Getting closer – A day in Venice – part 2

My day in Venice was completely devoted to explore some limits of my photographic skills. The first study was about the gear I should carry around and as I wrote previously, it’s much better to focus on what you have rather on what you could have, switching camera or lens. This is also true when you want to buy some new stuff. Are you sure you are limited by the lack of gear rather than by your lack of skills?

The second test I wanted to perform was about my confidence taking close-ups of perfect strangers on the street. This time the lens mattered a lot because the smaller the focal length, the closer you have to get. Let’s start with a 85mm lens. The easiest lens of the ones I had.

Fully manual close-ups

My challenge was pretty tough because I was taking head shots with a Nikkor 85mm f1.8 fully manual. No light metering and no AF. It means that to perform a proper shot you really need to be prepared. No time for metering, just focusing, therefore the metering has to be done before. It requires a bit of experience but it’s not so difficult. Manual focusing is a bit trickier but the D90 has a manual focus assistant and a green light turns on when the AF point is focused. Unfortunately it’s not so easy to rely on a very small assistant like that when your subject is not posing for you and you have to catch the moment. The key for success is practice, practice, practice.

Nikon D90 - 85mm - ISO 400 - f2.8 - 1/250

Nikon D90 - 85mm - ISO 400 - f2.8 - 1/250

Nikon D90 - 85mm - ISO 400 - f2.8 - 1/125

In the next blogposts I’ll show you the same kind of experience but with shorter lenses: 50mm and 23mm. I will also tell about my rules of engament, stay tuned!

The full set of pictures is available on Flickr and your feedback is more than welcome!

Shooting in the street – A day in Venice – part 1

Yesterday I spent the day in Venice with my friend Giorgio. Despite the fact that my hometown is just 150km far from one of the most amazing cities in the world, I hadn’t gone to Venice since I was a teenager.

The weather was not too bad, considering it was the second of january, it was freezing cold but not too rainy. It was cloudy, therefore the light was perfect for taking portraits in the narrow streets of the city center, and so I did.

I planned to use only two setups: Nikon D90+85mm f1.8 MF for close-ups and Fujifilm Finepix X100 for wider shots. I also had my Nikkor 50mm f1.4G with me, you know, just in case…

forget the gear and be flexible

The main trap when you have two cameras/setup or many lenses with you is to adapt your setup to the surroundings. It’s ok if you are shooting landscapes or nature. You put on your wide lens for a gorgeous sunset or you go telephoto for details. Same story if you are shooting with a model. You have time to adapt your gear to the light and the subject.

After the first hour I realized that I was spending too much time thinking about which camera was fitting the scene, rather than clicking the shutter to catch the moment. So I decided to apply a simple timeboxing rule: 30 minutes with a camera, 30 minutes with the other camera, adapting myself to the gear and not the opposite.

The result was much better. I took amazing portraits and great landscapes because I was focusing on how to deliver the best shot with the camera I was holding, rather than switching from one camera to the other.

Here three shots, with different setups, but with the same spirit.

Nikon D90 - 50mm - ISO 400 - f2.8 - 1/250

Nikon D90 - 85mm - ISO 400 - f2.8 - 1/250

Fujifilm Finepix X100 - 23mm - ISO 800 - f4.0 - 1/280

The full set of pictures is available on Flickr and stay tuned because more stuff is coming!

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