Get to know a new lens

An optimal optical opportunity

Looking for photographic opportunities, consider trying out a new lens—or familiarizing yourself with a lens you don’t use often.

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I find that when I use a certain lens and fixed focal length, after a while I start to think in that focal length. If I have a 28mm, for instance, I start thinking visually in 28mm. With this in mind, I recently took an underused 55-200mm zoom lens for a stroll to a local park. The goal was to become familiar with this lens, locked at 200mm, while leaving no carbon footprint.

What happens when you use a new lens, you start seeing things around you in new and different ways. That’s a key reason for buying a new lens, right? Familiar places suddenly have a new photographic attraction. Let’s look at a few of the shots I took with that zoom lens during a one-hour walk on a sunny day a few weeks ago. My gear: Canon D40, Sigma 55-200mm f/4-5.6 DC AF zoom lens.

I started by looking in my backyard, and the sun was hitting the picket fence just right. I converted the shot to black and white in Photoshop Elements and deepened the shadows for greater impact.

I walked past a construction site, where this bright yellow vehicle was sitting. I used the compression provided by the long focal length to create this near-abstraction.

Still at the construction site, I spied this locked doorway. Behind it was bright blue barrels containing construction material. The blue, thrown out of focus by the large aperture and long lens, made a fascinating background to the tactile lock and chains in the foreground.

As I entered the park, I saw this man and his dog jogging at the bottom of a hill. I probably could have used an even longer lens for this one.

I liked the peeling letters on this friendly-looking sign, and crossed the street to get close.

I positioned myself to get the duck and the water spout almost perfectly centered.


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