Fall Color with the 50mm Lens
Normal Isn’t Boring
When the temperatures start dropping and the plaid starts popping, it’s a sure sign that it’s fall in northern Michigan. Areas that are eye-catching with the green-leaved trees of summer, turn into Claude Monet’s Autumn Effect as the maples and oaks put on their finale show before the raindrops freeze and fall.
It was last Saturday with temperatures in the mid-30 degrees Fahrenheit, and a westerly wind that made it colder; with a free afternoon, we aimed our silver steed toward Leelanau County to see what color remained on the trees.
The Fantastic Fifty
Pre-trip, I pondered the all important question of what gear to tote. When I find myself wondering which camera to bring, I often make the decision easy and reach for my DSLR and 50mm lens. The 50mm is a lens that renewed my love for photography, years ago. People call it “normal” because the field of view is close to that of how the eyes see a scene. Perfectionists and über nerds will say it’s closer to 45mm or 43.583835—it doesn’t matter, 50mm is close.
There are many characteristics about a 50mm lens that make it a must-have piece of photographic equipment. Here are a few:
- Since the 50mm is a prime lens and a “normal” field of view, it’s quick to get used to and becomes an extension of your eyes.
- The apertures offered are usually wide—allowing lots of light in, and allowing one to achieve nice bokeh—without being terribly expensive
- Depending on which one you choose, they can be lightweight
One of my favorite aspects of the 50mm lens is that I don’t have to think about the focal length. Some of you may feel that way about a 28mm, or 35mm, or 300mm. The 50mm lens for me is a lens that I can put on and not even think about focal length, it’s perfectly intuitive. This allows me to free up myself to capture a scene and about how creatively I want to do it. If there’s a lesson in all of this, find a lens that allows you to do that. The less you are worrying about equipment, the better.
Driving Without a Plan (The Best Plan)
The light was diffused as we adventured, thanks to an overhead blanket of clouds. This of course helped the colors become saturated and produced vibrant colors that oftentimes didn’t look real. As if placed there by movie scene crew, we passed a field of horses which were grazing and walking with a backdrop of oranges and yellows.
Not far down down the road was a place I had to pull over to photograph; it was a corridor of fall color. One of my favorite techniques is to get low with a camera. It offers a unique perspective and allows the viewer to be a part of a scene in a non-typical way, as it leads the eyes from the foreground to the background naturally and nicely. Also, photographing in the road isn’t safe so I don’t suggest doing it. With this spot though, I had a clear view of what was ahead of me and behind me, plus I worked extremely fast, only making a couple images.
We drove and stopped; drove and stopped; drove and stopped some more; a perfect day for exploration—it wasn’t far, there were no commitments and we immersed ourselves in fall color. I’ve tried to plan fall-color photo outings before. What tends to happen is that there’s a pressure to bring the perfect lens or to travel far to get the “perfect” shot. That approach can work, of course. But if you’re having trouble achieving desired results with that method, then grab a 50mm lens, or whatever lens you’re most comfortable with, then give yourself some time to wander, get lost and make images that speak to you.
“Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe.”~Anatole France