Widening the comfort zone

Posted on 4 Mar ’09 by Earl Moore

Rocky Pacmen

These rocks reminded me of the Pacman game character or perhaps Steven King’s Langoliers.

Paul Lester’s post, “Downward trends“, caused me to consider my own photography. Paul wrote:

I find that I tend to stay in the middle range and don’t so much venture out into ultra-wide or telephoto. I’m quite comfortable there.

I totally identified with this statement and I’m sure if I searched my photographs of the last year the vast majority would fall into the middle-range area.

In my case, a main reason for this is simple convenience. For walkabouts I generally have a medium range zoom lens on my camera, either a 18-200mm DX or a 28-300mm FX, which allow me to seldom change lens or carrying a bag for them. It’s very convenient and comfortable.

But this can be limiting.

What got me to thinking along these lines was a recent purchase of an an ultra-wide angle lens (Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8) and with its use realizing I’d been missing a great deal by not shooting more on the outside of my normal comfort zone.

This ultra-wide lens on an FX camera has opened up new possibilities for creativity, so much so I’m considering using only it for photos in my upcoming SoFoBoMo ’09 project…nothing but wide.

My thinking also follows along with another recent post by Paul, “The work of it” which speaks of putting “the work in” to become good at a craft, such as photography.

The professional is the one who sets aside some amount of time each day to practice the craft. Steven King mentions, in his book, that this is how he writes. That time is inviolable. He must park his butt in that chair for so many hours per day and do the work, even if it is pure crap. The work must be done.

Not to twist meaning, but I’m thinking this applies as well to working to extend ones comfort zone within ones craft. Although this creative exploration can often be more like play then work.

Perhaps I need to look to the ranges or areas I haven’t been shooting this last year and put in additional work there.

That middle range zoom won’t always be on my camera now.

What Others Are Saying

  1. Paul 4 Mar ’09 at 8:38 pm

    Earl, I think that wherever you are shooting, regarding lenses, is the right place for that moment to be shooting. If you find yourself suffering from creative blockage, perhaps a teaspoon of Metamucil is order, or a lens change. :-)

    I feel that I have the right lens on the camera as long as I am still feeling creative and getting what I want. I will change sometimes, just to make sure that I remember what a particular lens does. Mainly this is the 11-18 that I’m talking about. I like the distortion and it works really well on subject like the one in this post as well as the waterwheel in the previous post. Excellent choices and use of the distortion. You obviously know when to use them. So it’s cool to have and keep them in your arsenal.

    An excellent post. It spawned another one for me. Thanks for the material!

  2. Paul 4 Mar ’09 at 8:41 pm

    Oh, regarding the other quote. I think that this, for me, would be going out and shooting nearly every day. Perhaps I’d keep the same lens on, sometimes I’d chance the lens. Just the act of being there would afford me the opportunity to try different things. If I’m at home watching TV, or blogging and not shooting, those opportunities would never present themselves and the camera would sit in the bag with the same lens, day after day.

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