Seeing The Wide

A sharp wide angle lens for landscape photography is wonderful. Learning how to use it is a necessity. Here are a few things to consider when you attach that hunk of glass to the front of your camera and attempt to make a masterpiece.

  • Get close, I mean within 2 feet of a subject.
  • Understand distortion and  how to make it work in your compositions. Objects close to the lens made larger can be quite interesting.
  • Look for tangencies that detract from the main subject. Tangencies can also be used for bringing attention to an interesting region of the composition.
  • Look for a foreground, midground and background.  This will give additional information for the viewer to enjoy and potentially more depth to the photo.
  • Watch for distracting elements in the corners. Train yourself to look into every corner of the viewfinder before pressing the shutter. Often I will use “live view” just for this purpose.
  • Keep the horizon from the center of the frame, especially when there is no foreground or spectacular clouds in the sky. Having said that, there are times a centered horizon works, such as a perfect reflection.
  • Finally, we always teach that for optimal sharpness it is best to use a stable tripod, as this will allow you to make big beautiful prints. There is an exception, as there always is, and that is when I notice someone not exploring their compositional opportunities. In these situations, I usually recommend either adjusting the tripod or if that's not possible, take the camera off and move! Moving th camera just inches can make a dramatic difference in wide angle landscape photography and moving yourself can sometimes make “all” the difference. Don't get locked into one scene and forget to turn around. I often take a few camera phone snaps prior to setting up a tripod, this helps me explore my compositional opportunities and become more efficient with my tripod and large camera.

I know there are many more items to consider in wide angle landscape photography, but this is a list of some of the more common issues seen during critique sessions on our workshops while viewing thousands of landscape images taken with wide angle lenses.

Life is short, take pictures!

- Marc