Monday, September 8, 2008

Nifty Fifty Goes to Town

Enjoying the Day

This weekend, the city of Spartanburg hosted a festival called "Spartanburg Creative Tastes". The city is undergoing a downtown revitalization and this festival was conceived as a way to highlight the town's growing cultural and artistic communities. It was a combination of art fair and restaurant fair. Local artists had their works on display and for sale. Several downtown restaurants had concessions so people could sample some of their cuisine. Plus, several local musicians and performing arts groups gave performances through the afternoon and evening. We had a lot of fun there, sampled some good food, and heard some good music. The city hopes to turn this into an annual event if it was well received, and judging from the turn out of both vendors and festival goers I think it will be back again next year.

One thing I decided to do while we were at the festival was to travel lighter than I usually do. So, I took the battery grip off of my camera, mounted my 50mm f/1.8 prime lens instead of my usual zooms, and packed the camera with a few essentials into my smaller camera bag. I still carried my 18-135mm zoom in the bag as well as my flash, but as it turns out I didn't need them. The 50mm lenses are sometimes called "Nifty Fifties" by photo-hobbyists. They are affordable, well made, sharp, professional quality lenses. The 50mm lenses used to be the "kit" lenses packaged with consumer SLR cameras prior to the advent of good quality zoom lenses. It approximates the angle of view of the human eye on 35mm film and is a simple yet robust little lens. Nifty Fifties are perfect little lenses when you are wanting to travel light. Their small size makes them easy to pack into a corner of your camera bag. Yet they are excellent low light lenses for the average person due to the wide f/1.8 aperture. The 50mm f/1.8 is frequently the second lens that many photography hobbyists get after their initial camera kit.

I had not been using my 50mm very much lately, so I thought this little festival downtown would be a good time to take it out and use it. All of the photographs I took at the festival were taken with it. Something that I'm kind of proud of is resisting the lure of the zoom I took with me "just in case". With just a little moving around on my part, I could generally get compositions that I liked. A prime lens like the 50mm does force you to think about your photographs a bit more before tripping the shutter. It's small size also made for a very unobtrusive profile in the crowded downtown festival.

If you don't have a 50mm lens yet, I do recommend you get one for yourself. They are very affordable at around US $100 and generally have exceptional image quality. This gives them a very good "bang for the buck" as they say and opens up low light as well as shallow depth of field situations that your kit zoom might not be very good at.

During the festival I took a mixture of festival and architectural photographs. There are a many older, restored and unrestored buildings downtown that have a lot of character. My budding interest in architectural photography was tempted by the many details in these older buildings. The full gallery can be found here on my Zenfolio site. A couple more photographs to whet your whistle after the jump.

Architect's Building

The Windjammers - Clarinet Solo

In Need of Repair


John Brainard said...

When I bought my camera, I opted not to go with the kit lens and decided, instead, to get the 50mm f/1.8 and a Sigma 70-300mm lens. I'm glad I made that choice as I was able to take some nicer photos in the beginning with the Nifty Fifty and it helped me to understand and appreciate the use of a wide angle lens. I don't know if I would have come to that realization if I hadn't been hit with the limit when I first started out.

All in all, I love my 50mm f/1.8 lens. It's great for a lot of different photos.

Nice photos at the festival. It looked fun!

Craig Lee said...

It is a good little lens and can teach a photographer a lot about composition. The ability to get a very shallow depth of field is not to be forgotten either.