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Different Focal Ranges at The Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park

Today I’d like to share with everyone some images that I took back on May 26th when I headed out with the family to the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. If you recall in one of my earlier posts, I had rented a Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L series wide-angle lens from Adolph Gasser in anticipation of the Golden Gate Bridge 75th anniversary celebration. The Tea Garden was one of those spots that we had been wanting to go visit for quite some time, but just hadn’t found the time, so we made time to make it happen. I also mentioned that I would be giving a more in-depth review of the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L lens, but in addition to that, I thought I would also discuss the differences in focal ranges and how most photographers will eventually become more familiar or comfortable with certain focal ranges which eventually help develop their vision. Let me explain further…

As I’ve mentioned plenty of times, I own a Tokina ATX 100-300mm f/4.0 that I absolutely love. This lens is tack sharp and provides the right amount of zoom for most telephoto shots. Obviously, at the lower end of 100mm, that is far from being considered something of a wide-angle, so there are instances where this lens would not be the optimal lens to take along. Not only that to take into consideration, but at almost 3 lbs, the Tokina is quite a load to bear all day long if not being used. Either way, I would be sure to come back with a sore back or neck when taking the Tokina along for the ride.

Almost completely the opposite, the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L is all about wide-angle. At the high-end of 35mm, I suppose you could consider this a portrait focal range when you consider the 1.3X crop sensor that my camera has. But, this lens really shines as a wide-angle beast. I found the lens to be very sharp and super fast at autofocusing. In fact, it was significantly faster at autofocus than my Tokina. This is one of the perks that Canon gives you for the excessive price tag that L series lenses usually sport. If not, I can only imagine how pissed off Canon consumers would be.

I didn’t feel that there was any vignetting effect in any of the photos that I brought home with the Canon. This was somewhat of a problem with the Tokina wide-angle that I rented for my NYC trip. I was able to contend with it in post processing, but not having to deal with it with the Canon allows me to appreciate the rental all the more. Also, the Canon felt substantial and heavy, which tells me that there’s a lot of glass in there. All in all, I would have to say that the Canon wins hands down against the Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8 in image quality, sharpness in the corners and autofocus speed. But, at almost three times the price, I would probably opt for the Tokina until someone starts paying me to take photos. That’s just the guerilla photographer in me lashing out against the Canon price tags.

In getting back to the point I was trying to make about focal ranges, it’s only natural that when trying out a new focal range with a different lens that the photographer may feel a little uneasy and feel that the images being recorded aren’t representative of their vision. And having experienced this before, it was all the more reason that I wanted to head out to the Tea Garden to test out the Canon. But, my trusty Tokina was coming along for the ride.

The following images were all taken in one sitting at the Japanese Tea Garden in the span of about 2 hours or so. It was almost noon, so there was no difference in lighting from the midday sun throughout the session. What I noticed when I got home was that I felt that the Canon had performed admirably, but I hadn’t. I kept finding myself not knowing what to focus on in the image I wanted to record. And when I did find what I wanted, I was disappointed in how short the lens was even fully zoomed out to 35mm. The images came out just fine, but in knowing what I want to see in my photographs, I can tell that I was uncomfortable. Could this be simply because it’s not my lens and I wasn’t used to it? Or could it be that my vision in my photography is more of a up-close and personal style of photography to show the detail in things? I think it’s a little of both.

A weekend is very little time to try to get comfortable with a lens. And I don’t mean getting comfortable in the aspect of how the mechanical functionality of the lens works. That’s just silly; a lens is a lens. Where I am going with this is understanding the limitations of the focal range that the particular lens you are working with can give you and using that information to compose the image that you crave. Case in point; had I been comfortable enough with this lens to understand what the output would be along with prior knowledge to where the fireworks display at the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge would be located, I would have pushed my way through to Fort Point to capture the fireworks coming off of the bridge tower for awesome shots. But, in this case, I didn’t know where the fireworks display would be had and I wasn’t comfortable enough with the focal range to understand where would be my optimal spot to stand on.

In the series of photos that I am sharing with you tonight, the first 10 images were all taken with the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L series lens. I found it interesting that the ones that appealed to me were all of up close images. Even with the lens zoomed out to 35mm, I was still having to stand fairly close to the objects that I was photographing. The final images were all taken with my Tokina 100-300mm f/4.0. As you can see, they are all full of intimate detail of the objects being photographed. You would think that I would totally be into macro photography, but surprisingly I haven’t had very much interest. There’s something about being able to stand further away and zooming in to capture detail that appeals to my photographic vision.

The time spent at the Japanese Tea Garden was well worth the effort. If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area and haven’t been to the Tea Garden yet, you are missing out on an afternoon worth of serenity and wonder as you walk through the garden. There is an admission fee of $7 for adults and $5 for kids, but it was totally worth the money. I believe there is a discount if you are a San Francisco resident with valid ID.  The Tea House is a small tea shop that serves teas and cookies that is open during operating hours of the garden. The Garden also features a large souvenir and gift shop. Be sure to walk all around and enjoy the various Buddha statues, concrete lanterns, gently trimmed shrubs, stone pathways and be sure to bring a bag of peanuts for some of the most friendly squirrels you’ll find anywhere, if that’s your cup of tea. There are plenty of open areas, but I believe that picnics are a no-no at the Tea Garden. There is, however, a large drum bridge that can be scaled for the brave of heart, but be sure to be patient with the inconsiderate tourists that are oblivious to the fact that they aren’t the only ones in the garden. There is a large koi pond where you can make a wish and toss a penny. If you toss a quarter, your wish will come true twenty-fifth-fold…

Since you usually save the best for last, I wanted to give my son credit for the last image. He has also been bitten by the photo bug and got a hold of my very first point and shoot Canon to test out. Clearly, he has interest and is deserving of a better camera to work with, so he should have something better in no time. I especially liked his image because of the creativity employed in taking this image. What appears to be a field of yellow brush is actually a manicured potted plant that he decided to shoot over. The effect was spectacular, so I wanted to be sure to give credit where credit was deserved. Well played, buddy…

As always, I’d appreciate your comments and questions. Thanks for looking and have a great night.

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One response to “Different Focal Ranges at The Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park

  1. Jen Dreyer ⋅

    Nice! I love the koi, the hand close up and Dominic’s shot! Well played my friend. I want to go here the next time I am in San Fran. Bmore misses you guys!

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