Although I confess to be a great fan of long lenses, as a landscape photographer wide-angle and ultra wide lenses simply cannot be ignored. Nikon's range of wide zooms are a mind-boggling array of optical choice. The one thing that is certain, you won't be disappointed whichever you choose.
The most common error made when using wide-angle lenses is simply using them solely for their wide-angle, by just trying to get everything into the shot. The resulting picture often simply has too much in it, and the subject is just lost in amongst everything else. I consider a wide-angle lens not as a way to get more into the picture, but as a way of emphasising foreground detail and perspective.
In use, in a landscape situation, select your viewpoint carefully, as well as your foreground detail, and if possible, ensure that foreground element relates directly to the landscape and has a degree of shape harmony with the picture. If, for example, you choose a rock near the side of a lake on a calm day with reflections, ensure the rock is positioned to fit into the shape of the reflections. The benefit of working closely to your foreground subject is that repositioning the camera by only a few inches can make huge changes to the composition and visual balance of your photos. Roads, paths, walls, in fact all lead-lines become powerful and dramatic, but make sure they are supporting the main subject of your photo rather than simply becoming the subject in themselves.
Whilst front-to-back depth of field is useful in wide angle landscapes, it's important to remember that as an ultra wide-angle lens has an inherently greater depth of field than standard lenses, really small apertures might not always be necessary. Often f/11 or f/16 will give front to back sharpness without having to revert to f/22, where many ultrawides may suffer slightly from diffraction.
The same extensive depth of field can often affect choice of graduated filters to use. With longer focal length lenses I usually favour hard-edged grads, used with an ultrawide lens, they often show a distinct line where they are used, so I usually choose a soft-edged grad, particularly for the stronger ones.
Wide-angles are so often prone to over-use, but used properly and with care, can produce truly amazing, powerful pictures.
Article by John Gravett of Lakeland Photographic Holidays - www.lakelandphotohols.com
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