Friday, December 6, 2013

Take a Walk on the Wide Side

EOS 5D with Quantaray 19-35mm Zoom.
I must admit - I do very little wide-angle shooting. When I bought my pre-owned EOS 5D Mk-1, it came with a Quantaray 19-35mm f3.5-f4.5 wide angle zoom, and I've done very little with it. It turns out to be a fairly decent lens for what was always considered a "bottom drawer" lens brand.

There are a lot of "enthusiast compact" cameras now on the market that are equipped with a fixed-focal-length 35mm (equivalent) lens, which implies that "enthusiasts" prefer to shoot wide. My personal preference is anywhere from 40mm to 60mm, with occasional reaching toward 85-100mm, but anything below a 40mm equivalent lens spends a lot of time in the camera bag.

The reason for this of course is that with a wide angle lens, it's difficult to get a subject. Also, contrary to conventional wisdom, wide angle shooting is rarely your best choice for shooting landscapes, with the rare exceptions of being at the Rocky Mountains or the Grand Canyon. When using a wide angle lens, you have to pick a subject for your picture, and then get extremely close to it - for example, if you're shooting a landscape with a covered bridge in it, you'd best get very close to the covered bridge, and have fun with various perspectives with the bridge in it's surroundings. With a wide angle, you can't be standing 50 feet from the bridge, aim at it as if it's your subject, and hope to get a good shot. But at ten feet, especially with so called "super wides", you can probably get the entire bridge and some of the scenery around it too.

In the above photo, with the lens set at a very wide 19mm I was less than three feet from the truck. Same with the photo below - at 20mm, the plow had almost taken my toes off when it went past me!

But as difficult as wide-angle lenses are to use, I can see why "enthusiasts" like them. If you do manage to get your subject close enough, the drama that is captured using a wide angle lens, or a fixed wide angle camera, is tremendous.

After getting some good shots, I started playing around a bit, like so:

Above is a perfect example of perspective distortion, especially as seen in the background. Love it or hate it!

Below is an example of not being close enough - even at 35mm, which is the furthest reach for this lens, this man walking his two dogs wasn't really very far away from me - he was probably able to hear my shutter:

Sometimes you can get closer to your subject using a crop, as follows:

Original JPEG
Cropped RAW File, Converted With DxO
Wide angle photography takes a lot of practice - there's no way around it, you have to get close, and that's what makes it so challenging.

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