Sunday, July 28, 2019

Use Limitations To Unleash Your Creativity

Over the years I have gathered quite a collection of cameras and lenses.  So much so that when June decided to try her hand with an interchangeable lens camera I was able to give her a mirrorless camera and three lenses.  This is my backup camera and three lenses that I no longer use but never got around to selling.  Not counting the three lenses I gave June, I have six lenses covering focal lengths from 12mm to 400mm (18-600mm in full-frame terms).  Because I use a cropped sensor mirrorless camera system I can easily carry all those lenses in a single backpack.  I pretty much have unlimited flexibility with which to create my photos.  I found this flexibility was putting me into a creative rut. I was relying on my collection of lenses to come up with a good composition. 

Don't misunderstand -- each of those lenses serves a different purpose, from fast wide 12mm lens for night sky photos to the 100-400mm zoom for wildlife photography.  Sometimes I would use a lens that is typically not used for a given style of photography, such as using the 100-400mm zoom for landscapes, but most of the time I was relying on a zoom lens to compose the photo without making other efforts to be creative.

Recently we took a couple trips to Knoxville Tennessee, Michigan, and Indiana.  For a couple outings on those trips, I took only one lens - a 35mm f/2 prime (no zooming) lens for my Fuji XT-3 mirrorless camera.    I recently added this lens to my collection because the 35mm focal length is close what our eyes see (normal lens) and the wide f/2 maximum aperture allows me to shoot in low light conditions and to blur the background in my photos.  It's a tiny little lightweight lens on a small mirrorless camera that doesn't attract much attention or weigh much at all.  I can carry it all day long and no one pays much attention to the little camera and lens.
f/2 at 1/50 sec, ISO 800
By limiting myself to a single focal length I had to compensate by moving around to get a good composition.  The wide f/2 aperture allowed me to shoot in dark places I couldn't with other lenses, such as the bar, but at the same time, I had to think about creatively using the depth of field.

f/4, 1/1600 sec, ISO 4000
f/2, 1/10 sec, ISO 400

I found myself having to look around and find new perspectives.  While waiting outside a gift shop, I found a whirlygig that had some cool shapes.  I could use the f/2 aperture to blur out any distracting elements in the background.  I focused on water dripping from a pipe.  I found a single yellow petal from a Sunflower in a bed of red leaves (I didn't put it there, this time.)

f 5.6, 1/90 sec, ISO 320

f/2.8, 1/2000 sec, ISO 200
Sometimes the 35mm focal length worked out, such as the bridge photo.  Other times I had to work to create a pleasing composition because of physical barriers that kept me from being able to stand where I wanted, such as the boat and lily pad flower and the red/orange flowers where I had to cut off the left petal.
f/7.1, 1/100 sec, ISO 200

f/16, 1/120 sec, ISO 640
I found that I enjoyed my single-lens outings and found some creative photos that I might have missed if I had relied on my arsenal of lenses.  My new photos don't look like the thousands I have already taken.  By restricting one area, I have opened up my creativity and made photography fun.

Give this a try.  You don't have to restrict yourself to a single fixed focal length lens.  Restrict yourself in other ways -- only make photos that contain a specific color.  Only do portrait orientation photos.  Limit yourself to a specific aperture or shutter speed setting.  You might find you have more fun while learning to be more creative.

Here are a few more photos from those single-lens days.
f/5.6, 1/105 sec, ISO 400

f/5, 1/150 sec, ISO 200

f/2, 1/125 sec, ISO 160

f/2, 1/50 sec, ISO 1000

f/4, 1/45 sec, ISO 160

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