When I got the idea for the 50 in 50 project, I thought it would be interesting to challenge myself to take a photo every day with the same lens, and to restrict myself to using only that lens for a whole month to see what new perspectives I could get by limiting my choices. I had initially thought I’d use my 24mm prime lens because, well, because I love it and I could see myself using just that lens forever and never using anything else.
But loving that lens so much, I didn’t think that it would be a huge challenge to not use it. The 50mm, on the other hand, well, that was something different. I wasn’t exactly sure why I’d bought it and I’d rarely used it. I think I’d heard it was a good lens for portraits but, as portraits aren’t a genre I’m very interested in at all, I’m not sure what I thought getting a portrait lens would achieve.
Nonetheless, I had it and it was sitting there in my lens bag unused. Everytime I went to use it, everything would be SO CLOSE and I’d hastily swap it for my 10-22 where I was a lot more comfortable.
I’d set myself the goal of completing a 30-day project with one lens in 2020 as part of my 20 in 2020 list that I write about on my other blog. I realised at the end of October that time was running out if I wanted to get this done. I was on a short break in the middle of a very frantic time at work when I decided, in that way you make crazy decisions when you’re relaxed and on holidays, that I was going to start the project the very next day with the 50mm lens and it was going to be a 50-day project, not a 30-day one. Because 50/50/50 was just so much tidier than 30/50/30.
The challenge was set and the rules were made. I locked all my other lenses away in my camera bag and began. The main rule was that I needed to make at least one photo every day and post it. I didn’t actually have to edit or post it the day I took the photo, as long as I’d actually captured a photo every day. I was a little bit flexible with the challenge and I did allow myself to continue to use my phone for thing I’d normally have used my phone for anyway like casual daily photos and Hobart Street Corners.
So what did I learn?
Not allowing myself to crop the images, other than what was needed to straighten them, meant that I had to be a lot more careful in my framing in-camera. In some photos that were very tight, I found it difficult to make the adjustments I needed to compensate for the viewfinder showing me a slightly different view than what appeared in the image. More than once, an image that I thought I’d framed perfectly ended up with something I thought I had excluded sneaking in on the right hand side, or the image wasn’t framed exactly the way I had thought it was.
It was also difficult to step back as far as I needed to get what I wanted into the frame, so in a lot of photos I ended up getting closer and including less in the image than I had intended. This is why there are a lot of photos from the challenge of the tops of buildings or details, because the 50mm perspective just didn’t allow everything to be included. There are limits to how far you can step back sometimes, because there are things like brick walls or roads with heavy traffic that stop you. Getting run over in the pursuit of my art is not really the way I want to end my life!
Doing this challenge forced me to look at things in a different way to how I would have if I was using the 10-22 lens and trying to get everything in. It helped me to isolate details that I found interesting and to really think about what was interesting about a scene. It often felt like it was a lot more of a personal way to make photos, to find the element that spoke to me within what was usually quite a cluttered space, and to focus on that and to show it from my perspective.
I’d go out with one idea in mind and then, after being in the space for a while and taking the photos I thought I’d wanted, I’d look around some more and see something completely different. I’d then go and explore the things that had caught my eye and end up with a totally different image to what I’d imagined. Light playing on a surface, a creeping shadow, a small feature that I’d never have noticed if I’d been looking at the big picture. Something on the ground. Something sitting on a fence. I’d capture these things as I saw them, and I’m glad I did because, more often than not, I’d come back the next day and they’d be gone.
Of course, not everything worked out as I’d wanted it to, and some days I ended up just taking a photo of something, anything, just to complete the challenge for that day. These were not some of my best moments.
I found I really enjoyed getting up close to a feature and making it the focal point of the image, with a very shallow depth of field to blur the background.
Some of these types of photos worked well; others not so much. I had a couple of days where I’d get a photo I really liked only to find I hadn’t quite nailed the focus, whereas similar shots with less pleasing composition were tack sharp. What to do there?! My choice was to go with composition over sharpness and to remind myself it’s okay to take more than one photo of exactly the same thing if I think it’s going to be a good one. Maybe one day I’ll remember this.
16 December was the last day of the challenge and I’d already picked out my subject a couple of days earlier on my morning walk, when there was great light. I’d taken a few test shots and thought I could make it work on the last day. All I needed was the same light and the same lack of traffic on the highway. Sadly, the light didn’t come and I woke up feeling very unwell. Not unwell enough to not go for a walk but not exactly raring to go either. So I didn’t get the photo I wanted to round the project off. I took a couple of photos while I was out but nothing really worked and all I wanted to do was go back to bed. Which I did.
It was a disappointing end to what had been a fantastic project that, for the most part, I enjoyed doing. Overall, I’m pleased with the photos I made for the project, and there are a couple that are up there with my favourite images of the year.
I’m not in any great rush to stop using the lens and, now I know some of its possibilities, I’m keen to use it more often.
It’s been a great experience for me. I would say if you feel like your photography is getting stuck or same-y or you want to mix it up a bit, set yourself a challenge like this where you restrict yourself to one element. Go out for a couple of weeks, a month, however long feels right to you, and make photographs every day within that restriction. Maybe you could restrict the lens, or the aperture you use (or even both!). You could restrict yourself to making a photo at a particular time of day or within a particular location. One challenge I have always been interested in is the “one block” challenge, where you can only make photographs of things that are within one block of your town for whatever period you choose. Maybe a back and white challenge is more your thing (I did that for a year in 2018), or you photograph only yellow things every day for a month. Or birds. Or cups of coffee. Or sandstone (nah, just kidding, don’t do that). Anything where you limit your options, I think, will help you to focus on one thing and to get more creative as you can’t get distracted by the many other variables that could distract you.
Now I have to plan myself a new challenge for 2021.
Have you thought about undertaking a photo challenge like this? Or done one? Let me know in the comments.
Here are week 5’s photos of my 50mm challenge. 50 photos in 50 days using only my 50mm lens.
I’m past the half-way point of my 50mm challenge and I have no real wish to go back to any of my other lenses. I’m struggling a bit with taking a photo every single day, but I’m loving the days when I have the time to go out and spend some time wandering round with the lens.
These are the photos from the third week of my 50 in 50 challenge, where I use only my 50 mm lens for 50 days and post a photo a day. I’ve been a bit behind in posting because I had all the Open House Hobart photos to post as well, so there will be a couple of catch-up posts now.
I slept in every day this week and missed all the beautiful orange sunrises that I saw in my social media feeds earlier in the week. I was disappointed because orange skies are my favourite skies and I rarely see them in person. But I only had myself to blame.
I finally decided that, as I describe myself as someone who walks a bit, maybe missing my morning walks isn’t particularly congruent with who I profess to be. I walk every day, and this week I haven’t.
I went out this morning and, of course, today wasn’t the day for an orange sunrise.
Well, it was orange, it just wasn’t the dramatic orange I was hoping for.
Not to worry! I was back out doing what I loved and that was the main thing. Not too long after the sun rose, it started to rain. Lightly, at first.
Where I was standing on the beach are some boat sheds, which I sometimes photograph if the light is right. This morning it was, and I took some photos from where I was standing—the usual place I try to photograph them from. I was waiting for the light.
The light hadn’t quite hit the boat sheds when something made me walk along to the other side of them to see if I could get a better angle from there. As I turned around, I saw a rainbow over the beach and realised this was the shot I needed to take: the photograph behind the sunrise.
By the time I’d clambered over rocks to try and get the right shot, the rain was getting heavier, the wind had come up and it was becoming unpleasant. I took some okay, not great, images of the boat sheds from the other side and decided it was time to go.
A man at the house over the road had been watching me, probably thinking (not unreasonably) that I was mad to be standing around taking photos in this onslaught. “It wasn’t like this when I left home!” I complained, in response to his comment on the “wild and woolly” weather. (Totally off topic, where does that phrase even come from? It makes no sense to me at all.)
I carried on along the street, turned the corner and headed towards home, eager to be warm and dry again.
As I was walking, I looked ahead and saw the most wonderful sight: a modest-looking house sitting on the next corner, shining in the golden light. It looked beautiful! This was really the thing I was meant to see this morning, not the sunrise, not the boat sheds, not the rainbow. This one photograph, of all the ones I captured this morning, made it worth getting wet and almost blown away. I just wish I’d had my camera instead of my phone.
When I was taking the photos of the rainbow, I’d been thinking how funny it is that sometimes the thing you really need to be looking for is right behind you. (Does that sound too much like an airline safety briefing?) And, after seeing the house, I realised that if it’s not behind you, it will be somewhere else you didn’t set out to look.
I love walking.
I especially love going on long walks with my camera and taking photos of things that catch my eye.
Today I went for a long walk, which was wonderful. Here are some of the things I saw.
I normally go out for a walk at about 5am. This morning I was a bit later because I overslept. At this time of year, later means I get to see the sunrise.
The first thing I saw was this jetstream. I like how the approaching sunlight adds some colour to the jetstream.
Four minutes later, the light had changed completely.
I didn’t have to wait long for the sun to rise and I wanted to capture it before it had fully crossed the horizon. This was my attempt.
I love the rays of the sun that you can just make out in the image. There were very faint in the out-of-camera image and I wasn’t able to do a lot with them in processing, but they are there, very subtly.
I usually take my phone with me on my walks but after seeing the results with my camera today I’m going to start taking it along instead and learn more about what I can achieve with it.
In summer the sun rises early enough that I can often see the sunrise when I’m out walking in the morning before work. I posted some photos here back in January and February As the days shorten and the sun rises later in the morning I miss that special pre-sunrise time of the morning when I’m outside. It’s dark and it’s cold and it’s harder to make myself go out.
At this time of year, as we move towards the Winter Solstice, the sun is rising after 7.30 am and if I leave home early enough I can see the sunrise sky from the window of the bus. To my delight, one day recently when I got into town earlier than usual, I found that the morning light just after the sunrise gives everything around the waterfront a magical glow that in the earlier months of the year I’d have to be there before 6.00 am to see.
The waterfront presents endless photo opportunities as the buildings light up as the sun rises. This, perhaps, is the incentive I need to keep getting up in the morning when it’s dark and cold outside—the reward of the beautiful light play if I get to town early enough.
One building I have been watching over the last couple of weeks has been the Marine Board Building.
It’s not a favourite building of many (any?) people in Hobart, especially given its size, colour and prominent waterfront location. It became even more controversial when the building owner installed the (ill-fated and subsequently replaced) wind turbines on top of the building in 2010. I’ve heard more than one person say they’d love to see it demolished.
I don’t have a lot of photos of it. One that I can think of, from January, other than it maybe appearing in a couple of street corner photos. I hadn’t really paid much attention to it. It was just a brown building that no one liked. Until about three weeks ago, when I was wandering around the waterfront looking for something to photograph for my 365 days black & white photo challenge I’m doing on instagram.
The Marine Board Building ended up being my photo that day and I started to think it was actually an interesting building. I’ve been to look at it on other days since then and have been noticing how it really changes as the light changes in the mornings.
On Friday I tried to capture a sequence to show this.
When I first got there I thought that the light was all wrong and it wasn’t going to happen. You know how some days you get good sunrise skies and others you don’t? I thought this was going to be one of the “don’t” days and was getting ready to leave when the light started working its magic. It was captivating. The way the building changes in the light in just ten minutes as the sun rises is spectacular.
At first, it’s a dull brown building.
Then the light hits the wind turbines on the roof, then the top of the building, leaving the bottom in shadow.
Then it works its way down the entire building and lights it up with this almost surreal glow. It changes from brown to orange to golden. It looks like a completely different building in this light.
I couldn’t stop watching.
Part of this exercise was trying to find the best spot to take the photos from. It’s difficult because, with a phone camera, which is what I had, I needed to be far enough away to have enough room in the shot to correct the perspective later but also to not get too much clutter in the foreground, which becomes more of a problem the further away I am. Also, there also seems to be a lot of tour buses milling round just outside at the time I want to take my photos, which is also a challenge and restricts where I can stand if I want a clear shot of the building.
And the red cross? That’s part of an installation for Dark Mofo. It also gets in the way of my clear shot of the building but I think it looks kind of cool and it casts a nice shadow on the building that’s only going to be there for a couple of weeks.