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Assignment One: Bum Lens Bonanza

All this week's assignments will have something in common, which I'll discuss at the end of the week.

Here's your first shooting assignment: pick the absolutely worst lens you own and go out and take pictures using it. Not just any pictures, but the best possible pictures you can. Learn to use whatever liability that lens has to advantage.

Now, if you go out and do this with a lens that's got a cracked front element, expect a lot of folk to walk up to you and tell you that your equipment is damaged. Don't let that stop you. You'll find that, surprisingly, most such damage doesn't actually keep you from taking decent pictures, though it might reduce your contrast. Use a lens hood and do other things to keep from losing too much. That's one of the points of this exercise: figure out what your drawback is and optimize your shooting around it.

If you've only got one kit lens, then restrict yourself to the worst focal length(s) and aperture(s) of that lens (hint: it's not the middle range, it's one or both of the extremes).

Now don't cheat on this assignment. Don't bring any of your "good" lenses. Just your bad one (or ones). Lenses you avoid using for some reason. Let's smash through that avoidance and find out what you can really do with them. You might be surprised.

If you'd like to show your results, I've posted this article on my Google+ page so that we can get them all in one place. Don't expect me to do image critique, however. That's not the point of this week's assignments.
Thom Hogan's profile photoTricia Lombardi's profile photoLior Kravitz's profile photoGreg Fortune's profile photo
+Eric Calabros Sure, but are you willing to put them up against those of others visually ;~)
Hmm, do Holga images count? Their USP is the lens 'quality'...
+Laurens Willis well, i have a Lensbaby whose "poor" quality is why i have it. i don't use it much but it has a very specific place in my bag of lenses. the only lens i have left that is not so good and not designed to emphasize those qualities is a Carl Zeiss Jena 80-200 zoom. it's merely a rebadged Sigma from the early 80s and it has qualities which i sometimes want. however, i usually find it far easier to use my 70-200/2.8 VR2 and postprocess captures into that appearance. having a small number of carefully chosen Photoshop plugins makes this kind of thing pretty easy since removing lens rendering deficiencies are pretty hard but adding them in isn't, that's what i tend to do.
OT, +Thom Hogan I'm still waiting for the post with your latest "teaching point" (the Samsung NX1000 glacier shot). And I think I'm not the only one here...
... Hrm.... Lowest quality lens I own (interchangeable) is probably my manual focus 50/2 ai-s... ;)

Wait!I lied! 70-210 plastic variable aperture zoom.... ;)
+Herb Chong , I totally agree. Whilst I have a pretty good idea what I will get with the Holga, there is always an element of unpredictability which imo cannot be replicated. I find it well suited to travel photography as it captures an emotion rather than a perfect slice of 'reality', but I realise I am in a minority.
Just posted a photo on my page. Not sure how to make it visible here (I'm kind of a noob to G+). Taken with a Nikon D40 and 18-55 kit lens.
Gonna go out and do this with my wife. I'm not sure which is the worst though. Need an opinion: 18-55 kit, 55-200 variable, 18-105 kit.
+Mark Vasko The 18-105 is clearly better than the other two. Between the 18-55 and 55-200 it really depends. At the only comparable focal length (55mm) the 55-200 should be better than the 18-55.
Not exactly the assignment prescribed. I planned to go out with my best camera and telephoto lens to get some images of Clearwing Hummingbird Moths at the Sourland Mountain Preserve that I had seen earlier in the week ( For this assignment I went out with a much lighter camera and lens (Nikon 1 V1, FT1 adapter, and 70-300 mm VR lens). With this kit I saved almost 20 pounds (camera/lens/tripod), and was able to hike much further from the parking lot. My goal is to see what I can do during travel photography trips with a much lighter kit. At the end of the day I did get some good images (  ) but I didn’t get images of the Clearwing Hummingbird Moths. I saw four of the moths, but was not able to compose/focus and shoot in time before the moth left. Bottom line, I got some good images but will need a lot more practice to get fast moving images with this kit.
Glad to see folk doing the assignment. There really is a payoff on all these. I'll eventually get around to that.
Uploaded a macro shot from my phone at  While trying to figure out what to use out of my Nikon J1, I realized that the two kit lens probably aren't limiting me much as I'm not even aware of which focal lengths give problems on my lens so I went with the phone camera instead.

+Allan Colton The link you provided isn't working and it looks like it clipped the end off the URL.  Try linking to your post instead. for the shot you were after.
This is my shot for the first assignment:
Nikon D700, 10-year old Sigma 28-300, at 185mm F/6.3. This is with midday sun going strong.

I'll skip posting the second assignment (kids pictures), but I couldn't resist posting this for the third assignment:
Nikon D700, Nikon 18-35, cropped from a 21mm shot at F/11. It's almost two years old, and this is actually a "Shoot and Drive" shot, which I couldn't stop myself from taking at the time. Saying this was slow traffic, and I was shooting one-handed without looking through the viewfinder, and I used wide-angle intending to crop, that's just excuses. This was a dangerous stunt, and it left me a little shaky even though nothing happened (nothing was even close).
Don't try this at home.
So far, I've heard from two people that have ignored my advice and actually taken a picture while driving. It simply isn't worth it. DO NOT TRY IT. I'm going to pick on you +Lior Kravitz: your shot isn't as good as it could/should be, partly because you can't adequately time a shot and drive at the same time. You're going to compromise one or the other. The right side, in particular, is weak in terms of its crop spot and what managed to get in (or didn't).

So here's what you do in these situations where you ARE driving and you see something like this: you stop. If you can't stop, you circle back around and stop. If you still can't stop, perhaps because there's no place to stop there, you find the best alternative, quickly. For example, if you see this driving down most freeways in US towns, I'll bet you there's a road that parallels the freeway. If you can't do those things, you have to give up on the photo. There will be another one down the road ;~).

So I repeat. Please don't shoot and drive. We just had someone here in our small community perish while using a cell phone while driving. IT IS NOT WORTH THE RISK. None of us are capable of this type of multitasking without increasing our risks substantively.

If you think of me as your teacher and you really are trying to do an assignment and learn something, you shouldn't as a student ignore just those things you don't want to hear and accept just those that are okay with you. If nothing else, you won't get the maximum benefit from the teacher ;~). But in this case, you also endanger yourself needlessly. Besides, I can't afford to lose readers...
+Thom Hogan I fully agree and submit to your "picking". This wasn't worth the risk (as I said, it was almost two years ago) and I haven't done it since. Regardless of the quality of the shot, I posted it to be able to say it was a bad decision on my part.

Really, people- don't. Just don't.
Ok, here are my pictures, all taken with my iPhone. The first one is after I dropped it and shattered the back, then fixed it (temporarily) with shipping tape. The effect of shattered glass and tape on the flash was weird. The last two are actually for the third assignment, something I've been trying to do more often, taking pictures from the air while I'm working. These were taken from a JetRanger helicopter at about 500 feet above the ground, the eastern/Japanese-esque tower was actually found in New York. The building was taken while we were dodging traffic over the Hudson river, while still trying to find our line.

I find myself taking more pictures with my iPhone because that's the camera I usually have with me, and since I'm mostly posting on the internet these days, the image quality is OK. And yes, I used Instagram on the last two pictures, a simple app that's made it fun for me to use my phone.
Not doing your assignments because I'm busy with life but I've done all three at some point in the past months, though I'm guessing I really was supposed to do all three this week for your teaching point to hit home. We'll see. Interestingly enough, though, I've been doing the first one every day since Jan 1 this year as I've decided that for my 366 project I would restrict myself to my smartphone and no post processing of any kind (no, not even instagram and the like). The idea was to force myself to work on my composition as it's the only thing I can control (well, I can control light a bit but I don't even know a decent portable light so I'm very limited in that regard too). I'm almost 2/3 in now and it's been a very challenging but very interesting experience. Part of the challenge is in finding new subjects every day with little free time to look for them ;)
+Thomas Paris Well, you've taken a workshop from me, so you have a bit of an advantage ;~). I'll get to the point which drives that home on Sunday. But glad to hear you're pursuing self assignments regularly. The first step towards getting better is...well, what I'll write about on Sunday; the second is repetition; the third is getting appropriate feedback and incorporating it in step one.
I haven't gotten out much lately. The camera bag sits in a corner gathering dust a bit. So this assignment was good.

All the lenses in my bag aren't the greatest, and it was really hard to push it and put them on the "El Sucko" settings so I used the iPad for the first time. Very interesting.

I do get to therapy every day. So here is a candid from there. We're all brothers at therapy. Five weeks down and three more to go.

Let me know if you can see this.
Here is my photo from a moving vehical at 80 Km hr. my goal was to try and frame the creak with the bridge beams, uncropted.  Thank you +Greg Fortune for the help in my first post.  Here is my photo for "Candid Photo"
Allan  I can not get the links right to my photos. The three photos are in my album from the dog walk, also they are three of the last four I have posted.  Allan
+Thom Hogan How do you feel about us posting pictures we've already taken as opposed to going out and trying to get another shot that fits the assignment? I may have already cheated a little with assignment one and wanted to check before I post for 2 and 3.

For folks that didn't notice, assignment 2 and 3 can be found at
+Thom Hogan now that your concluding remarks are posted on your site, are you going to package it all in another "week" article (and/or post it here on G+)?
Thank you +Thom Hogan for your time to put this teaching point together and the feed back along the way.As alwayse gets one thinking about how to improve ones photos. Hope you have a great week Thom. Allan
+Greg Fortune I have not troubles with you posting older photos, but what exactly would you be trying to show by that? The point of these posts is as a leaning catalyst, so what would others be learning from your photo? If you can answer that question, post away. If you can't, you have to ask yourself what is it you're trying to prove.

One reason I don't critique the posted photos is simple: this leads to the inevitable rush of ego posts: people trying to prove their photographic worth to me. There's only one person you have to prove your photographic worth to: yourself. I just try to find ways to help you discover that.
+Tricia Lombardi Interesting. In your photos your subjects are as aware of you as you are of them. How'd that happen? ;~)
+Thom Hogan It was the sloshing that alerted them - I was there during the floods last September, and the driver was rolling through 12-15 inches of water most of the time - too noisy to be stealth, and too deep to stop.  I'm still choosing to count them retroactively for this assignment though. I hope to shoot thoughtfully during my safari this November.  If I can do that at least 50% of the time, that will be a 30% improvement!
Looking at my post again, +Thom Hogan it seems like the Assignments web-page has the wrong title and excerpt...
+Thom Hogan Thanks for the perspective and it seems especially pertinent after reading your concluding remarks on the assignments. Looking back at my better shots over the last few months, my favorites are almost entirely luck especially when looking at the candid style shots.
In one shot, I was at a school concert and was off to the side shooting one of my daughters playing piano.  For no particular reason, I panned back across the crowd to the rest of my family and snapped off a couple shots.  In one of them, I caught one of my daughters looking at her uncle with the most amusing pensive look on her face.  Seconds later, I got an unrestrained laugh and smile as she realized I was there.
As I thought about posting those pictures, I realized that I have no idea how to reproduce the moment and the expressions or even how to set up a scenario that's likely to produce such a picture.  I had a similar thought when I looked at your whale pictures from several weeks ago.  "How DID he do that!?" and "That was lucky!" instead of asking how you put yourself in a position to increase the odds of a shot like that in your favor.  Good food for thought.

On the topic of ego posts and photographic worth, it seems necessary at some point to get some quality feedback to help myself improve.  I have a pretty high opinion of some of my pictures and I enjoy them as a result thus satisfying the basic purpose of photography (perhaps, all art) that you're trying to get us to focus on.  Regardless, I also want to continually improve my skills even in something that I consider a hobby.  I also recognize that my opinion of my own pictures is probably a touch deluded and I'm not in a position to objectively critique my own work.

Do you have some recommendations on good ways to get valuable, objective and unbiased feedback on our photography?  Or is this a discipline where "objective" critic misses the point entirely?
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