50mm DSLR Photography Lesson on the streets

Shooting with a 50mm prime lens is a freeing photography experienceMy DSLR Photography Lessons with Chris are a little different than others.  I find his photography questions push me and to answer them I have to reveal my photography secrets.  Though they are not secrets at all.  They are out there on every street in the world.  It's just up to one to find them, to feel them, to use them.  

I learned DSLR photography, or rather what I know of it, out on the streets of Tokyo.  I took thousands of shots a month.

The second lens I ever bought was a Nikkor AF 50mm f/1.8D.  For at least ten days I was studying about it, building it up in my mind.  By the time I finally bought it was beyond stoked.  All this for a piece of kit that cost only around $100!  However, like most photography gear, there is no magic wand built into it.  There was a learning curve necessary.  However, once I taught myself to be competent with it, again by taking thousands of shots, I loved the lens and used it often, out on the streets.

So during our third lesson (1st, 2nd) this morning, when Chris asked me, "how do you know what to photograph?" (paraphrasing), a question I have been asked before by students, I could not answer at first because I do not know what to photograph by words, I photograph by feel.  My mind is always framing the world in terms of shots.  I am never not looking at things like a shot, unless I consciously turn that thinking offline.  

I ended up telling Chris to just shoot what looks interesting to you, what makes you feel good to shoot, and that will show itself in your shots.  I told him I shoot first and foremost for myself, to make photographs that I, myself, like.  If others like them, great.  If not, as long as I made a shot I liked, that is enough for me.  

I very rarely see photos just standing, they are often at off angles.I took Chris into my favorite alleys in downtown St. Petersburg.  He had an interest in photograph shadows.  We found this fire escape pattern in foul odored section of a back alley near the postoffice, a place I purposefully shot in before.  I encouraged him to get low, to go at off angles, and to shoot at f/2 with his own 50mm f/1.8D lens.  Play with the DoF.  Find the angle that makes the shot a photograph of interest to your own eye.  

I really enjoyed this philosophy of photography lesson and to be reminded of how much I like to shoot with my 50mm prime lens, a lens I almost never use in my paid work. 

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  • Photo Story: Saint Petersburg Alley in Sepia

    With this shot I was trying for a repeated pattern image.It had been a long time since I just went out shooting for myself.  Not for a client, not for the HDR gallery project I am participating in, just for me and it was 20 minutes of pure escape.  Now you may be looking at these shots and thinking, "dude, this is what you photograph with your rare free time to shoot on your own?"  Well, I had seen this particular alley months ago and made a strong mental note to photograph it.  Something about the idea of photographing this alley long had me excited.  

    So today with my Nikon D300 and Nikkor AF-S 105mm VR micro F2.8G lens I made the time to do some exploratory photography, as I like to call it.  No doubt I looked mental to any passersby as I stepped in and around trash pointing a camera of not insignificant size at relative junk and decay.  If they could only read my mind they would have known I couldn't have been more stoked.  I was full of the thrill of potential discovery.  Who knows what I might find here in this alley?  That unknown always gets my heightened interest.  

     I dream of doing acrobatics on a fire escape, often.

    In reality, the alley was not filled with many hidden treasures, but it was graced with a high concentration of human waste, in multiple states of matter.  One thing that attracts me to alleys is the behind the scenes nature of them.  On the other side of the buildings are the facades, what the masses idle to and before.  On the flip side of those buildings, the real side, is where people live and die.  Workers toil and nothing ever gets polished.  I have no interest in facades.

    The bicycle, an elemental mode of transportation.

    The above bicycle was the object of greatest monetary value in the alley.  While locked up, like any sentient being, does a bicycle too dream of Freedom--greatest of all things in the known Universe, far greater than Love.  

    A questionable means of security.For myself, I felt great Freedom making photographs in this alley.  There are more mysteries there still, like what is behind this rusted padlock?  I'd rather never know because a well-fueled imagination is the only thing that helps keep me sane as the forces that attempt to limit mine own Freedom reach for me.