The thing I love most about using a prime lens is that it encourages you to be creative. It’s all too easy to just zoom in on something you like the look of, rather than getting closer to it, but finding ways to get closer is half the fun.
Of course, there are always going to be times when you’re tearing your hair out for want of a zoom lens – when you want a photograph one particular flower in the middle of a flowerbed, for example – but part of the creativity is about making the most of what you have.
(Case in point about the photo of a flower in a flowerbed!)
If you want to photograph a beautiful building or landscape but it won’t all fit into the frame, it leaves you free to concentrate on one element you find particularly interesting or striking. Doing something different is what turns a generic tourist photo into something eye-catching.
Still, I’ve been wondering for a while now whether I should get myself a new lens to add to my collection, so when a friend offered to lend me her Nikon 55-200mm F/4-5.6 lens, I hopped on the train to my usual photography haunt, Saltburn, to do some investigating.
The first thing I noticed was the weight. It could be because that particular 55-200mm lens is an older one, but it felt like there was a huge weight difference compared to how my camera + 35mm lens usually feels. Suddenly the camera didn’t feel like my camera, the camera which has stuck by me through thick and thin, rain and shine, for three years. I felt like a parent who’d picked up someone else’s baby.
Starting my usual meander along Marine Parade, I stopped to photograph the pier and Huntcliff, as I always do. It was fantastic to be able to zoom in on the pier and frame it up nicely, because while I do live by the rule that if you want a closer photograph of something, move closer to it, it’s virtually impossible to move closer to the pier without going down onto the beach, unless you fancy some precarious climbing of massive slopes (I don’t, and I doubt Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council would be happy with me doing it either!) The same goes for Huntcliff. So mega points for the zoom lens there.
(35mm, 55mm, 200mm)
Next I moved on further along the street, stopping at the cliff lift, which was unfortunately closed for its annual winter maintenance. The zoom lens meant I could get a more close up picture of the cars themselves, but in all honesty, when the lift is running you can do that anyway, if you’re patient.
Just because I could, I photographed the pier again, from a different angle. At 55mm it sat nicely within the frame and emphasised the fact that the photograph was taken from a height, but it still looked natural. In comparison, the photograph taken at 35mm looks like a piece of scenery for a train set! And the pier itself, taken at 200mm, actually doesn’t look special enough to really warrant being photographed close up anyway!
Then off I went to walk along the pier and pray my skirt didn’t get blown up…
(35mm, 55mm, 200mm
This exercise also taught me that I desperately need a filter for my camera)
Once on the pier, just about managing to stop my skirt blowing up in front of most of Saltburn, I stopped to photograph along the beach towards Redcar.
Again, shooting at 55mm comes out tops here – there’s sand, sky, and some cliff, and they all look pretty well proportioned. At 35mm, the cliff looks like a smudge on the lens in comparison to the amount of beach you can see. At 200mm you can just about see the Redcar steelworks (RIP) in the background, but it can’t get close enough to really make it worth trying to photograph them.