One Lens - One Week

November 12, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Way back when I was learning photography I got the chance to study under a great assignment photographer named Bob Smith, way too common a name, I know, but he was a great teacher.  Each week we had an assignment to shoot, develop, print and turn in.  Luckily we had our own crude darkroom back then.  We owned a 12" B&W TV, three cameras, a few lenses and a darkroom.  No extra money to upgrade TV's but we did find money for cameras, lenses, darkroom supplies and classes.  One stipulation from Bob was that we could only use ONE lens all thru the class, no substitutes were allowed.  I thought this was absurd, being the proud owner of four lenses (all primes, remember this was years ago when most zooms were poor devices).  In choosing I went with my 28mm lens as THE lens to use for the entire course.   This was my first lens and I loved it.


For the first two years of my SLR photography life I only owned one lens, that 28mm.  Me and that lens were "joined at the hip" almost.  I loved shooting with that thing but I was still a bit peeved that I was restricted, having spent untold amounts on three other lenses.  Each week the assignment was different.  There were times when it was so easy, shooting wide angle worked great.  Other times I wished like hell I could use my 200mm but Bob would know, I would know and, well, I am fairly honest about most things other than my weight on my drivers license.  We shot all those 4 months, weekly assignments, process, print, turn in the assignment and listen to Bob talk about "Filthy" photos, referring to the dust spots on the prints.  I learned to clean my negs when drying them and to use Spotone to take out the white dust spots on the B&W prints.  Many weeks, Bob would choose my images as the selection he would use for his imaginary magazine.  Other weeks I lost out to someone who had a telephoto as their choice of lens for the class while I was stuck with a wide angle wishing for my telephoto.


By the end of the class, Bob and I had become good friends.  I asked him at a dinner we had together to celebrate completion of the class, "Why did you restrict us to just one lens?"  His reply has been with me ever since; "There were times that the assignment called for a wide angle lens and you were all over it!  You jumped on those assignments with both feet.   There were other times that a telephoto was what would work the best and you struggled.  BUT, you would wring everything you could out of that wide angle lens, trying every way you could to get the images needed.  Those times maybe your images were not the best but you did learn a whole load of ways to shoot with that wide angle lens, ways you had never conceived.  You know that lens now and what you can do with it, right?"  I said, "Well, yes."  He responded, "I suggest you put away all your other lenses except for your 200mm telephoto and shoot with it for a month so that you become intimate with it in the same way.   It is not about having the right equipment, it is about having the right vision and knowing what you can do with what you have."


That lesson has stuck with me since way back in 1972 when I first met Bob and took his class.  Want to see what that is like?  Try shooting with one lens all week, one focal length if it is a zoom, and see how well you do.  You have to have your mind and abilities stretched in order to grow.


Go For It!



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