10 years ago this month, I bought my Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8 L lens. I had to save up for it, and it made things very tight that month, but this lens and the sacrifices it meant to acquire it represented a decision and a commitment to my career as a photographer.
My trusty Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8L just turned 10. I can't even begin to tell you how many frames I've shot through this lens!
As I was getting myself and my camera bundled up to shoot the field test video for the Think Tank Hydrophobia Flash 70-200 a few weeks back, I suddenly realized that my trusty Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8L lens turned 10 years old this March. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I don’t think I’m overly sentimental about all my camera gear, so this milestone took me by surprise.
I was stringing for a local weekly newspaper, making next to nothing per published photo, but I wanted so much more!
I wanted to shoot sports, I wanted to make stronger photojournalistic style images, and I wanted to shoot wildlife.
More than anything, I wanted to be more than the low guy on the totem pole using a slow variable aperture supertele for news assignments for the local weeklies.
Many people–myself included–will tell you left, right and sideways, that the gear is secondary to the overall vision, and there is much, much truth to that. But, at the same time, new, higher quality gear is often just what the doctor ordered for inspiring a burst of creativity and growth.
I wanted faster glass to make sharper shots at higher shutter speeds to build my sports and spot news portfolio to move into a position of freelancing for the bigger dailies.
(I also bought a Canon 1-N film SLR around this time, used. I think I was about the fourth owner of this particular S/N of the 1-N, and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it sold at least once more on the Sportsshooter classified since!)
Saving up for it meant some sacrifices to my personal finances. But it was also commitment to pushing myself to make stronger photos, to work on my portfolio, to get to where I wanted to be in my career at that point, which was: shooting for the bigger daily newspapers in my area. So I wanted it new. Not used. And US, not gray. Yes, all these things cost more, but I didn't care.
I made the call on a Monday morning in mid-March, and paid extra for 2-day shipping. I hung up the phone, excited for Wednesday and the arrival of the UPS truck with my first white L lens! I couldn’t be more excited!
But I was nervous at the same time: this was a good chunk of change, and what if the lens didn’t miraculously kick my images up a notch once this was attached to my camera? I thought about canceling the order for half a moment, and steeled my resolve that this was money well spent.
Tuesday morning, my cellphone rang.
It was the Art Director for the Asbury Park Press asking me if I would be interested in coming in to talk about the details of a full time job on the Image Desk. This wasn’t a shooting job by any means. This was a Photo Technician job, involving scanning and color correcting images for prepress, working up digital files, archiving, and such.
It wasn’t a shooting job.
But it was a job in the photo department of the large daily just a few miles from my house.
At one of the papers I grew up reading.
It was a job offer.
In the photo department.
With health benefits.
It wasn’t a shooting position.
It was a job offer. A fulltime job offer.
In the photo department.
But not a shooting position.
It was a full time job.
I just charged close to twelve-hundred dollars for a lens, and now I’m possibly going in for a job offer for a non-shooting position? What!
I thought about turning down the job.
I thought about canceling the lens order, knowing the lens was in transit and I’d wind up with some penalties, but I’d have most of that $1200 back in my pocket.
As it turns out, I took the job, and kept the lens.
I shot a ton of practice shots of birds and squirrels to get comfortable with it in my off time, and within six months I’d spun the P-tech position into a staff photographer position as I explain here.
I was issued a camera bag loaded with a Canon D2000/Kodak DCS-520 built on a Canon EOS 1-N chassis, along with a brand new Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8 L lens!
Now, some in my position might be tempted, at this point, out of a pragmatic or frugal character, to sell or trade in their personal 70-200 f/2.8L.
But not me! I wasn’t sure if I’d be at that paper forever, and then I’d just have to go out and re-buy the 70-200 again at some point! As it turns out, within three years, I’d left the staff position to freelance for this and many other papers, and the 70-200 was among my most-used lenses.
This lens has traveled the world with me, and has been attached now to at least 15 different EOS bodies through the years.
As an aside, my staff-issued 70-200 f/2.8 and the Kodak DCS520 both met a gruesome fate on one of my last assignments before saying bon voyage to company-paid health benefits and a steady paycheck from the Press back in 2003: this camera/lens combo was knocked from my hands as a I dodged an out-of-bounds tackle during a Monmouth U-Wagner College football game. The lensmount on the camera got busted, and so did the camera mount on the lens!
Costa Rica, April 2004. Me and the 70-200 f/2.8L ziplining through the forest.
To this day, this lens remains one of my all-time favorite tele zooms, and I reckon it will still be serving me well in another ten year’s time.
And for those wondering about the quirks of the timing of it all: I honestly do not know if I would have placed the order for the lens had the job offer come through on monday morning before I’d called and charged it.
Do you have a story about a turning point in your career? Respond below, or on your own blog and link in to our comments.