Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Leaving the Safety of the Typical Zoom Combo

Yesterday, we went to Disneyland (surprise).  Since my wife was coming, I decided to bring a two-camera combination.  Usually, I bring the event photographer's typical combination of a standard zoom (24-70 or similar) and telephoto zoom (70-200 or similar).  Specifically, I liked to use the 24-70 2.8G on a D600, and the Sigma 50-150 2.8 (non-OS) on an APS-C body.  That combination of zooms covers virtually any situation and perspective, from a very wide 24mm to 225mm equivalent and at f/2.8 all the way.  Pretty darn good combination.

However I think the combination falls a little short in some ways.  Specifically, the 24-70 is one of my most often used focal lengths, and is probably the lens I would choose if I could have only one lens period but I sometimes find the images from a 24-70 a little too tame.  I like images with shallow DOF and to some extent I get that with the 24-70 on a full frame (compared to a 17-50 on APS-C) but it's not shallow enough to really wake my eyes up.  Another kind of image that I find interesting is one with zany lines like those of an ultrawide or fisheye.  Again, at 24mm the 24-70 can somewhat be used to get those lines, but nowhere to the same extent as a true ultrawide.

As for the Sigma 50-150, yes it does deliver the shallow DOF that I like but at the telephoto focal lengths that I typically associate with shallow DOF.  It's what I expect.  So even with the shallow DOF, the images don't make me do a double take.

I decided to try a different lens combination: for very shallow DOF, an 85 1.8G on a D600.  For the crazy lines and wild angles, the Tokina 11-16 2.8 on an APS-C.  Because it was sunny, I decided to use the Fuji S5 Pro.  So, no standard zoom.  Are there shots that I could miss because of the wrong focal length?  Possibly.  Fortunately, I'm not an event photographer or a documentarian.

As a footnote, one benefit of this combination is that my gear can all fit into a smallish Lowepro Nova 3 AW camera bag.

Anyway, here is how the shots turned out.

I didn't expect the park  to be so full yesterday.

With my family in the shade, the sun's rimlight highlighted them nicely.

Photo opp with Pluto.  My family was getting ice cream inside so we didn't get a shot ourselves, but I took a shot of this happy kid.  Note that the background is definitely blurred even though I was shooting from a distance away.

Come on, Sophia!  Why would you be afraid of a 6-foot tall rat?
This shot was taken by a Disney photographer who took it with my S5 with Tokina 11-16.

Lifelong friends. 
I wish I can be as cool as this gentleman when I'm his age.  Mickey was created in 1928.  I am supposing he has known Mickey all his life.

Ice Cream in January

As my son was eating ice cream, I asked him to sit with the sun behind him to... er... not have the sun in his eyes. ahem.  Meanwhile I saw this colorfully-dressed lady a distance away.  When she moved into the background, I took the shot.

I liked how the sunlight reflected off the table to uplight my wife.  Meanwhile a balloon vendor stood in the background and I took a shot as he moved into the right place.

I liked how the sun added a rim light on everyone.

On the go.
I ran ahead of my family to be in a position to take their shot.  I looked around and saw the sun would give a nice rimlight, while they were in shadow, and the swoopy yellow line would add some energy to the shot.  When they moved into the frame I took the shot.

The rimlight accentuated my son nicely.

World of color
As we approached this sign, I saw a balloon vendor far away but coming closer.  I got into position and waited for him to move to the left side of the sign.

f/5.6.  Just wanted to see how sharp the 85 1.8G could get.

This was at f/5.6 as well.

Shopaholic training.  I positioned the shelves on the left to act as leading lines.

Added vignette in post to reduce the distracting elements around the edges of the frame.

There was a fountain show going on as we walked by this ferris wheel.  I waited for the fountain to frame the gondola.

I liked the reflection.

The long wait to have pictures developed.
I chose a perspective that would have foreground and background elements surrounding the subjects.  When those elements got blurred, they acted as a frame around the subjects, surrounding them with blur.

This scene was made for ultrawides. :)

Fireworks in Daylight

Sun flower

Sunny smile.
Here, the S5 was exposed +1.3 exposure comp (because I prefer clean shadows).  The S5 managed to hold the detail in the sky.

I like how this balloon looked like a sphere hovering in mid-air.  The shallow DOF emphasized the effect.
This new (for me) combination worked very well.  I definitely prefer it over my typical 24-70 + "75-225" combination.  I did "miss" some shots where a normal focal length was more appropriate.  For those I just used the Tokina 11-16 at 16mm then cropped it.

Something that may be of interest is that a full frame is probably not absolutely necessary here.  An APS-C camera with the 85 1.8 or the Sigma 50-150 could also fill the need for shallow DOF.