The 50mm Exercise

Photography provided us with the capacity to take a larger number of photos and the possibility to get more keepers. We live in an era where photographic technology advances by leaps and bounds and every day we hear of new cameras, lenses, attachments, apps, etc.

All of these options make our job of choosing the perfect lens, a little difficult.
Before we increase our collection of lenses though, we should consider concentrating our effort on improving our photographic eye.

We know that the siren’s calls of lenses are quite irresistible, but it is more important to learn how to make images with the exercise that we are outlining in this article. In the end, the experience will make the choice of our next lens a lot easier.

For this exercise, we are going to need a 50mm lens. This lens, also known as the “Nifty Fifty” is the lens recognized as a normal lens. In other words, is not a Wide Angle nor a Telephoto. For crop sensor cameras, the equivalent will be a 24mm or a 35mm depending of the crop factor.

It is in general, it is a pretty cheap lens and because it only has one focal length, is also known as a Prime Lens.

You can find it with fixed apertures of ƒ/1.4 or ƒ/1.8. The wider the aperture (the lower the number) the more expensive it is. For our exercise, we can even rent it.

Taking Pictures with the 50mm

Even though there are other important Prime lenses (the 85mm is quite nice), the 50mm (or the equivalent lenses in the crop sensor cameras) has a few advantages.

The 50mm is a very exact lens in all its configurations and its visual range is exactly the same as the human eye. In other words, this lens sees the world just like we see the world.

Because this is a Prime lens and not a zoom, we lose the ability to zoom in and zoom out from our point of view. In order to zoom we are going to need to do it with our feet.

This “handicap” will allow us to concentrate on the quality of our composition. We’ll need to frame our subjects, we’ll need to move or position ourselves at different distances and/or places.

The other important factor of the 50mm is the maximum aperture (ƒ/1.4 or ƒ/1.8) that allows us to capture more light and also to get softer backgrounds or Bokeh. These lenses are excellent for natural light photography.

The 50mm Exercise

Let us talk now about the exercise that we can do with the 50mm and how is going to help us with our composition.

One of the most common applications for the 50mm is Street Photography or News Photography. The idea is then to go out on the streets with a 50mm lens and imagine ourselves as a local newspaper reporter trying to describe the vibe and feeling of our city with our photos.

Try to exclude the elements that do not contribute to the final composition. Use your feet to get close and try not to think about how you are going to crop the photo later in Photoshop. Try to obtain the final image; in camera.

The exercise is to take our time before we take the photo. Concentrate on the composition. Capture the Decisive Moment made famous by Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Once we complete this exercise, we are going to be in a better position to determine what lens we will to need to buy. Maybe we realize that we like to get closer to our subjects, which means we need a Telephoto. Or maybe we find out that we will like to capture more of the scene that what the 50mm provides and that will mean that we need a Wide Angle.

This article first appeared on the May 2016 edition of Street Photography Magazine.

All Images courtesy of Unsplash. All images retain the original photographer’s copyright.

The Elegance of Technology

I don’t pretend to know everything. I don’t even pretend to know a little. I am humble like that…. 😃

I always admit when I don’t know something.

The thing I think I am most proud in my personality is the fact that I have an inquisitive mind; a thirst for knowledge and for finding answers or scratching the surface of something new.

I think that is why I love technology so much.

I also don’t pretend that technology holds all the answers.

I does not… just because there are new things invented/created on a daily basis and what was an answer yesterday finds a different response today or tomorrow.

That is the nature of innovation.

The interplay of light and shadow at Yale University

The interplay of light and shadow at Yale University

I took this picture in 2009 with my then new, Nikon D80. It was during a photowalk around Yale University in New Haven Connecticut.

It was languishing in my hard drive together with all the other pictures that me and my son took that day (he wanted to be with his dad, so I told him he could go with me and I gave him my old Canon G9 so he could take pictures as well).

I have come a long way in my post processing and one of the things I love to do is go back into my libraries to reprocess old images and see what new treatment I will give to the images that I have not process or that were not worthy of a second look before.

One kind of finds some jewels with the help of new techniques and processing software.

I think the image was ok in color, but that interplay between the columns and the light was clamoring for a Black and white treatment.

In color it was ok, it Black and White it was awesome!!

I think is a lesson that says: “Don’t throw away your images, you never know when technology is going to catch up to your expectations and creative endeavors”

The inviting entrance to Area 52

Playing around with the new version of Skylum's Luminar 2018 and some foggy pictures...

The Inviting entrance to Areas 52

One of those mornings when I wake up at 4:30 AM with insomnia and decided there was nothing else to do but get out of bed up and go to the office to get some shit done.

Luckily, I happened to look at the weather report while I was brushing my teeth which called for some foggy weather.

I packed my computer and decide to take the Fuji X100F for a spin in low light/foggy weather.

As I was driving away from the house this was the scene at our local library's entrance.

I kind of reminded me of a story I read a long time ago where aliens invaded the earth and they were shaped like street lamps.

The new version of Luminar 2018 (Jupiter) is blazing fast! Every day I find new and interesting ways to use this program and every day I move a little bit farther away from Lightroom. Mind you, I still love me some LR, but the speed and versatility of Luminar are enough to convince any diehard LR alumni.

There are so many choices and possibilities with this application that creativity becomes fun once again, and I think that is what LR is lacking. 


I was testing the new version of Perfectly Clear Complete V3 using this image of a recent trip to NYC.

A simple iPhone photo was taken on my way to Grand Central Station. I first edited in Adobe Photoshop CC to remove some wires that were in the middle and that didn't need to be there. I also cropped and did some Lens Correction.

It was my first time using the Lens Correction filter and I was curious to see that the lenses do not include the latest generation of iPhones. It only has up to iPhone 6. What's up with that Adobe?

I then moved the file into Google's Nik Perfect Efex and added some Pro contrast. Next, a quick trip to Perfectly Clear Complete V3 and finally a conversion to black and white using Nik Silver Efex.

I particularly like the lines and the reflections on the front building, as well as the contrast between the new construction and the old in the back.

I clear example of the stories you can find in NYC. The contrast of Old and New...