Welcome! This week we are tackling Wide-angle lenses. Photographing with these lenses can be challenging, but also a lot of fun. So let's get right to it shall we? So what exactly is a wide-angle lens you ask?
When we talk about Wide-angle lenses what we’re really talking about is a field of view, so a wide-angle lens is a lens that has a wide field of view. How wide the field of view is on your lens will vary with the type of camera you have (Full Frame vs Cropped Sensor). The chart below illustrates the equivalent conversions on the two most common cropped sensor sizes, the 1.5 (Nikon) and the 1.6. (Canon).
While doing research for this blog, I came across a very cool website from Veterian Key which has some great information about vision in horses, dogs, cats. I learned that Horses have 357 degrees of vision. That is amazing, that means they can see just about everything around them, except for a very tiny 3 degrees. Cats have 200 degrees of vision and dogs 240 degrees of vision. Humans by the way, have about 180 degree forward-facing horizontal field of view. If you want to learn more about that click on their link above. The site Quora has a very nice graph covering human vision, from binocular, monocular, 3d and 2d vision. Click Here to find out more.
So what does any of this have to do with wide-angle lenses and photography? Well, degrees of vision are precisely what we are talking about.
On a full frame camera, a lens with a focal length of 35mm or wider is considered a wide-angle lens. On a cropped sensor camera, you will need a lens with a focal length of 24 mm or wider to obtain the same effect.Once you start getting into wider than 24mm, like a 10-17mm lens, those are considered ultra wide lenses.
Fish-eye lenses are a type of wide-angle lens, but for the purposes of this blog, I will only be covering rectilinear (regular) wide-angle lenses and not fish-eye lenses.
The chart below shows you the field of view of each lens in degrees. We can see for example that a 10mm lens will give us 121 degrees of view on a full frame camera. A 15mm lens will give us around 100.4 degrees of view. A 50mm lens - 39.6 degrees of view.
Because these lenses cover such a wide field of view, they tend to create distortion in pictures. As a photographer, you can decide to use this distortion as a deliberate choice or shoot in such a way as to avoid or minimize the distortion these lenses create. I personally love the distortion they create and I use it within certain constraints to avoid unwanted effects.
If I could only give you 5 important things to remember when shooting with these lenses they would be:
Anything in the front (foreground) is enlarged or exaggerated therefore it automatically becomes the center of focus in your image.
This photo of Maggie shows a very exaggerated nose. Yes, Rough Collies do have long snouts, but Maggie's nose appears larger than it actually is.
You have probably seen this photo before in a previous blog. This is one of my favorite photos of Mojo. It was shot with a 24-70mm lens at 31mm on a full frame camera. This photo is particularly significant as I was informed a couple of weeks ago, that Mojo was not going to make it to the end of the month due to Kidney failure. Mojo was a sweet pup with a zest for life. Rest in peace my friend.
Tessa (above) loves to plop herself down like a rug whenever she doesn't want to do something.
While on vacation in NY, (below) I was on top of the Empire State Building trying to take a picture of the city scape when this funny bird flew right into my shot. It seemed very used to people and it absolutely refused to fly away, so I snapped a picture of it.
Avoid the Corners
Silas' entire face, and in particular his nose have been greatly distorted by this 10-20mm lens. The photograph was shot at 20mm. You can purposely use this distortion or you can avoid it by not placing your subject so close to the edge. Unless of course, distortion is what you're going for. This is most important if you're photographing people.
Here's a picture of Ted. I was setting up the camera and lighting to photograph the Board of Directors of the Chequamegon Human Association. Since I am also on the board, I was setting up the remote control so I could shoot this and still be in the picture. Ted, our fearless leader, walked right up to the lens and I snapped this shot. As you can see, he got way too close to the lens, but it does help to illustrate the point of photographing people with these lenses.
Use the Distortion
Most of the fun of shooting with these lenses is in using the distortion they create to create a particular mood - in this case, we're going for funny.
"The Nose Knows" This is a shot of sweet Mollie, a beautiful 13 year old golden retriever I used to doggy sit. I purposely shot this extremely close to her to take advantage of the distortion and make this picture all about her nose. Mollie passed away in January. Sweet Dreams, my Mollie Mc Butter.
Next we have Mr. Rudy. (above) Notice that his head is huge and look at how far back and tiny his rear end appears.
We also have Lucy darling (below). A great senior citizen who just loves to chase balls. She's another example of using the distortion of this lens.
Change your Perspective
Shoot high or shoot low. Changing your perspective will let you take advantage of the distortion these lenses create.
I was flat on my back so I would get the people and the entire building in this shot. Shot at 10mm, this is an example where I am changing my position (shoot high/shoot low) to obtain the desired effect.
There will be other times when you will want to avoid unwanted distortions. The first unedited (cringe) photo shows how this building's walls look like they're moving inwards. Similar to the previous picture of the tall building. However in this instance, that is not the effect I am going for. You can easily avoid this distortion by keeping the camera perfectly level. The second photo shows the building in an upward position with a little help from Photoshop's Perspective Edit feature. This photo is also an example of Leading lines. The sidewalk lines are bringing us into the picture and the stairs bring us all the way into the building.
In this scenario, I wanted to show how tiny Noki was compared to the building. Noki is a pup who would not sit still for one second, so what I did was wrap the retractable leash around the pole and stepped back. You can see the leash going off to the right and up on the first picture. I'm holding the leash with one hand and the camera with the other. I would have preferred to have Noki further front in this example, but sometimes you have to improvise and go with the flow. Noki and I were just out for a walk when I came across this building.
Take advantage of leading lines
Leading lines are great to use with these lenses. Because they tend to pull the background further back, all lines become elongated and pull you into the photograph. Take a look at the clouds. They appear to be flowing toward the rear.
The same effect appears on the photograph below. We have leading lines with an exaggerated foreground. I also like the amount of triangles formed by the treelines, the waves, the sky. I see triangles everywhere.Shot with a 10mm-20 mm lens at 10mm.
I normally don't place subjects on the center of a picture, but in the example below, the leading lines lend themselves to use the Rule of Symmetry instead of the Rule of Thirds. Waves on both sides of this picture lead from the lower corners of the photograph toward the center. The same thing is happening with the clouds. Seems like all lines are converging on Zoey. Another reason the Rule of Symmetry works is because of Zoey's reflection on the wet sand.
This is another shot of Mollie by the Marina. Notice the leading lines in the boardwalk and look at how the clouds have been pulled into long lines. This is an effect created by this lens. Shot with a 10mm lens.
The binoculars in the front of the photograph are the predominant subject in this photograph, but also notice how leading lines in the fence bring you into the rest of the picture and up to the Split Rock lighthouse.
In closing, wide angle lenses are fun lenses to use whether you're photographing landscapes animals or people. Just get out there and have fun but keep a few rules in mind.
The picture below is of a concert at the Big Top Chatauqua in Bayfield, WI a few years ago. Melissa Ethridge was a great performer. I did have another camera with a zoom lens and I got some great close up shots of her, but I love the way the skeletal frame that holds the lighting and sound curve up and wrap around underneath the giant tent. I like that you can see the audience, the artist and the big tent.
I hope you enjoyed this week's blog. This blog was created as part of a weekly challenge. Each subject encompassing a new focus or photographic technique.
To see more examples of this week's theme, please visit: Pet Love Photography, serving Greater Cincinnati and the San Francisco Bay Area
Stop by to visit us next week.