OK so I admit I’m Bad: Sometimes I do not carry a full array of lenses with me when I go out into the world. Sometimes I just grab the Nikon D-90 and slap on whatever lens seems most appropriate to where I’m going, and make do. I know this makes me a bad example, a poor photographer, and probably should prohibit me from writing any blogs about photography, but who am I to run afoul of the current cultural abhorence of competency. I have a computer, dammit, and that qualifies me to blog about whatever I want to.

So this brings me to what I’m on about today: the wrong lens, and the right photographic opportunity.

Surfer surfing near Huntington Beach, CaliforniaI  set out last Sunday for Huntington Beach Pier, where I expected to take sports-action photos of surfers from the pier, which, because the surfers are actually some distance from the pier, would require the Sigma DG 70-300mm lens. That would  result in photos more or less like the one here.

I’ve actually had very good luck with surfer photos using this lens. While I covet the enormous, bazooka-size telephotos I occasionally see being hauled around by other photographers, this one does the trick well enough, at least until I find myself stringing for Surfer Magazine. They have not yet knocked on my door, however.

Anyway, I digress. The point here is that I went to Huntington Beach prepared for one sort of photography (and even, in my mind, also prepared for some bird photos, for which the lens du jour was also sufficient), but, as sometimes happen, another opportunity presented itself.

At the street end of the pier, we encountered three muscular young men who were preparing for a street performance, loudly busking to rustle up a crowd suitable to the occasion. They were The Flying Tortillas, a group of performers  who proceeded to engage in breakdancing, acrobatics, and tumbling (followed by a spirited passing of plastic buckets and not-so-subtle pleas for financial support). They spun, leaped, and hurled themselves through the air quite impressively. The problem, obviously, is that I was in a small circle of onlookers, no more than five or six feet from the performers, with entirely the wrong lens.

The solution, obviously, was to change how I looked at the Tortillas. Instead of thinking about their performance as whole people hurtling themselves around, I tried to think of them as patterns, or disembodied parts. So I used the zoom as it was intended, and got in close. By not trying to force the whole scene into view (which would have required that I leave my sweet spot at the front of the crowd and go stand twenty feet away, where I would be unable to see the performers at all), I was able to capture some interesting, unique perspectives of what the boys were doing, even from up close. As it happened, I even managed to get acceptable action shots, like this:

street performer upside down in a mid-air somersault

The lesson, then, I guess, is two-fold: One, don’t be lazy by avoiding having the right lens for a variety of unexpected opportunities. Two, if you’re going to be lazy (as I undoubtedly will continue to be, being generally weak-willed by nature), then be flexible in how you use the tools you’ve got. I could have just enjoyed the Tortillas’ show and not bothered with photos, since I had the wrong lens. I could have given up a prime viewing spot to stand back father to accomodate more traditional framings using the lens I had. Or, as it turned out, I could just force the lens I had to accomodate the moment, and be flexible in how I viewed the event. Not having the right tool for the job, it was OK to use the tool I had.