When you want to take in more of a scene than would be possible with a normal (50mm equivalent) focal length, you’ll want to use a wide-angle lens. A wide-angle focal length – about 12mm to 25mm on digital SLRs with a “crop” factor – will reduce the apparent size of your subject, allowing you to take in more of your surroundings. As opposed to telephoto lenses that produce shallow depth of field, wide-angle focal lengths tend to yield great depth of field.
Wide-angle lenses also alter the perspective of a scene, and can cause some distortion. Vertical lines will converge toward the top of an image if the lens is pointed up, for example. You can control this by keeping the camera level. But sometimes the distorting effects of a wide-angle lens of a wide-angle lens can be interesting and dramatic.
I recently photographed The Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas, Nevada. (See photo above.) This truly unique research center was designed in a deconstructivism style by architect Frank Gehry, and looks like a structure that was crumpled by giant hands.
I wanted to exaggerate the already distorted aspects of this building against a sky with interesting clouds, so I used my Canon EF 20mm f/2.8 USM lens with my Canon EOS 5D Mark II (a full-frame DSLR). This wide-angle lens enabled me to encompass more of the building and sky, especially when I pointed my camera up at the structure from a low angle. I used an aperture setting of f/8 in the Av mode, which gave me great depth of field.
Lynne Eodice teaches four excellent interactive online courses at BetterPhoto.com:
- Fundamentals of Great Exposure
- Photography for the Weekend Warrior
- Photographing Architecture: Around Town or Far Afield
- Digital Photography Basics