a teatray in the sky

hide your uwa

Posted in 5D Mark II, Architecture, Photography, Technique and Development, Virginia, Williamsburg by firthefirst on August 4, 2010

one of the best things about going to a full-frame is that all of your standard zoom lenses start at 24mm on the wide end, instead of 27mm equivalent on the APS-C sensor.  is it a big difference?  you betcha.  you may never notice until you’re in a small room how much of a difference those 3 millis of focal length matter.  but what happens when 24mm doesn’t cut it?  you have to step into the land of the uwa.

UWA (usually capitalised but you know how I feel about proper gramma) stands for “ultra wide angle”, and in my books, that’s anything that goes below and beyond 24mm (15mm on an APS-C cam).  if you’re a canon shooter, the obvious choice is to go out and get the Canon 16-35 f/2.8 L II, and that’s exactly what I did.  it’s the widest you’re going to get it terms of a full-frame, screw-filter-able lens.  if you’re an APS-C shooter, go for the Canon 10-22 if you can afford it, otherwise have a look at Sigma’s trio of crop-sensor uwas, the 8-16 and two 10-20’s.  I’ve had a Sigma 10-20 f/4.5-5.6 for what feels like forever and it’s one of my all-time favorites despite its optical shortcomings, just because it is so much fun to shoot with.

I find that, outside of their more specialized uses (such as architectural and landscape photography), uwas make for fun walkaround lenses.  the best part is that you are guaranteed to see and experience your visual world in a totally different way when you’re at 16mm.  the downside is, you have to really think about what you’re shooting and how you’re shooting it, lest everything look unneccessarily distorted or absurdly distant.

how do we keep things from looking like this?

(I actually wanted this shot to look like this, but you can imagine if that were a person rather than a tree, how bad that would be)

first: don’t shoot at 16mm all the time just because it’s there.  this is similar to not shooting at f/2.8 all the time just because it’s there.

second: don’t expect bokeh to give you nice subject isolation; your focal length is way to short to generate any useful amount of bokeh.  your background absolutely will show up so choose it wisely.

third: think like a pilot.  this means, be totally conscious of your roll, pitch, and yaw.  photoshop should be your safety net and last resort, not your foundation when you are shooting uwa, because it’s easy to get out-of-kilter shots that no amount of photoshopping will save.  all of the architectural shots here have had some photoshopping done, but the extent was minimal because photoshop’s lens distortion tool introduces its own forms of distortion.

fourth, related to third: whenever you can, shoot on a tripod.  this means you can really control your roll, pitch, and yaw.  for dedicated handheld shooters (as most people are when they are walking around), just make sure to take the time to line yourself up, stay steady, and chimp away if you can spare the battery life.  since I don’t shoot liveview, I usually can spare that battery life.

all of these will help you hide your uwa, so you get great ultra-wide shots without looking like that guy who just got a 16mm and now has to try it on everything.  it’s especially important when you’re using a 16-35 as a walkaround and see a certain shot that is really not intended for wide angle capture, like the closer:

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2 Responses

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  1. Tina said, on August 5, 2010 at 10:45 pm

    the photos make me smile…. the technical jargon was just crazy 😛


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