the photoshooter's journey from taking to making




PHOTOGRAPHERS WHO TRAVEL FREQUENTLY FIND THEMSELVES DOING QUICKIE PIVOTS when it comes to tour destinations. Spontaneous choices to Check Out The Cliffs or Let’s Do The Ruins are often fed by group whims as well as by our own, the result being that you don’t always have the luxury of having the “perfect” lens on hand when you decide to hit someplace in the heat of the moment. And we all stipulate that, under such conditions, what we get, picture-wise, is what we get. In the words of the old hod-rod racers, you run what you brung.

And so, the other day, I found myself swept along with a small party to take in a lovely lake park near Show Low, Arizona, where the sunset was said to be marvelous. All reports were true, and fortunately I had along a very sold “Old Reliable”, my Nikkor 24mm f/2.8, a war-torn survivor from the ’70’s that’s built like a tank and is sharp as a diamond, and so, as you can see up top, you get pure loveliness with a minimum of adjustment or fuss. After several days’ practice, you could be in a coma and still come home with decent stuff.


However, I later suffered my usual bout of WhatMighta-ism and wondered what other glass could have given me a slightly dreamier quality. On our last morning before heading home, then, we took one more walking loop around the lake’s perimeter at the scene of the original crime, the aluminum walk-out fishing dock shown in the first image. This time I was sporting a Lensbaby Velvet 56, which models itself after some of the glamour portrait glass once popular in the golden days of Hollywood. The lens adds a soft glow at apertures wider than about f/4, placing a layer of haze over a basically focused shot and buffing away the sharper contrasts and detail for what is lazily called a “painterly” look. For this take, I didn’t have the gorgeous golden-hour light of the earlier shot, but I did get the daydream effect I had wondered about, even with mid-day Arizona light, which is harsher than a German schoolmistress.

Traveling photogs often find themselves in a take-it-or-leave-it take on random subjects, with reasons ranging from The Tour Bus Won’t Wait or We Weren’t Even Supposed To Be Stopping Here to We Won’t Be Back This Way Again. However, on those rare occasions when the option of a second approach presents itself, I heartily recommend scratching that itch and exorcising that nasty What Mighta-ism from your fevered brain.


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