You may look at this article’s title and think, No challenge, I only have one lens. You would be right. Mostly. By this I mean that even if you only have the lens that came with your camera, odds are excellent that the lens is a zoom lens.
Zooms are wonderful, flexible and easy to use. They can also encourage a bit of laziness and compromise your seeing skills. Hence this challenge, probably better called the one focal length challenge, but perhaps you would not have read this far if that were the name.
One Focal Length
Regardless of how many lenses you have, pick one, and then pick a focal length on the lens. If the lens is a prime, like a 50mm, this is easy. If it’s a zoom, pick a focal length somewhere in the zoom range and, using a piece of tape, prevent the zoom ring from moving. You now have a single focal length.
Completing the Challenge
Find yourself one hour of personal time where you can go outside to a place that you like, a place you’ve never been, or just the main street in your town. Since you have no zoom, you will have to invest the time to construct your composition, your subject placement and your framing. Something of interest may not fill the frame or you may not be able to tell your story from your position. This is the core of the challenge.
Zoom with your feet, change your position to make the compositions that you want. Get low to the ground and shoot at that level. Get higher up, perhaps on a stairway and shoot from that level. Shoot up from a low level, shoot straight down from a high level. Whatever your usual standing height, make images from other heights. Shoot from a chair in a café. Shoot from the hip while walking. If your camera has a tilt-able LCD use it to shoot with the camera over your head, or from knee level.
Take the same image at different exposures. Our digital cameras have amazing range, so try 2 stops under, 1 stop under, 1 stop over and 2 stops over. What is different? Do you get a different mood or story, even though the subject is the same?
Food Photography – Stop In For A Bite To Eat
Most all lenses can focus surprisingly close, so while you are out, get a bite to eat. It could be a piece of fruit, a sandwich, a croissant. Shoot it before and during the eating. Use different perspectives and different angles. Change your subject distance and learn how this can change the story.
Photograph your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews with your one focal length from the child’s perspective, not the adult’s. What do children see that adults have forgotten?
Say hello to the people at your local fire hall, police station, or your refuse collector. Tell them you are working on a creative project and would like to take a photo of them. Change your position to make them look strong and heroic. Don’t be afraid to share your finished images via email. If people aren’t your thing, try a fire truck, paramedic ambulance or subway car. Take images on the platform at a train station.
Be A Tourist at Home
With your one focal length, treat your home town as though you have never been there before and as if you are visiting from a foreign country. Your town may look average to you, but be a tourist and see how many interesting things that there really are to photograph.
Photography is not only about amazing sights appearing in front of you, it is more about your ability to see and to tell a story about what you see. By constraining yourself to a single focal length, you will encourage yourself to see more effectively and may surprise yourself at what you discover.
Until next time, peace.