Sony A7 - 55mm lens - free at last.

All images - Sony A7 + Carl Zeiss 55mm Sonnar FE f/1.8 T* 

Getting repetitive isn't it? Another post, another set of pictures taken with the Carl Zeiss 55mm Sonnar FE f/1.8 T*, this time fitted to my Sony A7. This is the fourth time running I've gone out with just this lens.

I've got a somewhat unused Panasonic GX7 and a newly arrived Fuji X-T1 sitting on my camera shelf and I can't seem to get out of the front door with either. I do like using a 'stand-alone' standard lens, but I can't remember ever using that combination four times running, even with my Leica M9 / Zeiss 50mm f/2 pairing that I really liked. 

I finished my post two days ago with the words 'It is, in fact, my favourite kind of photography.' And that favourite kind of photography is one camera, one standard lens. It is for me, photographic freedom. The concept of shooting what I want with the simplest, most basic camera / lens combination I have is very liberating. The fact that the lens part of that is the best I've ever used is a bonus. And I could probably shoot with just this for the foreseeable future.

Whether I will or not remains to be seen. I rarely plan what I'm taking out with me and I often put together what I'm planning to use about 1/2 hour in advance and leave it by the front door. And I've lost count of the number of times I've changed my mind at the last minute and picked up something different. It is one of the 'advantages'?? of shooting 'on spec.' I have no shot list to get completed, no client looking over my shoulder and usually no idea of what I'm going to shoot, or even in many cases with the volatile UK weather, where I'll end up. I change my final destination often. Many times this is because I'm chasing patches of blue sky but sometimes I'll just change my mind. 

It wasn't always like this. Yesterday I was uploading some pictures of France to a picture library. Film scans from the 1990's. I specialised in shooting pictures of that country back then, since it is the most popular travel destination outside the UK for us Brits to visit. The picture library I started up was called Images of France. In order to do this I planned all my trips like a military campaign. And over a number of years I worked my way around the whole country. I also did some assignments for magazines and travel companies and even worked for a few French tourist boards.  

These days I shoot what, how and where I want. As you might imagine this freedom has been earned by being very disciplined in the past. If I never take another picture I still have to enough material to continue uploading images to picture libraries for years, if not decades to come. I've never counted how many pictures I actually have, but my suspicion is it's probably in the high hundred thousands. Well over half of that on film. I'm well aware that I'm never going to get round to scanning and uploading it all, but knowing it's there does give me the possibility to 'indulge' myself and pretty much give myself the licence to produce images these days without constraints.

I've always thought that I'm fortunate in that the pictures I've always chosen to create are the kind of pictures that picture libraries like and clients want to buy. I've always gone for relatively simple uncluttered compositions and that's exactly the kind of image that stock libraries and agencies and their clients usually look for. I'm no great fan of complexity, odd angles or extreme lenses, apart from the occasional burst of extreme wide-angle shooting that I get occasionally enthusiastic about. I'm always keen to shoot pictures for which it's difficult to tell what lens was used. And if I'm unable to remember exactly what I did use I count that as a success. Though by now I could probably work it out.

So that's why I enjoy using a 'standard' lens. Apart from anything else it's a challenge and almost a test of how my creative abilities are working on any given day. There are no dramatic perspective shifts and composition becomes vitally importance. Using one of these lenses and nothing else is almost the ultimate test of just how good a photographer I am. And while I freely admit that everything I take isn't much better than simply OK, I've taken enough images I'm really pleased with to continue doing it. I do think differently about what to put in the frame and I find it counteracts the somewhat lazy and 'done it all before' images that I sometimes produce when I have other focal lengths at my disposal. Less is definitely more on many occasions.

So there you go. Standard lenses are good for your soul. But then you knew that already didn't you.

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