Recently Nikon gave me a couple of brushes and a clean canvas. By brushes I mean lenses… and the canvas was a “shoot whatever you’d like” request.
While we all know my affection for having the 24-70 G on set, I actually like to practice on primes. Be it walking around a city with one lens and looking for light, or actually shooting in a mock-up production environment, there is so much to learn from fixed focal lengths. Controlled depth is only as powerful as the control the photographer has over it.
This time around the terms were a bit different. Where I usually shoot the 1.4 line of lenses, Nikon gave me a challenge, to shoot the 1.8 series of prime lenses (specifically the 20, 50 and 85). I have heard from many photographers, professional and enthusiast alike, that these lenses are the real deal. While I love to talk gear, the truest knowledge of any lens or camera only comes from trying it out for yourself.
The first day they arrived, I was already on set and not able to play around much with them other than look at how sturdy they were built. However, the next morning I woke up early (think kid at Christmas) and walked around the yard to see what I could do. I was immediately floored, these lenses could deliver.
I don’t know if it was the weather, the lenses or just my mood, but I really felt like I was back in high school, walking around and trying to see what the camera could do. It was a feeling that grabbed me into a state of reminiscing. What was photography before people learned to expect images from me… a time when the model and I went into a shoot to see if greatness was possible. It was a beautiful time when the image contained more elements that were unexpected than anything else. It was at that point I thought, why not return to the place when it all began… my high school.
I talked with a friend of mine who was a fitness trainer and we decided it would be fun to shoot around and see what resulted. A friend held my light, a Profoto B1 set to high speed sync, and we gabbed images of what caught our attention. It then started to catch my attention, the Nikon lenses were tack sharp wide open. Now usually shooting wide open would be something we would have to compromise lighting around, but when the lights can kill out ambient with speed… well you see where this is going.
We shot on the football field at sunset and let the light and lenses show us what we loved about photography. Hopping around the apertures and shutters with ease, the lenses handled everything I could throw at them. In only an hour I had 4 images that I would put in any portfolio and a newfound respect for what the Nikon 1.8’s could do.