Blind spot

One of the things I enjoy doing with photography is using it to influence the way I see things when I’m out walking around.

I tend to use fixed-focal-length lenses so that whatever I have mounted is the way I’m forcing my mind to see. My comfort zones are wide angle or short telephoto.* I can use any of them as walkaround lenses and adjust the way I see the world to accommodate my equipment.

*With film before I got a DSLR, I favored either 20mm or 105mm lenses. On a DSLR, the basic 18–55mm kit lens is really all I need.

I typically use my other lenses for special purposes (macro, low light, extra reach, etc.) rather than for generic use. I also have some lenses which don’t fit into either my comfort zones or special use scenarios. On occasion, I will use one of those lenses to force myself outside of my comfort zone and see the world very differently than I am used to.

Sometimes this results in my discovering a new way of seeing. For a long time, I couldn’t figure out how to use a mid-length telephoto. It was either too long for portraits or too short for wildlife. After forcing myself to use it, I discovered what it is good for and what kinds of things I should look for.
valley haze
Other times I discover my blindspots. The most notable one of these involves normal lenses and rectangular photography formats.


Now you wouldn’t notice this if you looked at my flickrstream. I do use my normal lenses a lot. But I only really use them for taking pictures of people. If I have a normal lens mounted on my camera while I’m out on a walk, I find that I spend a lot of time fighting it.

For the first few years of my photography experience, I shot almost exclusively with just a 50mm lens and a Nikon SLR. That I have such problems seeing with that field of view has become something I’m trying to figure out now. I used to be able to see like this right? Normal lenses and square format are fine,* I just can’t figure out what to do with them on 135 or DX.

*Beyond fine in fact. I’ve gone through three stages of fixed-lens medium format cameras and am dangerously close to going off the deep end here.

In terms of trying to work through this, I’m still sticking to my New Year’s Resolution to use my Retina IIa more this year.  So far it’s taking me over three months to get through the first roll. We’ll see how the second goes.

Author: Nick Vossbrink

Blogging about Photography, Museums, Printing, and Baseball Cards from both Princeton New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area. On Twitter as @vossbrink, WordPress at, and the web at

8 thoughts on “Blind spot”

  1. Nick pointed me over here when I mentioned that I might have to force myself to use a 50mm lens on my DSLR for a walk or two. Just to see if I could force myself to be more comfortable with tighter framing.

    The 50 is pretty much a speciality lens on my D40 and I don’t expect to use it much. But perhaps it might work as a tool to break habits with.

    I like your example of medium telephoto work. I’m not much of a telephoto fan myself, but I think they’re generally undervalued for landscape work today.

    P.S. I actually have you in my RSS reader and now that I see I don’t have you lumped up with the majority of photoblogs in the dreaded photoblog feed folder, I’ll hopefully remember to check for new posts :)

    1. That’s pretty much the idea. Throw a lens on and stretch your brain. Sometimes it works, sometimes is doesn’t. But the exercise is good.

      I have to admit though that I’m curious to see how that field of view will fit into your general subject matter. I find it to be really useful in wide-open places or when I want to pay attention to what’s on the ground (I often switch my kit lens for the 20/4 and 55/2.8 when hiking).

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