Optic Matters: The Wonders of Wide Angle Lenses

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While mostly used for landscape, architecture and interior photography, wide-angle lenses can produce unique and unusual perspectives on common scenes and subjects due to the exaggeration and distortion of its small focal length. Discover the broad Lomographic possibilities of shooting ultra wide!

Credits: wil6ka, denisesanjose, area51delcorazon, takuji, yankiss & natalieerachel

The beauty of shooting in 35mm film is that your canvas of 36mm x 24mm on a negative equals a full-frame. To take full advantage of this medium and to allow more details to be included in your photo, a wide angle lens is recommended. Common cameras’ focal lengths range from 40mm to 58mm, tending to crop out some space or requiring you to step back to encapsulate your subject.

Lenses with focal lengths smaller than 35mm are generally considered to be wide-angle. A wide-angle lens refers to a lens whose focal length is substantially smaller than the focal length of a normal lens for a given film plane, translating to an angle of view which is greater than about 55° across the widest dimension.

(1) A lens with a normal, relatively narrow angle of view with an object in the distance. (2) The effect of a wide area lens. The objects remain in the same positions. The distance of the camera from the red object is adjusted so that the red object still fills the frame. The effect is that the blue object appears smaller in the frame. (3) The difference between 32mm, 20mm and 17mm perspectives. Photos via Wikipedia and Lomography

Particularly useful in architectural and landscape photography, it is also used when the photographer wants to emphasize the difference in size or distance between objects composed in the foreground and the background. Nearby objects appear quite big and objects farther away look minuscule. This exaggeration of relative size can be used to make foreground objects more prominent and striking, while capturing expansive backgrounds.

The skewed perspective is considered a nuisance that photographers must get used to but it’s also the unique selling point about shooting wide-angles, producing uncommon views of everyday details.

Photos via Lomography

Common wide-angle lenses for full-frame 35mm cameras are 35, 28, 24, 21, 20, 18 and 14 mm. Many of the lenses in this range will produce a more or less rectilinear image at the film plane, though some degree of barrel distortion is not uncommon.

Some wide-angle Lomography cameras are the LC-A+ at 32mm (with the option to go even wider at 20mm using the LC-A+ Wide-Angle Lens), La Sardina at 22mm, and the ultra-wide LC-Wide at 17mm. Technically, Fisheye cameras with their circular 170⁰ view are also categorized under ultra-wide angles, while panoramic lenses are on a league of their own.

Credits: emilios, moodification, denisesanjose & bravebird

Guidelines for Shooting Wide Angles

1. Subject Distance
Get much closer to the foreground and physically immerse yourself amongst your subject. A wide angle lens exaggerates the relative sizes of near and far subjects. To emphasize this effect it’s important to get very close to your subject.

2. Organization
Carefully place near and far objects to achieve clear compositions.

3. Perspective
Point your camera at the horizon to avoid converging verticals; otherwise be acutely aware of how these will impact your subject. Even slight changes in where you point your camera can have a huge impact on whether otherwise parallel vertical lines will appear to converge.

4. Distortion
Be aware of how edge and barrel distortion may impact your subject. Barrel distortion causes otherwise straight lines to appear bulged if they don’t pass through the center of the image. Edge distortion causes objects at the extreme edges of the frame to appear stretched in a direction leading away from the center of the image.

Got your own tried and tested Tipsters for shooting wide angle? Share them in the comments below!

Credits: takutakutomika, ericeast, mrmaart, lawypop, zark, yoshiyoshi, mapix, davidcruzpous, bebopbebop & ccwu

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Sources include Wikipedia, Ken Rockwell and Cambridge in Colour.

written by denisesanjose on 2013-07-19 in #gear #tipster

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