Light measurement is one of the most elementary requirements when capturing successful images and, without this or an external means of calculation, it fundamentally becomes a guessing game. It is how a camera determines the correct shutter speed, ISO and lens aperture to be used.
It was August 1982, and I was in Dubrovnik in what was once Yugoslavia, wondering the medieval back streets of a beautiful town. This was just my second trip outside of the UK, the first being to Tunisia a few months previous. It was these formative years of my traveling experiences that cemented my relationship with cameras, and the need to visually document my journeys. The Tunisian trip was an incredible starting point photographically, but my budget and equipment was very limited. Well used 50 and 135mm lenses were all I owned and, exploration of crowded souks and medinas quickly gave me a longing for a lens with a wider angle of view; something that allowed me to capture more of a scene when I could back up no more.
It is late spring, and the world is awakening after what feels like a long, dark winter. Outside, early flowers paint the garden with much needed colour and the first honey bees are starting to appear. In the house, our resident ant colony is busy seeking out food, some of their opportunistic members venturing into the bottom of the Amazon parrot’s cage for morsels of dropped fruit.
The single most important factor when purchasing an interchangeable lens camera is, as the terminology suggests, its ability to use different lenses. The versatility of such systems provides a photographer with the ability to capture everything from microbes to the stars, depending on where interests lie. Some manufacturers lens systems are vast, addressing most professional and amateur needs. From super wide-angle to long telephoto, there are variants that are weather sealed, fast, tiny, lightweight, stabilised, focus limited, manual…the list goes on. And then there are prime and zoom options.
A well-engineered lens is a thing of beauty – a work of art from which we create art. Looking into a pool of highly polished glass, the depths of which reveal the beauty of multi coated elements, it is difficult not to marvel at each element’s seemingly perfectly refined properties. Some lenses, diminutive in their size, lend an almost jewel like quality to their design. Over the decades, many have acquired legendary status thanks to the unique way they draw an image. Camera bodies come and go, but good lenses become life long partners. Technological changes push back boundaries in their quest for perfection, but sometimes there is little to improve on and a lens manufactured forty years ago can have the same appeal as a new design.
A question that is occasionally put to us is “I am thinking of buying a camera – do you have any recommendations?”. This sounds simple enough, but like most subjects, photography is a little more complicated, requiring some thought before reaching an answer. Cameras are no different to many other items when it comes to diversity; there are models to suit all shooting styles and budgets. The question’s complexity is usually met with questions to establish why a person needs a camera and what is its intended use.
It has been many years since I owned a telephoto zoom lens of any kind. Burned by poor quality third party zooms of the 1980’s, I have consistently ducked getting another and always opted for primes when requiring telephoto focal lengths. This changed when researching a recent trip to the eastern region of Halkidiki in Greece. Part of the itinerary was to visit the town of Ouranoupoli which is close to the border of the Monks Republic of Athos.