Beyond The Campfire was created to encourage readers to explore the great outdoors and to look at it more closely. Get out and take a hike, go fishing or canoeing, or simply stretch out on a blanket under a summer sky...and take your camera along. We'll talk about combining outdoor activities with photography. We'll look at everything from improving your understanding of the basics to more advanced techniques including things like how to see photographically and capturing the light. We'll explore the night sky, location shoots, using off camera speedlights along with nature and landscape. Grab your camera...strap on your hiking boots...and join me. I think you will enjoy the adventure.

The Jeep

The Jeep
The Jeep

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Big Sky and Getting in Close - Use a Wide Angle Lens

Seems like this summer I have used a wide angle lens more than I have in the past and I have discovered the versatility of its usefulness.  The most obvious use for a wide angle lens is of course taking big sky photo's.  Taking big sky pictures in Kentucky is a bit of a challenge simple because of the rolling terrain and tall trees that hide the horizon.  But with a bit of looking around, places can be discovered that offer some great sky shots.

Another thing that I discovered when using a wide angle lens is that you can get in real close to your subject and have the background spread out behind it.  This works well with wildflowers.  I must admit that most of my wildflower photos are taken with a telephoto lens where I zoom in real tight and isolate the flower against a darker background.  But, that technique only provides one avenue of expression.  In recent attempts to photograph some wildflowers I purposely moved in as close as I could to the flower...literally just inches away...and used a very small f/stop...f/22...to extend the depth of field from just in front of the lens all the way out to the background.

This often requires one to get down on the ground and sit at awkward angles to compose the shot.  The point of focus seems to best fall on the closest flower to the lens...but you can also find a focus point a few feet out and still get good results with the small aperture.


When taking big sky pictures using a wide angle there are two basic techniques to employ...one over water and one over land.  Over water, the idea is to capture that mirror image reflection so the horizon needs to be close to the center of the image...one of the few examples of when this is desirable.  Also a polarizer filter can be quite useful in reducing glare and enhancing colors...especially blue...but a polarizer is really only effective when used within a 45 degree ark from the main source of light...in this case the sun.

Keep in mind that the water reflection is usually at least one full stop darker than the sky so a 1 stop graduated neutral density filter helps to bring the sky and reflection more in balance with each other. This also applies to shooting over land as the sky will often be several stops brighter than the land and graduated filter will also help with keeping the exposure in balance.  When shooting over land, the idea is to emphasize the sky...so the horizon should remain as a narrow strip along the bottom...just how narrow depends on the circumstances.

Big sky pictures almost always require clouds to add interest and definition to the image and clouds are at their best early and late or just before or just after a storm.  The trick is to use an exposure that prevents one part of the sky from being blown out...or so bright there is no detail that can be seen...I think it best to slightly underexpose the image so the sky will retain lots of character and let the landscape fall where it may.

Although I do not own a high quality wide angle lens, the one I do have (Sony 18 - 80 f/3.5) is adequate for most of the shots I attempt.  Who knows...maybe someday I'll breakdown and get one of those 14-40 f/2.0 wide angle lens.  Until then I'll continue to pay for college and use the adequate one that I do have.

Keith

1 comment:

Ronnie said...

Great post Keith!