Life from this Lens {January}

WIDE OPEN

Sigma Art 35 mm {f/2.0. 1/320, ISO 1600}

Sigma Art 35 mm {f/2.0. 1/320, ISO 1600}

2018 Project

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I was recently invited to join the Life from this Lens blog circle project.  I really wanted to participate, but the only problem was I didn't have a blog. So.... now ... the night before the first deadline ...  I do {LOL}.

My main goal for this project is to simply be better about picking up my camera and taking photos for myself and having inspiration to try new things.  Often times I take photos and never share them just because they are just of everyday life and nothing special in and of themselves.  However, having a theme each month to concentrate on should give me a reason to share and make it fun for any of you with an interest in photography to follow along.  We are kicking our group off with January's theme of shooting with a wide aperture.  At the end of my post, you'll be able to link to another photographer to see how she approached the theme.  


What does "wide open" mean?

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Our theme in January has been "wide open."  Every camera lens has a set aperture capability.  In simple terms, this is the diameter through which a lens can allow light in.  For the sake of this month's project, you just need to know that to shoot "wide open" simply means that you are going to force your camera to make it's focus point very narrow.  The image will have what we call a "shallow depth of field" because only a small portion of the image is in focus and the rest is blurred.  

So why would you open your lens up?

But why should you push your lenses to their most open capabilities? It can be extremely challenging to nail focus when you open your lens up as wide as it goes (or "stop down" to a low aperture).  I've definitely experienced that ... I just miss the shot because the focus ends up somewhere other than what I wanted my subject to be.  With practice, however, you can get quite good at focusing when shooting in this style.    I personally think that magic happens at the lowest aperture.  I crank down to my lowest f-stops for two reasons. 


#1

... I'm wanting to capture a narrowly focused subject with a beautifully blurred image (bokeh) softening the entire back and/or foreground.  There's just something appealing about a crisp subject against a dreamy blur.  My favorite lens for this when I'm indoors is my Canon 50 mm 1.2.  When I'm outdoors, the Canon 70-200 mm at 2.8 always gives a nice bokeh.

Canon 50mm {f/2.2, 1/320, ISO 5000}

Canon 50mm {f/2.2, 1/320, ISO 5000}

#2

... there is very little light.  That is the number one reason I personally will go as wide open as I can.  Often there is just one very small light source, and my camera would just not have enough light coming in if I tried to shoot at a more closed aperture.  

Sigma Art 35 mm (f/1.4, 1/125, ISO 5000)

Sigma Art 35 mm (f/1.4, 1/125, ISO 5000)

As you can probably tell, there was very little light for the photo above.  I actually wanted to use my Canon 50 mm 1.2 so that I could fully max out my aperture, but the composition was just not right.  Instead, I swapped it for my tried and true (and affordable) Sigma 35mm, and the framing of the dark walls was exactly what I was looking for.  Thankfully, this lens allows me to crank down to f/1.4 and let all that tiny lamp light in to illuminate my subjects.  I had ONE shot at this image ... Gavin was reading to Hadley in our hotel room to keep her quiet at 6 AM while Tyler got ready for his gymnastics meet in the bathroom, and my husband was sound asleep in the bed closest to the camera.  As soon as I could grab the shot, the kids moved, and that dreamy blanket draped over Gavin was a memory.   


More low light examples ...

For this one, I had my Canon 24-70mm on, so shooting wide open only meant f/2.8.  I was at 24 mm (1/125, ISO 4000).

For this one, I had my Canon 24-70mm on, so shooting wide open only meant f/2.8.  I was at 24 mm (1/125, ISO 4000).

Matt took Hadley to her first Daddy-Daughter dance last week, and he didn't get home until dusk for pre-dance photos, so the light was very low.   I'm including a SOOC (straight out of camera) shot next to the final image where I fixed the white balance in post-processing.

Canon 50 mm (f/1.2, 1/125, ISO 3200); SOOC and after Adobe Lightroom

Canon 50 mm (f/1.2, 1/125, ISO 3200); SOOC and after Adobe Lightroom

Canon 70-200mm at 175mm (f/2.8, 1/100, ISO 5000)

Canon 70-200mm at 175mm (f/2.8, 1/100, ISO 5000)

And a fun spin on the above ...

... because she's only a little girl for a short time and gold hearts are the way to go :)  Which one do you like best?  I had the hardest time deciding.  I like them both for different reasons.

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Canon 70-200mm at 168mm (f/2.8, 1/100, ISO 5000)

Canon 70-200mm at 168mm (f/2.8, 1/100, ISO 5000)

Canon 50mm (f/1.2, 1/160, ISO 5000)

Canon 50mm (f/1.2, 1/160, ISO 5000)


Beautiful Bokeh

Another very low light situation I found myself in this month was at my oldest son Tyler's birthday party. Keep in mind that I cried for the majority of this day (HELLO, TEN YEARS OLD), so I wasn't super focused on photos.  But I did have enough sense to bring my camera, and, I got a couple of really fun wide open shots to add to this month's theme.  I debated on saving these to share for February's challenge of "hard light" (because this was REALLY hard), but the bokeh was so gorgeous that I couldn't not include it for this month.  This first one is an absolute perfect example of why you should experiment with stopping down your lens! I really love this image.

Sigma 35 mm {f/1.6, 1/160, ISO 2500}

Sigma 35 mm {f/1.6, 1/160, ISO 2500}

Sigma 35mm {f/1.8, 1/500, ISO 3200}

Sigma 35mm {f/1.8, 1/500, ISO 3200}

Sigma 35mm {f/1.8, 1/625, ISO 3200}

Sigma 35mm {f/1.8, 1/625, ISO 3200}

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wide open for documentary shots

When you are photographing fast moving kids, it can be intimidating to shoot wide open.  However, it is fun to get familiar with opening your lens up for snapshots.  In January, we got to visit our Seattle cuzzies. The kids were having a blast playing Pie in the Face. Recently, these have become the opportunities I have passed up and just reached for my phone to take the "this happened" obligatory pic.  I was so glad I had this project in mind to inspire me to grab my big girl camera.  They aren't anything artistically amazing to write home about, but they are playful, fun documentary-style memories for our family.  All shot wide open on my Canon 24-70mm.

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Lenses

I shoot "wide open" almost exclusively on my 3 lenses that open up to f/2.8.  However, I do own two lenses that open up to 1..2 and 1.4.  I LOVE the flexibility these lenses give me when I need them.  If you are looking for a relatively inexpensive lens to experiment on, the Sigma 35 mm 1.4 is absolutely the way to go.  In general, the lower the f-stop (aperture) a lens offers, often the more expensive it is (especially for professional series lenses where the crispness of the focus is exceptional even at the widest aperture).  If you have the resources to spend money on a professional lens, the upgrade is well worth it.  

Most of the photos below are actually from last year, but they show off the sharp focus of  the Canon 50mm f/1.2.  They are all shot between 1,2 and 2.0 under very low winter & indoor light.  

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Can you shoot wide open for sports?

I really like to bring my camera to my boys' gymnastics meets so that I can zoom in to their events.  A lot of advice says that you have to have a very fast shutter speed or shoot at an aperture above 4.0 in order to get sports shots in focus.  While you will likely get the majority of your images in focus with this traditional mindset, you may not get the most interesting or emotive shots.  Opening up your lens may give you a new spin on an old sport.  If you are struggling, I suggest trying back-button focus.  This will give you a lot more control over fast moving subjects.  On a side note, at your kids' next sporting event, try working on catching the action on the sidelines ... those are usually my favorite photographs.

Canon 24-70mm at 30mm (f/2.8, 1/500, ISO 4000)

Canon 24-70mm at 30mm (f/2.8, 1/500, ISO 4000)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                   PS Yes, that's my kid in 1st place :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                   PS Yes, that's my kid in 1st place :)


The compromise

As I've mentioned, the one problem with a wide open aperture is that you can sacrifice focus.  Here, while I adore this portrait of Gavin, I would like it better if both his eyes were in focus.  It's not as noticeable on a smaller screen, but blown up on a computer screen, the ever so slight angle of his face was too much for f/1.2.  HOWEVER ... check out how sharp that one eye is even at f/1.2.  WOW! And that's why this lens affords its price tag.   

Canon 50 mm (f/1.2, 1/1600, ISO 1000)

Canon 50 mm (f/1.2, 1/1600, ISO 1000)

Circle Time

Sigma 35mm (f/1.4, 1/200, ISO 5000)

Sigma 35mm (f/1.4, 1/200, ISO 5000)

Everyone loves a good twirl!  This photo embodies EVERYTHING I love about shooting wide open and photography in general.  It simultanously follows and breaks the "rules" of design and photography, it defies most traditional approaches [aka it's a portrait with no head], and it's a wonderful memory that took some effort to capture but was well worth it.  

Now you've seen a few of my wide open shots, I'd love for you to circle on over to Alicia's page to see how she has approached January's project.  Alicia Moss is one of the amazing photographers participating in Life from this Lens, and I'm very excited to get to see her work and get to know her this year.  Congrats Alicia on finishing up month one!!  You can also follow us on Instagram under our hashtag #lifefromthislens .