We’re driving north on Saturday with Jen’s father to check out the Collings Foundation fly-in, where there will be three 1940’s era bombers parked for the public to see. I’ve been wanting to do this since I found out they were touring years ago, and I plan to stay as long as I can, bring as many cameras as I can carry, and spend as much time as possible in each plane.
In preparation, I bought an inexpensive but valuable tool for my D70: a F/1.8 50mm Nikkor lens. I’ve read several articles in the last couple of weeks touting its power and simplicity and when I put it on the Nikon I was transported back to my first weeks of photo class, using a Minolta with an identical lens: the view is the same and the camera weighs the same (maybe a little lighter, actually). Using it to snap some basic photos, I remembered how much more it made me work back then—in order to frame the photo correctly, the photographer is forced to move, making the process that much more intimate and engaged. In the short time I used it, it made me think harder about how I wanted the photo to look and where I needed to be instead of simply zooming in to compose. I spent a lot of time habitually tugging on the focus ring trying to get closer…oh, right.
The other great feature of this lens is manual exposure setting. Most of the kit lenses shipped with new DSLRs are auto-exposure only, which means a whole measure of lighting control is lost. Both of my current lenses are auto-exposure, unfortunately. This one takes me back to the basics, which I’ve forgotten completely, so I cracked Jen’s copy of Horenstein’s Black and White Photography: A Basic Manual this morning and started reading up on my basic camera theory.
What’s funny is how boring I thought depth-of-field exercises were at the time (and how expensive they proved to be) but how fascinated I am about getting the theory down today. I’d like to get to the point where I can shoot manually without stopping to remember if F/1.2 is wide open or closed down, but I think that’s probably a long way off. (Tom Baird, I hope you read this someday and reconsider the low grades you gave me in theory class.)
I’m also going to take my through-the-viewfinder rig and hope that the event staff doesn’t think I’m shooting lasers at them or something. I’ve been perfecting my setup for that rig for a while now, to the point where it has a preset on my Canon and shoots with excellent results about 90% of the time. The only thing I wish I had for it now is a macro lens for the Nikon so I could get larger-quality originals; I’m at the limit of what I can do with the pairing of the Canon on the rig, and I’d like to be able to expand the possibilities. All in good time.