Having just invested in a couple of not-very-cheap prime lenses primarily for use in portrait photography, I was keen to test them out, even in the absence of a model.
Heavy but broken low-level cloud was moving fast from the north and a pleasing sunset was looking likely so I headed down to Grandes Rocques on Guernsey’s west coast, leaving my regular zoom lenses behind. I intended to recreate an older photograph of the ancient fort to make an interesting comparison but I wasn’t inspired by the sun’s position nor the likelihood of a dramatic sky in that direction.
Instead I looked to the small area of sand dunes above the beach for a simple composition that would make the most of the interesting clouds, which toward the south-west were beginning to reflect some warm edge-lighting. I also like the surreal effect that can be obtained using slower shutter speeds on the long grasses blowing in the wind; in some places they’re blurred, in others pin-sharp.
In all honesty, this is not the ideal scene to rigorously test such a prime lens - this Fujinon 23mm f/1.4 isn’t really meant for landscapes with little detail. That’s not to say it can’t perform well, it’s just not an environment that lends itself to the lens’ primary features. Having said that, it performed well as the sharp detail in the stems of grass show. My first impression was that it rendered less contrast than I’m used to, but I see that as a strength, not least because I feel I’m moving toward an appreciation of subtler, slightly less punchy scenes. Fuji’s ‘Astia’ or ‘soft’ image profile has won me over and I find myself gravitating toward similar tones in my post-processing.
By the time the sun had reached the horizon, it was unable to peek much through the tiny gap below the cloud, so the actual sunset was uneventful. Had that gap been slightly wider, the sky could have exploded with drama, but it was the softer colour on the clouds about 30 minutes beforehand that worked perfectly for this scene. I panned two shots with the intention of stitching them later into the panorama you see above.
Knowing I had my shot, I felt like messing around. Instead of asking a poor unsuspecting dog walker to stop and pose for me, I placed the camera on timer and walked into the scene myself. I thought you might appreciate seeing the back of my head rather than the front, but I don’t - prior to this I had no idea my hair had got so thin behind! Oh, the cruelty of ageing…
Balding aside, I’m looking forward to using these amazing prime lenses (as well as the 23mm, a 56mm f/1.2 and soon-to-arrive 35 f/1.4) for some serious portrait work to really put them through their paces. It was a heavy investment but I think a very worthy one.
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