The One Lens Challenge

Sometimes in photography, like many things in life, it is easy to get stuck in the proverbial rut. I find many times that I find a technique or a style or a lens and I will just burn that look into the ground. Pretty soon all of my shots looks the same. Either they have the same perspective or the same depth of field. Anyone who gets their first "nifty 50" or other f/2.8 or less lens knows what I mean. That creamy, dreamy look is more than a little addicting.

Sometimes when I am out on a photowalk, especially to a familiar locale I will take only one lens with me. Usually a lens that I don't use that much. Getting it out of the bag makes me feel like my purchase was justified as well as encourages me to change my perspective. If you find you always shoot extreme wide angles, try a telephoto lens. If you always shoot digital, try film, if you love f/8, try shooting something at f/1.4, if you love natural light, try using flash or off-camera lighting, or try shooting something completey out of focus. It can be a real relief to get out of our own minds sometimes. Try something unexpected. If nothing else, it will help you hone your skills and you'll be amazed what you can do with one lens if you are forced to only use one. You'll have to move feet and think differently.

On a photowalk last fall, we went downtown and around the alleys, which I've frequented many times before, so I chose to only bring my 70-200 f/2.8. I was able to shoot close up detail shots, landscapes, portraits, and even some standard views (by backing up away from the scene at hand). With a minimum focusing distance of only 7 feet, you pretty much remove yourself from a scene entirely and use the lens characteristics to bring you back. Playing with compression of backgrounds and the long focal length for close up details provided some of my favorite images of the day. In the end, I only had a few shots that I consider winners from a portfolio possibility standpoint, but at the end of the day, that wasn't even my goal. Just practicing my craft and forcing my eye to see differently were the only goals. Any happy successes were just icing on the cake.


While I took photographs of a variety of subjects, my favorites from this outing were the old rusty cars we found at the scrap yard. I'm a sucker for old rusty cars. The color and texture always draw me in. So, all of these shots were taken with the 70-200 mm lens.