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Monday, May 16, 2011
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The Visual Power of Ultra Wide Angle Lenses
By Jim Zuckerman
One of the ways in which I dramatize subjects, whether I'm shooting architecture, people, landscapes, or anything else, is to use ultra wide-angle lenses. I consider "ultra wide" to be focal lengths in the 10mm to 16mm range for less-than-full-frame sensor cameras (remember that for Nikon and Canon cameras you have to multiply the focal length by 1.5x and 1.6x, respectively, to determine the real focal length of the lens), and for full-frame cameras focal lengths 20mm or less is ultra wide.

The closer you place the foreground to a wide-angle lens, the more distortion you'll get. Sometimes this isn't what you want; in other instances, it produces amazing images that you'll love. In the extreme, you can create outrageous pictures that will crack people up, especially if the subjects happen to be funny anyway - like cows (I don't know what it is about cows, but they make people laugh).

Using a lens like this is a way to design your images in a dramatic way. It does not duplicate what you see with your eyes at all, but it's a valid and intriguing way to photograph many subjects. When tripods are allowed (like here), you have the luxury of being able to close the lens down for maximum depth of field. Even though ultra wide angle lenses have tremendous depth of field, when foreground objects are placed very close to the camera position, the distant background won't be as sharp as you'd like if you use a large aperture like f/2.8 or f/4.

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Welcome to the 525th issue of SnapShot!

BetterPhoto's June photography school is coming right up, and an online course is sure to give your photography a boost in creativity! Our courses offer personal interaction with top professionals. Here's the schedule of photo classes. A great feature: If you sign up now, you can get started now with an early lesson! ... In this issue of SnapShot, don't miss Deb Sandidge's Featured Blog (on working the subject with HDR and infrared) and Jim Zuckerman's Photo Tip (on using ultra wide-angle lenses).   Kerry Drager   Newsletter Editor    Where is Jim Miotke? Follow BetterPhoto's founder and president on Twitter - BetterPhotoJim

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Updates From BetterPhoto In this Team BetterPhoto blog, see how instructor Deborah Sandidge came up with two stunning photos of a beautiful old church in Trinidad, Cuba. If the June school session is too soon, no worries! Take your photography or Photoshop to the next level in one of our outstanding 8-week online courses, which kick off on July 6th. What an exciting goal that Ansel Adams had: Create a masterpiece every month! Now BetterPhoto is paying homage to this legendary photographer with our Masterpiece of the Month Membership. As a Masterpiece member, you'll receive recognition and assignments, and enjoy great discussions.

Photo Q&A

1: Losing Focus on Images
Hello. I've a problem when trying to photograph a single/couple/group - full length. If I use my center focus point and lock on someone and recompose, I find many of my images are "soft" (even if I swap to one of my other focus points) If I'm doing head-and-shoulders or half body, it doesn't seem to be a problem. I'm sure it's user error and not equipment! I'm shooting with a 5D MkII and all pro lenses. Someone told me she focuses on 1 person, then ZOOMS OUT, while keeping the focus locked.... what's the correct thing to do here ?
- Robyn Gwilt
Hi Robyn,
What aperture are you using ? I think you have to think along the lines of depth of field and the shooting plane. Keep the camera square with the plane. I would try f/9 or f/11 and see if this makes a difference.
Also, each lens has its own character such as my 24-70 creates about the same effect when shooting at f/4 as my 100-400 when shooting at f/7.1 in that the subject will be sharp but the background (at 8 to 10 ft behind the subject) will be nicely blurred.
With large groups, the plane has more variables as far as focusing and using f/16 or f/18 usually works but often times this means adjusting the ISO as well. Great thing about the 5D2 is even shooting at ISO1600, the images are not noisy.
Hope this helps,
- Carlton Ward
Hi Robyn,
That's good advice from Carlton.
Just to make sure: Are you using "One Shot AF"? If you are using "Servo AF" the camera will refocus when you recompose your image.


- Rainer and Simone Hoffmann
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