far more important is our own vision

Last week I took the plunge and bought a new lens and an external flash for my camera. I slipped the new lens on, started taking photos around my studio and immediately fell in love.

palette knife collage in progress

It is so crisp, and clear, with an incredible range of depths of field. Later, a storm passed through as we were helping our friends move into their new apartment. A medium depth of field and a fast shutter speed caught the individual raindrops as they fell in front of the trees.
rain over saugus

We went back to Mike's hometown for a family party and spent the next day relaxing in his parents' backyard... I explored and experimented with my new lens some more.

bee on basil
benny, take two
benny, take three
little white flowers, take two
garden flowers
tomato rainbow
benny, take one
onions and garlic, take oneonions and garlic, take two

I don't consider any of these great, but they are so much closer in style to the shots I have been wanting but unable to take with a previously inadequate lens. Most of these were experiments with the aperture all the way down to f1.4-f2.6 and were taken completely manually (ie, no little green square or autofocus). I loved seeing that each one was just a little better than the last.

Having this lens for even just a few days has already changed the way I approach photography. Everyone I talked to before buying a DSLR last year recommended just buying the body without the 18-55mm stock lens because its just not very good... of course I bought the lens anyway, and it wasn't good, and it made me frustrated that I couldn't take the kinds of pictures I hoped for and capture the kinds of moments I wanted. Even after learning how to manually adjust the aperture, exposure, film speed and shutter speed I was still just not getting it-- no bokeh, no crispness, no prominent focal points. But, because of the drastic difference in depth of field and clarity of my new 50mm f1.4, it finally felt like all the work I put into learning how to use my DSLR as more than just a glorified point-and-shoot has finally paid off. I am getting the shots I want.

The best advice I ever got on photography was from Junshien, a professional lifestyle and wedding photographer who purchased the first To Be Brave canvas print and has been my photography idol and someday-dream-wedding photographer ever since. Though he had already written a blog on it, he kindly gave me some 1-on-1 advice for picking out a good camera and lenses, but also gave me the much-needed advice that the camera doesn't make the photographer-- "The imagery that comes out of the camera will only be as good as the photographer behind the lens, because far more important than the equipment is our own vision." 

The best equipment won't make much of a difference if the patience to learn how to use it isn't there, and if truly interesting shots aren't been sought out and really worked for. In this sense, I'm happy I was stuck with a mediocre lens for so long because it forced me to learn how to use my camera correctly and seek out ways to make my photography interesting (since the lens sure wasn't doing it for me). Now with a much better lens I feel like I actually have the ability to use it to the fullest and the drive to learn and adapt to it... it won't guarantee me good shots, but I'm no longer limited by anything but my own ability.