It was the “golden hour”, that time in late afternoon when the sunlight filters warmly at an angle covering everything with long, interesting shadows. I hadn’t been out shooting in awhile, so I grabbed my camera and headed downtown.
I parked in the Richardson Street lot behind Mast General Store. Normally on a Thursday night they have Downtown Alive and the place is hopping, but this evening it seemed to be dead. It could be that the series has just ended for the summer, but it could also be that construction in the area has disrupted civic activities.
I started out with my camera and the 18-200 zoom lens, and picked up my little SlikStick tripod to take with me. I had walked about two blocks and had taken only a few shots when I spotted that my battery was just about dead. Not good. I headed back to the car to pick up my spare.
Back at the car I made a quick decision. I swapped out my zoom lens, opting instead for my 50mm f/1.8 prime lens. With the faster lens I could leave my tripod behind and not have to lug it down the street. I also wanted to spend some time with this lens. I’m always shooting with the big zoom, so I thought it would be fun to try something different.
Nikon’s “nifty fifty” lens should be in every photographer’s kit. It’s inexpensive, costing only around $100. It’s sharp and fast. It’s also a good general range for shooting. However, with digital cameras that aren’t full frame (like my D50), the focal length is actually 1.5 times what the lens reads. The effective focal length for this lens on my DSLR, as opposed to a 35mm film camera or a full-frame camera, would be about 75mm, making it slightly telescopic.
There are two ways to shoot with a prime. You could just point and shoot quickly – the camera is fast enough and sharp enough so that it should focus quickly and capture your image. That can be kind of fun, because it’s random and you don’t really know what you’re going to get. I tried this for a bit, but didn’t get any images I felt like uploading to Flickr.
More typically, though, a prime lens is going to require more thought. You can’t just zoom to get the composition you want. You have to take a bit more time to compose the shot.
I found myself getting a bit frustrated, though. Sometimes the frame wasn’t quite wide enough, and I couldn’t back up enough to get the shot I wanted. This first one had the top part of the brick arch cropped because there just wasn’t room to back up.
However, the payoffs could be nice. With such a wide aperture I was able to play around with some depth of field. In these two shots, part of the fountain is in sharp focus, while others are blurred a bit.
One of my favorite places to wander downtown is the little alleyway known as Boggs Street. This runs parallel to South Main from River Place down to the Army-Navy Store. It’s mostly warehouse and storage, but there are so many interesting textures and photo opportunities there.
I played around with a bit of black and white processing, too.
Turns out that most of the evening’s action was down near the Peace Center. The Swinging Medallions were giving a concert in the amphitheater, and Clemson was also having some big shindig in the main hall. I wandered back up Main Street toward my car, stopping for a moment to listen to some street musicians jam.
All in all, it was a good evening out, and I got a few good shots with my 50mm. I need to do this more often.