A Standard lens and Auto mode
My photography life was ticking over nicely in Dubai. <Read about but Journey from Hobbyist to Professional Here>. I had broken my trusty Canon EOS 1100D with one too many drops to the floor or drinks spilt over it and so I had invested in an upgrade (second hand) to the Canon EOS 600D, a slightly more technical model but it didn’t matter to me as I was still mostly using Auto settings anyway. I was producing regular work, I was known in the right circles, I was loving life. I started to teach my self how to use the camera but in all honesty when using the standard canon 18-55mm lens in close proximity and night clubs, with the ever changing lighting, auto mode worked just fine for me and my style. It allowed me to produce a high yield of photos and more chances to get it right!! It was lazy but it worked.
A long distance lens
I spent much of my free time teaching my self how to use a lens that had been bought for me by my dad when he got me the 1100D; The Tamron 70-300mm lens. It took beautiful pictures, I mean like the kind you see in photography magazines. I had used it on a few holidays and was blown away at the quality of image I would get from it…but I didn’t understand it, I didn’t know what the numbers meant… I just knew it took really clear photos of things quite far away…day to day I didn’t have much use for it but I loved having it in my bag and it became my go to lens outdoors. I practiced with the Tamron lens when ever I could and pretty soon my holiday, festival and concerts photos started to really pop the more I used it and developed some understanding of its capabilities.
In 2016 I made the decision to leave Dubai for pastures new and set my sights on France. It was close enough to the UK that I could visit easier. My sister was having a baby and both my grans were in ill health, so it just made sense to be closer to home but I was completely in love with my expat life so France seemed like a good compromise… It didn’t even dawn on me that not speaking french would of been an issue! My School management career took a giant leap backwards as I search for teaching/ nannying jobs and so with out the stability of a regular income my photography took a back seat… I was in survival mode just looking for something stable… I had no friends and no network but after a year of just scraping by I managed to eventually get a job in a school. During this time I also met my partner Patrice (in a bar holding a vintage camera of all things!) We were both passionate about photography but have completely different interests and styles which I loved. He is very technical, loves expired film, black and whites or mono tones and taking arty shots of buildings <you can check out his instagram here> He knows and understands the technical aspects of the camera as well as having a passion for post production when he has the time! I like taking pictures of people. We would take photography walks where he would spend ages fiddling with camera settings and angles and I would just snap pictures of him.
Introducing a fixed lens
Patrice tried to explain to me how my camera worked but we have very different learning styles and so a lot of what he said just went over my head; ISO? aperture? shutter speed? argghhh it was too difficult and Auto mode was easy.
Our first Christmas together he bought me a Yongnuo 50mm fixed lens…I had never owned a fixed lens before and to be honest at first I didn’t like it at all. It had no flexibility in shooting range, I had to be the right distance from what I wanted to shoot. It made no sense to me and didn’t suit my style, I was convinced it was the wrong focal length for the kind of things I like shooting. It sat in my bag unused for a long time until my trusty canon 18-55mm lens died… one day it just stopped working… I was devastated to say the least as we were on route to our May bank holiday get away with friends on the coast when I discovered it was broken. With only my Tamron 70-300mm and the Yongnuo 50mm It was going to be difficult to get my usual quantity of great shots…I would have to plan and think about where to position my self to get the shot, no easy pick up point and shoot opportunities. Patrice encouraged me to just try the 50mm lens so I spent the first day just shooting with the 50mm lens… with Patrice’s help I also started to use the AV (aperture priority) setting to help create depth in my photos that I would normally force by just zooming in with an adjustable lens.
For the next 7 months I mostly used the 50mm lens, I practiced on everything and began understanding the settings on my camera, by using the fixed lens I didnt have the option to zoom in and out to change my focal length so as I adjusted the aperture, I could play with where the focus would lie exactly and how blurry my back ground would be. I was enjoying the range and flexibity that the lens had despite my earlier reservations. I even taught my preschool class how to use it as part of our photography topic the actually produced some pretty cool images at 5 years old!
Replacing my Canon Lens
In the December we went on holiday to New York. I had always dreamed of traveling to New York and I instantly panicked I wanted to take the best photos I could, I knew I would need an 18-55mm lens! Patrice convinced me I could buy one cheaper there so off we went with just my 50mm and my Tamron 70-300mm. On our first day we walked over the Brooklyn bridge… I was in Awe. New York is just one of those cities that I had always wanted to visit and now I was seeing it up close and in real life!
I took a few shots with the 50mm lens but I was just not enjoying it… I didnt understand enough about the relationship between light and shutter speed or the ISO settings so all my pictures were coming out dull and I didn’t like the limitations or the depth of field and the over blurring of the background.
I complained a lot, this was my dream photography location. I had planned meticulously, for years, all the iconic shots I wanted to take in New York and I was wasting my opportunity. I closed down to listening how I could use the 50mm lens to get the shots I wanted, I wouldn’t listen to Patrice’s advice until eventually he took me to a B&H Camera Store on 9th Avenue!… I was in Photography heaven, If I had the money I could have spent a million dollars in there! Instead I made my way to the reconditioned lens section and picked up a Canon 18-55mm lens, I tested it on my camera to make sure it was working and just kept it on the camera, I tucked the 50mm lens in my bag, paid for the Canon and I was off, in to the streets of New York to take photos with the enthusiasm of a kid in a candy shop.
Patrice couldn’t keep up!!
Its only a Lens.
I loved the time I spent just using the 50mm lens, it made me learn more about my camera but when the stakes were high I wanted something I knew would take the pictures I wanted. I decided it was time to take my self a bit more seriously and stop blaming my equipment! If I really wanted to make it as a photographer and not just that girl who takes nice photos I was going to have to bite the bullet and figure out how the camera works. The birth of my daughter accelerated my journey quite considerably as I explored ideas around what I wanted our future to look like. Patrice had bought me a studio kit with back drops and light and I thought I could maybe get in to baby photography. I bought the final lens for my collection a Tamron 18-200mm it covered the short range that my canon would cover while still allowing me to get some amazing depth of field shots and some distance. This is my go to lens, for now. Each lens has its place in my kit. As I grow and develop as a professional photographer I am finding the real potential of each lens, learning how they work with my camera and how to achieve specific effects. Most importantly I understand how to best use them to accentuate my style.