Musings on Photography


Posted in process by Paul Butzi on October 26, 2009

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As yet another one of my “it’s a sort of experiment” things, I have for months now been going on my more or less daily walks with the aperture on the lens set to wide open (usually f/2.8 or f/4), and leaving it wide open regardless of subject. This has been an interesting learning experience. It’s not clear to me that this results in a larger number of satisfying images than, say, setting the aperture to f/11 and leaving it there, or even the usual practice of stopping down when you think you want depth of field, and opening up to some optimum when you want it, and going wide open when you want shallow depth of field.

Mostly this has been an experiment to see whether my seeing adapts to a priori decisions about equipment (lens selection, say, or aperture).

My conclusion is that I do adapt. What’s more, imposing this sort of arbitrary and capricious limitation on your daily photography can be a rewarding way of expanding your photographic vision.

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  1. drewfulton said, on October 26, 2009 at 2:24 pm


    Cool images and a great exercise. I had a professor that used to say, take whatever you think makes a picture good and do the opposite. If that doesn’t work then you know its a good rule to follow. It’s a great way to shake things up and challenge yourself.

  2. Tommy Williams said, on October 26, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    @drewfulton: that’s a great maxim. I’m going to remember that.

    About constraints: I am finding myself using my prime lenses more and more and my image-stabilized zoom less and less. But here’s the thing: my primes are 35, 50, and 100, and this image-stabilized zoom lens is a 24-105. And any shots stopped down to f4 or more on the primes are shots I could get with the 24-105.

    And yet I am pretty consistently getting better shots, and a better percentage of interesting shots, when I shoot with a prime than with the zoom lens.

    It’s probably just that I still have so much to learn but it’s an interesting exercise.

    What I don’t have is your discipline to continue the exercise for months at a time. I spent a week shooting only with my 50mm and I have nearly convinced myself to spend a week shooting with only my 100mm f/2.8 macro but I’m not there yet.

    But months? I still have a long way to go.

  3. Rory said, on October 28, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    2 stunning pictures.

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