Mr. Simon Goes to D.C.




I recently had the opportunity to visit Washington D.C. for a week while staying with friends. It’s been a place I’ve wanted to visit for very long time, but have always told myself that I wanted to spend at least a week in the Capitol if I was going get anything fulfilling out of it. A week was not long enough, by a long shot, but was a fulfilling photo adventure non the less. I rented an expensive tilt-shift lens for the occasion from, but still lugged along all my usual favorites. I was not smart enough to plan things this way, but the week I visited just happened to be the peak Cherry Blossom Festival in the Capitol as well… BONUS!!!

The first thing I noticed in D.C. was just how much walking was needed to get around. I’m no slouch by any means and quite enjoy hiking in the woods or running around the lakes in MN, but something about the trip really pushed my pedestrian limits. Every day was a struggle to keep on my sightseeing schedule when all I wanted to do was stay off my feet. It was quite painful some days to finish, and find time to go out with my friends in the evenings. Luckily the subway system was very efficient in getting between far flung locations.

I rented a 17mm TSE especially for the architectural sights I’d be seeing in such a historical city, plus I wanted to test out the “miniaturization” effect possible by shifting the plane of focus. Through my research on flickr and a couple of blogs, I was able to learn that the 17mmTSE was also extremely sharp if used correctly. While I enjoyed having a new gizmo(toy) to play with on the trip, I found the lack of automatic focusing, which the TSE does not have, to be problematic. I’m just a much faster shooter generally and was difficult to slow myself down to compose every shot and look through the eye piece to make sure everything was in sharp focus. Many times I had the camera down low or high in such a position that it was difficult to put my head near the eye piece of the camera. Overall I feel like renting the lens was worth it on this trip, but in the future I will think long and hard before I consider renting the lens again (especially for a long trip). The weight was defiantly a negative factor, the lack of automatic focusing was frustrating, and the large bulbous front glass element drew lens flares into the camera like ants on a candy bar… all three of these factors almost killed my positive experience with renting this lens.

My most useful lens was my 17-24mm wide-angle. I’m slowly realizing that this lens is my favorite way to capture what I see. I’m still very fond of the 50mm fixed prime, but large landscapes and architectural buildings are not served well by the 50mm in my opinion. While I’m generally allergic to my zoom lens, I defiantly learned that it has its place of usefulness when trying to get close to distant monuments without having to  actually go all the way over to it, or needing to capture the entire monument without suing a super-wide lens that would cause distortions.

I’m still processing over 2000 images I snapped during my weeklong trip, but I hope to post some of my favorites soon. I often find that such visually stimulating and densely packed photo trips take me months to fully “process” mentally and need time to really soak in the various layers each photograph has. I may like certain photographs one week, and eventually drift to a whole different set of shots a few months later. I guess I’m still learning to refine my editing eye.


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