Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Wide Angle Wonders

Nikon D90  F/3.5  1/400s  ISO-200  PrAP  EV +1  10mm
The great thing about wide angle lenses is getting in close to something close.

That might sound obvious but an awful lot of people don't realise that this is where a lot of the magic lies and don't do it.

It's all very well being able to get a wide sweep of the scene in, but if there's nothing up close to put it all in perspective you end up with an awful lot of little things and nothing really hits you. We're looking for the gobsmacked effect here and the above photo is an example of what I'm talking about.

The original of the shot above
Seen in the street from normal human eye-level, this car is pretty cute, but no more. With the magic of a close-up wide angle lens this innocent little 2CV can be transformed into a monster!

The trick lies in the lens' ability to hold everything in focus from near to far, even at a wide aperture (it has a huge depth of field), as well as including the background which gives the exaggerated scale of the close-up subject its tremendous punch.

I should have taken a standard shot on, say, a 50mm lense or even a telephoto to show you what I'm talking about, but you get the idea.

And the closer in you get, the more exaggerated the effect becomes, as you can see from my second photo, below. Which is exactly why you shouldn't use wide-angle lenses for sensitive close-up portraits if you don't want to make your subject look like she's got a bigger nose than your favourite canine.

I chose the shot at the top in the end, as opposed to the one below, because you can, after all, have too much of a good thing. The closer in and wider you go the more of a fisheye effect you get. This can be fun but pretty soon the photographic effect will take over from the subject, which isn´t what you want in street photography in most cases.

Nikon D90  F/3.5  1/400s  ISO-200  PrAP  EV +1  10mm
I nevertheless cropped the original to exaggerate the close up effect and also because the surrounding flats and car weren't particularly photogenic. A lot of a car's personality comes from the 'face' formed by the grill and the lights, and this was starting to be lost in the shot on the right, which is another reason I stuck with the one above.

As you can see I also revamped the colours, hopefully not to the point of looking artificial, as the day was cloudy and the shot wasn't doing justice to what my eyes remembered.

Using the superb 10mm (zoom) lens on my friend's D90 was a joy, because I'm usually stuck at a maximum of 24mm on my usual 24-120mm standard street shooting lens on my D800. Makes me want to finger the credit card again, which I really shouldn't be doing right now!

On sunny days, by the way, this could be one of the pretty rare instances when a polarising filter could come in handy in street photography. The colours would get pretty washed out with lots of sky reflecting off that gorgeous red and green and the  polariser would bring them back nicely but that wasn't an issue on this cloudy day. A chat about that with photos will have to wait for another day. And I rather like the reflections - adds the interest needed to avoid the shot being too flat and boring. And we wouldn't want that, now would we?


* Sab Will runs Photo and Curios Tours in Paris, and also manages a variety of Paris and photography-themed sites and blogs. He writes an illustrated Paris Chronicle every day, runs a Meetup group for Paris lovers, interviews Paris personalities and reviews Paris books (on this blog), and even contributes to the city's street art (shh), so feel free to browse some of the links below and in the right-hand column to find out more about what he gets up to out there...

© 2012 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

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