My recent visit to Faroe Islands turned out to be life changing in more ways than I had thought. The first break through came on the second night of the trip and it has allowed me to focus on what matters, and why some tools work for some people and some don’t. It has had a remarkable impact on how I make photos. Here is how it happened.
After a long day two, I came back to the hotel and downloaded my photos to the laptop, only to find many of them were unsatisfactory. I had been using the (24mm-equivalent on full frame) 16mm f/1.4 Fuji wide angle lens. Many of the vistas that looked great when standing at the top of the hill, felt so much less inspiring when viewed on the desktop screen. They looked flat and lacked the three dimensional feeling I aspire to in my photos and other creative efforts. I felt discouraged, because of what seemed like white noise. The puffin photos weren’t good either and despite walking to the very edge of the cliff and lying in cold and wet grass for a while to capture the moment. (A handful made the final cut, but frankly I could and should have done better.)
Later in the evening, Dan Rubin, who is one of the instructors at the f8workshops, and I ended up talking about the day’s work and my frustration with the pictures. Dan suggested that perhaps what I like is to shoot is tighter and highly isolated views. He pointed out that I feel so happy with photos I make with my 50mm focal length lens. His suggestion: switch to the f2/50mm full time and use it not only as my general purpose lens but also for travel and landscape photography.
Forget about the wider views and instead focus on composition and strive to find ways to make photos that give the feeling of wide sweeping vistas and vastness, but leave that to a viewer’s imagination. You don’t have to put it all there in order to engage the viewer. And just like that, it all clicked in place.
Later, the other two workshop leaders and ace photographers – Greg and Connor – decided to help me take panoramic vistas by stitching together only a handful of 50mm photos, to mimic the wide angle lens views but closer to what the eye of my mind was seeing.
The trip became more enjoyable after that. I was making fewer photos, but felt a high degree of satisfaction with the end results. In comparison to my fellow photographers who were attending the workshop, I found my photos were different and had a very personal point of view and specific memories attached to them.
When I packed my bags again to attend Spotify co-founder Daniel Ek’s BrilliantMinds symposium in Stockholm, I left the entire camera bag and kit behind and instead just took my Fuji xPro2 and added the diminutive Leica f2/35 mm lens (equivalent to 50 mm on APS-c sensor) along with the Fuji f2/35 mm lens. I use the Leica during the daytime and Fuji at night, mostly because at night I like to go-auto. I am quite pleased with the results, though the total number of photos on the trip was less than a hundred.
It is good to learn an important lesson – you need to focus on the creativity and use the easiest & most comfortable way to get it done instead of dwelling on the mechanics and tools. When it comes to blogging, I find myself falling into the same trap — obsessing about all the wrong things when all I need to do is just blog!
June 10, Stockholm.