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As you have been reading this series of articles about the different tools I use in service of creating my photography I am sure it is becoming clear that all the gear I use serves a purpose. This continues to hold true for the next piece of equipment I will discuss. The only difference is that with this tool always plan in advance to use this tool on a photo shoot.
The Nikon 70-200mm lens is the only lens I do not keep packed in my camera bag and take with me on every trip out to do photography. I only get this lens out of my gear cabinet when the photography I have planned in advance calls for it. And the photography I use it for is almost always planned well in advance.
Why is it that using this lens requires advanced planning? That is because the purposes for which I use this lens are generally preplanned on a calendar. It is not a tool I take with me every chance I get because the types of photography I like to use it for are not normally spontaneous events.
The Nikon 70-200mm lens has a decent amount of magnification when fully zoomed to 200mm. It has potential as a lens suitable for wildlife photography in some cases. However I have a lens that I prefer to use for wildlife photography in the Nikon 300mm. So, I do not need another lens to use for the same task. So I generally do not use it for wildlife photography.
If you zoom the Nikon 70-200mm lens all the way out to 70mm it has the ability to include a fair amount of a scene in its view. You could use this lens for landscape or scenic photography if you wanted to. But as I have talked about in other posts I have other lenses that do a better job of delivering what I want in landscape and scenic photography than the Nikon 70-200 would for me.
I have the Tamron 18-200mm lens that I love for wide open spaces and has the same zoom capabilities. This is my go to general purpose landscape photography lens. It’s smaller and lighter. It is easier to travel with and carry. It doesn’t make sense to take two lenses with you to serve the same purpose when one will do.
When I am out hiking through the woods or climbing a mountain the weight and size alone makes it clear why I would choose the Nikon 50mm lens over the Nikon 70-200. It would be cumbersome to hike very far with that lens over my shoulder if the goal was to take landscape photos. The 50mm frame of view also allows me to include more of the scene than the 70mm maximum widest angle on the Nikon 70-200 lens. It would also be much harder to hand hold the 70-200mm lens and eliminate camera shake under low light due to its size and weight.
The other type of nature scene photography I engage in is macro photography. The Nikon 60mm (Link to prior article) lens is my go to lens for that. It is literally built for that style of photography. The Nikon 70-200 does not have the combination of magnification and close up focusing range to achieve the types of shots I am looking for.
So the Nikon 70-200mm stays home tucked away all snug in its case on most days.
Enough about what the Nikon 70-200mm lens can’t do and why I don’t use it. Let me tell you about all the ways I do use it and why I actually love it.
What this lens can and can’t do dictates how and why I sue it. It isn’t a great lens to carry around with me and take candid moment photos of my friends because it can’t focus on subjects when you are too close to them and if I am with my friends I am generally close to them. Then I have to back up enough so that I can get the lens to focus on my subject. Also, with the relatively narrow angle of view of 70-200 once I have backed up enough to be able to focus on the subjects it doesn’t leave much room for any surrounding scenery to fit into the frame. It just isn’t the look I am trying to capture.
I know I said I was done talking about what the lens can’t do. And I said I was going to talk about why I love it. And I am. I am getting to that. That example just helps me bring home the points I am about to make.
What the Nikon 70-200mm lens is great for is photographing subjects that will be in a predetermined location when I will be photographing them. What the heck does that mean? I know right.
If I am planning to photograph something and I know where the subjects will be I can plan to be in the perfect position to create a great image using the Nikon 70-200mm lens. Wildlife and nature photography just doesn’t work that way. Neither does completely unplanned photography of other types of subjects. For the style of photography I want to create using this lens I need to have an idea of where the subject will be. The subject doesn’t have to be static or waiting around for me to photograph it, but I have to be able to be prepared for the opportunity.
I love to use this lens for race photography. The zoom capabilities of the lens allow me to create just the shot I want. I compose the image as I envision it. This lens allows me to shoot a tight close up of the runner working or I can zoom out and include the scenery around the runner. I love zooming out for trail running photography to include the scenic views.
The Nikon 70-200 is also great for portraits. This is not your prototypical portrait lens. It is, however, the perfect lens for my style of portraiture. I like to shoot a more candid style of portrait. My goal is not to interfere with my subject. I don’t even want to be an afterthought in my subjects mind. Being able to zoom in to 200mm allows me to be farther away and less intrusive on my subject. I might even be out of the subject’s sight and out of sight is out of mind. Exactly what I want.
Event photography can be a little more variable than other situations, but the Nikon 70-200mm has the ability to adapt. The zoom capabilities allow me to move around a venue and capture the shots from different angles and different perspectives. I can take full advantage of the lenses complete zoom range from 70-200mm. Events are designed to draw crowds and the combination of zoom and the 2.8 f-stop allows me to isolate the subject of a photograph even in a crowd.
Maybe it is just that everything I do feels unconventional to me, but there are also some unconventional ways that I use my Nikon 70-200mm lens.
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What really makes this a stand out lens is the f-stop.
Many if not most zoom lenses have variable f-stop. Meaning the f-stop changes when you zoom. Generally the f-stop goes from lower to higher as you zoom the lens for greater magnification. This means the more you want to zoom in the less light will be able to get through your lens to expose the image. Less light means longer exposure. Longer exposure means potential for blurry images. This is especially true when photographing moving subjects.
On the other hand the Nikon 70-200mm lens I use has a fixed f-stop. As in I select what f-stop I want to use and set it. Whatever f-stop I select remains in effect throughout the lenses entire zoom range. So instead of starting selecting the most wide open f-stop available on a lens, let’s say its f3.5, and then zooming in and having that f-stop shift on its own from f3.5 to f5.6 at the lenses maximum zoom the f-stop on the lens I use remains constant.
The f-stop I most often use with this lens is f2.8.
So, the f-stop of 2.8 is hugely important for my photography. It is extremely important when I photograph sports. Sports obviously has a lot of motion often at high speed. The 2.8 f-stop is also important when I photograph dogs. The way I like to photograph dogs is often when they are in motion. Even if they are not in motion all the time dogs can quickly go from static to moving subjects as any dog owner can attest.
The f2.8 feature allows more light into the lens. More lights means I can have faster shutter speeds. Faster shutter speeds means I can freeze faster motion.
If I lose light and have decreased shutter speed due to a change in f-stop my images of dogs and athletes especially become vulnerable. A slower shutter speed can result in blurring of the entire image due to camera shake or blurring of the subject due to their motion. Knowing that I have the constant f-2.8 to work with allows me to capture the photographs I want. Generally in my photography of moving subjects I want to create crisp clear images where the subject appears crisp and in focus.
The f2.8 setting also allows me to make the subject stand out. The subject stands out more using this feature due to less depth of field. So the background is out of focus in relation to the subject. The subject just pops. Even against a busy background.
Because the f2.8 setting creates a shallow depth of field it is very useful for creating images where very specific details stand out. Focusing on a specific feature of your subject will bring out that aspect more. This is especially true if the feature you want to focus on is farther away from the rest of the subject.
One way I have used this feature was in photographing a musician. The musician was playing a violin. I photographed the subject from a more profile angle. I focused on the hand holding the violin. The musician’s body and face were farther away from the point of focus. This resulted in the hand holding the violin being in focus and the musicians face and body being out of focus with a soft quality. I feel like this way of photographing the scene puts the emphasis on the music being created rather than the person playing the violin.
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