It was really cool of Sigma France to publish my article about my experience shooting only with Sigma lenses for 24 hours in Shanghai, China. The article was written in French, so I thought I would share the English version here:
So I played my cards right and made it to Shanghai a day early at my own expense before an important workshop. 24 hours in Shanghai. In my shoulder bag, a Nikon D810, a Sigma 24mm f1.4 ART lens, and a Sigma 50mm f1.4 ART lens. When I travel, I typically bring no more than 2-3 lenses, for the sake of keeping it simple and keeping it light.
Raced my way out of Pudong Airport to ditch my stuff at the hotel and go straight to the Bund to soak in all that neon. Took a set of long exposure skyline shots with the 24mm before switching to the 50mm to get some candids. My favorite is this shot of three boys hanging out and smoking next to a China flag, framed by the bright city lights behind them. That stretch of walkway is just a street photographers paradise, the light is amazing and there’s so much to take in. Nobody bothers me, I quietly slip through the crowd shooting and got some nice scenes.
After about an hour, I made my way over to meet a close friend who got us into this wild party at La Bota over at 18 Maojiayun Lu. Jacked my ISO to 6400, swapped back to the 24mm, and shot the party with one hand, glass of wine in the other. The 24mm’s autofocus nailed nearly every shot at f1.4, with the D810 set to Group-Area AF.
The following day, head still spinning a bit from all that Spanish wine, managed to drag myself out of bed and off to Yuyuan Garden. It wasn’t the touristy stuff that had my interest, more the surrounding town area where you can still see some old architecture and unique local culture. I use a hotshoe level to keep my horizon line straight when shooting from the hip. This is the only way I can shoot without people waving at me to go away or pose for it.
Took lunch at a nearby cafeteria for some xialongbao which I shot with the 50mm before heading to another area of the city.
On my way out, I caught these two girls buying these long sticks of fruit covered in some kind of sugar, could not resist a shot and got quite the stare.
From there I took the Shanghai Metro to Changshu Road and walked around the French Concession. This is a beautiful area with many cafes and fashionable people walking around. I picked a relaxing one with little seats by the roadside where I could have a coffee and people watch. After a few minutes a stylish couple walked by and I asked them if I could take their portraits. They agreed with a big smile. I love taking portraits of strangers when I travel, it’s a great challenge and also sometimes a chance to make new friends. The 50mm is my favourite portrait lens for this, nice and crisp, lovely contrast at f1.4 and f2.
I later met my friends for dinner and a drink, taking a break from shooting. Took this last shot before putting my camera away, thought this scene was just perfect with this young lady checking her phone at a cafe. The lighting was perfect and of course the 50mm at f1.4 nailed the focus as usual.
After dinner I snuck right back out again to shoot some more. Went to explore the alleyways around Nanjing Road. Nanjing Road is a big, brightly lit road where people will pester you to buy plastic toys or take a massage down some shady back street. Ignoring them, I look for neon lights, things happening in the windows and in the corners where you would not normally look. I shuffle between the 24mm for nice wide street and alley shots, and 50mm for character shots of people through windows or this wild chef I ran into and his flaming wok.
That’s really my style. I only shoot with fast primes and I shoot fast, f1.4 most of the time unless it’s a portrait or unless I need more of the environment to tell the story. These Sigma ART lenses are perfect for street, they’re super sharp at f1.4 and just the right weight to help me keep a steady handheld balance. They’re also built like little tanks, I’ve taken them through some harsh conditions and knocked them around quite a lot and they’re solid performers. Just wishing I had them for all my travels from years past.
As much as I enjoy chatting about gear, I try not to get too caught up with it. It’s absolutely important to enjoy the experience of the moment and place I’m in, to enjoy good company when I travel and learn everything I can from the places I explore. Photography isn’t always a solitary activity, I take the most pleasure in shooting with friends and taking photo walks whenever I can. That’s why I like to keep it simple when I travel, not too many lenses. The more I fuss with deciding on the right lens, the higher the odds I’ll miss seeing something or someone remarkable pass by.