Sunday, December 14, 2014

Getting closer

The fish-eye experience, Part 1

Getting the big picture at the weekly market in Tübingen
I'm not the first one to write about the fun you can have with fish-eye lenses. But this is the first time I've written about it to this extent.

In June 2012 I bought a Walimex Pro 3.5/8mm Fisheye for Sony and have used it on the Sony A77 and A7 since then. It is an APS-C lens, so on the full-frame A7 you have to set the camera to capture the photo on the smaller sweet spot on the sensor. Otherwise, you get this:

The shadows cast by an APS-C lens on a full-frame sensor
The shadowy fringe around the outside is a result both of the tulip-shaped lens hood which is affixed to the lens and also of the small focus of the APS-C lens. Of course, you can always simply crop the picture afterwards if you prefer. When in "APS-C Capture" mode, the camera will show that you have much more room left on your memory card than you would normally have. I've found that since APS-C lenses use the middle part of the sensor, they pictures often appear sharper than those taken with a comparable full-frame lens. Your experience may vary, depending on the lenses in use.

Creatively adding the foreground to your composition
One of the things I like best about fish-eye lenses is that they allow you to use the foreground more effectively than longer lenses do. Whereas a telephoto lens will seemingly blend the fore- and background into a flatter plane, you wouldn't be able to compose the above photo with a 200mm lens.
Fish-eye lenses are also fun to play with if you experiment enough with them and think of good opportunities for using them.

Capture Two
You can obviously capture larger swathes of the landscape with 8mm (equivalent to 12mm on an APS-C sensor with Sony cameras) than with the normal kit lens.

Bend it like heck, hmm?
One thing you must take into consideration, though, is the angle at which you take the pictures. The picture at the top of this post was taken straight-on and parallel to the ground (all recent Sony cameras have a level built into the camera). This is what it looked like before I began my lens correction tweaking:

This shows the vegetable stand in the context of the market. What I wanted, however, was to emphasize the lines of the blue and white awning and the colors of the veggies. As with many of my fish-eye photos, I pushed the "Distortion" slider up to +100 in Lightroom (it works the same in Camera Raw) and constrained the crop. In essence, that flattens out the picture a bit, making it appear as a simple wide-angle shot.
In the two photos below, I experimented a bit more with the position of the camera relative to the awning. In post-processing you can also add vertical lens correction to get the look you want.

With a bit of forethought and some imagination, you can combine several advantages of the lens at once and get close, emphasize the composition and frame the motif all at once. Happy shooting!

In the next part, I'll write a bit about using the fish-eye lens for architectural photography.

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