Sunday, May 20, 2012

Shooting with Long Lens

I believe it is very important to experiment and explore different techniques and refresh our viewpoints on photography perspectives from time to time, to further spur the growth of the photography in us. It is unwise to stay stagnant and be complacent with one set of rules and stick to limited knowledge in defining what good photography is. The journey has no end, and there is so much more to explore if the photographer has the heart and passion to do so. Similarly this applies to street photography. There are so many ways to go about shooting on the street, and there really is no right and wrong. Everyone sees things differently, everyone has their own unique artistic vision. Developing the artistic sense comes hand in hand with using a varying set of tools and methods to translate the vision into photographs. 

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko Digital 50-200mm F2.8-3.5 lens

Breakfast of the Champions
Found this shirtless dude sitting at the Taxi Stand. Perhaps it was too hot, that he had to take his shirt off and cool down with a cold can of Tiger's. For some reasons it was overbearingly hot this morning. 



Umbrella
What works for me in this photograph was the colourful and beautiful flowery pattern on the umbrella, against plain white dress on the lady. I attacked her at a vulnerable time, she was crossing the road, hence she was looking out for any approaching vehicles. Not the best approach for street, but I like the natural undisturbed feel to this image. 

Harsh Malaysian Sun
The girl was wiping sweat off with the white towel, and I waited until she turned her head around to have the eye contact. 

Chillax at the Balcony
This would probably not quality as street photography, because it was a residential zone, shooting in people's home. I was expecting the guy to have some rejection, but to my amazement, he smiled instead !! So I shot a few more frames. I think it is crucial to keep a positive outlook, and be optimistic. 

Bite It Off
One of the few things I do very, very often: HEADSHOT !! I try not to overdo it these days. 

White Dots
I know many people have been complaining on my street photographs containing subject content which appear very depressing or miseable: such as homeless people, beggars, or people with broken legs. Ok, ok, here are some happier, and surely more pleasing looking subjects, which can be easily spotted at KL downtown area, such as the Pavilion. 

Buff Tattoo
Gotta love the tattoos on this dude's arms. 

Purple
Apparently there was some event going on just outside Lot 10 shopping mall, to commemorate the International AIDS Memorial Day. Free condoms were given away. You can see the girl at the bottom left corner going that, the condoms come in purple packages. 

White
There was some property event going on outside Pavilion, this lady was stationed outside to hand out brochures. 

Workers and Beggar
McDonald's workers taking a break, while the beggar was just a meter away. 


For a long duration of time, my staple lenses I have been using when I am on the streets were the 11-22mm F2.8-3.5 and 50mm F2 macro. Those two lenses provided me with almost everything I needed: great wide angle coverage, fast aperture, capability to create good bokeh, sharp, and even medium tele-photo range. The lenses worked very well for my shooting style, which I am slowly, but surely shaping into something I adhere to on every street shooting session. Nonetheless, there are times I would do something unusual, such as today, when I went to the streets with a long lens instead: the 50-200mm F2.8-3.5. Traditionally it is not advisable (you can easily read up everywhere on street photography guides) to use long lens on the street. There are many good reasons supporting why wide angle and normal prime lenses are favorable and worked better for most street shooting, but hey, what is the fun of just following rules all the time? I do not deny the truth in the guidelines written by the experienced and seasoned photographers, and they are valid. On top of that, I also strongly believe that it is important on our own part to do our own experimentation, our own trial and error, and determine what works best for our own shooting preferences. We define our own photography, and our own identity as photographers. 

I have shot with long lens before on the streets, but very rarely these days. I started off with long lens, mainly because I was too afraid to go near my subjects, and was not ready to face the possibility of rejection. As I advanced further I realized people on the streets are really approachable and friendly, hence I used wider lenses, to incorporate more surrounding subjects and backgrounds to support the main subject content in my street photographs. However, I cannot help but have a soft spot for long lenses. There is just something about using a long zoom that gives you that excitement, as if you were sneaking around, stealing some shots from far away. Perhaps, there are more advantages to just the excitement alone. Long lenses have many benefits to photography in general. 1) you get very good bokeh, the longer you zoom, the more bokeh you get 2) the compression effect on the background, meaning you see less background, easier to isolate the main subject and minimizing distractions 3) allowing hard to reach subjects, eg across the road 4) training the eyes to spot subjects from far away. I would not say that a tele-lens is highly recommended to be used on the streets, but if you have not used a tele lens, why not give it a try? At the end of the day, it all comes down to what kind of shots you are looking for, you have to acknowledge the fact that there are some shots that only a long lens can accomplish. 

Some friends I was shooting with this morning. Do check out Scott's beautiful street series which he took in London streets during his work/travel there this year, as well as Luke's wonderful rainy day shots. Show some love for street photography guys !!


I do admit that the bulk and weight of the lele-lens were not something I looked forward to. Walking with something compact and light would have been much more comfortable.

This morning me and a bunch of crazy photo-buddies went along Bukit Bintang area and had our shutter therapy there. The sun was unusually harsher, and it was rather uncomfortable walking around, hence the session was cut short. Nevertheless, I did come home with some shots that I actually liked.

28 comments:

  1. Simply wonderful! I love the bokeh in your shots

    I recognize that girl in the photo captioned "White Dots".

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    Replies
    1. Hello Samuel,
      Thanks !! Oh dear, is she your friend?

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    2. You're welcome.

      Yes, she is my friend. =)
      I was surprised to see her on your blog.

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  2. Awesome as usual : )
    Thanks for the kind words and link to my humble blog :)

    Cheers!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Scott,
      No worries mate, you totally deserve it. Lets have coffee and shoot again some time soon.

      Delete
  3. I like one with the umbrella and the black ballerina shoes. The way her feet land on the ground is just waaay cute. Nice pics regardless of the heat. I have gone the other way recently. Shorter lens. Love my 20mm now and even though 45mm is a fab lens, I use it only when I can't get near enough with the 20.

    https://plus.google.com/photos/110479167004746675441/albums/5744564962485775666

    My first outing with my new, used G2 and forgot to bring the adapter even I had my manual focus 135mm f/2.8 in the bag.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Ananda. That umbrella was my favourite shot too. That 20mm is a great lens!! Great for close distance shooting.
      I can't seem to be able to open that link you have put there, the page has the "404" error.

      Delete
  4. A great collection and very informative. I wish I had the confidence to do something similar.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Amanda T ! Long lens is a good way to start, before moving in very close to the subjects.

      Delete
  5. Good (head) shots! Don't stop, always great pictures and thanks for the links to those other photogs, great work!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Peter !! I will surely continue making more photos, no worries mate.

      Delete
  6. I had a 50-200 too but I can't hold it steady for long (quite heavy plus the camera) and as a result quite some images are not sharp especially when zoomed to the far end. Any advice? Your photos are very sharp!

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    Replies
    1. Hello SimLim,
      To get blur free shots, I think the most important thing is to watch the shutter speed. I keep my shutter speed more than 1/focal length, eg shooting at 200mm, I will need at least 1/200sec shutter speed or faster.
      Of course, methods to steady your shot, depending on your shooting style and handling is also very important.

      Delete
    2. I'll take note of that! THANKS!

      Delete
  7. Robin: Thanks for showing us your latest. Honestly, I can see why a long lens is such a bad idea for street photography. Even though the general dimensions of each shot are the same as your more usual shots with the 50mm or the 11-22mm, the photos lack a certain something. Closeness, warmth, empathy - these are all qualities that I can see/feel in your other work that I don't see here.But everything is a learning experience, I'm studying these photos to see WHY I don't feel the same qualities. Part of it is the "flatness", it's hard to get the best of the foreshortening effects of a tele. Part of it is angle - you are either above or below your subjects for most of these shots, never on a level. Exception for the shots of the publicity people, but that is "false" emotion, they are selling something/paid to smile. Also exception for the little girl, which is a very engaging street portrait. Still, overall, I think that you do much better work with your shorter lenses. Just my opinion, of course, and I'm always appreciative of how much you share with us and how generously you share your knowledge and experiences.

    All the best,

    Tom

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Tom for the very honest feedback. Any opinion and thoughts are always appreciated and welcome here.
      As a matter of fact, my previous entries using long lenses have also gathered rather similar comments from other readers: the photos look distant, and the connection was not really there.
      Nonetheless, it is crucial to experiment and try out different methods. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not. Keeping the perspective fresh can help improve our vision !!

      Delete
    2. Of course, you are absolutely right, experimentation is a key to learning.

      Delete
  8. I would like to add one more thing I like about shooting with long lenses: The occasional surprise. More than once when I have been out shooting with a long lens I come home, load the pictures into the computer and see things I didn't even know I was shooting. I think it's because even if I see someone in the distance I don't always see what the person is doing. On the computer screen however, it's obvious what they do. With a short lens (especially around 25 mm, with ultra-wide lenses I sometimes forget to notice things on the edges of the picture) I shoot exactly what I see and the picture also looks more or less as I expect when I later see it on the computer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Rasmus,
      Thanks for sharing that, it is true, long lens allows us to shoot subjects that are hard to reach !! With the wonders of technology long lens has surpassed our eye's viewing limitation, and allows us to go nearer to our subjects wtthout physically moving our bodies.

      Delete
  9. Hi Robin,

    I am Johan from Mauritius. I've been on your site for a couple of times and I find it quite interesting. Some pictures you took are nothing short of stunning. I just bought my first DSLR, a Canon 600D. Any personal views on this one... on any interesting blog you can recommend concerning cannon 600d...
    I really appreciate you works or shots and I've learned a few things on your site.
    Thanks and give shooting mate,
    Johan

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Johan,
      Thanks for your visits here, and thanks for the kind compliments on my photography work.
      I don't think that it is necesary to find a specific blog on 600D. A camera is a camera, any photography site will surely benefit you.

      Delete
  10. Hei hei...Robin, thank for link up to my blog.

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  11. Hi Robin, appreciate the discussion and demonstration of long lenses. I am new in the Olympus-sphere, and am ready to acquire a telephoto lens for my OM-D. In my Nikon days I used the Nikkor 55-300mm for all sorts of things: birds and critters as well as close-ups of flowers and bugs. Since the OM-D lets you couple long lenses from Olympus, Panasonic, Leica, and more, do you have a short list of telephoto lenses I should consider? I really like the 50-200mm images on this blog post and where it shows up on your other entries. is this lens your choice of telephotos for the m4/3rds? Thanks in advance! - Heng Sure

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Reverend,
      The 50-200mm F2.8-3.5 is a DSLR 4/3 lens, designed to be used on Olympus DSLR system. It is not fully compatible with micro 4/3 bodies, such as your OM-D. You will lose the AF speed.
      There is no equivalent 50-200mm on the micro 4/3 world yet (in terms of lens sharpness, wide aperture F2.8-3.5 and weather sealing). On the native micro 4/3 choices, you have Olympus 75-300mm or Panasonic 100-300mm, both are good lenses, but not stellar in any way.

      Delete
  12. Robin, that's exactly the information I was looking for; thank you so much! So we 4/3rds types have to creep closer to our subjects!

    ReplyDelete
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