Do you find yourself shooting the same subjects with the same lens all of the time? Sometimes it’s fun to try to try to photograph a subject with the “wrong” lens.
Conventional wisdom tells me to use a telephoto lens to photo birds, a macro lens to photograph insects, and a wide-angle lens to photograph landscapes. Following that wisdom, I had my macro lens on my camera this past weekend when I traveled with some friends to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia, where I anticipated that I would be shooting flowers and insects.
As I was walking around a small pond, hoping in vain to spot some dragonflies, I suddenly came upon a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias). From a distance, vegetation at the water’s edge had blocked the heron from view. With the heron right in front of me, I had two choices—I could try to change to the 70-300mm lens that I had in my camera bag to gain some additional reach or I could make do with my macro lens. I chose the latter option.
My macro lens is a 180mm Tamron lens. It is slow and noisy when focusing at close distances, but when I pay attention to my technique, I have taken some pretty good macro shots with it. How would it do with a bird? I have gotten used to photographing birds with a 150-600mm Tamron lens that has a built-in image stabilization system and, obviously, lets me zoom in and out. My macro lens lacks both of these capabilities, so I really did not know how well it would fare, particularly when I tried to capture some in-flight shots of the heron—I was pretty sure the heron would be spooked by my presence and I proved to be right.
Well, I ended up following the heron around for quite a while and captured images of it at several locations, including in the air. It worked out remarkably well. In some ways, it was even more enjoyable shooting with a prime lens than with a zoom lens, because I could concentrate better on tracking and framing the subject—my decision process was simplified when I had to zoom with my feet.
I particularly like the first photo below. The lighting at that moment was very unusual and the colors are so vivid that a friend asked me if I had used some kind of art filter. With the exception of a few minor tweaks in post-processing, however, the image looks like it did when I first looked at it on the back of my camera.
So what did I learn? I have a greater appreciation of the capabilities of my macro lens and realize that I can use it for more than just macro shots. I think that I also appreciate better the experience of shooting with a prime lens—I think my zoom lenses sometimes make me a bit lazy and sloppy.
I look forward to trying to shoot some more little experiments like this of thinking outside of the box and shooting more subjects with the “wrong” lens.
© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.