Thursday, May 21, 2009

What’s in the Bag? (17-40 f/4.0 L)

I feel very fortunate to have inspired a number of friends, colleagues, and acquaintances to either pick up a camera and pursue photography a bit more deliberately, or to rekindle an old flame.  I intentionally did not use the phrase “take photography more seriously” because, I firmly believe it should not be taken too seriously.  Photography is a great joy and like anything else taken too seriously, can loose it’s sparkle if not approached with the freedom and expression the endeavor calls for.  Photography is a pursuit that should be a release for the creativity one desires to express and in doing so should be an avenue of great pleasure.
But this posting is not about the joys of photography.  In this post I intend to answer the question “what’s in the bag?”  More specifically, I will tell you what gear I use, the benefits and limitations of that gear, and how it helps me get the shots I see even before the viewfinder comes to my eye.
Before I open the bag, I think it is important to add a disclaimer to this discussion.  I have a whole bunch of really nice gear.  In fact, there are a number of people who make their living in photography that do not have such a well equipped kit.  I recognize my good fortune and do not take it lightly.  However, it is not the equipment that makes good photography.  It is the photographer. 
Before I built up my kit, I collected a very nice portfolio of shots taken with equipment much less capable.  If I were to post the best shots taken with my original canon EOS and kit lens alongside those taken with a $3000 body and $2000 lens, it would be difficult to judge from which camera the shot originated.
In summary, the best camera to have is the one you have in your hands when the stars align and a beautiful composition is begging you to click the shutter…even if it is the camera on your phone.
In this post, I will give a brief description of the camera body I use, and the shortest focal length lens I have.  In later posts I will work through the rest of the bag.
Canon 5D
Canon 5D
I shoot with the Canon 5D digital SLR (Single Lens Reflex).  This camera was recently replaced by the Canon 5D Mark II and is no longer in production (yet still available, and a great value on the used market).  The principal advantage of the 5D is that it has a full frame sensor as opposed to the cropped frame sensors of the rest of the Canon line (with the exception of certain 1D models).  In terms everyone can understand, the sensor that captures the image on the Canon 5D is essentially the same size of a 35mm film negative.  Cropped sensor bodies use a smaller sensor meaning less physical space on which to capture the image.  The difference should be clear; the larger the sensor, the more information can be captured.  More detail, more color information, and greater light sensitivity.
For a full review of this body (or anything else in the canon line), I highly recommend going to The Digital produced by Bryan Carnathan.  Bryan publishes some of the most thorough and well written reviews you will find.  For the Canon 5D, follow this link:

Canon EF 17-40mm f/4.0 L USM
Canon 17-40
This lens is the bottom of the Canon focal length zoom lens range.  This lens is an ultra-wide angle lens in the Canon L series.  There are other fixed focal length lenses that have a shorter focal length, but none among the zoom lenses.  At the shortest focal length, this lens can fit a great deal of real estate into the frame.  From a landscape perspective, the next three shots of a fishing village near Al Jadi, Oman (first two) and Hana Oman (third in the series) are examples of what this lens can do at the 17mm end of its range.
1 Fishing Village Near Al Jadi Oman
2 Fishing Village Near Al Jadi Oman - 2
3 Fishing Village of Hana Oman
The next shot demonstrates one of the great applications of this lens.  The shot of this old car was taken about a foot from the front fender and was still able to cover essentially the entire car (and this shot was cropped a bet to eliminate some distracting elements on both the right and left sides).  IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTE:  it is not a good idea to take close up shots of people using the 17mm end of the focal range.  Your subject will be very distorted, and not in a flattering way.  For instance, a headshot of a person will result in a photograph with a dramatically enlarged nose…not a good way to win points with your spouse.
4 Ford sinking into the ground - small
The next two shots come from Bukha Oman.  Both these shots demonstrate the wonderful landscape photography that can be produced with this lens.
5 Bukha Oman - 2
6 Bukha Fort Oman - 4
I also find this lens perfect for architecture photography.  The next series of shots are from the Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Mosque in Abu Dhabi, UAE.  Most are taken at the 17mm end of the range, but a couple come from the longer end of the focal range.
8Minaret Reflection
9 Relief
10 Arches
11 Framed
12 Flowers and Minaret
13 Framed Minaret
I hoped you enjoyed this post.  In the next segment of “What’s in the Bag?” I will talk about the Canon 24-105mm f/4.0 L.  This is an indispensible lens that is attached to my camera more often than any other lens.  I also hope you enjoyed the photographs.

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