And yet there is an elegance in the simplicity of this light weight, $120 wonder lens.  The limitations drive creativity, making you zoom with your feet or use a new angle.  Get close to your subject and, gasp, maybe even talk with a stranger and admit you are a photographer and taking their picture.  Depth of field is your friend with the lens' fast 1.8 aperture.  Backgrounds can blur and you can render bokeh like a master.  Night time city streets offer new opportunities with such a fast lens in hand.  I've accumulated other optics since my days of 50 mm exclusivity, but it was great fun to force myself back into the 50mm mindset and re-learn all that it taught me. 

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