Through New (Old) Lenses

Glasses

These are my new glasses. When I first put them on everything looked weird, even though my prescription hadn’t changed. It took a few days of forcing myself to wear them before my brain caught up with my eyes and everything felt normal again.

That experience got me thinking about how we see with cameras and lenses. Whenever you throw on a new lens, you’re essentially getting a new set of eyes. Craig Mod has written about this quite beautifully in his essay “Seeing Prime”, about the Panasonic 14mm lens for Micro-4/3rds. Describing the shift from the 20mm to the 14mm, he writes:

With a single gesture — changing lenses — your visual lung capacity increases. The sky explodes over subjects and you have to forcibly reframe the world because your brain is stuck in 20MM mode. Your mind’s eye shifts — an internal aperture expanding to welcome the new space. And you start to wonder — how the hell did I live in such a small box before?

I bought the 14mm lens two years ago partially because of Craig’s review.

And I hated it.

Well, hate is a strong word. But I could just never get used to seeing with that lens, which equates to a wide-angle 28mm in 35mm terms. It was always just a bit too wide, a bit too distorted, for the way that I was shooting. I was coming from a DSLR where a 60mm was my normal lens, and I was shooting the 14mm in the same fashion. Eventually I got a 45mm, and then a 25mm. The 14mm? Shipped off with myold Olympus E-P2 to my brother, who was contemplating a switch to Micro-4/3rds.

Eventually my brother recently ended up selling his Sony gear and bought his own Micro-4/3rds gear, so the E-P2 and 14mm are back with me. I’ve given it another try, and while I still don’t love it, I’m learning that part of my issues with it were due to a fundamental misunderstanding of how you have to change your shooting style with different lenses. My brother said, “You have to think of a wide-angle as a close-up lens”. And with that, it something clicked. I threw it on and started getting closer. In short, I hadn’t let my brain adjust to the lens. I was using it like a normal or short telephoto, and so of course it wasn’t working.

So now whenever I feel the urge to click the shutter, I take one or two steps closer, and see how that changes things. Gradually I’m relaxing, and adjusting to my new eyes. I’m appreciating how much I can cram in, even when I’m standing at close quarters.

Soph Fog
Lous Crab Pad
No Dogs
Love and Hope

I actually shot the photo above with the 45mm, but I would never have noticed the door and its reflections if I hadn’t been carrying the 14mm. I’ve passed that door hundreds of times, but somehow having a different lens made me look around more, searching for subjects that might work. I rounded the corner and noticed the “Hope” reflected above “Love”. I took a photo with the 14mm, and resolved to come back the next day and re-shoot it with the 45mm.

Phantom Pro

Flickr’s revamp has led to a bit of confusion about the future of the “Pro” membership, with some claiming that Pro memberships are going away, even for existing Pro users:

The upgrade screws many old pro users as it basically eliminates it totally. Pros had unlimited storage, unlimited photo uploads, unlimited video uploads, the ability to have their original images downloaded, the ability to replace a photo, and a statistics chart. And now that was all basically just taken out from under their feet.

That doesn’t appear to be the case, however. Since Flickr has implemented infinite scrolling on the site, it can be a bit hard to reach the footer where they link to their FAQ—it’s there, just tantalizingly out of reach. So here’s a link to the relevant section.

As far as I understand it:

  • Flickr members who were Pro before May 20th can stay Pro if their account auto-renews.
  • Pro members maintain the unlimited photo/video uploads, unlimited storage, and unlimited bandwidth benefits.
  • The upload limits for Pro members are expanded to the limits for the new free accounts.

So, it looks like Pro memberships are grandfathered in, but only if you set your account to auto-renew. There is no longer any indication of membership level (which is fine, the “Pro” badge always seemed a bit unnecessary to me). Given that a yearly Pro membership is ~$25 and the ad-free Flickr account is ~$50, it would seem that any Pros still interested in using Flickr would just auto-renew.