Glass and Memory

The website is down today while I re-archive all of my digital images and rebuild the portfolio page. After about three years I have collected 40GB of images on one drive which is not even including any of the professional work I have done in the past seven months. Today, I am consolidating everything into one huge, well-ordered archive that will be backed-up thrice onto my LaCie servers and the MacPro – this will allow the laptop to be more easily used for shooting tethered to the Canon EOS 1D. 

Kite Sign

It was emotionally difficult to scan over the digital images of the past six odd years, but memories are like that: beautiful horrors. At best you have wonderous memories that you wish you were living right now [this afternoon I would kill to be in Costa Rica, for instance] or there are nightmares that you somehow survived to tell the tale. Perhaps that is one reason why I love photography – it allows me to snapshot so many memories and keep them for when I feel up to reliving them.

Our digital memories are so fragile and can be destroyed quite easily, but they are also viral. Once they are out there, it is almost impossible to close the loops. Something to think about the next time you post photos of that party where you danced with youknowwho or when you write that article to rant about thatthingmybossdoes. Still, I value the ability to reassemble my life from the archive and see where I have been, if only to let me see where I am going and who I really am. 

V. is off to Kentucky today with her camera. She decided to purchase one of my L lenses to improve her own collection of glass, and I am so happy that it will go to a good owner. It was a great copy of a great lens that I just do not use as much as I used to, but that will open up so much new experimentation for her. The photos she has taken with it so far have been impressive to say the least. As for me, I am really into shooting with a single focal length these days. My photos of Paris were all with an 80mm Mamiya f2.8, Boston was all with the 135mm f.2 and Japan is still up for decisions. I do this to force me to improve my framing, to move my feet in relation to the subject and to internalize what the world might look like at 135mm. I do risk missing a lot of shots that a zoom would ensure, but I am okay with that. Like any mastery, there are stages to walk through. In ten years, I may realize how stupid it was to switch to all prime lenses and then move back to zooms, but then that is the beauty of learning. 

Onto glass…I cannot stress enough how important your lenses are to the photos you produce. While digital sensors read the light, they can only resolve and interpret what the lens transmits. There is a reason that the dealer gives you a great deal on the kit lens, while the L Series for Canon costs more than the camera itself. It has been my great fortune to be responsible for my school’s yearbook as one of my co-curricular duties. Not only do I get to shoot about 5000 event images yearly, but I also get to purchase and experiment with a wide variety of equipment every year. Some of it is glorious, whereas some of it dies after a few months of chasing subjects through sports fields and assemblies – that Canon 30D never had a chance.

The number one thing that I have learned is that the lens not only is responsible for clarity and aperture, but also for the depth of field quality and actual perspective from which you see the world. Build quality can be important, too, but Canon’s cheapest plastic lens [50mm f1.8] is also one of its better ones. Which lenses you have in your bag on your travels will totally dictate what type of images you can take; this is why people love zooms. I know that V. did not want a huge, heavy lens; she travels hard and fast. The last thing she would ever want is to be loaded down with the insane amount of gear I drag all over the world on my back. If it is too big, then you won’t use it, and you will lose some great shots. 

While out on the motorcycle this week I came across some kite surfers, but I only had my 135mm lens. Yes, I could take photos, but they were not the ones I wanted to take because of the inherent perspective of the lens.What did I want? The 300mm f4 would have given me great shots of the surfers, while a 24-70mm would have let me take a shot of surfer and kite as they approached the beach, thereby filling the frame. The 135mm is just not built for either of those perspectives, but is killer for stage photography and walking around a city. 

Surfing the Kite

Now there was sand and water, which is a real problem for zoom lenses that are not sealed like my 24-70mm. I would be crying at the sounds of grinding when I arrived home to clear it of debris. Whereas the 70-200mm would be fine, and the 135mm is solid, too. While we may not need the fungus defenses that Franz Lanting needs, build quality should still be important when picking out lenses that we want to use for a long time.

Surfer Standing


At the end of the day, I was just having fun and watching a whole community of people who were just so passionate about what it was they were involved in that it didn’t matter if I took away any killer shots. Time to get back out there and get some more sun.

The Kite Walking


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