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Thread: How to use a 50mm lens for buildings and landscape?

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    New Member ktsa5239's Avatar
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    How to use a 50mm lens for buildings and landscape?

    Hi everyone!

    So I’ve been forcing myself to use 50mm exclusively lately because I’ve read that 50mm makes u a better photographer by forcing you to learn to declutter and only have things that matter in the shot. So I’ve put away my favourite 35mm and had my 50mm everywhere for the past few weeks.

    There are a number of times I really wished I had the 35mm, things like yesterday I came across a pond in a park with a little house on the side. I just could not figure out how to include everything in the shot no matter how I position myself. And then there was another time when I saw this church on a hill and I just couldn’t take a shot of it because I can’t go any further back.

    I’ve been thinking even if I would have used my 35mm and got everything in, it would most likely be a boring shot anyway. But is there any nice lessons about how to shot creatively with a 50mm for bigger buildings or landscape?

    Any ideas would be appreciated!
    thanks!

    Kobe
    “ F8 and be there! “

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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ktsa5239 View Post
    ...I’ve been forcing myself to use 50mm exclusively lately because I’ve read that 50mm makes u a better photographer by forcing you to learn to declutter and only have things that matter in the shot. So I’ve put away my favourite 35mm and had my 50mm everywhere for the past few weeks.
    ...
    Any ideas would be appreciated!
    thanks!

    Kobe
    It sounds like you have swallowed a trope!

    Have the experiences described in the rest of your post been beneficial?
    CC, Image editing OK.

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ktsa5239 View Post
    .... I’ve read that 50mm makes u a better photographer by forcing you to learn to declutter and only have things that matter in the shot. .....
    I have to disagree with that common theory.
    Forcing education onto the individual is not education.
    For me the better way to learn was to use zooms actually!
    Takes a long while to learn this way and then you need software capable of sifting out the data within the resultant images, such as the ability to display which focal length is more suited to your style of photography.
    Once you know your focal length 'preference' .. from there it's then easier to shoot in your own way.

    Using the 'school of photography' method whereby you're forced to shoot at 50mm ... doesn't really teach you what your style is. It's just forcing you to create something using someone elses preference.

    Saying that tho, there is satisfaction in the discipline of setting yourself a goal and getting it done.
    It's probably important to know, but what camera system(ie. format size) are you attaching this 50mm lens? Major difference if you use a 4/3rds system at 50mm vs using one of the 'full frame' systems at 50mm!

    So if you're 4/3.rds the using 50mm lens theory therefore requires a 25mm lens, and 35mm lens for APS-C.

    As for tips on how to shoot it: try to get out of the mindset that everything needs to be in a single shot. Whether that means use multiple images(stitched) for the whole shot or concentrating specifically on a certain detail(or area) is up to yourself.

    as an example: this was at a church I came across out in the middle of nowhere.
    DSC_2152.jpg
    I had access to lenses from 10mm all the way to 500mm, so could have shot in any manner(basically). There was an owl in the church, so grabbed the 80-200mm lens. Once owl got bored of me, kept the lens on and started to look for non wide angle images to capture. Cameras was the D300(APS-C), so 80mm = 120mm on 135 format.

    Hope that helps.
    Nikon D800E, D300, D70s
    {Nikon} -> 50/1.2 : 500/8(CPU'd) : 105/2.8VR Micro : 180/2.8ais : 105mm f/1.8ais : 24mm/2ais
    {Sigma}; ->10-20/4-5.6 : 50/1.4 : 12-24/4.5-5.6II : 150-600mm|S
    {Tamron}; -> 17-50/2.8 : 28-75/2.8 : 70-200/2.8 : 300/2.8 SP MF : 24-70/2.8VC

    {Yongnuo}; -> YN35/2N : YN50/1.8N


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    Hi Ameerat! I feel like the whole experience of going outside my comfort zone had made me appreciate the importance of composition more. But it’s also scary thinking that I might miss a picture where I could have gotten if I have a wider angle lens. However I question if I really wanted to go back to a boring photo with lots and lots of things in it but no objective.


    Thank you Arthur for the detail feedback, I’m using a rangefinder with a full frame sensor and a 50mm lens. I’ve tried to use the mentality of not taking the full structure but when I focus on say a wall or a feature of the architecture, it just doesn’t look right. Especially when I need to put my wife in the picture, the background becomes unidentifiable. All this worries me if I have to take the 50mm on the Christmas trip to Melbourne, because I might not be able to get iconic architecture or landscapes. The ideal solution is to take both lenses but from the book I’m learning from, it says it’s best to know one lens so well that you could see the frame before u look through the view finder and switching bbetween two focal lengths don’t help.

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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    Correct. It sounds like you do not feel the need for a wide angle lens at present, yet are not generally confident in
    the use of a narrower angled lens.

    From what you cite from that book, I'd say don't take it as gospel. If you think you should take both lenses, do so.
    The author of that book is not there with you when you take the photo, and you really can't take all his ideas as
    general rules.

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ktsa5239 View Post
    .... I’m using a rangefinder with a full frame sensor and a 50mm lens. I’ve tried to use the mentality of not taking the full structure but when I focus on say a wall or a feature of the architecture, it just doesn’t look right. Especially when I need to put my wife in the picture, the background becomes unidentifiable. All this worries me if I have to take the 50mm on the Christmas trip to Melbourne, because I might not be able to get iconic architecture or landscapes. The ideal solution is to take both lenses but from the book I’m learning from, it says it’s best to know one lens so well that you could see the frame before u look through the view finder and switching bbetween two focal lengths don’t help.
    Ah! OK .. the Leica in your sig pic.

    So if you feel more comfy with the 35mm, then I'd say use that lens more for those times when you feel like you don't want to miss out on a pic.
    As for the blurred background ... obviously an appropriate aperture value will help there .. so eg. 35mm and f/8 with your subject(eg. wife) at about 2m distance should be fine.
    You could just focus at the 2m distance, or try using 'hyperfocal'(in a manner of speaking) .. more accurately focus just behind the subject using more of the DoF that is inherent in the image.
    Subject will be very slightly unsharp compared with focusing on them, but overall if you less blurred background you get more defined rendering all round.

    I wouldn't worry too much about forcing yourself to use a specific lens of focal length, just use what comes more natural to you, to start with.
    If you then have the inclination, throw on the 50mm lens and just 'experiment' with other subject matter and concepts.
    The idea here is just to go out and shoot stuff .. literally just anything easily at hand and shoot lots of it. Some will work, possibly much wont .. and that's how you gain your experience(or educational concepts).
    I've always had the opinion that creativity is best experienced by oneself ... rather than taught.
    Not to say that it can't be taught, but for each individual it's a different thing.

    ps. I've tried to 'teach myself' using abstracts as a genre to gather experience in terms of creativity. Also viewing what others have done, AND commenting on how it could have otherwise been done .. ie. join in on the CC parts of the website.
    I generally tend to gravitate into the landscape forums and try to offer some CC to as many as time allows.
    Just the act of viewing, having an alternate opinion and then sharing it .. it seems to lock it into a section of memory that helps with your own journey.

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    Ausphotography Addict Geoff79's Avatar
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    Just from the perspective of someone who doesn’t know a thing about photography, and just for interest’s sake; I’ve never heard of this theory until reading this post, and I’ve been taking DSLR photos for about 9 years now, I think, and I’ve never owned a 50mm lens, or even an 18-55mm type lens.

    I guess it depends why you’re taking photos. Me, I just always wanted to take photos of things I find visually pleasing and thus drifted towards lenses that are better suited to these types of photos (such as a wider lens for land and seascapes).

    But I guess if you’re in it to become a great and knowledgeable photographer, I can see the logic. But wouldn’t a lens such as an 18-50mm suit your purpose better?

    That way you could leave it fully extended and intend to shoot exclusively at 50mm but it also ensures you don’t miss those shots you don’t want to miss? It’d be a good test of your discipline too.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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    I’ve been forcing myself to use 50mm exclusively lately because I’ve read that 50mm makes u a better photographer by forcing you to learn to declutter and only have things that matter in the shot. So I’ve put away my favourite 35mm and had my 50mm everywhere for the past few weeks.
    and

    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff79 View Post
    . . . I’ve never heard of this theory until reading this post. . . and I’ve been taking DSLR photos for about 9 years now, I think, and I’ve never owned a 50mm lens, or even an 18-55mm type lens.
    It’s an old teaching exercise.

    Arguably instilled into and then proliferated by the curricula of the Royal College of Art (London) under the influences, firstly of Michael John Langford and later, Emeritus Professor John Hedgecoe.

    The curricula of the RCA’s School of Photography, established around the mid 1960s, permeated to into the curricula of Colleges in Australia, New Zealand and (probably) the rest of ‘the Empire’.

    ***

    Context is relevant: in the 1960s,1970s and even into the 1980s, 135 Format Cameras or “Miniature Format” as it is technically known, typically sported three main lenses: 35mm; 50mm and 85mm or 105/135mm. It was a “big and expensive kit” if one had a 24mm or 200mm additional to the two or three more common lenses.

    The instruction to use a 50mm lens exclusively (mainly instead of a Wide Angle alternative), was indeed given to have the student concentrate on TWO aspects:
    > Composition
    > (more importantly) attaining the best Camera Viewpoint

    The main point being to rid laziness using a (wider) 35mm Lens, where one could be quite lazy in the thinking about and then attaining the best Camera Viewpoint because of the intrinsic wider Angle of View, which simply got more into the frame.

    It is also relevant to acknowledge that, in 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, these courses of instruction were full time courses, about 20 hours per week of instruction and assignments and exercises set usually weekly which would take another 12 to 24 hours planning shooting and in then in wet lab. Additionally, the Student was expected to have a few hundred hours per term of practical experience signed off by a Studio, Newspaper or similar establishment.

    "Use a ONLY a 50mm Lens" (on a Miniature Format Camera) was only one of many of the exercises that were set. As an exercise it would probably last a week or two, at the most - remembering that all the Student did for the week was Photography, Photography, Photography, else they probably failed the course.

    ***

    To the OP:

    Kobe, referencing this portion of your question:
    There are a number of times I really wished I had the 35mm, things like yesterday I came across a pond in a park with a little house on the side. I just could not figure out how to include everything in the shot no matter how I position myself. And then there was another time when I saw this church on a hill and I just couldn’t take a shot of it because I can’t go any further back.
    This exercise certainly was NOT meant for the Student to use a 50mm lens and then - include everything in the shot no matter how I position myself”.

    Likening this exercise to the structured learning of Piano – Hanon Exercises are EXERCISES – they are not Concerti to be learned and then displayed, as Works of Art.

    I suggest that if you are making Photography, then take your 35mm lens and your 50mm lens and every other lens that you have and choose which one that you need to make the best Photography that you can.

    If you are doing practice exercises, such as this practice exercise with your 50mm lens, then practice your exercises rigorously.

    Most importantly understand that these are two discrete and totally different tasks.

    ***

    I would be interested and appreciative if you would cite the text that you are reading and extract the quote(s) relevant to this exercise as I suspect that some of the original intent might have been lost.

    WW

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    Member Burma's Avatar
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    I guess it depends on what you want to get out of your photography. I can see that restricting yourself to a single lens can be very instructive for improving compositional skills, but personally, I’m in it for enjoyment.
    You don’t want to be loaded down - that can be very distracting from the real business of ‘looking’. No doubt that simplifying your kit can be quite liberating, but I think a certain flexibility is a huge benefit.
    I use a m4/3 12-40 (24 -80 ff) most of the time and love it. Actually, I could probably live with a m4/3 25mm & 17mm (50 and 35) - but i’m not going to!
    Last edited by Burma; 25-11-2019 at 3:14pm.

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    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    Use the best lens for the job. Professional photographers don't use one lens. They have a range of lenses, and choose the right tool for the job at hand. There is a good reason we have 12mm lenses, macro lenses, and 300mm lenses, along with a myriad of other options, including tilt-shift lenses and more.

    Using a single lens is not wrong, but you have to choose the right lens to be that one.

    Cannot ever recall using a wide angle lens when lying in a rain-forrest trying to get a photo of a fungi that is about 3mm across. I choose my macro lens for this task.
    "It is one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it is another thing to make a portrait of who they are" - Paul Caponigro

    Constructive Critique of my photographs is always appreciated
    Nikon, etc!

    RICK
    My Photography

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    Thank you everyone for your feedbacks especially William's detailed reply. You guys(girls) are awesome !

    The background context William provided makes so much sense now! My current aim is to lift my photography game so I'm kinda following a standard method. But I guess with a full time job its hard to achieve 20hrs of shooting But I'm thoroughly enjoying this process. I feel like I've gained more knowledge about photography on this forum for the past week then I did for the past year !

    I've just signed up for a street shooting class on Saturday in the city. So excited !

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ktsa5239 View Post
    .....

    The background context William provided makes so much sense now! ....
    Yes. Thanks to John for some historical perspective of it all now.
    I reckon I probably read the same teaching method in my John Hedgecoe book too.

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