Can you use just one lens on an entire trip? A “walkabout lens” can be an excellent way to lighten the load during a trip while still getting high-quality images. I used the relatively inexpensive Pentax 28-105mm lens exclusively for several trips. This is how it went.

Houses buried in sand, Mojave Desert
Houses buried in sand, Mojave Desert. Using the 28-105mm lens offered immense flexibility for this and subsequent night photography trips.

The realization

I’ve gone on several consecutive night photography trips. During one of the trips, I began realizing that I hadn’t switched lenses. The Pentax 28-105mm lens had been “glued” to the Pentax K-1 the entire time.

Longer star trails quicker

Since I was photographing star trails, I began using a longer focal length. This way, the star trails would appear longer, and I wouldn’t have to wait as long for them to streak by in the image. I was pleased with the images I was getting. Nice and sharp. 

Going wide

I met up with a friend for two nights of photography near Barstow. Typically, a lot of night photographers gravitate toward ultra wide-angle lenses. And with good reason. We often want to photograph much of the sky. I was finding that since the wide-angle part overlapped slightly with the 15-30mm, which I was used to, I could photograph quite a few things with a focal length that worked well. 

Taming distortion

Abandoned building in Lucerne Valley.
Abandoned building in Lucerne Valley, CA.

However, if I backed up just a little and used a longer focal length, much of the keystoning (where a building looks like it’s leaning backward) and barrel distortion that was typical of ultra wide-angle lenses went away. I had to do more walking but less processing. That was a great trade-off. 


Texaco tank and strange art installation, Wonder Valley CA.
Texaco tank and strange art installation, Wonder Valley CA.

For one photo would be up close. I would use the wide-angle of 28mm to jam the camera up close and get some slight wanted distortion or beautiful detail. For the next photo, I could photograph a building from the street but use some of the telephoto to bring it closer, compressing the scene.

The flexibility of having something that was 28-105mm and sharp just about all the way through its focal length was nice to use.

Variable aperture? No problem!

An art installation in Joshua Tree. Here, the long reach of the lens enabled me to create this photo.
An art installation in Joshua Tree. Here, the long reach of the lens enabled me to create this photo.

For much of my full moon photography, I use an aperture of f/8. The middle apertures of most lenses, typically around f/8 to f/11, are the sharpest. The Pentax 28-105mm is no exception. Since I was photographing at f/8 during a full moon, it didn’t matter if the lens had a variable aperture from f/3.5 to f/5.6. My aperture would never change anyway.

Flexibility with day photos

Horse, Warner Springs.
Horse, Warner Springs, CA. I was able to switch focal lengths quickly, enabling me to be flexible.

I used the lens during the day as well. Returning from Borrego Springs, I pulled over to the side of the road to photograph a horse. The wide-angle helped me get close. But the extra “reach” that the lens had made it so I could photograph the horse from farther away if the horse was more shy.

Five consecutive trips with the same lens!

I’ve now gone on five consecutive night photography trips over a six-month period. I have not taken the lens off for any of the trips. I have taken it off at home to clean it or to use the Pentax 50mm f/4 macro lens to create some videos of colorfully lit bubbles. 

However, on the five trips, I’ve had the 28-105mm lens on the entire time. 

During this time, I’ve used it for a wide variety of scenarios. 

Horse's eye, Warner Springs CA
Horse, Warner Springs CA, getting up close and personal. You can see my reflection in the horse’s eye!

I’ve photographed abandoned cars, buildings, sculptures, day hikes, product photographs, and portraits of friends. It’s performed admirably for all of the above. If you can find a good quality “walkabout” lens, you just may find yourself keeping it on the camera for long periods of time as well.