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When photographers ask me what gear they should bring on my photo workshops, my recommendation is to keep it simple. Bring whatever you want on the trip, but bring one body and one lens on the daily photo walks. Most will give a huge sigh of relief while others will wonder what to do with their fancy new camera strap that allows them to carry two DSLRs. This is how the power of limitations begins.
Limiting yourself to one lens to take on your photo walk, knowing you must live with that decision all day, may sound terrifying to you, but you with benefit twice: You will save your back and learn exciting new ways to see. Naturally, your lens choice will depend on what your are planning to shoot that day. Many photographers prefer the flexibility of a zoom lens. I recommend a fixed focal length lens such as a 50mm or, if you’re a Canon shooter, the new 40mm pancake lens. Should you decide to limit yourself to a 50mm lens for the day, you immediately increase your chances of making better pictures. Why? You will be forced to slow down and take more care in your composition. With a fixed lens your feet are your zoom. You will work the scene more carefully and pay closer attention to what you include in the frame, and more importantly, what you decide to leave out of the frame. Result? Some interesting photographs and a great learning experience – such can be the power of limiting yourself to one lens.
Another way to slow down and improve your images is to either shoot film or pretend you are. Set a limit to the number of frames you will shoot that day instead of using the ‘spray and pray’ approach. Trust me – if you limit yourself to 24 or 36 exposures for one photo walk, you will make every single one of those frames count. Those of you who have shot film, you already know what I’m talking about.
In the fall of 1994 environmentalist and nature photographer Jim Brandenburg, embarked on a journey to shoot one frame a day for 90 days. Imagine that – limiting yourself to just one frame a day for 90 days! And those were the film days. Truth be told, he was my inspiration to pursue photography as a hobby and later as a career. To learn more about his amazing journey and get some inspiration, I encourage you to read his story in his best seller book Chased by the Light, NorthWord Press, 1998.
Setting limitations should be kept simple such as picking a theme for your photo walk. Maybe you decided to focus on a color or to photograph only cats. Eventhough you are likely to shoot other items of interest unrelated to your goal, your focus will turn an ordinary photo walk into a treasure hunt, and isn’t that more fun? This will spice up your photo walks in your hometown and help keep you focused in a new environment where it’s easy to get overwhelmed by so much novelty or newness.
However, if you are a beginner or still experimenting with your camera functions, please do shoot more – even lots! These limitations will better suit you once you have some experience under your belt. The more you shoot, the better you’ll get! When I first picked up a camera I wish I had benefited from the luxury of shooting digital, the film days were expensive and the experimentation process was definitely slower. Shoot your heart out in the beginning. Stay excited and keep learning. Master your camera settings and experiment with whatever lens you own. You will soon realize how the power of limitations can fine tune your craft.
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