Jonathan Fleming's Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘lenses

Don’t Start with a Plan

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When I first started Suki’s 52 week project this year, I tried my best to have a very specific concept in mind for each image, planning each shot as meticulously as I could before we even headed out the door. I’m nearly halfway through the project now, and I’ve learned that having a plan is not always the best way to get a great shot. Reminds me of what Jay Maisel, a highly regarded NY based photographer once said:

Not knowing what you’re going to shoot is the great adventure. If you go out knowing what you’re going to shoot, the great adventure is gone. Most people work to have a plan; I’ve worked to not have a plan for shooting when I go out.

I love this advice, and I’ve done my best to incorporate the principle behind it not only in my 52 week project, but in my photography in general.

Nowadays, the only planning I do when I go out to take a photo of Suki is deciding the location. Once we’ve settled into a spot, I then start scanning the area and coming up with ideas. It forces you to be observant, to look intently for interesting compositions, lines, and light. Instead of locking down on a specific plan, you find yourself exploring with a free and clear mind, and exploration and adventure is what makes photography great.

My best images of Suki this year are the ones where no planning was involved, where I’d just say “hey, let’s go to [insert location here] and try to get some sort of shot of Suki.” The images you see in this post, for example, are from a series I shot of her last Sunday during an early morning stroll. No plan involved. Just me, some camera gear, and a Shiba Inu. We walked and walked until I saw an element of the environment that struck me. It’s a great way to approach your photography. Just make sure you always have your camera with you!

My Favorite Lenses

So lately I’ve decided that my two absolute favorite lenses in my bag right now are…..[drum-roll]…. The Nikkor 70-300mm VR (used in the top image) and the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 (used in the third photo from the top). Yup. My longest telephoto and my widest wide-angle. Both allow me to greatly exaggerate the perception of distance in an image. Want to really add some impact and dimension to your photos? Move further away from your subject and rack out your telephoto lens. Using an ultra-wide? Move in super close to your subject. Experiment and see what happens!

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Camera Info:
Nikon D300s
1st image: Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR, 260mm f/8, 1/400 second, ISO200
3rd image: Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, 11mm, f/16, 1/320 second, ISO200
CLS triggered SB-800 + SB-900 used in both images

Tokina 50-135mm f/2.8 AT-X 535 PRO DX

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(Taken with my Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3)

My wife is keenly aware of my equipment wish list, and came home from work yesterday with several photographic goodies for me, including this fast telephoto from Tokina. My fast zoom kit is now complete, with three constant aperture lenses covering an 11-135mm (16.5-200mm full-frame equivalent) range.

What I love about my three-lens system is how compact the optics are compared to their full-frame counterparts. This 50-135mm f/2.8, for instance, is a lot smaller than I thought it would be at 5.32 inches in length, weighing 1.86 lbs. To get similar focal length coverage with a constant aperture on a full-frame Nikon camera, you’d need a lens like the $2400 Nikkor 70-200mm VRII, which is a whopping 8.1 inches long at a hefty 3.2 lbs. To me, this is a big advantage of the DX system: smaller, lighter optics that make for better mobility and portability. Not to mention affordability: I picked up all three of my third-party constant aperture zooms for less than the price of the new Nikkor 70-200 VRII alone (Tokina 11-16, Tamron 17-50 VC, Tokina 50-135).

I shot a bunch of images last night to make sure I had a good copy of the Tokina 50-135, and am astounded at the results so far. This is one sharp optic! It relies on my camera’s focus motor to drive focus, so it doesn’t focus as fast or as quiet as an AF-S lens. I find the focus motor in my D300s to be pretty fast, however, and had no problems tracking my dog around the house in low light.

(Nikon D300s + Tokina 50-135mm f/2.8 at 85mm f/5 ISO400 1/60 Second)

Like my Tokina 11-16, this lens features very high quality construction, with a rugged all-metal casing and exceptional fit and finish. The zoom and focus rings are well-damped and move with buttery-smooth precision, and the included (but not removable) tripod collar is also a plus for me. What’s missing? VR and AF-S, but at the price I (er…the wife) paid, I think I can live without those features for now. I really hope Nikon releases some DX lenses in this range, but I’m not holding my breath!

There’s relatively little information on this Tokina on the internet incidentally, which I find strange since it’s so excellent. In fact, from the research I did before receiving it as a gift, it appears that Tokina discontinued this lens.

Update:

Want to see more images taken with the Tokina 50-135mm? Head on over to my Flickr page. I just got back from a trip to Japan, where I used this lens extensively. You can view my Japan set by clicking here. Enjoy!