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Back in film days photographs taken with ultrawide lenses were relativity scarce. The introduction of ultrawide zooms has changed that and now it seems as if every photographer and his dog has access to the wacky world of ultrawide.
The most common use for these lenses is in landscape photography. Many, many landscape/seascape photographs have that distinctive ultrawide look - the stretched, peculiar-looking foreground, the big, big sky, an horizon that looks about a billion miles away. You know.
I'm not big on landscapes but thinking back to the days when I still bought photomags I recall that the likes of Charlie Waite would use lenses from moderate wide to short telephoto to take their photographs - ultrawides were regarded as a bit of a gimmick and pros tended to advise against using them for landscapes.
So why the turnaround? Why are these lenses now considered de rigeur by landscape photographers? And, significantly, is it just an amateur thing or have the Charlie Waites (he's the only well-known landscape photographer I know by name) of the world gone ultrawide as well?
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An intersting point. I just took a look in the back of a Joe Cornish book (First Light) to see which lenses he used. For some images he used pretty wide lenses - 90mm, 72mm and 58mm lenses. These are on a 5x4 camera so the 35mm equivalent is 27mm, 21mm and 17mm. The photos taken with 5x4 wide lenses don't have that stretched, pin cushion look you described that is common with DSLR wide lenses (it is supposed to be corrected in software).
Joe is a contemporary photographer so I was trying to find out what sort of lenses people like Ansel Adams were using but all his books are in the loft Anyone know if the old masters used wide lenses too?
i dont know for sure but a lot of adams work looks like standard lens persppective to me. would love to know if you find out tho
Quote: I recall that the likes of Charlie Waite would use lenses from moderate wide to short telephoto to take their photographs - ultrawides were regarded as a bit of a gimmick and pros tended to advise against using them for landscapes.
I don't really care what they use. I would use what I think is best for the situation.
the ultra wide look was well established when I stared photography, so I've no idea where the genre came from or when it changed.
It works really well in many landscape situations, getting things like streams, rocks and branches in the foreground can give some shots a big boost.
They can also make things that look HUGE in real life look HUGE in the shot.
Take Kirkstone Pass in the lakes, that's pretty impressive as you look down from the top on to Brothers water - I've done it with a 200mm and you get a nice foreshortening of perspective from the long lens which creates a nice shot, but the 17mm ones with the stream in just look a whole lot more impressive. you see the dark, tall sides of the valley, the stream can sraw you in to the shot, a big looming sky. it just works
How long will this style stay in fashion... who knows? Maybe until the people who are doing it realise that it is a huge cliche and decide to try something semi-original?
I think it could be partly down to Mr. Cornish - although he is certainly not guilty of overusing superwides. If you look in the back of 'First Light' where technical details are listed, you'll find his 90mm (roughly 28mm equiv.) lens is the most used. However, what a large-format camera can do that rigid-bodied cameras can't is to tilt the film-plane with respect to the subject-plane. This has the effect of making objects in the foreground look larger than they are in reality. Because you can do this with any lens in LF, the effect does not look particularly obvious. Now, when people try to recreate this feature of LF in smaller formats, their only choice is to go wide. Trouble is, then it starts to become an arms race to ever wider lenses and even greater distortion.
There is also another influence at work. Someone recently said to me that the only way to create images with impact is to show people a view that is impossible to see with the naked eye - he basically meant wideangle. I don't agree with this view but I think the perceived need for greater 'impact' in landscape photography is a big driver here.
One of the things that makes Charlie Waite's work distinctive is the concept of 'compositional balance'. It's not easy to achieve, but when it's done well, the result has a 'rightness' about it that looks natural and unforced. I would say it's this characteristic that separates the CWs, JCs, David Wards and any other famous landscaper you care to mention from the amateur.
Quote: The ultra wide look was well established when I stared photography, so I've no idea where the genre came from or when it changedi
in the eighties you could buy a 17 mm lens if you were mega rich ,a 21mm if you were well to do, a 24mm if you and the kids starved for a couple of months and the wife kept out of the clothes stores a while but the majority had 28 mm lens and threw away the 1.8 -50 mm pin sharp optics that came with the camera ( everyone wants one now ). I kept my 28 mm all the time and dreamed of the time when i could have a 17mm and odd times used a 70-200 for compressed landscapes which seem to have gone from fashion as have converging verticals. zoom lens were also very restricted in there range usually not much more than x3.
all these are given in full frame real money terms, i suspect the 12 mm is a bit like the 17mm. only London salon and frps bods used them.
ah those were the days, new romantics and f2 nikons
Fads come and go.
I can't remember the last time my 17-40 last went on my camera; 24mm is the widest I've used for a long time.
But then that's still pretty wide on a 5D and I can remember it wasn't so long ago that 24mm on a 35mm camera was wide.
every shot of Leeds I've done is with the 17-40, enables me to get whole buildings in shot from not very far away, so dead useful for that.
I guess a nice large format linhoff thing would be best for architecture, saw some at Focus and they're bearly recogniseable as cameras! The lens gave it away though
in a way though, I think it's not the ultra wide that's become the point of contention, rather it's what people are doing with them.
There's another thread about ultra wide landscapes where Jools made the point that he could not tell the difference between 3 tog's shots unless there was a name next to them.
If everone was using 10-20's for wildly different things, we'd not be having this discussion - but so many people are cooking shots to the same recipe and getting very similar results to digest
Quote: If everone was using 10-20's for wildly different things, we'd not be having this discussion - but so many people are cooking shots to the same recipe and getting very similar results to digest
Eggsackerly.......get rid of the Jessops inflatable rock you lot.
And lets have some more long lens landscapes while we're at it.
Quote: And lets have some more long lens landscapes while we're at it.
I couldn't agree more (speaking as someone who rarely 'goes wide' )
Tut, stop, I just got a 10-20. Gonna have loads of fun with it
did some long stuff in Wharfdale that looks good - they're in my book (which is available on blurb, just type in Yorkshire and you;ll find it)
I was high up looking down a very long valley, that lends itself to long lens stuff.
Including peripheral vision, the human eyes are capable of an almost 180 degree field of view, so what is so bad about using a wide angle?
The result is what counts, if people in general and the photographer in particular like the shot then the wide angle has been a success.
For me, this is likely to turn into yet another example of the I don't like it so it must be wrong thread that we see so often on here. Enjoy your photography in the way you want to and let others enjoy theirs as they want to.
Recently I've been using my Sigma 17-70mm lens clagged onto my D300 far more than my 10-20mm. Early on I went from 18-55 kit lens to 10-20mm and initially was amazed by it's results and still use it for beach scenes and where perspective doesn't matter too much and when I want to enhance wide open expanses.
It does struggle though where I want a more real perspective particularly for mountains, I find it can even flatten the Buachaille in certain situations!!
My last trip to Glen Coe taught me one thing, take a step back (about 1/2 mile) from the mountains and bring them in a bit with a longer range lens, I feel I achieved far more perspective accuracy.
I think it all boils down to the right lens for the right subject and effect you are after.
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