Traveling around France with only one lens. / by Julius Yls

Traveling around France with only a 50mm lens.

Ok, this will be my first post, and I have taken from the article that I wrote some time ago. I found this is interesting and would be a good story to put as my first post. The original article was published at Steve Huff website back in 2017. This will not be a reposted article, but instead, I will focus more into the experience of using a 50mm angle lens While the article that I wrote for Steve Huff was also discussing the technical capability of the lens: Leica Summilux 50mm F1.4 ASPH. You can always visit the original article here.

Saint-Émilion - Bordeaux - Besançon (Leica ME & Summilux 50mm F1,4 ASPH)

Saint-Émilion - Bordeaux - Besançon (Leica ME & Summilux 50mm F1,4 ASPH)

France-google-map-trip.jpg

About the trip
It was in summer 2016 when my wife and I decided to go on a road trip around France for a month. We traveled mostly on the southern part of the country and started from Dijon then drove slowly to the south and then toward the west region to Bordeaux. The trip was very pleasing, we saw lots of picturesque places and met interesting people. For this post, I will not discuss the trip in detail, as I will be concentrating on the experience of using only one lens throughout the journey. I will be posting another post to talk about the trip solely.

This trip was one of the most exciting and rewarding trips I ever had, and I wanted to share the excitement and what it brings me in term of photography experience. When I decided to bring just one camera body (Leica ME) and a lens (Leica Summilux 50mm APSH), it was bit worrying, and for the first few days of the trip, I was kind of regret it. But then there are lots of things that happened during the trip which significantly shaped my photography craft, and I think these three main lessons I learned are very important:

1. Mental Frame Line

Entering the second week, I have become so customed with the 50mm angle and almost forgotten about the lens, It like shooting with a fixed lens camera. Thus I will not spend a sec to think about what lens I need to use; instead, I always focus 100% of my time to the composition and POV (Point of View).

The great thing is that I am starting to notice how sceneries and objects are composed within the 50mm frame line, and this somehow "implanted" in my mind. I am virtually able to imagine the 50mm frame line with my naked eye. Thus I can see any good potential of beautiful composition whenever I see scenery or objects without peeking thru my camera, it always there. Below pictures are examples of shots that I took by recognizing the composition before even I look thru my viewfinder.

 

2. 50mm is Wide Enough

The 50mm is surprisingly wide enough to swallow a scene. Such on the below image where I took a four stories building from across the street which just fit the 50mm frame line. If at that time, I had my 28mm lens, it would never be crossed in my mind that I will use a 50mm lens to shot this building.

Mur des Canuts in Lyon.

Mur des Canuts in Lyon.

Little composition tricks could help to produce shots that are look like taken with a wider lens, such as the pictures below. By having lines that lead to further distance such as road, river, or rows of trees, it disguises the narrow field of view.

Point of View (POV) also can simulate difference space feel. Such as the two images below, an empty barn in the middle of the sunflower field. By taking the barn alone and away from the field, it gives a wider space feel while the second image is showing the barn covered with sunflowers which gives the feel of being less space. The barn was taken from the same distance on both pictures, but because of different POV, it gives the different feeling of space.

POV with “wide angle” feel.

POV with “wide angle” feel.

POV with “narrow angle” feel.

POV with “narrow angle” feel.

3. Consistent Style

Since I am only using one lens throughout all the shots; I am starting to see a pattern of style which that how I discover my shooting style. In fact, in my case, I start don't see the need to use other lenses beside 50mm. Yes, I can capture more content with a wider lens angle, or take a closer shot with a tele lens, but then I also can use 50mm to portray similar impact on my images.

By having said that, I am not suggesting that a 50mm lens is the best among all lenses and we all should use one. But it depends on your mission, for example, if you are a birth watcher photographer, then using a 50mm lens will be a nightmare. However, if for example, you use 120mm lens and stick with it throughout your shots, it will help to build your signature style significantly.


Conclusion

I hope this short article will inspire you to look into the most important part of photography, which is composition and ultimately leading to building your signature style. However, as I mentioned earlier that it also depends on your mission, in some cases, we do have to use different lenses to meet our project brief or client demand.