by Sean Setters
By now, she's actually a couple of weeks old. But at the time this image above was taken, Olivia Jane had been breathing air for only about an hour. My life has change a lot since September 11 at 4:50pm, but one thing remains the same – the importance of photography in documenting the world around me. Specific endeavors require specific gear, and lately I've been leaning heavily on certain lenses more than others. Specifically, I've been relying on wide-aperture prime lenses, with their ability to create subject isolation and freeze motion (using moderate ISOs) when second-chance opportunities are fleeting or non-existent.
A couple of years ago, I posted an article urging site visitors to prepare a Go-Bag packed with the photography gear necessary to accomplish a certain goal. With my wife nearing her due date, I took my own advice and packed a Lowepro backpack with the following:
Sharp-eyed site visitors have likely noticed two aspects regarding the kit listed above. The first is that all the lenses I packed were prime lenses. I chose to pack a large assortment of wide aperture prime lenses because I wasn't sure how well lit the hospital would be and the max aperture of my general purpose lens, a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM, seemed too narrow to rely on for the indoor event. As it turns out, the room where my wife gave birth was "softly lit for patient comfort" (hospital terminology for "relatively dark") with a couple of bright spot lights illuminating the delivery zone. The wide aperture primes proved essential for maximizing image quality while documenting the life-changing event. When packing the bag, I suspected the longest and shortest focal length primes would be too long/short for effective use in the areas I'd be shooting in during our 2-day hospital stay, and that largely proved to be true.
The second thing you might have noticed is the lack of a backup camera. Knowing the importance of the situation ahead, I packed a second very small shoulder bag with the following items:
This kit in this bag had two purposes. One, it provided me with a backup camera should something happen to the primary camera in the other bag. Second, it gave me a couple of STM lenses that I could pair with the 7D II should I decided to capture video. Not knowing how much room I'd have to store things in the delivery and post-partum rooms, my plan was to leave this backup camera bag in our car parked in the parking lot and simply run out to the car if I wanted/needed it. Of course, a primary camera failure at a critical time would have left me without an easy-to-access backup, but... thankfully, that didn't happen. In fact, the backup camera bag never made it out of the car. Note: I don't recommend leaving your camera gear in an automobile for long periods of time because of prolonged heat/humidity and chance of theft. In this case, however, I prioritized a less-cluttered hospital room over my gear's safety (the bag was well hidden/out of view in the vehicle).
So which lenses did I utilize most during the big event?
|Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro||157|
|Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM||156|
|Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art||42|
|Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art||31|
|Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM||17|
|Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM||2|
|Rokinon 14mm f/2.8||2|
It's been two weeks now, and that day is a bit of a blur in my memory. But thankfully, I have a wonderful set of images to look back on to remind me of the way during my child's first few days outside the womb. My photographic style is typically very deliberate, with lighting and/or tripod setups that slow down the capture process. While prime lenses fit well into that kind of workflow, they aren't absolutely necessary as lighting (either added to the scene or recorded via a slower shutter speed) isn't really a problem. But when documenting life as it happens, what a wide aperture prime lacks in focal length range, it more than makes up for in the versatility and aesthetic afforded by its max aperture.