Tag Archives: insight

"Trapped" Copyright Aloha Lavina 2011.

Be a Photographer, not a Lens Changer

Years ago, I had a conversation with my brother about what equipment to bring to a photoshoot. I was all into gear, and I proudly named the lenses I would lug to the location. Prime this and zoom that. I listed 4 lenses, but before I could add a macro lens into that list, he asked me, “Do you really need all that?”

I thought I did. What if I wanted a closeup of an eyelash?

Then he asked, “Do you want to be a photographer, or a lens changer?”

That question changed my outlook on gear.

Lately I’ve been wishing for a really wide lens to use with the 7D, for those tight shots in crowded markets and temples. But often when I go to a photoshoot these days, I find myself bringing just one lens. Yes, that’s right. One lens.

My bag is lighter, my shoulder and back love me more.

One lens forces me to move, to ˜zoom with my feet” and think about my compositions. Ultimately, I know I will learn something about photography if I don’t think too much about changing lenses. Here’s what I learned recently.

Change vantage point

“Trapped” Copyright Aloha Lavina 2011.

I saw this tree that had fallen during a wild storm. The branches were clutching the ground. It was a perfect setting for an image of being trapped. I asked the model to sit in the middle of the branches and stood up, opening the lens to 18mm to include the branches in the foreground. What I got was an unusual interpretation of the portrait using the environment, an illusion of the branches closing in on the model.

Frame the shot with what you have

“Winter butterflies” Copyright Aloha Lavina 2011.

The 17-55mm lens at a location where you can’t really move around a lot, forces you to frame your shot a certain way. At this location, I had a lake behind me. One step back and I’d have been wet. So I decided to frame the shot like how I felt—that any time, I could fall. The root on which the model stood helped me create the illusion that we were high up. In reality we were beside the lake, on its banks. I just crouched really low, and leaned back as far as my poor back would go, hoping I wouldn’t fall, and pulled off an illusion.

Normal focal length with tilt is cool

“Storm” Copyright Aloha Lavina 2011.

On this shot, I had about 4 feet of space around me, the model, and a softbox plus a couple more lights on lightstands. I really didn’t have a lot of moving space. So to add a bit of drama, I used the 35mm focal length and then tilted the camera. This way, I could add just a bit of distortion to the image and give the illusion of movement, almost like the model was bearing down on me as she ran from a storm.

On these shoots, I didn’t have the option of changing my lens. And I was able to learn some new things about how to work the lens to get the shots I wanted.

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Anomie on a Bus. (c) Aloha Lavina

S Words from Bangkok

Anomie on a Bus. (c) Aloha Lavina

“Why go to Onnut Road?” the taxi driver asks me, “when you can go to the airport and take the BTS from there?”

“Is it open?” I ask him about the Bangkok Transit System (BTS) airport link, connecting downtown to the airport some 40 kilometers away.

He nods. “Saduak maak gua,” he adds. It’s more convenient.

But taped over the sign for the monorail station is a sign saying it’s closed. Too panicked to get angry at the cab driver or myself, I run to another taxi. The second cab takes me from the airport through the arterial roads that pour thousands of cars into the heart of Bangkok each day. A problem solver, the driver decides to take me to a metro station instead of the BTS, so I don’t have to change trains.

Tuktuks line the exit at the Hualamphong metro station, but I head for the motorbikes. Faster. Cheaper.  Right now I am looking for saduak, a convenient way to get to the theatre as quickly as possible. It is a good choice, for Chinatown traffic is tight.

Once my kneecap almost brushes a rusty bus fender. My breathing grows shallow and quick. Inside the helmet, I sound like Darth Vader.  We arrive at the Theatre with time to spare, and I finally exhale. I rush into the air-conditioned room where rehearsals are about to begin, grateful for the cold air.

The long sleeved shirt sticks to my back. Thai summer temperatures can reach over 40 Celsius, but I want to be suphaap, or polite. To suffer through discomfort is to be polite; to suffer inconvenience is to be courteous. Still sweating, I greet the performers, bringing my hands together in front of my face. Suphaap.

Rehearsals over, I flag a tuktuk. Evening traffic is thick and so are the diesel fumes. A motorbike stops beside us, and the woman riding it twirls a white frangipani to her nose. I envy her fragrant little world.

We lunge our way to the Express Boat Service. For 14 Baht I cross the river to Wang Lang Pier 10. Boat passengers spill into a market. People swarm the food stalls hunting for dinner. Dinner comes in little bags or boxes, cheap, easy to take home. Saduak and also sabay, relaxed. Market dinners don’t involve pots and pans and dishwashing.

In another theatre by the river, other diners eat in regulated dim light, waiting for the evening’s promised dances. A lithe man dances solo with cloth he makes billow over precise dance postures as a Thai flute wrings out a plea. The dancer smiles, and so does the audience. They are feeling it: fun, or sanuk, the Thai reason for doing just about anything. Anything not sanuk is not worth doing. The dancer ends his set with a red paper umbrella spewing out confetti as he twirls it, whirling in a skirt and mask, feet thumping the floor.

Across the tables, I glance at the audience. A man smiles into his camcorder and speaks to his wife. The young blonde couple forget to sip their beers. I put my camera down on my lap, and clap, clap with the rest.