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Wide Angle

July 21, 2011

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W h a t   I s   W i d e   A n g l e ?

   Basically Wide Angle is usually defined as focal lengths from 24mm to around 35mm (in 35mm format). For a more in-depth look at this subject go to Wikipedia here :  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wide-angle_lens

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P o i n t   A n d   S h o o t … Y o u r   F o c a l   L e n g t h   E q u i v a l e n t

   If you’ve got a DSLR, you can read the focal length from your lens (convert for a cropped sensor). For a point and shoot you will need to find the 35mm equivalents for your lens. Find a friend with a DSLR, take a shot then have them stand in the same spot you did and zoom their lens until they get the same composition you had, read the focal length from their lens. Do this for both ends of your optical zoom range and you’ll know the 35mm equivalents for your camera. For example the Olympus point and shoot I have says 6.2 – 17.4mm on the lens. I compared it to my DSLR and it turns out the wide end (6.2mm) is about 35mm. The max optical zoom (17.4mm) is equivalent to about 100mm. The only part that matters is the optical zoom, my camera then switches to digital zoom for further zooming but this is in camera cropping so that part  means squat for composition. So now I know my Olympus has a 35mm – 100mm range optical zoom (in 35mm format).

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G o   W i d e

   Wide angle is where you want to be for environmental shot, landscapes and some really creative compositions. When you are shooting telephoto (zoomed in), it takes big changes in camera location to get a small change in composition. Shooting wide on the other hand means you can get very different compositions with relatively small changes in camera location.

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F i l l   T h e   F r a m e

 At wide angles objects in the frame are small, so you’re gonna have to get in close to fill the frame. A basic rule in photography is to always fill the frame.

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Wide angle (35mm equiv.) of my kids playing with chickens. Frame not filled.

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Simply by stumbling closer and falling down I was able to get a composition that fills the frame. Staying at 35mm but moving closer allows the subjects to fill the frame and yet also include their surroundings.

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F o r e g r o u n d   I n t e r e s t

In order to get the entire railcar in the frame even at 35mm I had to stand a fair distance back. This means a big empty foreground.This is a common problem with wide-angle photography and landscapes in particular. Sharp eyed readers will also notice the curve in the roof (barrel distortion), a common artifact of wide-angle photography. That’s one reason DSLR lens are so much larger and more expensive, it’s all those extra lens elements to correct for this distortion.

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Here I backed up a bit to include the boy choking his chicken to add foreground interest.

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T h e   S o n g   R e m a i n s   T h e   S a m e

   To get the most radical changes in composition for a given scene, stay wide and  move your butt instead of the zoom button. You will avoid telephoto compression so your shots will have more depth and you’ll get a deeper depth of field (more in focus front to back). Don’t touch that zoom, stay wide and get in close to fill the frame. Try it, you’ll like it.

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