A camera, with its lens, is nothing more than a hammer and nail. Create something with it.
Earlier this year while on a National Geographic assignment in Kazakhstan, the unthinkable happened; I had placed my Canon 5D Mark III on the rear tire of the Landcruiser we were using in the desert, in a rush to drive off, forgetting it. On that camera body was a 24-70 f4 Canon lens — if you’re ever meandering in the extreme remote region between Aktau and the Uzbekistan border, there’s a brilliant camera with lens, with many photographs inside, waiting for you to use…
As if falling from the sky, a few weeks after returning to the Berkshires, I was presented with a Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 VC lens to test. And how utterly appreciative…in a few days I was off to Armenia to begin a new project, @BridgingStories–a grant program between two beautiful countries, Armenia and Turkey that teaches and inspires locals to tell their own stories through photography–highlighting their similarities, and yes, their differences, all in the act of building bridges and offering peace.
Between long hours teaching, I would sneak out to rediscover the mountain hamlet of Dilijan. With me was this ultra fast, Tamron lens, attached to another Mark III. I was eager to see just how far I could push photography in low, extremely complex light.
Magically stumbling into an beautiful abandoned home, brunette in luminance, walls chafed by time where pattern-filled paper clung–alluring as when walking into the home of your grandmother. Before me was grandeur. Poems I knew, with the right paint brush, manifesting voices of those who once lived here.
Without having to doubt whether this lens, in its fast f2.8’ness would question, the quintessential means of feeling, seeing expression within the lowest of light, was all rendered, effortlessly, an ISO that would not challenge the sensor.
Well exceeding the Tamron lens’ speed (one full-stop faster than the Canon languishing in a Kazakh desert), the image stabilizing prowess of the Tamron was astonishing, easily freeing, untethered from the confines of a tripod, moving fluidly for gentle changes of composition, all in hand.
The outcome was flawless and sharp. Frame after frame in the subdued light, every detail, like strands of hair, breathing life back to these walls of time.
A month later, I returned to using this lens, this time in Uzbekistan. This time for video. Once more impressed by the stabilization ensconced in this lens, one of the smallest, if not the smallest, 24-70 2.8 I have ever worked with.
Suppose next you’re wondering…will I use this lens further along my travels? Oh yes.
Here is why…a camera lens is like a paint brush or a pen. We can banter till our tongues curl about which paint bristles or lead tips are better — natural or synthetic, nylon polyester of hog hair, a No.2 used in school, graphite or charcoal. Who cares. Such a waste of our most fleeting gift we have: Time.
Instead, Write something of purpose. Paint in madness. Take the viewer or reader to places they fear, to vistas of peace that only appear by the reflection of light, no matter how insignificant the light may be, or how gleaming.
This lens does all that.