20 Dec 2007

Wide angle lens - Part 2

It’s the wide angle’s tendency to create the impression of increased depth within your pictures that makes it such a great tool for landscapes. By tilting the camera slightly downwards, taking in more foreground and putting the horizon up towards the top third of the composition, the viewer of your picture can get the idea of almost walking into the scene. See picture at bottom of post...
Here the wide angle’s tendency to exaggerate perspective has caused converging vertical lines. You may think this unpleasant, but it has the effect of making the cathedral look even more magnificent, while making the figure look even smaller in comparison

Of course the same works the other way: tilt the camera upwards, put the horizon down the bottom third and you can create wide and fantastically dramatic skies. The wide angle lens is especially effective when including these large areas of sky. When shooting straight into the sun, or when at least including it in the frame, interesting ‘starburst’ effects can radiate from the bright light source. This can be very pleasing – who needs a starburst filter?

There are down sides to the wide angle lens and one is a tendency to exaggerate ‘converging verticals’, but even this can be used very effectively to add drama and depth to our pictures, especially when photographing tall buildings. The wide angle even has its place in portraiture, but great care is needed when photographing people unless the distortion effect is something you are aiming for. Mostly the wide angle can be used to place people in a setting. By positioning your model near, but not too near, the camera, a great deal of visual information in the background behind the person can be included. Add to this advantage the wide angle’s considerable depth of field, and everything can be kept in focus.

A 24mm wide angle lens was used for this portrait of Chris De Burgh so that I could put him in the context of his surroundings. The story was about him and where he lived on the Irish coast. The wide angle view of the lens has enabled me to include the small harbour in the background, while its tremendous depth of field capability has ensured both Chris and the background are reasonably sharp

This time a combination of beautiful sidelight and a vertical format using a wide angle lens leads the viewer’s eye into and around the picture. There is no actual focal point, but the effect of the wide angle lens holds the eye within the frame. The eye goes through the long grasses, takes in the brooding sky and the water, then does it all again. There is little temptation to look out of the composition. Notice again that the horizon has gone up towards the top third of the image

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