I’m not sure how well this post is going to go over but I thought I would give it a go. I think this topic is important, but I’m wrong about 77% of the time. Approximately. Now lets forget the fact I’m shooting on the beach in Laguna, which isn’t my favorite place in terms of subject matter. I arrived in Laguna right at sunset and was so excited about the light that I ran around like a crazy person. I was almost going to shoot some self-portrait reflection when I looked down from parking lot level and noticed a woman by the water’s edge. This particular woman had a cat on her back. The cat, obviously, wasn’t real happy about being there and was consequently trying to climb off this woman’s back. It looked interesting, so I ran through the crowd of out-of-towners wearing board shots and tank tops in the 50 degree weather. (I know you WANT it to be warm but it’s not, and the water is ice cold damnit. Googling this stuff can save you some pain.)
These images you see below were shot within seconds of one another.I think one of these images is more modern than the other, and I also think one of these images is better than the other. Here’s why.
This image is what I would consider a “modern” or 2013 style image. I’m using a 1.4 lens at 1.4 even when there is plenty of light to use a smaller aperture. We live in the age of the 1.2 or even the .9 lens, and it appears as if a lot of folks using these lenses are using them at these apertures ALL THE TIME. One look at modern photojournalism is enough to tell me that. In that case it’s the 35mm 1.4 and the 50mm 1.2 Canon that seem to dominate the landscape. No doubt, these are impressive optics, but there is more to life than a soft or “blown out” background. Now in this particular case I’m focusing on the couple in the foreground, with the rest of the humans adding to the layering of the background. Even at 1.4 you can still see location, landscape, etc, and perhaps if the moment in the foreground, the couple, was more specific I would like this photograph more, but it’s not.
This photograph to me is less “modern” but more interesting. This image was shot about f5.6 and has a lot more information to deal with, which means, at least in my normally wrong opinion, it requires the viewer to spend more time with it, which in the age of ZERO attention span is a good thing. Now it works for me for several reason. First, the light is good. Second, the layering is good. Also, the guys third from the left and second from the right are both looking back in my direction, which gives me the human connection I’m looking for. This photograph also gives me more detail about the location and landscape and also informs me that every single person in the image is male, which I can’t explain entirely and don’t know if that tells me something or if it is just a coincidence.
Now, before you go complaining about NOT seeing the cat photograph, don’t get yourself in a tizzy. I’m going to post ONE of these images again, in context with the rest of what I shot in those precious few moments, so don’t get estranged on me. Look, I like a fast lens as much as the next gal, but I’ve never understood the concept of wide open all the time. Remember, as a documentary photographer your goal is to document, education, inform and influence, and sometimes that requires a lot more than 1.4.