Nifty Fifty - tyneholm
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Nifty Fifty

Assignment L22

Unsurprisingly, zoom lenses are popular today and their versatility means they are the mainstay of many photographers’ kit bags. However, zooms can also make photographers lazy when composing shots and it is important to learn when it is better to physically move the camera in order to create the best perspective or shooting angle. For this challenge, you will need to use a fixed focal length lens for a day and learn the benefits of zooming with your feet. 

Using just one, fixed focal length will help you develop your composition skills, forcing you to be more careful, accurate, and disciplined. It will also make you think more about your positioning and framing. 

You can use any fixed focal length for this challenge, but we recommend using a 50mm prime lens. A 50mm lens offers a similar angle of view to the human eye so it provides a fairly natural-looking perspective. So-called “standard” or “nifty fifty” lenses are typically inexpensive to buy, have a fast maximum aperture, and are optically superb. But if you don’t own one-and don’t have the inclination or budget to rush out and buy one-you can simply set your zoom lens at 50mm for the day. Now see what you can capture! 

Just carrying one lens will make your camera bag light and encourage you to walk further and explore new viewpoints. You will need to think much harder about exactly where you set up and your shooting angle. By having to work harder to create successful compositions you will become a better, more imaginative, and more adaptable landscape photographer. 

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  • Prime 50mm lenses tend to have a fast maximum aperture, in the region of f/1.4-f/1.8. This lets you play with differential focus, using a large aperture to throw parts of the landscape creatively out of focus.
  • Prime lenses tend to be bitingly sharp. A prime 35mm or 50mm lens can be a good choice when you wish to create a stitched panorama (see L16, Create a Panorama).

Special Kit

  • 50mm prime lens, or a standard zoom lens set at 50mm

Field Notes

  • This assignment might seem limiting at first, but using just one focal length will force you to move around the landscape more to find the best angle, distance, and perspective. Try working handheld (see L19, Shoot Handheld) to give you extra freedom of movement.