Sweet 80 Street Photography
I had to think about what it means to be a photographer when I stepped into the streets of Portland. Sweet 80 street photography, for me, is about rediscovery. Recently, photography has been touted as this thing that must be nice and neat and fit into a little box with a bow on it. In reality, it is anything but that. When you break down the history of photography it’s never been about perfectly exposed, nice and neat images, it’s been about reaching into yourself creatively to tell stories without saying a word. For me, that is what it has always been but, from time to time over the last 20 years, I’ve forgotten that. A few nights out with Sweet 80 helped realign this sentiment.
As I culled my photos from the city, I started to notice something that became more clear the more that I saw it. The Sweet 80 does something a little magical. I know that “magic” in photography can be a buzzword and that even using it is a bit farfetched. That said, looking through these images, I found that there is truth in that statement. The power of this lens is its uncanny ability to make everything but your subject disappear when shooting wide open. The “magic” is the way the bokeh almost evaporates everything outside of your point of focus. The effect of the bokeh is noticeable in camera, but not nearly the same way that hits you when looking at it on a screen or print.
The most dramatic effect from the lens comes when shooting wide open. I found that shooting wide open when there was a lot happening around my subject created an almost vortex-like effect that disrupts the background and brings what I want to immediate attention. Shooting stopped down allowed me to use the same, Sweet series effect in a more subtle way.
In its essence, the Sweet 80 is a portrait lens. It was designed to bring your subject into sharp focus and to create a smooth falloff with bokeh that is compelling in ways that traditional lenses cannot. The fact that I can make an image with warp speed style bokeh in camera is amazing. I felt that putting the lens through the fire of street photography would be a good way to truly test its versatility. Does it suit every image? No, of course not, but for the ones that it does, it’s beautiful and special.
I’m looking forward to getting into the studio with this lens to understand its full range. That said, this lens blew me away in the streets! The curiosity about what it will do when I have total control over the environment is a very exciting prospect to me.
I wanted to challenge myself with this lens. I felt that it was important to work harder at telling a great story than taking a perfect photo. I found that I ended up somewhere in the middle. Heading out with the Sweet 80 was a great reminder that photography is about creating. It doesn’t have to be perfect and that’s OK because who wants perfect in a world filled with the unique?