50 mm Challenge: Practice, Practice, Practice…..

Victoria, B.C. was my childhood home. I loved biking to Smugglers’ Cove on the water front, the breakwater and Cattle Point. I don’t even attempt to scale the slopes above or run along the piles of logs on the beach as I once did. However, I can still find many out of the way places to shoot.

It was a happy time for me. In summer holidays, once the chores were done, I was off. Mom’s only instructions, “Be home in time for supper!”

Having recently purchased a new camera our time in Victoria has given me a rare opportunity to shoot regularly and practice. I really want to understand how my camera will perform in various lighting conditions and with the lenses I currently own.

Having the ability to shoot regularly, and then evaluate and return to the same location to reshoot a subject is a huge benefit to building effective compositions. A changed shooting angle, a different lens or just moving farther from or closer to the subject may result in a very effective and interesting composition. Clearly, this is not always possible. Learning to analyze a subject, visualize the composition and then make the image is an important skill to learn and practice.

On most  camera walks I take my camera fitted with an 18mm to 140mm zoom lens. It is a versatile, sharp lens. I really enjoy the results. However, to seriously practice composition I will defer to my 50mm, f1.8 prime lens. For most of the last week or so this is how I approached my daily shooting.

With this lens I have to physically move to frame the elements of a composition. I can’t rely on the zoom capabilities of my other lenses. When I approach shooting this way I find that I am more patient with my compositions. That in itself is very important.

Moving about, ‘seeing the light’ and placing image components effectively takes time but it is time well spent. As happened this week when I was working with a group of beached dinghies near the Oak Bay Marina, shooting locations were not always comfortable.

Both of the following images could have been captured with a zoom lens from a safe location. With my 50mm prime I had to change locations to place important elements in each of the images. However, wet feet and mud stains on my pants were worth the effort.

Pealed paint, fallen leaves and dirty water marks indicate that these boats need some care and attention.

Pealed paint, fallen leaves and dirty water marks indicate that these boats need some care and attention.

Water filled and half underwater these two craft have been here for awhile.

Water filled and half underwater these two craft have been here for awhile.

This entry was posted in Education, My Work.


  1. Florian November 7, 2015 at 8:41 pm #

    50 is my favorite, because same focal length as human eye, so things seem more authentic shot with that lens.

    • Stu Dale November 7, 2015 at 9:39 pm #

      Hi Florian, Thanks for your comment. My 50 turns into a 75 because I have a 1.5 cropped sensor. Have been thinking about a 35 to get closer to that authentic perspective. Stu

  2. Florian November 8, 2015 at 10:51 am #

    True. On my 1.33 crop I use my 35 all the time. Its just the sense of distance and perspective and everything in your head is dialed in to that focal length… but it took a long time of committing to never crop an image, to see you could have been closer, you become the “walking zoom” 😉

    • Stu Dale November 8, 2015 at 9:17 pm #

      I’m working on that never crop concept. A book I’m reading now, ‘Within the Frame’ by David duChemin is most useful in that regard. I’m learning to take time with my compositions to make sure that everything in the frame counts so that I don’t have to crop.

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