When Wide Isn’t Wide Enough

Author:  David Huffman

Sometimes when you’re shooting, you just wish you had a little more angle to your widest lens so you could “get it all in.”  Including a sweeping vista in a landscape can be an interesting visual effect.  Similarly, if you are shooting architecture, especially interiors, you may need to show a greater amount of the horizontal view of the room than your regular wide angle lens allows.

Today I’ll share with you some basic facts about wide angle lenses and also a technique to “stretch” your widest lens when you need to include more subject in the frame.  There are three methods discussed below.

The first way to add more subjects in the image is to reduce focal length, by zooming to the short end of the lens or changing lenses.

Angle of view is the basic consideration and is expressed in degrees, based on a circle of 360 degrees horizontal, most lenses capture a fraction of this.   I’ll use a full frame reference for focal length and angle of view in the following table; if you are using a smaller format camera, please see your manufacturer’s website for a useful reference.

LENS FOCAL LENGTH ANGLE OF VIEW DESCRIPTOR
50 MM 47 DEGREES NORMAL LENS
35 MM 63 DEGREES MODERATE WIDE
28 MM 75 DEGREES WIDE
24 MM 84 DEGREES EXTRA WIDE
20 MM 94 DEGREES ULTRA WIDE
15 MM 180 DEGREES FISH EYE

Pictures are included below to show the results of these lenses, all taken on tripod from exactly the same place.50mm single copy

35mm single copy

28mm single copy

24mm single copy

20mm single copy

The second way is to use a lens which is “wider” than other wide angle lenses, and I’m referring to a Fisheye lens.

The 15mm Fisheye lens is the most unique of the group.  This is a “full frame” fisheye that provides a full image from corner to corner.  It will “stretch” the subject in the corners and this is exaggerated if the lens is pointed above or below the horizon.  (I use the horizon indicator in my Nikon D810 to keep things straight.)  I find creative uses for this lens and if I am careful, the images don’t “scream fisheye”  distortion with the bending of lines near the edges of the frame.

15mm Fisheye single copy

The third way to add more horizontal subject is to us a panoramic technique which combines 2 or more images, then “stitches” them together digitally.  This can be accomplished in the firmware in some cameras, but I prefer to use a post production program to combine the images.  The software programs have become much better over time, requiring less manual intervention to get a good final result.

Using Adobe ® PhotoShop ® I have two panoramic images, below, to share.  The first image combines 2 images from the 20mm lens, for a total of approximately 180 degrees angle of view.  I shot these two images by carefully leveling the camera, then rotating left for one shot and right for the second.  I left about a 10% overlap in the images, so that the software can align the shots into a blended single image.  To use this feature, from the Enhance menu, select PhotoMerge ®, then select PhotoMerge Panoramic ®.  You’ll then navigate to the images to combine and the software will take over.  It will align the images, and when done, it will ask you if you want the software to “fill in” the corners, select YES and that’s it.  I also find it necessary to use the burn or dodge tool to blend the sky.  Skies that are plain, like they often are in Scottsdale, show the blending at times, so I blend them manually for final effect.

Panoramic 20mm x2 copy
The second panoramic image, below, is a blend of 3 images taken at 35mm focal length, for a total of about 180 degrees angle of view.  Comparing the panoramic from the two different lenses, you will see a perspective change in the size of the subjects.  It’s a personal preference, deciding which image you like best.

Panoramic 35mm x 3 copy
Panoramics take some practice, especially the blending.  Also keep in mind that exposures often change across the subjects, from full sun to deep shadow.  If indoors, the inclusion of window with bright daylight outside can be particularly challenging, but I’ll save that solution for another time.

Good shooting!

David Huffman is a Trip Leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops, Photographer, Author and Instructor.  Visit him at www.HuffmanPhotoArt.com.

Images and text copyright 2016, DW Huffman.

My iPhone: Great for Scouting That Perfect Shot

Author:  Pam Henrichsen

Earlier this spring I was a trip leader for  Arizona Highways Photo Workshop, Slot Canyons: Natures Sculpted Sandstone, with photographer, Suzanne Mathia. Throughout the week I found as I was looking for my perfect perspective to photograph in the rocky plateau surrounding Lake Powell that my iPhone became a wonderful tool.

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Today most of us carry our smart phones with us no matter where we go. It’s one of my favorite accessories because it has a great camera on it.  My iPhone camera works no matter where I am at. It is a very effective for scouting my location and then framing my subject.

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It gives me a better feel for the detail in my shot. Is this what I am really looking for or is there another angle that I would prefer? What would it look like in black and white?

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Sometimes I am just so excited about what I am shooting that I cannot wait to download my images to share with my friends and family.

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So the next time you are scouting locations, remember to use your other camera. It’s a great tool that you already have with you.

Pam Henrichsen is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Patience now please….

Author: Greg McKelvey

A number of photographers in our Rim Country Camera Club and the Northern Gila County college intermediate photography class taught by well published in Arizona Highways photographer / writer, Nick Berezenko, are now taking more and more night sky images.  No surprise after the release of Beth Ruggiero-York’s “Fun in the Dark” informative book.   Cornerstone as it is to master the settings, plant a sturdy tripod, minimize shake, noise and star “movement”, success is anchored by foreground, composition and context that tells a unique story.

I think we all have been bubbly pleased with the first images of just the Milky Way!  I know I interrupted my family and friends to show(bore) them with my efforts. Dang that was great!  Subsequently I learned a bit more about post image processing, kelvin scales, gaffers tape and lighting. All of these skills are crystal important, without doubt.  So after I got that first set Milky Way, night stars, “trails”, and pin wheels, the challenge becomes finding a unique place to spend the night with your camera.   Dr. Bruce always told us to sleep with our camera, now I know why.

I am not a patient man, or so Sally Jo, my wife of 51 years, reminds me!   Hhmm that cannot be true, so says me (the ambivalent mirror is 50 / 50).   I enjoy travel and looking at rocks and stuff like that, always have enjoyed astronomy as a science and feed on learning more about all that stuff.  While I cannot tick off all the constellations (I really think the local elementary school needs to update the figures in the sky to something more 21st century: I know snoopy is there someplace!) the matter out there and what comes here is kool stuff.

I started night skies image captures from the deck of my Pine home. Rather convenient place with a good supply of red wine, nice people, and not far from the pillow zone.   While a productive location to hone my photographic skills, it is not what I would call an iconic setting.   Yet I can practice composition, subtle lighting of the foreground (such as it is), stacking, time lapse and the all-important camera settings. RAW is my friend as it the new tripod.  Ops, forgot the new wide angle lens and the wireless remote (a comfortable chair and glass of Merlot do have some priority) and doing it in the dark without my never possible to read notes.  Not second nature, but comfortable now.

The image below is “nice” but it may not win any wow contests or even qualify for our annual family photos album.  Only a few people would know or care where these were taken, yet it is a good place to practice and the family likes them!

Night sky overlooking Pine Arizona with the lights of Payson in white, and the yellow glow from Phoenix rising out of the desert.

Night sky overlooking Pine Arizona with the lights of Payson in white, and
the yellow glow from Phoenix rising out of the desert.

So now the search begins, where might I go that others have not already photographed into the over loved hall of fame?   Reflection on local lakes, yah a good setting as sit would be for lightening, more for the reflection than recognizable location.  US Forest Service lookout towers in the forest might be a good context shot.   Rustic old building and barns, hmm some great ones of these here.  Few would know the specifics, but all would see the context and perhaps a story?

Fullers Barn in Pine.  Lighting from the fire station behind the camera.

Fullers Barn in Pine.  Lighting from the fire station behind the camera.

While I embrace the concepto of this photo, still not what I am looking for (I will never be satisfied and that is a good thing).

So I made the decision last week to travel the five hours to visit the Very Large Array (VLA) near Datil, New Mexico.  The night skies in Pine have been clear and clean thanks to some light winds and the moon is resting on the other side of the planet.   So off I go with bed roll, food stuff and a back seat stacked with camera gear.  I wanted to be prepared for whatever. Time lapse with one camera, panoramas, light painting, hmmm my mind ‘flowith’ over!

The closer the red truck got to the VLA, the more dark clouds, rain washing the wind screen and lightening blinding the horizon.  Not looking too good for clear night photography!  Hey, but a monsoon show over these 39 foot diameter dishes spoked out in a three armed array across the plains has potential.  So no stopping me now, just a change of expectations.  Or at least that is my story and I am sticking to it!

VLA, storms and dark skies.

VLA, storms and dark skies.

The signs say the VLA is open from 8 am until sunset.  Kool, so I have time to scout around, see where I might set up after dark and visit the gift shop and ask humans for advice of where and what might be good places to set up.  The gift shop must be a bank as they were closed by 4 pm.  No human, hmm wonder if there are others to chat with?

 

Mindful of the no trespassing postings, and aware of public roads, I did find three locations worthy of a return visit.  Oh and I did see, photograph and stood in wonderment of herds of antelope with the young prancing like it is an art form in a  dance competition.  Made my day, I could go home with something on my chips worthy of my day (I am easy to please).

So after clicking shots of the radio dishes, dark as night clouds, a unique reflecting ball calendar, art work, and old rusted out trucks likely old and used when the telescope was commissioned decades ago, I made the command decision to drive to the nearest eatery and return for the dark night show.  A good New York slab of medium rare meat, a tall glass of coke free diet water, and the request side of green beans and I am ready to return.  Walking back to the truck in the rain, pleased that I remembered my old hat, the sun’s rays touch the building tops in Socorro.   Good sign I figure.

Back out that the VLA and hour later, I set up the tripod just as the fledgling moon is moving to the west.   Still lots of cloud cover and wow a lightning show to the south and southeast; hey that is where the milky way is said to be in the SE sky.  No matter, the lens is busy sending light from the setting moon, silhouetted astronomy equipment to the pixel creating sensor  then pipeline the 1’s and O’s via a buffer to my CF card.

VLA Radio telescope, one of 39 in the array with the setting moon and light by a car traveling north from Reserve NM

VLA Radio telescope, one of 39 in the array with the setting moon and light by a car traveling north from Reserve NM

A change of battery, refocus as the temperature drops, more clicks of the remote and all of a sudden, two hours are missing from my watch.  Somewhere during an Arizona Highways Photo Workshop, I was reminding to always look behind me.  Focus on one subject does not mean there might not be a better one at my back.   Opps, I look SE and wow the electric storms are still spraying the skies but are migrating further south, and the oh my to my wonderment, Milky Way is there.  The skies in the San Augustine plains are dark.   To the north there is evidence of Albuquerque, but most of the skies above the VLA are dark, like really dark. With young moon gone to China and but a few lights form the office complex at the VLA, the skies reveal more stars than an old man can count.  To boot, the radio telescope dishes are active.  About every 15 minutes they all change to a new position.  So waiting (and Sally Jo said I have no patience – I will disprove prove that a myth) and the silhouettes and positions of the iconic foreground changes.   I drive to a different dish for a different foreground and set up the camera so as to position the dish with the Milky Way arching across the sky.   I change locations a few time as the composition gods instruct me, zoom, adjust settings and fill up the CF card as the dark get darker still.  Two more hours slip away into the past as my card accepts more digital data.

Radio telescope dish, lit by flashlight pointed toward the Milky Way at the eastern end of the VLA

Radio telescope dish, lit by flashlight pointed toward the Milky Way at the eastern end of the VLA

It was difficult to leave this setting, but with clear local skies, lighting in the distance and one other location I wanted to visit, the Little Red Truck (LRT) dives me off to the northern spot.  Glad I had the 65 year old bed roll, a cooler with food stuffs and no need to be anywhere but there.

VLA, Milky Way, lighting in the distance and the radio telescope for context and foreground.

VLA, Milky Way, lighting in the distance and the radio telescope for context and foreground.

Close to what I wanted!

 The lights of Albuquerque in the distance at the northern extent of the milky way and the dish for context.

The lights of Albuquerque in the distance at the northern extent of the milky way and the dish for context.

I packed up my gear around 3 am, dang where did that night go, and headed back toward Pine.  Along the way I scouted out a few locations I on my “might work as a potential night sky locations” curled up in the old bed roll, slept for a while and later found a good local café with IV served coffee and an oval platter of breakfast foods to kick start the new day. So what is next; use my new found patience, seek out old barns, rusted trucks, lessor know native sites, rustic buildings, use subtle LED lights, find reflecting surfaces, position star gazers under the Milky Way, find leading lines, line up people with tripods, locate lone trees, explore for unusual rock formation and stumble on anything to serve as good foreground with a story telling context.

So when not putting the finishing touches on  my “Through a Geologist’s Lens” musings, traveling to find Big Horn sheep, landscaping (it is an action verb it is not) across the southwest,  or sojourns into macro landscapes of beetles and minerals, I might well return to the skies again.  Patience, RAW formats, longer exposures, ISO settings low enough to not produce noisy mages, stable lenses on manual, gaffers tape, wireless remotes, time lapse processing and well rooted tripods are among my skill sets now. Practice at home, now visit the all the new worlds. Gee wonder if I might bump it to Mr. Spock along the way.   Like they say always look behind you and be prepared to adapt to whatever happens.  Thank you lord for the patience I have and the ability to remember it.

Greg McKelvey
Professional Geologist
Photographer and patient husband!

Fun with a Holga Lens

Author:  Sara Goodnick

If you are a Nikon or Canon photographer and would like to have some fun with an inexpensive little lens, try out a Holga lens. It sells on Amazon for $30. Alternatively, you could go out and get a Holga camera, which uses film, for $40, also on Amazon. This is my experience with just the lens.
It is completely manual. You have to use your histogram to learn if your image exposure is acceptable. It works best at f/16 for me. When possible, I used the “Sunny 16” rule: on a sunny day outside, at ISO400, and f/16, set your shutter speed to 400. Or, match your shutter to your ISO at f/16.

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The focus is soft in an old-fashioned way. I found that to be a nice change from the super crisp images we are so used to seeing now. You have a focusing ring that has one person, three people, a group of people, and a mountain to approximate your focus. I missed getting it right many times because I am so spoiled to auto-focus and am out of practice. Looking through the lens is best for focusing, but difficult under certain lighting conditions.

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The vignetting is strong and somewhat irregular, which makes for some nice surprises. I could reduce it by using the DX setting for a cropped sensor on my Nikon D810 full frame.

I love the look it gives portraits with its soft focus, much like the soft focus filter we used to put on our lenses when using film to soften skin.
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All in all, it gave me a chance to play like a kid with a Brownie camera! After downloading the images I thoroughly enjoyed processing them in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop as creatively as I pleased.
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It’s summer-let the kid in you out to PLAY!

The Excitement of Bird Photography

Author: Joanne Shipman

I love photographing birds in the wild. There is an excitement in being outdoors to seek out birds and watch their behaviors, hear them call to one another or get a glimpse from a safe distance of a nest.

Nuthatcher - Globe, Arizona in Pinal Mountains

Nuthatcher – Globe, Arizona in Pinal Mountains

Snow Geese and Coyote - San Antonio, New Mexico in Bosque Del Apache

Snow Geese and Coyote – San Antonio, New Mexico in Bosque Del Apache

Every experience is different. A group of us were photographing thousands of Snow Geese at Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge when a Coyote decided to meander into the area. In another instance, we were photographing birds in Pinal Mountain when we heard loud grunts from a nearby tree and were surprised to see a White-Nosed Coatimundi moving down a tree then into the woods.

Coati - Globe, Arizona in Pinal Mountains (Not the best photograph, but these guys are elusive!)

Coati – Globe, Arizona in Pinal Mountains (Not the best photograph, but these guys are elusive!)

For my photos I used a Canon 5DMII and 400mm L prime lens. In many cases, you may not be able to get close to the birds, so a longer lens is essential. Depending on the environment I adjust ISO and aperture as necessary, but typically, my ISO is set higher anywhere from 400 to 1000 to ensure a fast shutter speed. I prefer aperture priority and start with f2.8 to f5-6 as a good starting point. Finally, I use continuous shooting mode to get the most frames per second, especially for birds in flight, and I select a single point auto focus in AI Servo mode.

Willet - Huntington Beach, California in Bolsa Chica Wetlands

Willet – Huntington Beach, California in Bolsa Chica Wetlands

Hopefully you will have an opportunity to go out and challenge yourself with bird photography. For me at least (moment of truth!), not every photo is perfect, but like anything, practice makes close-to-perfect.

Common Black-Hawk - Cornville, Arizona in Page Springs Hatchery

Common Black-Hawk – Cornville, Arizona in Page Springs Hatchery

Be sure to check out the Birds of South Texas workshop scheduled in March 2017, and keep an eye out for future scheduled workshops in Bosque Del Apache.

Joanne Shipman is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

What to do in the heat? A day at the zoo.

Author:  Amy Novotny

As summer kicks in full swing, light becomes harsher and opportunities to shoot in softer light become earlier or later in the day. In some regions and cities, such as the Phoenix Metropolitan Area, shooting sunrise and sunset can even be daunting with 90-105 degree weather at those times of the day. However, the zoo is still a great place to practice photography. The different environments allow a photographer to capture a variety of wildlife shots while experimenting with different camera settings. Here are some considerations for shooting at the zoo:

  • Photographers can make the most of their time by planning the trip around the time of day. Early morning and late afternoon/early evening make great times for shooting in outdoor exhibits when animals are most active. A higher f-stop (f/8 in the image below) will allow you to get multiple animals in focus.

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  • If the zoo offers a safari ride, this can provide a great chance to capture images of animals up close without having to worry about metal fencing interfering in the shot (especially if the animal is too close to the fence). At the Wildlife World Zoo in Glendale, AZ, for example, visitors can photograph ostriches, various oxen and deer as well as larger birds and warthogs on the safari train. The open-air carts make photography easier with the ability to change directions of shooting quite easily.

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  • Researching the zoo ahead of time can also provide opportunities for personal or close encounters with animals, often around feeding time when activity level is higher. It is a good idea to keep the shutter speed higher than 1/500 sec for sharper focus (1/2000 sec in the image below).

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  • When the weather becomes warmer in the afternoon and the animals settle down for lazy summer naps, photographers can head indoors to the animal exhibits to get some action shots. This setting allows for some practice of flash photography through thick glass. For those without external flash and bounce plates, a tissue held in place with a rubber band over the in-camera flash can suffice to lessen the glare and allow for nice images. It is important to place the lens on the glass and shoot in Manual Exposure Mode so that you can adjust the shutter speed to synchronize with your flash speed and choose the ideal aperture for depth of field (f/8 and 1/200 sec in the image below).

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  • Some zoos also have aquariums that provide yet a different opportunity to capture animals during the midday heat. Tropical fish give off beautiful colors and shapes that make for appealing images and an opportunity to work on composition. Some considerations in this setting are to avoid flash, use Manual Exposure Mode, start with a lower f-stop of f/5 and a shutter speed around 1/125 sec, and adjust settings according to the histogram (f/10 and 1/125 sec in the image below).

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  • The big cat enclosures provide a great opportunity to practice making the wire fences disappear in the images. Patience is a virtue in this situation, as it can take some time before felines lift their heads, yawn or move from their napping positions. When trying to make the fences disappear, it is best to use your longest focal length lens and get as close to the fence as possible with the smallest f-stop/maximum aperture (200mm focal length at f/5.6 and 1/500 sec in the image below). The animal must be far from the fence as well so that you can focus on the animal instead of the fencing.

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  • Many of the larger animals evoke emotions that draw us in and allow us to relate to them. Because of this, the zoo can serve as a great setting for photographing emotions: sadness, curiosity, caution, etc.

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  • As the afternoon turns into evening, the water fowl in a pond or lake provide great action images with a softer light. After the water fowl finish their evening meal, they often dunk under water and rise up to flap their wings. These behaviors along with the colorful reflections of light on the water surface can create some beautiful compositions. As the light dims in the evening, it is important to adjust the ISO to a higher number of around 800 to allow for correct exposure (f/5.6 at 1/1000 sec with ISO 800).

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A full day of photography can be had in the heat of the summer and at the zoo. The opportunities are endless for those wanting to practice various forms of photography and enhance their skills.

Amy Novotny is a Volunteer Trip Leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.
Twitter: @amynovotnyaz
Instagram: anovotn
http://www.amysimpressions.com