It was with a particularly heavy heart that I finally packaged the Canon 24mm tilt shift lens back into it’s box and sent it on it’s merry way back to LensPimp just over a week ago.
I’m sure you’ll have guessed from the opening sentence that I enjoyed using it. Having employed it on three different shoots during the 7 days I had it, as well as for some personal work, I was amazed at just how many times it turned out to be my go-to lens. Not just for architectural work, but for landscapes too. Initially I was sceptical I would use a lens with such a wide field of view, preferring to stick with my stunning 35mm f1.4 – but use it I definitely did.
(Oh, I should tell you at this point that I’m writing this whilst listening to the brilliant Belle and Sebastian’s ‘The Boy with the Arab Strap’. If you’ve not heard it I strongly suggest you go and do so. It’s one seriously catchy tune!)
I initially went out to give the lens a test-run at St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s Church in Wantage – it being the tallest building in the area both inside and out. This was followed up with a job for the National Trust, one for an award winning and top UK Interior Designer and finally, a day photographing the stunning gardens of a leading Garden Designer based near Chipping Norton.
This lens really did earn the £80 hire charge!
Not only was I surprised with how easy it was to use, I was amazed with it’s flexibility, range of movements and standard lens comparable image quality. I was massively impressed by it’s edge to edge sharpness and lack of vignetting, which made using the shift movement to the extremes both creatively enjoyable and possible. The only thing that gave me cause for concern was the slight barrel distortion and a lack of automatic lens correction within Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop – but this really was fairly minor.
Naturally, with a lens this good, I’ve been seriously wrestling with the idea of purchasing it ever since – that may not happen just yet but it has been booked out again for the end of the month (big grin). In my line of photography, I’m sure a purchase will be on the cards at some point.
I took delivery of a rented Canon 24mm TS-E f3.5 L II today after only ordering it at the last minute yesterday afternoon, from Lens Pimp down in Plymouth. I’m not normally so last-minute about the kit I need for a job and had actually ordered the lens from another hire company before going to Sicily last week. However, their’s was unfortunately returned badly damaged and happened to be their only lens of that type.
I’ve had today booked out to complete some post-production work for a project I’m doing for Abingdon Bowls Club as well as get up to date with admin. Thankfully I cleared that by 2pm so couldn’t resist the opportunity to go and play with the new lens, having not used tilt/shift on anything other than large format cameras.
The first thing that struck me was that, despite being familiar and experienced with both large format monorails and field cameras, the lens didn’t behave in quite the same way, giving me some rather unexpected results. The biggest downside with this type of set-up is that only the lens is able to be adjusted – ordinarily the whole camera will have tilt and shift capabilities – not just the lens. Without getting to technical, for architectural photography, this means that you can’t keep the lens plane parallel to the vertical structures of the subject. As a result, this limits significantly the amount of flexibility you have to compose the photograph in the way you’d like, whilst keeping vertical structures looking just that – upright.
As you’d expect, the amount of movement is limited and I’ve already found that using the movements at their extremes (particularly the tilt) results in some areas of soft focus around the periphery of the frame. However, I’m sure I’m going to have some fun with it and get some great results – it might just take some time tomorrow to work out its full set of strengths and weaknesses, before using it on the job come Friday.
That said, I’ve only been out with it for a couple of hours and not tried it out on any interiors or exteriors of buildings – which is the real reason for the hire in the first place.
Last week really was a week of contrasts and balance between technique, technical know-how and creativity.
I spent a great day last Thursday taking PR photos for the very talented and friendly bunch of people at Chameleon, which is based in London just a stone’s throw away from the famous Smithfield meat market.
The technical adventure began on Wednesday with the purchase of some new portable lighting gear – a Lastolite Ezybox Hotshoe, an additional speedlite, brackets, light stands and a new all-singing, all-dancing reflector. Like a little kid, I rushed home and got straight down to the joyful task of checking out my new kit. Our living room was soon transformed into a makeshift studio, complete with the obligatory bowl of fruit as my prop. For any of you who have studied art or photography at college I’m sure you’ll recognise this familiar scene – the tried and tested method for learning about lighting. All went swimmingly, the kit performed perfectly and it also meant I was able to save a few presets into the speedlites ahead of Thursday’s shoot.
As there was one bit of equipment I hadn’t managed to get, I arranged with David at the brilliant York Cameras in London to stop off en route Thursday morning to pick it up. Thus breaking a cardinal rule – never turn up to a shoot with gear you’ve never used before! Still, I knew the interface on the speedlite transmitter was identical to that of the flashguns so felt confident all would be well. And it was! As it uses radio frequencies rather than an optical ‘line of sight’ method of communication, it meant ultra reliable flash firing, even though I was working outside for the duration of the shoot. The set-up for the lights worked like a dream and the results were just as I visualised. Easy to use equipment allowing me to concentrate on creativity when required – brilliant!
I therefore awoke on Friday morning raring to crack on… I had my list of tasks to do – a few emails, a few calls following up leads and most importantly, a portfolio to print to show a prospective client I had arranged to meet on Saturday. Easy! I’d have that lot licked by lunchtime. Except, my printer had other ideas. My reliable digital darkroom companion decided that it had seen one too many sheets of fine art paper and refused to feed on any more. Frustratingly, it also decided that when it did acquiesce, it would only print using 7 of its 9 colours! Try as I might, it would not behave and by 5:30 pm I was staring defeat in the face. Left with half a printed portfolio, I reverted to the iPad, at least safe in the knowledge I could show my photographs, just not necessarily provide the full effect the portfolio would have had with multi-image spreads. Never mind, it was a back up and a damn fine one at that.
Throughout the weekend I kept thinking back to my truly frustrating Friday and the amount of time I had lost, wasted. There is a running joke between Claire and I which is trotted out almost every time Claire takes a photograph only to find someone has walked into the frame at just the wrong moment or the thing she was framing up, has moved. There is one infamous occasion when Claire must have spent 30 minutes or more framing a photograph of a building in Le Havre, patiently waiting for the scene to be perfect, before the lights went off and total darkness descended, the moment lost. It’s like the moment you realise you forgot to put film in the camera but not until you’ve taken forty frames!
At times like these I stick a joking tongue in cheek and follow up with a helpful ‘that’s the nature of photography I’m afraid’. I think Friday was pay back time!