BEING AN EXPERT ON ME – Marilyn Armstrong

I know a few things. Along the road of life, I’ve done a bit of reading and studying. Like many writers, I’m a generalist.

I know something about this, that, and a bit about that other thing. A lot about a few things, less about other stuff — and I’ve forgotten more than I currently know. Which makes me highly competitive at Trivial Pursuits. All that random knowledge needs to be good for something.

Heritage Lights 13

I’m an expert at just one thing. Me.

I know my body. The strange way it works. I know what I like. I’m good at knowing what I would like, too.

To illustrate my point, this is the story of a lens I bought — and why I’m passing it to another photographer who hopefully will get more use of it than I have. Call this: Photographer, Know Thyself.

In November 2013, I bought the Panasonic Lumix G H-H020 20mm f/1.7 Aspherical Pancake Lens for Micro Four Thirds. I used it once, to shoot a “lighting” at a museum in December.

Heritage Lights 30

That set of photographs are among the best night shots I’ve ever taken. The Panny 20, as it is fondly called, is a sharp, fast prime lens. Slightly wide-angle. Perfect for people who like to do street scenes, especially at night. It was the first lens recommended to me after I got my Olympus PEN E-PL1. That was many Olympus cameras ago, but the lenses still fit because the format has not changed. I think that was in 2011. Maybe 2010. 

The Panny was already available. Everyone who used a 4/3 format camera said I should buy it. It was then (still) quite expensive. No free now, but a lot less expensive because so many more lenses have come on the market. It was especially costly for me. I was much more broke six — almost seven –years ago than I am now, which is saying something.

Its praises were sung. I resisted. There were many fewer lenses available in 4/3 format back then. This one had a great reputation. Except I didn’t think I’d use it. At 20mm (effectively 40mm in 35mm terminology), it’s not a perspective of which I’m fond.

It’s unflattering as a portrait lens. Not the lens you’d grab to take some fun candid snaps of friends or dogs.

Dancing in the dark heritage museum

I don’t do much street shooting. Mostly, I shoot landscapes and casual portraits. I didn’t feel this lens would be the one I’d reach for as I headed out the door. I like longer lenses for portraits and wider ones for landscapes.

Eventually, I gave in to the pressure. I bought it.

I used it once. Since then, it has lived in a padded pouch, always ready to go. Always the lens I think I might use, but never do. For “normal,” I use my Olympus f1.8 25mm. If I’m going out and don’t know what I’m going to shoot, I take a camera with a long zoom so I’m ready for whatever pops up. At home, my favorite lenses are the Olympus 12-50mm (with the macro button, though it’s not “true” macro), the f1.8 45mm for portraits.

Let me not forget the f2.8 60mm macro which I use to take most closeup flower shots — and my 100 – 300 Panasonic zoom which is my birding lens. It is a great birding lens. When I was trying to decide whether or not to buy it (it is the most expensive lens I own), everyone said it was perfect for shooting birds. Which is what I wanted it for. I am not alone in the bird shooting department.

What I learned? If I think something won’t suit me, it won’t.

Red capped woodpecker

No matter what anyone else thinks. I’ve lived long enough to know what suits me. As a photographer for so many years, I know the types of pictures I take.  I’m not particularly thrilled by “normal” lenses in the 40 to 55mm range. I never was, even back in the dark ages when I was a newbie photographer.

Unless you’re just starting out in whatever, trust your instincts. Save your money for things you will love. Whether photography equipment, computers, food, clothing, or vacation … go with your gut. Leroy Jethro Gibbs always does … and we know he is always right.

Where you are concerned, there is no better expert than yourself.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Opinionated writer with hopes for a better future for all of us!

16 thoughts on “BEING AN EXPERT ON ME – Marilyn Armstrong”

  1. Very true. Nothing wrong with the lens but when you have limited money you have to choose not only the things that are good but the ones that you will get the most value from like your “birding lens.”

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  2. These days the only lense I have is the one that comes on my iPhone 8 Plus. In fact, that’s the only camera I have anymore. Maybe that explains why I don’t post many of my own photos on my blog.

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    1. I figure people who think a phone is good enough don’t care about photography or they’d get a camera. It’s okay, you know? Not everyone is particularly visual. I’ve been taking pictures since I was in my early 20s and I can’t imagine a life without a camera, but other people don’t care. if you think your phone is ‘as good as a real camera,’ I have to tell you — it can take a decent snapshot, but it’s not a camera. But if what you want are selfies or shots of your friends hanging out? It’s great for that. And for the price they charge for the phones, it ought to be at least sharp if not agile.

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      1. I don’t take selfies or shots of friends hanging out. It’s usually pictures of our dog and cat or of scenery. The pictures I take with my iPhone are actually pretty decent. I used to have a Panasonic Lumix with a 10x optical zoom and 12 megapixel lens, and, other than being able to zoom (the iPhone has 2x digital zoom), I think my iPhone’s pictures are pretty close to what I got with the Lumix. And since I never don’t have my iPhone with me, it’s always available. I do care about photography, but not so much that the convenience and availability of the iPhone camera is outweighed by having to carry around a separate camera. My iPhone is not a camera, but it HAS a camera, and it does take decent pictures. And that’s good enough for me.

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        1. We learn what we want and need to learn. When I’m interested in something, I study up on it. I read a lot of material online, I ask friends what cameras they use. I follow online photographers. And at this point, I have 50 years of taking pictures, so I may not know ALL the cameras — there really are a lot — but I know what I personally like. But I study before I buy. Cameras are too expensive to buy without knowing that what you are paying for is what you will like having. I’ve also made mistakes. It happens.

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  3. Nodding my head in agreement. “Everyone” needs this lens….well, maybe I don’t take the kind of photos ‘everyone’ does so I am also sorry I bought a lens because everyone was doing it. You are right–I know me best.

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