Year of a Hundred Things: “Thing” #98, “Lenses”


“Wow, you must have a great camera.”

Photographers hear that a lot because many people assume that the camera does all of the work. But the camera, like the computer on your desk, or the oven in your kitchen, does nothing without the person holding it. Furthermore, the camera means nothing without the lens. The lens is what determines the look of the image. Is it wildly distorted? Is it what the human eye sees? Is it the perfect portrait lens?

But what is the lens without the hand that gives it focus?

It’s an easy metaphor, isn’t it? One can have all of the talent in the world, and not have the ability to give it focus. I know my lenses, intimately. I know which one will give my subjects the most beautiful profile. I know which will showcase the spectacular silhouette of the wedding dress chosen with all of the emotion of a hopeful bride. I know which lens will add pounds and I know which will take pounds away. And I know how to focus them all.

I have spent (and will continue to spend) a great deal of time acquiring my education as a photographer, and yet in 13 years, I feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface. I will never be wholly satisfied. But I view the world through my lenses. I see an image come together in that small frame and I know I’ve selected the right tool for the job. Each lens has a different feel, and I’m aware of the quality I can expect from them. But without my hands, they are simply glass and metal. It is entirely up to me to use them to make something beautiful.

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