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Around the World With One Lens



Tim Grey’s challenge on his global adventures: Shoot using only the Tamron 18-400mm VC HLD telephoto lens.


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By Jenn Gidman
Images by Tim Grey



When Tim Grey had the opportunity in 2019 to teach a photography course for four months aboard a cruise ship that was traveling from Miami to Rome, taking the long way west to hit as many ports of call as possible, he knew he wanted to approach his own documentation in a compelling way. “Then it hit me: Why didn’t I try to take all of my photos with just one lens?” he says.

The lens Tim chose was the Tamron 18-400mm Di II VC HLD ultra-telephoto lens, which he also used back home in Nashville, and on a subsequent cruise the following year that ended up getting canceled in Australia as the pandemic took hold. “It was terrific using the 18-400, because I never had to change lenses, never had to worry about getting dust on my sensor,” he says. “And I never felt like I was compromising by leaving my other lenses at home. I had the versatility I needed thanks to the wide focal-length range, and the sharpness and image quality were stellar.”

When he’s shooting travel photos, Tim’s goal isn’t simply to make pretty pictures of his destinations: It’s also a chance to create something that will allow him to relive the experience. For him, that means photographing what’s interesting to him—“and I find a lot of things interesting”—and focusing on the details, as well as on the bigger picture. “So many photographers, when they visit a place, try to shoot as wide as possible to take in as many elements as they can, because everything is so fascinating and new and they don’t want to miss anything,” Tim says. “But sometimes they’re getting way too much of the scene in the photo. I use the 18-400 to experiment and focus in on the elements I think are the most valuable. I want to distill the image down to the bare minimum of what it needs to be to convey why a scene is visually appealing to me. Conversely, I don’t want to overcompensate and only shoot detail shots. The ability to instantly switch from wider establishing photos to those detail-centric images is a tremendous benefit of that lens.”

Read on for the backstory on a selection of images from Tim’s journeys with the 18-400mm.


© Tim Grey
18-400mm (138mm), F/5.6, 1/45th sec., ISO 1600
Click image to view larger

When we were outside the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, a Gaudi creation that’s been under construction since the late 1800s, I was hesitant about going inside. I’ve seen so many cathedrals that I wasn’t sure I wanted to see another one. As soon as I did go inside, though, I realized what a mistake that would’ve been. The interior was amazing. This photo is lights projected onto the building’s ceiling, with all of its arches and columns. The repeating patterns and understated way the color subtly changes from one piece to the next was mesmerizing.


© Tim Grey
18-400mm (35mm), F/4.5, 1/500th sec., ISO 800

This photo was inspired by the Counting Crows album Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings, which shows the Empire State Building through a rain-spattered window. I’d always had some notion of creating something based off of that image, and it remained in the back of my mind, waiting for the perfect moment. That moment came when I was leading a photography workshop in New York City. I was frustrated because it was raining and there wasn’t much I could do with my group in terms of outdoor photos.

What we ended up doing was hiring a couple of Ubers and driving around the city, sometimes having the drivers pull over if we needed to capture certain scenes. With that Counting Crows album in mind, my idea was to have the raindrops on the window of the car front and center in the foreground, with an iconic yellow NYC taxi cab in the background. The taxi is critical for this photo, but it’s also secondary, too, which is an interesting combination.


© Tim Grey
18-400mm (200mm), F/5.6, 1/15th sec., ISO 1600
Click image to view larger

I spotted these wine barrels when some friends and I went on a wine tasting tour at Church Road Winery in Taradale, New Zealand. The staining from the wine gives the barrels these varied colors and textures, and the entire scene took me back to one of my first assignments in high school photography class, which focused on patterns and repetition. That repeating of shapes definitely caught my eye here. I also tend to like rustic, weathered objects, and these barrels had obviously been used more than a few times. I believe in the notion of “less is more,” which is why I have just a small portion of the image in focus. It lends an air of mystery to the photo.


© Tim Grey
18-400mm (400mm), F/8, 1/4000th sec., ISO 400
Click image to view larger

The Sydney Opera House in Australia is one of the most iconic, recognizable structures in the world, which is why it’s so often photographed. But with my 18-400 lens, I had the flexibility to show a perspective on this building that isn’t usually explored. There’s a texture and pattern to the building sections that you can’t really see from a distance, which I was able to zoom in on with the 400mm end of the lens. The cloud cover made the sky a muted blue, an appealing complimentary color to the yellowish tint of the tiles. This also goes back to that “less is more” philosophy I mentioned earlier. By including just this section of the building, there’s a sense of familiarity to what you’re seeing, even though you might not get exactly what it is right off the bat.


© Tim Grey
18-400mm (209mm), F/5.6, 1/350th sec., ISO 100
Click image to view larger

When I travel to other countries, I always try to be respectful of other cultures. This photo was taken at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, which is a sacred place, so I wanted to be extra cognizant of people’s privacy while still being able to capture intimate photos showing that this is a place where people come to study, pray, and reflect. How do you do that without showing their faces?

This scene caught my attention, because I was able to convey that message by focusing on this man’s hand as he read the Torah. I was drawn to the twin textures shown here: the man’s hand, and also the texture of the written characters on the pages. This image to me epitomizes a person of faith who’s been likely studying this text his entire life, yet he’s still learning and interpreting.


© Tim Grey
18-400mm (118mm), F/5.6, 1/60th sec., ISO 800
Click image to view larger

The scene captured here was an accidental discovery on my part. This is the underside of a municipal building in New York City, which I stumbled upon while headed toward the Brooklyn Bridge. I knew I wanted to photograph it, but the pattern was so wild and random that I wasn’t quite sure at first what to focus on—take one step in one direction and it looked completely different than if you took a step in the opposite direction. I zoomed in and started extracting small sections, looking for interesting intersections or just the right contrast between the white tiles and dark grout. This is one of the images I liked the best. It almost looks like a drawing to me.


© Tim Grey
18-400mm (24mm), F/8, 1/125th sec., ISO 400
Click image to view larger

I grew up in Southern California, so snow is a novelty to me. When there was a dusting in Nashville last February, there was a sense of urgency for me to photograph it—I figured it might be the only snow we got all season. This rug was protected by an awning overhead and had just a bit of snow on its edges. The simplicity of the scene caught my eye. Along with the color of the rug, I appreciated the texture and the way it simply tapers off into the snow. I split it down the middle while framing the shot and kept it intentionally a bit abstract so it’s not super obvious what it is.


© Tim Grey
18-400mm (300mm), F/5.6, 1/2000th sec., ISO 400
Click image to view larger

I call this my last favorite photo before the pandemic. This was in Darwin, in Australia’s Northern Territory, and I took it during my second trip, right before it got permanently interrupted. We’d been hearing how COVID was starting to affect all different places around the world, but our ship was still a safe little bubble, and Australia had relatively low numbers at that point. I knew, though, that once I got back to the States, so much was going to be different. I was trying to latch onto some sense of normalcy, so I went out with my camera to take some pictures.

I came around the corner and instantly saw these colorful fishing rods in the distance. I didn’t know what they were at first, but they turned out to be part of a sculpture. The challenge here was to find an angle that showed all of that density of color without leaving big gaps. I had to figure out the minimum I could convey without losing a sense of what the subject was. I was forced to bob and weave a bit until I found the perfect perspective, but I finally did find it.

To see more of Tim Grey’s work, go to http://www.timgreyphoto.com/.







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