Which Lens?

I believe less is more when it comes to lenses. This means that when I am shooting most of the time I have usually just two lenses on me.

Nikon 14-24mm ƒ/2.8

I love wide angle lenses. They force you to get close to fill the frame. They give context of what is around the subject and most of all they bring the audience into the scene.

During the Chick-fil-A Bowl 2012 I wanted to capture the coin toss and had to get close. I also wanted the viewer to feel like they were there and this is the result.
[NIKON D4, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 8000, 1/2000, ƒ/7.1, (35mm = 14)]

You can see how a lens choice helps you tell the story by giving you context.

Photographers explore the Garden of the Gods National landmark in Colorado Springs, CO. [NIKON D3, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 200, 1/640, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 14)]

I love how the lens is wide enough to capture the surroundings of the subject.

Perimeter at Hammond Drive FSU [NIKON D5, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Manual, ISO 100, 1/8, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 24)]

While some love to use it to show a flower in a field with a mountain in the background using this lens, I do the same by putting company signs near the lens and other information in the background.

Sigma 24-105mm F4.0 Art DG OS HSM Lens 

I love shooting most of my people photography in the 24-105mm range. While shooting people is maybe better between 35mm and say 105mm getting those group photos I prefer a wider lens.

Wedding Elizabeth Louise & Andrew Thompson [NIKON D5, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/200, ƒ/8, (35mm = 28)]

When running around overseas for a client I love using this lens.

Mother and her little boy carried in kaitenge. They are staying here at the Hôpital Baptiste Biblique in Tsiko, Togo, West Africa. [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 1800, 1/200, ƒ/4, (35mm = 32)]

I can show people in their context out wide with the lens and then just seconds later get a nice portrait from standing in the same place of another person.

Child is fascinated by my camera and watched me as I was working at the Hôpital Baptiste Biblique in Tsiko, Togo, West Africa. [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 1400, 1/200, ƒ/4, (35mm = 105)]

The reason I like the Sigma 24-105mm lens is the 24mm. But what I dislike is that it stops at 105mm. My other lens that I use in conjunction with the 14-24mm for covering events is the Nikon 28-300mm.

Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens with Auto Focus
Cowgirl Barrel Racing at the 27th Annual Pana’Ewa Stampede Rodeo in Hilo, Hawaii. [NIKON D5, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 1600, 1/4000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 300)]

When I travel there are times like in Hawaii where I had the opportunity to shoot a rodeo. You need a fairly long lens to get close to the action.

St. Pius X High School [NIKON D3S, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 7200, 1/100, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 42)]

Taking photos for a school to use in their recruiting materials I can use this to get the normal lens range here and then closeup in the music room.

St. Pius X High School [NIKON D3S, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 12800, 1/400, ƒ/5.3, (35mm = 98)]
Columbia Theological Seminary Classroom photos [NIKON D3S, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 2800, 1/100, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 300)]

Now when I want those silky smooth BOKEH shots I plan for those. I have two lenses I go to most of the time.

Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 Art

This fast 35mm ƒ/1.4 is maybe my favorite lens, but to shoot everything with it isn’t practical. But I love the distance that I work with when using this and the results when shot wide open at ƒ/1.4.

Gilley’s [NIKON D5, 35.0 mm f/1.4, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 4500, 1/100, ƒ/1.4, (35mm = 35)]

With today’s cameras you can get that razor sharp image even when you have such a small depth-of-field because the camera can quickly lock in on the focus point.

Merritt Square Mall School Drive Thru [NIKON D750, 35.0 mm f/1.4, Mode = Manual, ISO 640, 1/30, ƒ/1.4, (35mm = 35)]

It is great to use in low light and it helps you to isolate the subject and put all the emphasis on them, especially the eyes.

Nicaragua [NIKON D5, 35.0 mm f/1.4, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/500, ƒ/1.4, (35mm = 35)]
IMPACT 360
[NIKON D750, 35.0 mm f/1.4, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/500, ƒ/1.4, (35mm = 35)]
[NIKON Z 6, 35.0 mm f/1.4, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 1250, 1/500, ƒ/1.4, (35mm = 35)]

I have shot a lot inside of Chick-fil-A kitchens. The 35mm ƒ/1.4 is the lens I try to use the most, because I cannot show everything in the back. However, I do want you to focus on their people as I am doing here.

Nikon AF S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G Fixed Lens with Auto Focus

I love getting tight as well and just show people more than always giving context.

Jane Yandel Senior Photos [NIKON D4, 85.0 mm f/1.8, Mode = Manual, ISO 50, 1/200, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 85)]

Due to the new Nikon Z6 which let’s you see what you are getting before you click the shutter, I have been getting even tighter shots.

Chick-fil-A APP [NIKON Z 6, 85.0 mm f/1.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/100, ƒ/1.8, (35mm = 85)]
[NIKON Z 6, 85.0 mm f/1.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 450, 1/500, ƒ/1.8, (35mm = 85)]
[NIKON Z 6, 85.0 mm f/1.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/1000, ƒ/1.8, (35mm = 85)]

As you can see the 85mm ƒ/1.8 does a great job isolating the subject when shooting wide open at ƒ/1.8.

Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports Lens

Now when it comes to being far away and needing a longer lens I use the Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports Lens with the 1.4x or 2x converter made for the lens.

The Navy’s Blue Angels and the Air Force’s Thunderbirds The joint effort from the Navy and the Air Force is part of multiple flyovers across the nation called America Strong — a “collaborative salute” to honor healthcare workers, first responders, and other essential workers as they combat COVID-19. The flyover mission will finish off in Atlanta starting at 1:35 p.m. ET and last about 25 minutes. [NIKON Z 6, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Manual, ISO 800, 1/8000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 300)]
Chick-fil-A Kickoff Washington vs Auburn [NIKON D5, 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 20000, 1/4000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 460)]
Duke’s running back (21) Mataeo Durant fumbles the ball due to defensive pressure of Alabama’s defensive back (22) Jalyn Armour-Davis during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff on Saturday, August 31st at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga. [NIKON D5, 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 25600, 1/4000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 600)]
Fledgling Red-Tailed Hawk in our Backyard. Every year we get a new nest. [NIKON D5, Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sports + Sigma 2.0x Teleconverter TC-2001, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 2500, 1/4000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 600)]
Auburn Tigers vs Louisville Cardinals
Final Score Auburn 31 Louisville 24
[NIKON D4, 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 12800, 1/1250, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 270)]

Now while sports and wildlife are where I use this often, occasionally to get a different look with portraits I use the lens.

Sydney Rhame [NIKON D4, 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Manual, ISO 320, 1/640, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 195)]

This is where I wanted to compress the background of fall colors with the subject. Ask yourself some questions. Why are you shooting this? What do you want the audience to think? What do you want the audience to feel?

Always consider what you want the image to say before you decide how to say it. Then pick the best lens for the moment. You may have to compromise as I often do with my zoom lenses.

Remember to always think conceptually and not just aesthetically.

Here are links to a couple past blog posts on specific lenses: