Cheap Shot (Nifty Fifty Challenge)

Okay, eventually, I’m going to run out of odd titles for my posts, but I just couldn’t pass this one up.

Since I live in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, I’m within easy walking distance of the Fremont Sunday Market. As such, I shoot there nearly every weekend, which starts to lend itself to one’s shots getting a bit stale. So lately, I’ve been issuing challenges to myself.

Last week, my challenge was to shoot from perspectives I normally don’t. This week, I took a page from one of my Flickr contacts and tried shooting everything with the incredibly inexpensive plastic Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II lens, also known as the “Nifty Fifty” to many photographers due to the high optical quality and insanely low price. The challenge was not merely to use the cheap Nifty Fifty, but to shoot everything at f/1.8, no other apertures.

The challenge to shoot at f/1.8, which is a very wide aperture and gives an extremely shallow depth-of-field, forces one to think a bit more carefully about where one places the focal point and precisely how one composes a shot. There were a few shots I saw during the day which I would’ve liked to use another aperture (or even another lens) for, but I stuck to my guns on this challenge even when I came across an unusual photographic opportunity of a car that had been vandalized by a thrown giant porta-potty.

Not all of the shots were successful, but one really stood out.

One of the first shots I took at the market was of a cabinet used to hold communion wafers for a church. Lovely wood, and even with fairly low light, f/1.8 allowed good color and exposure. However, I think in hindsight I made a poor choice of focal point, here: I chose the cross on the left door as my focal point, which left the right cross — more prominent in the photo — a bit blurred. In hindsight, I would have chosen to focus on the other cross, but I was caught up in the composition; I kept to a bit of last week’s ‘try different compositions’ challenge for this week’s shots as well.

Communion Cabinet

In contrast, this shot of the stand belonging to some glassblowers worked much better. The one yellow piece stood out much more prominently than all the others, and the passer-by taking in the contents of the table with delight and amusement is what really makes the piece. Here, the shallow depth-of-field of f/1.8 works in my favor, and the shot is much more effective.


The real keeper of the day, however, was this Karmann Ghia coupe parked just beyond the market. I’m certain the car belongs to one of the market merchants, since you can /always/ find it parked there on market day. But whoever owns the car, they’ve been slowly and lovingly restoring it. Though I’ve shot this particular Karmann Ghia a number of times before, with the headlights now in perfect shape once more I just had to try again. Here, the shallow depth of field allows the car to sort of vanish gradually into the backdrop.

Classic Car

In the end, I am finding that setting challenges for myself really helps me to push myself to look for new and different shots. Of course, now I still have to think of what next week’s challenge is…


~ by Rachel on March 1, 2009.

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