For Unconventional Images, Use An Unconventional Lens

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I don’t know about other photographers, but for me, taking photos is not only fun, it’s almost a compulsion. If I go somewhere interesting, I HAVE to take photos. If I don’t, I feel that I’ve missed out on the full experience.

Here’s the problem though: when you visit a place you’re not familiar with, it’s easy to take the same photos that every other visitor takes. What’s the satisfaction in that? You may as well buy a postcard.

There is, in my opinion, a way to avoid that trap (hint: it’s the title of this post), but first a little background.

Over a decade ago, when I started to get serious about photography, I had the opportunity to talk to a National Geographic photographer. Like most beginners, I had one big question: what camera and lens should I get? He told me that he and most of his colleagues used a Canon 5D, and that the Canon 24-70mm / f.2.8 was his favorite piece of glass. Both pieces of gear were expensive, but I took the plunge, bought both items, and have never regretted it.

While the original 5D is now my backup for a newer model, I still use the 24-70 lens all the time. It’s almost as sharp as a prime, and the field of view is perfect for scenics, food and general travel & tourism subject matter.

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There’s only one problem: so many other people use the 24-70 that sometimes my pictures look a lot like other people’s pictures. That bothers me. So, on a recent business trip to New York City, I decided to challenge myself: once my assignment was over, and I had some time to wander the city, I’d use only the lens I normally use LEAST. In my case, that’s a 14mm / f2.8 Samyang prime. I bought it a few years ago for architectural interiors, but found that I preferred the Sigma 12-24 for that application. Ever since, the Samyang has sat on my shelf feeling lonely.

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My idea was simple: to avoid getting generic, picture-postcard shots of the Big Apple (which is probably the most photographed city on Earth), I’d use the 14mm lens to capture super wide-angle shots that would immediately look different from the average NYC Instagram or Flickr feed.

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As you can see, the Samyang was very happy to be taken out to play. Here are a just a few of the very non-generic photos I took over the course of just one and a half days in the city. My conclusion? The experiment was a success! By challenging myself to use a different lens, I was able to escape the trap of taking photos that look like everyone else’s. From now on, when I travel, the Samyang 14mm is traveling with me!

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  1 comment for “For Unconventional Images, Use An Unconventional Lens

  1. June 28, 2016 at 9:09 pm

    Very nice work.

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