Tag Archives: 50 in 50

50 in 50: the wrapup

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.

Day 50: 50

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.

Day 2: It’s not centred!

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!

Day 5: Just one more step back would have helped this one

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.

Day 29: Specs in time. I came back the next day to rephotograph this scene because I wasn’t happy with any of the images, and the dandelion had 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.

Day 35: Hmmmmmmm……

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.

Day 31: Some sandstone at some old building

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.

Day 42: Composition trumps focus

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.

Day 10: A re-edit of one of my favourite photos from the whole of 2020

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.

Day 38: I love this one and several of the others I made at the same location

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.

Farewell, Orange Roughy

On Saturday, the Aurora Australis left Hobart for the last time.

August 2018

If you’ve been in Hobart for long, you’ll probably have seen this boat anchored at the wharf. It was, until this year, the Australian Antarctic research vessel, and has been in service for the last 30 years.

April 2019

She made her final voyage to Antarctica earlier this year, and many people were concerned about what would happen to her after that. There were reports that she was going to be sold or even scuttled, and there were calls for the government to buy her and convert her into an Antarctic museum in Hobart.

April 2019

That didn’t happen. The latest reports are saying she is sailing to Dubai and after that, a possible future in Argentina.

April 2019

I’ve enjoyed photographing her over the past few years.

August 2020

The last couple of months leading up to her departure, I’ve made a few trips to the waterfront to capture her for the last time.

October 2020
November 2020

On Friday, I went to the waterfront to see her for the last time (with only my 50mm lens). I wasn’t the only person there.

11 December 2020

There was a group of workers from the dock, or maybe from the ship itself, having their photo taken in front of it, and several other people stopping to take photos and say goodbye. One lady said she’d heard the ship might be going to be used for cruises to Antarctica, and if that happened, we might well see her again in Hobart.

11 December 2020
11 December 2020
11 December 2020

I hear that there was a huge turnout on Saturday morning to see the Aurora Australis off as she sailed out of Hobart for the last time. A flotilla accompanied her as she departed, and there was a lot of emotion in farewelling her. I wasn’t able to be there, but I was able to catch a final glimpse of her as she sailed down the river.

A dodgy phone photo through the trees

I saw her for the last time as just a spec on the horizon and wondered what her future would hold. Perhaps she would have been a wonderful museum, but perhaps it’s better for her to continue her life on the sea. It brought to mind that quote “A ship in harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are built for”. I have no idea who said that but I like it. (And it’s not really about ships, is it?)

A final farewell

In the words of my friend, who had found a spot on the river bank to say her goodbyes as the “Orange Roughy” sailed past, “Go well, little ship”.

50 in 50: week 4

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.

Day 22: Cull the corrupt
Day 23: Morning yellow
Day 24: Diagonal light
Day 25: Mount Stuart Hall
Day 26: Tiny house
Day 27: A duet of daisies
Day 28: Morning solitude

50 in 50: week 3

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.

Day 15: The Gull
Day 16: The Supreme Court
Day 17: Abstract sunrise
Day 18: The Magistrates Court
Day 19: Rust
Day 20: Rooftops
Day 21: Three

open house hobart 2020: blue magnolia

My second tour of the 2020 Open House Hobart weekend was Blue Magnolia on Molle Street.

Some of the external timber work

This is a hidden away little 1840s cottage that is an absolutely tiny space (and, therefore, almost impossible to photograph, especially with a 50mm lens, which is the lens I have restricted myself to using for 50 days, having not considered that this weekend was coming up when I decided to do it). Nevertheless, it has been photographed very beautifully (not by me, obviously).

We were lucky enough to have one of the architects responsible for the redesign, Rosa, to show us through and answer our questions.

She said the building had been two row houses, which as far as we could tell were an upstairs room and a downstairs room each, with massively thick stone walls between them.

One of the original entrances

Kitchen? Nope. Bathroom? Nope. Basically, it sounded like living there would be like camping in a stone cottage. Now the two houses were one and there actually was a kitchen and a bathroom.

Rosa explained that there had been some 1970s additions to the house, which had been removed and replaced with the new extensions in 2017.

Stone wall inside and out

It really is cool how much they have managed to fit into such a tight space behind the existing houses on the street. The bathroom is fabulous, with the clear roof and views of the city.

Blue sky views from the bathroom

The extensions have lots of beautiful timberwork and there are doorways punched through the stone walls. The whole space fits together really nicely and it doesn’t feel as small as it is.

External wall

Clearly, a space like this has insufficient space for bookcases, so I could never live there. But it would be a lovely retreat space for a few days.

50 in 50

Over on my other blog, Stepping on the Cracks, I’m writing about my progress in doing 20 things I set out to accomplish in 2020. It’s a movement (I guess) called 20 for 2020, which I first heard about a couple of years ago on the Happier podcast when Gretchen Rubin and Liz Craft talked about doing 18 for 2018. Last year, I did 19 for 2019 and this year I’m doing 20 for 2020 (although I actually have 22 things on my list but who’s counting?)

Thing number 9 is to “use no camera other than my SLR with a single prime lens for 30 days and post a photo a day for the month”. 

I thought of this challenge last year some time when I was using my 24mm lens a lot. I thought it would be fun and interesting to keep that lens on my camera for 24 days and make 24 images in 24 days. I never did it, and the challenge turned into one of my 20 things for 2020, for a month rather than just 24 days. At the time, I thought I’d use the 24mm because I love using it. 

But I have this 50mm lens too. (It’s 50mm, but on my crop sensor camera it has an effective focal length of about 80mm.) It’s not a focal length I often shoot at. I’m a huge fan of my 10-22mm wide-angle lens. If I’m not using the 24mm, this one lives on my camera. The other lenses are there just to take up space. 

Earlier this week I was on holiday. Let’s call it a photo holiday. While I was in a coffee shop, I was thinking about how time was running out for me to shoot with one lens for a month. So in a fit of holiday madness, I thought why not mix things up totally and use the 50mm for the challenge, and why not start right now? 

I put the lens on and went out to take some photos. But, true to form, as soon as I got to the location I wanted to photograph, I took it off again and put the wide-angle back on. 

No, Barb, you’re missing the point of the challenge. 

The challenge is to shoot within the limits of the lens you have. Not to change back to your safety net as soon as you start shooting. So, after getting the wide-angle shots I wanted, I put the 50mm back on and set about learning to use it.

I think what had been playing on my mind was a recent episode of photographer David duChemin’s podcast, A Beautiful Anarchy, called Play the Unplayable that I had listened to the day before. In this episode, David talks about the jazz pianist Keith Jarrett performing the Köln Concert, where (to make it very short) he made the most of everything that could go wrong going wrong, performed an improvised piano concert at the Köln Opera House on the world’s shittiest piano after no sleep, being in a back brace, and no food, and still managed to pull off a masterpiece performance. 

The point is, says David, that the best of our creative efforts don’t happen when the conditions are perfect. He says that Keith Jarrett performed this masterpiece because of the limitations placed on him, not in spite of them. The constraints forced Keith to play in a way no other piano would have, and, David says, suggested variations he might never otherwise have considered. Keith played the “unplayable” little piano with its broken keys and non-functional pedals with what David describes as a determination and grit that other performances had never required of him. 

From this story, David observes that working with unfamiliar tools and unfamiliar circumstances forces you to play an A-game you wouldn’t otherwise play. He says that a disruption to our script forces us to think in new ways. A broken tool demands new ways of working and, on some level, he says, being close to failure makes us pay attention and focus our efforts in a way we wouldn’t do otherwise.

Perfect conditions are not a prerequisite for making our best work.

David asks us to consider what if the most perfect conditions for making extraordinary things are those where things go wrong, put us off balance and demand more from us? What if the conditions we see as a liability because they’re hard are actually our greatest assets?

The best of our creative efforts, he says, do not happen when conditions are perfect.

You can read about the Köln Concert here.

The 50mm challenge is my equivalent. Okay, it’s not quite the same. Actually, it’s nothing like it. Unlike Keith Jarrett, I have a choice about my tool. I’m not in pain, I don’t have a shitty camera that doesn’t work properly and I haven’t driven 350 miles across the country and had no sleep. But it’s a lens I’m not used to at all and I don’t really know how to use it. Because it’s a prime lens, I can’t zoom to get the composition I want like I’d normally do, so it’s limiting in that sense. It is not the tool I would usually use to make my art. 

It is the tool I’m forcing myself to use.

I have set my constraints and now it’s up to me to create my work within them.

Here are the rules of my challenge:

  1. The 50mm lens stays on the camera for 50 days starting on 28 October. The other lenses are out of sight. (In fact, they are locked in my camera bag so that I can’t just get them out without thinking about it. If I want them, I’ll have to unlock the bag, which is going to remind me that they’re off-limits. I just hope I don’t lose the key.)
  2. I take at least one photo a day with the SLR.
  3. I can edit the photos however I want but only to enhance what was already there. I can’t make up light that wasn’t there, for example. The only exception to this might be to alter the colours to make a more coherent image or change it to black and white.
  4. The basic composition has to be right within the original shot. I can straighten and crop minimally to make up for my crappy eyesight or to make up for not being able to get closer or further away because of limitations of the site (e.g. oncoming traffic, large holes in the ground, or other risks to my life if I moved closer, but people looking at me oddly for taking a photo doesn’t count). Apart from that, I can’t use cropping to make up for not having been in the right position. I need to move to get the angle I want, not rely on post-processing to do that.
  5. Cloning is okay if I couldn’t have avoided including the thing to be cloned in the image. But if it’s careless composition, for example, because I didn’t check the edges of the frame and there are stray tree branches in the image, they stay as a lesson to me to be more careful next time.
  6. I can use my phone for photos to record my daily life, street corners project and other things that I regularly document with my phone.
  7. I share one photo from every day. I don’t have to share it on the day I made it, but I need to have 50 photos from 50 individual days between today and 16 December.
50 in 50: Day 1

I’m going to post the photos on my Instagram with the hashtag #50in50 (which looks like it’s actually a hashtag about running!) and I’ll aim to update at least once a week on the blog.

50 in 50: Day 2