Less is more

Back when I was a newspaper photographer at the Providence Journal the paper had a huge appetite for pictures. You’d think that’s great for a photographer but Rhode Island is a very small state and it’d wear you down. We’d joke that we should make the residents carry ID cards that got punched every time their photo was in the paper. Picture yourself in Barrington, Bristol, or Burrillville, its 20 degrees out; you haven’t seen the sun in weeks. The snow is the color of an old gym towel. Your editor called and she needs two new feature pictures by 3pm.

Where would you look for a photo?

In the photo department, I had access to every lens from a 15mm wide angle to super telephotos. It was easy to just load up your camera bag with one of everything and start driving. You gotta see something, right? One of the ways I used to stay fresh and find interesting pictures was a “less is more” strategy. I’d edit the gear down to one lens and one camera so it would force you to look at the world with a single angle of view. The 600mm F4 lens was a favorite of mine and I found fun ways to use the 18-pound monster. One cold rainy day, I asked my boss Chip (see earlier post on H.E.T.) if he could get me a delivery truck. WHAT??

My plan was to park the delivery truck downtown so I could shoot from the back. I set up the lens on a tripod and waited—all nice and dry. As the office workers left their buildings for the day it was like shooting fish in a barrel. The 600mm and the weather just made for great photos. My less is more strategy worked that day.

Nobody reading this knows Chip, you’ve never been to Rhode Island and have no idea how this might affect you.

Why don’t you try my “less is more” strategy the next time you take out your camera? Look in your camera bag and I bet you’ll see a zoom lens. One option might be to pick a focal length, say something near the telephoto end of the zoom. Next, set your aperture to wide open, say F4 or F4.5. That’s really all there is to it. Keep you camera set to that combination, don’t touch the zoom and start shooting.

Sometime less is more.

The weather has finally turned great here in DC and I really wanted to get out and make a picture. I began with a less is more strategy taking only a tripod, camera body and 135mm lens. To complete this self-assignment I wanted the image to be “black and white” and a really tight detail with a lot of texture.

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