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Outback Photo Handbook: Image Composition

Wide Angle Fun

by Uwe Steinmueller

Photos by B+U Steinmueller

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Not too long ago we hardly used any wide angle lenses. We considered 28mm pretty wide angle already. Why did we not use WA lenses? Here are some reasons:

  • We are not much into foreground, middle-ground, background images (maybe this changes too)
  • Most WA zooms are pretty bad and this does not really add to pure fun.
  • We did not use WA lenses creatively (happens :-))

Why not using WA prime lenses? We find that good zooms speed up our process. Especially in the WA range 14mm, 15mm, 16mm, 18mm, 20mm, 24mm make a lot of difference in the composition. We don want to switch lenses all the time. Because Bettina and I photograph as a team we can have even two different lenses available at any time.

The main change actually came with the Olympus E-3 (read our E-3 review) and the 7-14mm f/4 zoom (is a 14-28mm equivalent in 35mm terms). This is an expensive lens but it is also very, very good for this extreme range. With this lens finally there were not much quality concerns using even extreme wide angles.

Note on Distortion:

All these WA zooms (even the best) distort quite a bit. But with PTLens (our review) the correction works very well.

The Olympus 7-14mm f/4 Experience

As mentioned above somehow the Olympus 7-14mm lens got us hooked. Here are some sample shots.

Once we used the 7-14mm we found many situations to use this lens.

Lotus at Carmel Car Show E-3 at 14mm (28mm equivalent)

This is by no means extreme WA. But because we used the zoom with this useful range we had many WA options at the show. There would be no chance to setup a tripod above the cars and WA was clearly the way to go.

Jaguar at 9mm (18mm equivalent)

SF Art Center at 7mm (14mm equivalent)

This does not look that much like a WA shot. But WA at 14mm equivalent was the only way to capture this scene. We are at the edge of the second floor of a parking structure and 14mm was badly needed (we also used our technique to correct the perspective).

Mural at SF Art Center at 7mm (14mm equivalent)

We are here between parked cars at the first floor of the same parking structure and had to go that close because:

  • Cars are in out way
  • the second floor parking platform is directly above our heads

Again we used our technique to correct the perspective.

SF Hippie Bus at 12mm (24mm equivalent)

Here we could not back off further and a 24mm angle of view was needed. In this case stitching could also have worked very well (even shooting freehand).

The Nikon AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8 & AF-S 17-35mm f/2.8 Experience

When Nikon launched the D3 it also released the AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8 lens. This is an amazing WA lens and brings WA fun to the next level. Of course you need a full frame sensor to get the maximum wide angle of view from this lens. Now the Nikon D700 delivers D3 image quality at about or below $3,000. This was reason enough for us to get the D700 and this exceptional lens (combined with our other Nikon lenses we have now a complete set of lenses for the D700).

SF Port Factory Hall D700 at 14mm and ISO 1600

This photo was taken from the outside through a broken window. The combination of low high ISO noise, full frame and the 14-24mm lens makes a the difference.


Pismo Beach Pier at 17mm

Ok, this is a foreground, middle-ground and background picture. Looks like this even works for us :-).

Santa Cruz Boardwalk Table at 35mm

In the past even 35mm was for us a strong WA shot. Playing with these lenses makes a lot of fun. The Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8 has a great reputation but seems now to bettered by the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens.


Olympus and Nikon deliver extreme WA zooms that enrich our creativity. WA photography can be a lot of fun if you have the right lenses.



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