Photo Week 1: Focal Length Exercises

My first week task was to just start getting familiar with my lenses a little bit by playing with the range of focal lengths I have available. In looking for exercises to do for this, I found a variety of ways of playing with focal length. Instead of just picking one, I figured that several worth trying out.

These are the three different exercises I did:

  1. Find an object that you can get some distance from, and using one focal length, take a picture from far away. Then take 5 steps forward, take another photo. Continue this until you get right up to the object. Repeat for each focal length.
  2. Pick a scene, stand in one location and take the same photo, changing focal length each time.
  3. Pick an object, and take the same picture, with the same framing, with each focal length. To get the same framing, you'll need to move back and forth.

I have three different lenses, and I figured I should do these with the full gamut. I have:

  1. Canon 18mm - 55mm kit lens
  2. Canon 50mm/ƒ1.8 II prime lens1
  3. Canon 55mm - 250mm telephoto lens

When I did an exercise that ran the full series of focal lengths I have (exercises 2 and 3), I did these settings, in this order:

  1. 18mm, 35mm, 55mm (Canon 18mm - 55mm)
  2. 50mm (Canon 50mm/ƒ1.8 II)
  3. 55mm, 100mm, 200mm, 250mm (Canon 55mm - 250mm)

This gave me a wide range, in roughly the right order, without doing every single focal length I can. It also let me see if there was a difference between the kit lens 55mm, and the telephoto lens 55mm. (Yep, there was a difference sometimes.) I should also note that I left the settings in P (Program) mode which automatically sets aperture and shutter speed to exposure.

Exercise 1

For the first exercise, where you walk up to the object at a set focal length, I picked a different object for each lens and did them on different days. I used a big tree in a cemetery (telephoto), a swing set in our courtyard (kit lens), and then on a rainy day, a hanging on the living room wall (50mm prime).

Telephoto: 55mm - 250mm

Kit: 18mm - 55mm

Prime: 50mm/ƒ1.8 II

Exercise 2

The second exercise was just starting with the view of the dining room, and as I upped focal length, it zeroed in on the candles on the table.

Exercise 3

For the third, I used one of our orchids. I actually need to redo that exercise though, as I realized I wasn't consistently framing it the same.

There isn't a whole to really show for the pics I took, so I haven't uploaded them all to Flickr (just a couple that I used as my 365 pics), as it is mostly an exercise of familiarity, and not technique. I realized that I'll probably want to do this exercise regularly over time until I really have a good feel for what each lens will do. In the future I'm planning to do a week per lens, so that I can really focus on how each lens behaves. With three lenses and lots of focal lengths, it ended up feeling very spread out and that I don't have a great feel for them yet. There are also a plethora of exercises for focal length, more than I did here.

This post is part of my 2013-2014 365 photo project, where in addition to taking a picture every day, I am also doing weekly projects to learn about my cameras and photo techniques. I'm a rank beginner with a DSLR, and while I've taken lots of snapshots over the years, I've never really bothered learning the craft. Hopefully the next year will change that.

1 If you're curious to know more about 50mm prime lenses and why they are a favorite lens for a lot of people, here is an article from TutsPlus, Introducing the Wonderful World of 50mm Prime Lenses.