One month, one camera, one lens
April 14th, 2011

This is my challenge—of sorts—for myself for the next month of Within The Frame workshops in Italy and Croatia. I woke this morning with this crazy idea of bringing just one lens with me, and I thought that the best choice would be the 24mm/1.4—because wide suits the areas in which I’ll be photographing, but also because it’s my newest lens. I tweeted this idea, and everybody seemed all-too keen to encourage me in this potential madness.

In the end, I decided against this limitation. My primary reason for considering this was to force myself to try to use one lens while also saving my back from having to carry more than one lens. Well, unfortunately, my back doesn’t really get a vote (I hope that Dr. Ed, my chiropractor, doesn’t read this!), and, while I like limitations, sometimes they can be unreasonable. In this case, I feared that I risked being on the wrong side of reasonable.

However, I do wish to pursue the core of this idea. I’m going to put the 24mm on my camera as my default lens. Should I feel a need to change to a different lens, then I’ll post a sample and attempt to justify my reason for doing so. I hope you’ll call me out for bollocks should it be appropriate.

In the end, I have four lenses with me: 24mm/1.4, 50mm/1.4, 17-35mm/2.8 and 24-70mm/2.8. So everything I photograph will be in that 17mm to 70mm range. It wasn’t easy to leave the 70-200mm/2.8 at home as I love that lens. It might be frightfully unnatural how much I love that lens! But I increasingly like the other end of the spectrum; so I want to devote some time—a lot of time—to photographing wide. I’m planning on using the 24mm/1.4 as much as possible. Should I feel a need to switch lenses, then I suspect it will be to the 17-35mm/2.8, but we’ll see. I could be back here tomorrow or the day after bitching about my ridiculous idea to leave one of my favorite lenses at home, where it is absolutely useless to me.

We’ll see how it goes. I’m at Washington Dulles waiting with David duChemin for our transatlantic flight; so there’s no changing lenses now!

11 Responses to “One month, one camera, one lens”

  1. Jilske says:

    What are you expecting, photography-wise, from this trip?
    Now the real challenge will be not to default to any other lenses as time passes by and stick to your guns/24.

    At least you can tell Mr Ed you left the heaviest lens at home ;) And I’m sure David will let you borrow his in a pinch (read: trade for scotch and cuddles).

  2. jessica says:

    can’t wait to hear how it goes. i took a week long trip down the west coast last week and only brought two lenses. i took my 70-200mm/ 2.8 (my go-to) and a 50mm/ 1.4 the trip was short, and there wasn’t a lot of time for me to photograph- in the end, i was thankful i left the others behind.

  3. Lisa O says:

    Will David share with you if you have a sudden urge for a tele? I like wide lenses too. I’ll have a 14mm, 21mm and 35mm in Italy. Have a great time in Liguria and Tuscany, see you in Venice!

  4. And, unless my better judgement has some say in the matter, I will have my 70-200 with me in Croatia (because someone talked me into it!), and I’ll share. ☺

    I love your idea. I was actually thinking of doing a lens a day thing before I get to Croatia and limiting myself to just one lens each day – just to see what creative problem solving the limitations engender… I’ll be anxious to see your results.

  5. Rosa says:

    Just taking 28 and 50 in my latest trips and really enjoying getting close to what happens around. Ok, I admit that sometimes I’ve missed having something like a 85 with me.
    I don’t forget that all this thing about getting close started a year ago in Liguaria :-)
    Have a great time in Italy!

  6. Jack Kurtz says:

    I’ve been tempted to try something like that with my newest acquisition, a Panasonic GF-1 with either the 14mm f.25 or the 20mm f1.7 pancake lens. Both lenses are quite good. The 14 is wider (28mm equivalent on full frame, smaller and focuses faster) the 20 (40mm equivalent on FF) is a little sharper with better contrast. I’ve been using GF-1 more and more for work and it’s a terrific piece of gear.

    It fits into my camera ecosystem in the same way my Leica rangefinders did back in the daze of film.

  7. Jeffrey Chapman says:

    Jilske, expectations are a siren’s song to a rocky shore.

    Jessica, for the trip to Asia (with you!) I will almost certainly be back to carrying a full arsenal.

    Lisa, I’m sure that David would share, but he’s also packing wider than longer on this trip.

    Camille, this is definitely one of those “don’t do as I do” scenarios; bring the big boy.

    Rosa, we’ll miss you here.

    Jack, I’ve been very tempted to get something like the GF-1 (or a Leica!).

  8. Allen says:

    Best photo experience overall for me after many trips was 3 weeks in Turkey with Canon Rebel TSi and 18-200mm lens. 6000 images while traveling light. Definitely some compromises but better than trips with 2 bodies, multiple lenses, waist-belt holsters (Central America, etc) , or the opposite with Canon G9 with two lens extenders (India for 4 weeks). All comes down to how you like to shoot and what results you can live with :) . Now for Laos ….

  9. @Jack, I did the same experiment last year with a GF1 & the 20mm f/1.7 and learned a lot from it. You can read about it here:

    (Sorry if I hijacked the thread, Jeffrey. I couldn’t figure out a way to respond directly to Jack’s comment.)

  10. Terry Clark says:

    On a trip to Italy I took two years ago I packed two bodies (5D and 40D) with a 16-35 zoom, 50 1.2 prime, 24-105 and a 200 2.8 prime. That was more than enough. In fact, I so rarely used the 50 I could have left it home and never missed it. The 200mm was a great choice for a long lens and, being a prime, didn’t come with that much weight (as compared to the 70-200).

    On my next trip I’ll be packing just a Leica M9 with 24, 35, 50 and 90 lenses. So much easier on the back as well as forcing me to focus on images rather than the gear at my disposal.

  11. heather says:

    Hi Jeffrey I found your blog today because of your post about david. then this post caught my eye. I am teaching a class, fall 2011, called the prime document. the student must choose 1 camera and 1 prime lens for the entire semester. we will be exploring Las Vegas, Nevada, would love to hear about your prime adventures. Any ideas would also be welcome.

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