If you have read my series of articles on Photography and Aesthetics you know that I divide photographic lenses in 3 categories: Wide, Normal and Telephoto. I personally always carry at least one lens from each category, no matter which camera system, or systems, I am using at any given time.
Why did I decide on this simple lens classification? Why didn't I say there were "many" lens categories such as super wides, fish eyes, normal, semi-normal, short, medium, long, super long, super extra long, extremely wide, etc. lenses? Well, for one reason and one reason only: because this classification is, well, simple.
Too often, when getting ready for a workshop, students get lost choosing which ones of the many focal lengths they own, either fixed or zooms, they want to bring along with them. As a result they often ask me if they should bring their 200 or 300mm, or their 24 or 28, or their 18-35 or 17-40 zoom, or both, or all of them. They are surprised when I tell them it makes little difference. What matters, I explain, is that they have a lens from each category, including a normal lens. The normal lens, as a passing remark, is the one lens that is the least commonly seen in camera bags today. Quite surprising provided that it is the least expensive lens for most manufacturers (the Canon 50mm 1.8 is roughly $75, comparable to the cost of a good filter...), that it is the lightest lens and that it hardly takes any space. Also surprising provided that if you use a 1.5 (or such) sensor factor DSLR a 50mm is no longer a normal lens but becomes a short telephoto instead.
At any rate it is important that you always have with you a representative from each of the three lens families I just mentioned. Why? Because you never know what will come up. On the day I created the photo above I was there to photograph sunrise knowing that the classic view from this particular overlook near Lake Powell was a long lens view of the mesas in the distance. I had created such an image the previous evening (read my account here) and that morning I was ready for something different. Variety is the spice of life they say. It turns out that variety, and it's first cousin flexibility, are also the key to success in landscape photography.
This location is often considered to be a "Long Lens Location." In fact, after the workshop one participant mentioned that a long lens was a Necessity to photograph this location. I personally believe that Creativity is what one needs to take along. For this reason I named this image "Long Lens Location" Wide Angle Sunrise. Necessity may be the mother of invention. But Creativity is definitly the mistress of art. Now which one would you rather be with on a shoot: Necessity or Creativity? By now I am sure you know what my choice is ;-)
Too often one gets stuck thinking of a specific location as a specific image. I know exactly how it feels. I have been there for years and I have never felt so free than when I was finally able to liberate myself from the oppression that well-known-photographer's-work had placed on me. The wonderful thing is that once I had freed myself from this monster, photographic possibilities for a given location went from a few to an infinity. Boundaries disappeared as I realized there was nothing that said I could not create a specific image even though I had never seen anyone do it, and even though people may ask me why I had not created the images that everyone goes there to create. When you get to this point you experience creative freedom, and creative freedom is what Being an Artist is all about. Did you say Being an Artist? Yes I did. You bet. In fact I did so on purpose to not so discreetly alert you that my 10th, and not last, article in the Aesthetics and Photography series will be published later this week. As I always say (well, nearly always)... stay tuned!