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Monday, May 24, 2010

Old lens, new trick

A New Perspective
© 2010 Simon Hucko

I know, I do a lot of writing about fast primes here. There's a reason, though. These lenses are relatively inexpensive and add a lot of creative potential to your kit. I've already talked about the nice shallow depth of field and the advantages in low light. Today I'm going to talk about a new (to me) trick I started playing with last week.

I've seen a few shots before where people set their 50 down on a table and shoot through it, leaving everything out of focus except what appears in the glass. I'm not sure exactly how this bit of physics magic happens, but suffice to say it takes framing your subject to the extreme. I'm not quite sure what possessed me to give it a try when I went out for my walk the other day. Could have been the gray weather combined with the usual route, I needed something else to get the creative juices flowing. For some reason, the idea of shooting through my 50 came to mind, and I decided to give it a try.

Technical info: set your prime wide open. My 50 has an aperture ring, so that's no problem. Canon shooters, I think you have to put the lens on your body, set the aperture you want, hit the DOF preview button, and remove the lens. If you can't do either of these, there should be an aperture control lever on the back of the lens somewhere, you'll have to manually hold it open while you shoot (or come up with some way to hold it open, fold up a piece of paper or something). I put my kit zoom on my camera set to f/5.6 for relatively shallow depth of field. Most shots were taken between 35-50mm with the focus racked all the way in. Frame the subject you want with the prime (easiest when you're not looking through your camera), then line the shot up through your camera and vary the lens to camera distance until you get the subject in focus. This takes a bit of getting used to, especially because the image in the lens is flipped. Shoot, repeat. A wider angle includes more of the scene in the shot, a longer angle makes the image in the lens a larger part of the frame.

It's not something I'll do all the time, but it's a fun little trick to have up your sleeve. I'm sure there will be situations where it'll be the perfect little detail shot or a fun new perspective on something that's been photographed a million times before (famous monuments or landmarks, for instance).

I encourage you to give it a try. Just be very careful not to drop or scratch your lens, and make sure you clean any dust or smudges off before mounting it back on your camera. Feel free to share your results in the [tob] group or in the comments here. Also, if you have any other creative ways to use the gear you have, we'd love to hear about it!


Get your own here:

Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens


[title of blog] on flickr

1 comment:

  1. Love this one too! I think it's a great series of shots.