Work with what you have

I wrote previously on the benefits of shooting with one camera (Ricoh GR II) with a fixed lens and how that has helped me learn a lot about photography over the past year or so.

One of the main things I’ve learned is that what at first can seem like a limitation can be turned into something useful. I’m talking about the apparent disadvantage of working solely with a 28mm focal length, especially in situations where it might be better to have a longer focal length.

I’m typically a fan of close-up street shots and getting right into the mix with things I photograph. That sort of photography suits the GR, since the wide angle really requires that I get up close to things to translate the energy of the moment into a good photo. The shots I’m most proud of are usually quite busy. They’re filled with subjects and convey a sense of movement.  However, I also like a more contemplative approach to photography. One that involves capturing single subjects interacting with their environment in ways that gives an impression of people finding moments of stillness.

Punta Hermosa. 2017.
Punta Hermosa. Peru. 2017.
Stillness. Bogota. 2017.
City park. Bogota. 2017.

Shooting at 28mm makes it pretty tough to get those kind of shots right. The major issue is that often it just feels like I’m shooting from too far away. Sometimes when I spot one of these moments of stillness — a person balancing in a tai chi pose in a busy city’s park, or a family knee-deep in the ocean, watching a storm come in — and line up the shot I find myself thinking, ‘I really  need a longer lens.’ But what I’ve begun to notice with these types of shots is that I actually like the way people in them are rendered small in comparison to their surroundings. The way the wide angle lens pulls in so much of the world around the subjects, and makes them look a bit tiny in the vastness of it all, reminds me of how we’re all making our way through this big world and despite all the constant motion can find points of stillness wherever we are. The presence of the surrounding environment — trees, beach, open sky — also reminds me of how what’s happening around us affects us, whether we notice it or not. These photos let the world in.

Man alone. Machu Pichu. 2017.
Man alone. Machu Pichu. 2017.

The more I shoot with the one camera/one lens set-up the more I realize how it’s possible to take what might initially seem like a limitation and turn it into something positive. I’m slowly starting to collect more of these ‘moments of stillness’ shots and hope to have a strong collection within a few years time. I feel like they’re slowly starting to become part of my style and that feels like a good thing.


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