Sunday, March 1, 2015

Using a fish-eye lens for events

The fish-eye experience, Part 3

Just because a fish-eye lens distorts the scene in front of it, that is no reason to shy away from using it at events. On the contrary! I've even used it on my second camera at weddings. It turns out I'm not the only one. Gene Ho gave an interesting talk on just that subject at B&H Photo in 2012. The physics of the glass enlarges whatever is closest to it, thus emphasizing it.

The great thing about using a super wide angle lens is that you can get really close. At an event such as a wedding or, as below, at an antique automobile show where people expect for you to take their picture, you can go right up to them and capture a unique perspective.

You don't always get close enough to talk with people at events such as these, but the gentlemen here - and their wives - were eager to tell me all about their luxurious automobile. With just one or two photos I was able to capture many of the details of this nice old car. 

But even if people aren't your favorite subject matter, with a fish-eye at the flea market, for example, you can highlight something that catches your eye and still let the viewer get a taste of the surrounding atmosphere. 

With friends or family you can play with perspective and see things in a new light.

Speaking of light, as with any wide angle lens, light will enter the lens ... from a wide angle! In some cases that may detract from the resulting photograph in that light flares might mar the picture. On the other hand, you can also use the light for nice effects.
On a photo walk last summer I stopped down the lens to f16 and positioned myself so that the sun shone through right between the camera and the photographer in front of me.

And during a photo session with my niece, I was thrilled to position myself while she danced so that I wouldn't miss her jumps, yet still have the glare of the sun above and the shadow from that light all in the same frame. The slight distortion in the picture (after I had processed some of it out) helps highlight her as she is closer to the lens than the light above or the shadow on the ground.

At the Carnival in Cologne in 2014 the sunlight was amazing the day of the big parade. I'm glad I had the fish-eye lens with me. It allowed me to focus on the main motif and still show the radiance of the surrounding light and lusciousness of the resulting shadows. 

And, again, one is able to get close, focus on the subject and embed it in its surroundings. 

On a final note, using an 8mm lens (12mm equivalent on a Sony APS-C sensor) allows you to capture scenes that you otherwise simply wouldn't be able to. Here I put my Sony A77 on the ground with the screen flipped up so I could see if we were all in, used the remote control to shoot it and got this shot of the group from the Worldwide Photo Walk in Tübingen in 2014.