Sunday, 7 November 2010

Wider still, and wider

Is anyone else addicted to their wide angle lens? I have used a few over the years and I find I end up using them at their widest settings almost all the time. They provide that perspective stretch that you can't get any other way, and they force you to get closer to the subject in order to fill the frame.

Here are some examples extracted from my library of shots.

A coffee shop out of season in Woodstock, Oxfordshire. There was rain on the way and I wanted to get the decking pattern, the table and the sky in one shot. This used a Nikon 20mm wide and it created a dramatic look out of an otherwise ordinary scene.

Canterbury Cathedral

For one month a year they remove all the seats from the nave. I was fortunate to be there at the right time. In this case the wide angle is essential to show the scale of the building. There is a real possibility of creating a very distorted picture when you use a wide angle with architecture. Tilting the camera upwards to "get more in" carries with it all sorts of problems. In this case I used several techniques: I stood against the West Door up on some steps to get myself as high as possible. Next I accepted that a lot of floor would appear in the shot and aimed the camera only slightly upwards.Finally I straightened the inevitable converging vertical pillars somewhat in Photoshop.

 De La Warr Pavilion. Bexhill

A winter visit to this excellent modernist structure.  Those curves lend themselves to the wide angle treatment.

This bandstand is down by the sea and made a great shape against the winter sunset. In this case the Nikon 20mm does distort and lean the building, but I left it like that. It just seemed to work for me.

Bexhill: An early 20th century shelter by the beach, in front of the pavilion.

Table top tombs, Penistone. Yorkshire

This is more up to date, taken with an Olympus digital camera, rather than the older Nikon images taken on Provia slide film. However the same approach applies. The 11mm wide zoom gets me really close to the tomb and emphasises the perspective leading towards the old church and the sky.

Cove Hithe church, Suffolk

Sometimes I just go with the flow and let the lens do its worst. Here is an extreme example of converging verticals distortion. However, it add a degree of melodrama to this dismantled and rebuilt church and its comprehensively overgrown churchyard.

One thing I rarely use a wide angle lens for is  conventional landscape. It is tempting to "get more in" but it flattens the hills and gives you lots of sky. While that can be good in its own way., it does make the most rugged mountains look bland.

No, Landscape requires a long lens to get the best out of it...


  1. Excellent writeup and pictures! Only one point - the Bexhill picture isn't of the De La Warr Pavilion - these shelters date from about 1910.

  2. Aha, I didn't realise the shelters predate the pavilion. However that does prompt a subject for a new post. The De la Warr, or architecture in general. It's liberating writing a blog, as I feel free to raid my old film images to make a point :-)