Way back in 2007 I purchased my first DSLR – a Canon 30D. I only had the 50mm Canon lens with it (f/1.4) and was forcing myself to use that lens to its full potential before I bought something else. This meant a lot of “zooming with my feet” and compositions that were slightly constrained. Though this was largely due to budget concerns, I do think this helped me choose my next lenses wisely. I always waited at least 6 months between lenses to make sure I knew what I “needed” next. I have not regretted any of my lens choices so far.
I made this photograph in 2007 with the 30D and it remains one of my better photos of Mount Cheam. This location is on Seabird Island just outside of Aggasiz, British Columbia, Canada. I have returned to this location many times, but still cannot seem to find a time where that slough is full of water. A big muddy expanse just isn’t as photogenic!
When I first started getting serious with a “real” film camera I had a 28-90mm kit lens. Eventually I wished to move on from just taking random snapshots and actually gain more skills and take better photos. I read a bit on the internet about lenses and bought a Canon EF 50mm f/1.4. The “nifty fifty”. It was at this point that I realized the difference lens quality can make. I couldn’t believe how sharp and clear the shots with the 50mm were.
A few years after buying the 50mm I upgraded to a DSLR – A Canon 30D. Wow not only could I take 100’s of shots at one time, I was not paying for film and developing so I could actually afford to experiment and try new things. The 28-90mm kit lens was a bit better on the DSLR (cropped out some of the edge anomalies) but still had nothing on the 50mm. On the APS-C sensor of the 30D (1.6x) the 50mm was more like an 80mm lens. I really wanted to go wider so that I could get more into a shot. I saved up and bought a Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5. Good quality and really wide compared to the 50mm. I shot with the 10-22mm and the 50mm (the kit lens now relegated to a drawer for bad behaviour) for quite a while. I wanted to determine what I was missing the most before I went in that direction with a new lens.
Alpenglow on Nodoubt Peak in North Cascades National Park
A year or so after I bought the 10-22mm I filled in the gap between my lenses with the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM. At that point I had opted for crop sensors over full frame (largely due to price of both long lenses and the FF cameras) so the 17-40mm was not on my list. From there I went to a Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 L IS USM to get a bit more reach for wildlife. What I had not really anticipated is that I would be using this lens so often for landscapes.
Abstract Chilliwack River
Often as a beginning photographer I read about wide angle lenses as the be all and end all of landscape photography. Walking in to a camera shop and being asked what I like to shoot – the answer of landscapes would push wide angle lenses in my direction. I was rather surprised to learn what I had been missing in a longer telephoto lens for landscapes. In some scenes I have found it difficult to use the wider focal lengths in that they actually get too much into the frame. Ironic considering this is why I earlier had thought I needed a wide lens. The details of the scene are there, but are drowned out by distracting elements that take the viewer’s eye away from what is important. So my initial impression that I would always want to be at a wide angle all the time has actually changed to looking at the details and what is more essential.
I never would have predicted this sort of outcome when I started. I see many posts and articles devoted to gear and purchasing wide lenses for landscapes. I wonder how many of the beginners reading these thing will eventually start to favour longer lenses for their landscape photography? Would they be better off getting a telephoto lens before a really wide angle one? Maybe this is just a normal evolution for a photographer. Regardless, I am happy I have moved away from all wide angle all the time – the variety of shots possible at longer focal lengths is liberating.
More shots of Mt. Rainier. These were taken on lookouts on the stretch from the Nisqually River Bridge to Ricksecker Point.
This is probably my favourite Mt. Rainier panorama I took from this point. Sadly the frame on the far left is missing… there was a large insect or something in the way of my lens at the time and it was unrecoverable. Still, I like the colours – I should get a polarizer on my other big lenses.
In early July I travelled down to Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington State. My main regret was only having about 2 days to spend there (down on morning up the next evening). Still managed to fill my 8Gb data card though! I will be returning a bit later in the year to photograph some more wildflowers and get access to more of the park. I plan on staying a few nights as well – one was not nearly enough. I used the Nisqually Entrance and could only get as far as the very beginning of Stephens Canyon Road (Stevens Creek Bridge) due to a road closure in the July trip.
More photos coming soon – but lets start with Mt. Rainier itself. A panorama of course – 9 exposures stitched – Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM.