In the Jaws of Flaws
Chandni Gajria helps you understand the problems peculiar to wide angle lenses and explains how one can use them creatively.
Look inside your home, at the neighbourhood, or the surroundings while travelling in the bus, rickshaw, car or train. Notice all the things that make it that place. Is everything perfect? Not really, and not always, right? Imperfection can have its own charm. Similarly, wide angle lenses also have certain flaws, which if used properly, can enhance the photographs you make.
Become a Magician!
Want to balance the Taj Mahal on your fingers, fit a pyramid on a friend’s palm or want to make someone appear like a giant? All you need to do is position your friend close to the camera, while the structure lies far away in the background. Wide angle lenses exaggerate perspective and can create such illusions. All it takes is a bit of careful positioning.
Make Objects Appear Small
Wide angle lenses also tend to exaggerate the apparent distance within a frame. This means that objects closer to the lens appear really large and objects in the background seem much farther away than they really are. This perceived distance also depends on the focal length and how far you are from the main subject. For instance, if you photograph a child from a top angle, his head will appear extremely large whereas his legs will look comparatively tiny.
Working with Barrel Distortion
This makes straight lines appear curved. But, how barrel distortion appears in your frame will depend on the focal length used, the vantage point you choose to shoot from, and more importantly, how far the subject is from the centre of the frame. Remember that distortion will be more apparent towards the corners of the frame. So, you can keep changing your vantage point while shooting the same scene for different outcomes.
Twinkling with Starbursts
An extended form of flare, in this technique, light is controlled so as to be shaped in the form of a star. One can create good starbursts simply by stopping down the lens. The narrower the aperture, such as f/8, f/11 or f/22, the more pronounced the star burst. Starbursts look excellent at night—you can find a good vantage point from where you can capture a low angle shot of a bridge. Set your aperture to f/11 or f/16 and see all the lights on the bridge transform into stars.
Fading In Vignettes
Today we all add vignettes during postprocessing, however, many wide angle lenses can slightly darken corners. Most of the time, this can draw attention to the subject. But, if you are not careful, an unnecessary vignette can spoil your frame, especially if there are details in the corners.
Flair for Flare
Wide angle lenses are more susceptible to flaring, especially when shooting against the light. When creatively using flare as a compositional element, you need to take care of one thing—the camera’s position to the sun. This will largely depend on the time of the day. In the mornings or evenings, you can shoot directly into the sun, but at midday, you will need to position yourself fairly low to the ground.
You can even make panoramas with wide angle lenses! Not only can you cover a large expanse from left to right, but can also creatively use the distortion that is going to make certain elements in your frame seem as if they are really close to the viewer. This can work very well for certain kinds of architecture, but do remember that the distortion makes it more difficult to stitch images perfectly.
Through a Fisheye
Fisheye lenses offer a rather unique view and perspective. Just like the name, a photograph from this lens resembles that of a fish’s eye. These lenses also show a larger degree of barrel distortion than usual wide angle lenses. On the other hand, circular fisheyes capture a full view of the scene in a circular format, just like a globe. However, since the image is presented in such a fashion, one must be careful with the elements that are seen in the top and bottom half of the circle. Ultimately, the lesson that wide angle lenses teach us is that if we manage to get around small flaws and use them creatively, we can make beautiful photos happen.
This article originally appeared in the February 2014 issue of Better Photography.Tags: Shooting Technique, Wide angle lenses, chandini gajria, distortions