The Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D AF used to be my favorite lens, being the fastest lens that I have in my arsenal. Aside from being reasonably priced, it is dependable in low light photography with its aperture set at wide open. It is likewise capable of producing smooth blur or "bokeh" which is pleasantly silky at f/2.8 and wider. Being a prime lens, any amateur photographer or hobbyist alike shouldn't leave home without this "normal" or "standard" lens tucked inside their camera bag.
Lately, I was tempted to sell this precious gem and get myself a real portrait lens as what they call an 85mm f/1.8 to be. Last July 14, we had an out of town photoshoot in Batangas City and the location of the shoot is an old ancestral house of the Acosta-Pastor clan situated along D. Tirona St. in Batangas City.
When the magic hours started to set in, I went shooting outdoors and replaced my ultra wide lens (Nikkor 12-24mm f/4G) with my estranged normal lens (Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D). The drawback of using a fixed focal length lens is that your composition will be limited to cropping the image unless you resort to what we call in jest as "walk zoom" shooting where you either step back or move forward to get the framing you want for your image.
A little bit inconvenient but getting used to it should be a part of your work attitude. Patience being a virtue in photography, I did my composition by walking to and away from the model just to get that desirable framing in my viewfinder. The resulting images when seen after each click of the shutter is very rewarding to the visual senses. Rich and smooth bokeh will make you smile when you chimp after each and every push of the shutter release button. On this particular shoot, I fixed my aperture at f/2.8 since I had a terrible experience in the past when I availed of the widest aperture where the shallow depth of field ruined my photos.
ISO setting was dialed to ISO 200 to afford a little flexibility and to maintain a cleaner image. The shooting started off with Clarisse in red dress as my model. I started with the shoot by letting her pose by the Steinway piano sitting upstairs and with the aid of my reliable Nikon SB-800 speedlight, I balanced the lighting exposure provided by the available light coming from the window and the fill in light provided by the speedlight. The result - an astonishingly clean image of a lady in red dress with a smooth background of the fully furnished old Spanish style living room of the olden days.
Working outdoors, I kept the same setting but this time shooting in available light during the magic hours of the day. When we say magic hours, we usually refer to the window of time beginning 4pm up to 5pm in the afternoon where the outdoor lighting of the setting sun is occasionally diffused by the clouds above.
After the shoot and upon seeing my photos of Clarisse, I resolved not to sell my normal lens and decided to keep it for good. A wise decision indeed for the obvious reason that having a cheap lens like the 50mm f/1.4D would afford you few luxuries in composition on low light conditions. You just have to muster enough patience in walking to and from your subject to get an image which will suit your shooting style. That I don't mind at all and for now, this Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D will stay here for good. Thanks to the lady in red for without her as a very inspiring subject, I would have parted with this lens when I was visited by my lucid intervals.
For this shoot, I would like to give credits to the following who made this event possible: Igor for inviting us to join him, Gina Pastor and family for being such a gracious host, King for doing the make-up and to my fellow shooters, Joel, Tipoy and Jobert. Of course, we would also endeavor to thank our pretty models namely Clarisse, Sheena, Erika and Jonah.