Even though Spring allegedly started on March 20th, someone forgot to tell Mother Nature. There is still enough of a chill in the air to deter most from lingering outdoors too late into the evening, which is why I was surprised to see people sitting around the large, currently empty fountain at Washington Square Park and scattered amongst its benches well after the sun had set. I don't blame them for trying to make this 40 degree weather (practically sweltering!) work, we're all sick of this long and unrelenting winter. I even saw a man wearing shorts with black knee-high socks and sandals on my late night train ride home. Fight the good fight, sir, however unfashionable your weapons may be!
I originally went out that night with my good friend Rich Hackman (click on his name right now, his work is top notch) to break in my new Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 fisheye lens by photographing the architecture and streets, knowing that the various lines and light sources would compliment the odd angles an ultra-wide lens produces. Fifth Ave. starts on the north end of the park, and beautiful streaks of light from cars turning left & right can be captured if you set your exposure and shutter speed correctly. The Washington Arch, also at the north end of the park, is lit dramatically from below, giving the marble structure a rich and clean glow.
There were a couple of performers hanging around the park that night, playing to those who cared to listen and hoping to score a few dollars in the process. Performers at WSqP in the Spring and Summer are incredible to watch because the size of the park forces them to compete more vigorously for the attention of the crowds, luring you with promises of standing flips or improvised saxophone jazz riffs late into the night. But that night, the sound of two guitars struggled to fill the wide open space while another woman on the other side of the fountain just stood there making large bubbles for kids. She looked tired, but the kids loved it and protested very loudly when their parents struggled to bring them home. There were also some young people (wow, did I just type that?) hanging out and skateboarding, but I didn't feel like setting up flashes and coaxing them to let me photograph them at the moment. I definitely need practice with my Speedlite, but that wasn't my goal for the night.
I wanted to become better acquainted with my new tripod (Vanguard Alta 263AB 100 Aluminum Tripod with SBH-100 Ball Head) and my new lens. I felt like this trip yielded some pretty good results. The tripod was sturdy yet light and much easier to adjust than I had expected. I never felt like my camera was in danger of crashing to the ground while it was attached, even in the vertical position.
Like many of the reviews for the Rokinon 8mm mentioned, it's a manual lens that forces you to go back to the basics that beginners too often bypass because of the Auto-Focus mode. There's nothing wrong with AF, but learning how to handle manual settings and understanding that AF isn't necessary all the time (and can sometimes make getting the shot you want more difficult) gives you more options as a photographer. For this particular lens, you have to find its sweet spot by tinkering and adjusting and tinkering even more, which means you will have to endure some terrible shots in the process. Because this brand is so cost-effective ($280 v. a Canon or Nikon's $1000+ price tag), you pay in other ways. Some of the lens' calibration can be slightly off, which means your best results may not be on the exact same settings as another person with the same lens. It's not that big of a deal, just something to consider when comparing experiences. And for goodness' sake, if you're an amateur trying to transition to a professional, you just saved about $700 on this fun little lens! When it's just right, you will be rewarded with some really interesting images. That's learning and adapting, right?
I'm excited to try a few more ideas with this lens, focusing more on it's ability as an ultra-wide to really show the size and reach of a space as opposed to merely exaggerating the lines and proportions of a space. Look's like I have more homework and my next assignment!
See the rest of the shots from that night here.