Wide angle lenses are perhaps my favorite to work with. Many experienced landscape photographers would agree. Inexperienced photographers tend to loathe wide angle lenses. The subject seems so distant, or it’s difficult to frame. I will be the first to admit that I didn’t like wide angle lenses at first either. But then I learned how powerful they could be. To illustrate the proper way to use a wide angle lens, I would like to share with you the above photo, The Door, by a photographer that we only know as Mark (aka Dinky Do).
Photographer and educator, Bryan Peterson, refers to wide angle lenses as Story Telling Lenses. It’s actually a good way to think about wide angle lenses, because it helps you to remember the purpose of wide angle lenses. A wide-angle shot has, in theory, two subjects that interact – they create a story, as it were. In The Door, the subject is both the rock outcropping deep into the photo as well as the surf very close to the lens. There is a lot of depth in this photo, and Mark’s use of a small aperture (f/16) assures that. Having both subjects in clear focus, our eye is now able to switch between the two without distraction or distortion. It’s like we’re actually there on location. The photo is telling us the story of this location.
The trick to properly using a wide angle lens is to change your thinking. You could, hypothetically, just simply try to fit everything into the frame. But that would be boring. And frankly, that’s the root of our early disinterest in the lens – everything that fits is going to look small. But as photographers, we should be focusing on moments and details. Your wide angle lens, despite having a wide and sometimes unnatural view, is not exempt. It too can focus on small details. Many wide angle lenses can focus quite close to the lens. With a small aperture, it’s possible to focus on objects at great distances at the same time. Not enough photographers take advantage of that. This is clearly illustrated in Mark’s photograph. The detail on the waves and the grains of sand near the camera is so precise that the photo seems almost surreal. Our eye is bouncing back and forth between the opening in the rock outcropping and the fine detail in the sand up close – and that’s where the story unfolds. This is the scene of a great story yet to be told. The takeaway from this, of course, is that you should focus on getting close with wide angle lenses rather than simply fitting everything in.
Mark is a photographer out of the United Kingdom who specializes in landscape photography. The Door is just one of hundreds of fantastic and surreal landscapes that he has captured with his camera. Nearly all of his works are worthy of publication. You can find many of his works on his Flickr Photostream or on his RedBubble page.