Prime Produce and Prime Lenses: A Photographic trip to the Heredia Farmers Market
This article of mine originally appeared in The Costa Rica Star, please stop by and have a look around. Thanks, Solson
Feb 2013 EDIT! I’ve Created a video with the pictures from the gallery but also including sounds from the Farmers’ Market that I think helps put the photos and the article in context. Thanks!
Inspired by the The Costa Rica Star’s recent articles, and frustrated by the poor quality of the bell peppers at my local supermarket (you know the one that starts with “W” and ends in “almart”) my girlfriend and I decided to visit the Farmers’ Market in Heredia. I had heard that I should arrive early for the best products, so when we arrived at a leisurely 9:30 am we expected things to have cleared out. Nope. It was packed. About 600 meters worth of packed. Noises smells and bumping elbows everywhere. Good thing I packed my cameras.
Peppers were tops on the list, but of course all the bounty on hand meant we quickly got distracted with the samples of homemade jam, ripe fruit, fresh meat and even a “soda” to grab a late breakfast. The lottery sellers competed with the venders and the cat calls to see who would be heard. I tried my best to keep a low enough profile to get some candid photographs. It didn’t go very well. I blew a number of shots as people looked at me in confusion. I probably gave my girlfriend a similar look when she came back with a pack of garlic: “Honey did you really just buy garlic grown in China at the local farmers’ market?”
As we continued to wander around I got bolder and pulled out my film camera. I also paired it with my one of my favorite lenses. The lens that really helped me grow as a photographer. An 85mm f1.8. For those not versed in photo-speak that is a fixed length lens with a large maximum aperture, which allows it to be used in low-light, as well as to allowing for reduced depth of field. This type of lens is known as a “prime” lens and if you use an SLR camera you should have one. These lenses can be a bit frustrating in the beginning since you are “stuck” with one field of view. Your feet become your zoom. You get over this problem quickly because these lenses let you compose in a whole new way. Not only can you compose withing the four walls of the frame, now you can choose your depth too, like thinking in 3-D.
Being able to selectively blur things helps you emphasize what is important in your shot, it can also be useful to blur out distracting backgrounds or sometimes even distracting foregrounds. And when it the light gets low prime lenses can let you keep shooting before you have to go to a flash. Sometimes—and especially with candid photography, you don’t have time to move your feet to recompose, so you have to use that selective focus to your advantage. It takes some time and practice and a lot of missed shots to get the hang of it. The first few times I used that lens I got tons of shots that weren’t focused in the right place. Once I got a feel for it though, well… I always have a prime lens with me. These days it’s a 50mm f1.4, which is the lens that cameras all used to come with. Newer zoom lenses are more practical, but a prime lens WILL improve your photography in a hurry.
A prime lens will improve your photography, while a trip to the farmers’ market will improve your supper and your appreciation for proper produce. If you don’t live here, it’s still worth a trip since you get a dose of how locals live, shop and interact. You are also likely to encounter a number of fruits and veggies that you won’t find at the supermarket. Also do buy the glorious bell peppers, don’t buy the Chinese garlic. Do get yourself a prime lens, don’t hesitate.