Many people ask me what wide-angle lens to buy, so let me say here that I am a big fan of ultra-wide-angle lenses. For full-frame sensor cameras, I recommend a lens in the 14mm to 16mm range, and for less-than-full-frame cameras, a lens in the 10mm to 12mm range is excellent (such as the Canon 10-22mm or the Nikon 12-24mm lens). These lenses produce incredibly dramatic images.
For example, one of the highlights of my recent photo tour to Portugal and Spain was photographing the incredible staircase in the Lello bookstore in Porto, Portugal. The color, graphic design, and the light all come together to make an outstanding image, but it was my 14mm lens that enabled me to really capture the essence and the beauty of the architecture. Lesser angles obtained from 18 to 24mm wide-angle lenses produce a nice shot, but it is the extreme width of the 14mm that makes this subject especially compelling.
Tip: Ultra-wide-angle lenses are most dramatic when used very close to the subject.
Notes from the Editor:
There are several determining factors that you should keep in mind when you want to control depth of field: the focal length of your lens, your distance from the subject, and of course, your lens aperture. Many people think that the aperture is most important when creating shallow or great depth of field, but in order to control DOF, you must consider all three of these elements simultaneously.
Don't miss Lynne Eodice's excellent courses at BetterPhoto's digital photography school online:
Right now, I at the North American Nature Photography Association annual conference in Texas. I am also helping out with the college student program, and they are a passionate group of photographers who care a lot about the natural world.
I got a question from one of my students at BetterPhoto.com about finding one's personal vision or style, and this is closely related to some of the things I have seen with the college students. A lot of photographers think about this, and I do think it can be an important part of the growth of a photographer. What is interesting is that some of the students are developing some unique ways of seeing and communicating through photography, yet I am not sure they have thought about it a lot.
I don't think there is any one way to finding a distinctive vision or style to your photos. Years ago I spent a lot of time thinking about this. Yet a distinctive style came to me more when I forgot trying to achieve one. Now I get people telling me all the time that they recognize me from my photographs, which is what a personal style is all about.
Hopefully, I won't turn anyone off by going all "Oprah" (though I think she has a lot to tell us about this). I think Oprah is actually right about how we live our lives - authentically and true to who we are. That, to me, is exactly what being a good photographer is all about and that is how we find our distinctive style. And that does require taking a lot of pictures so that you can truly respond to what is authentic and true.
One thing about photography is that it is a craft as well as an art. The more you hone your craft, the more you can use that craft in service of your vision. It is very difficult to be authentic and true if you cannot control your medium. This is why it can be difficult for a beginner to find a personal style.
Many photographers will look at style as a certain way of using photographic technology, such as black-and-white, HDR, how lenses are used to control an image and so forth. These are certainly part of photography. However, all of these are things external imposed on photography. Shooting all high-contrast black-and-white, for example, might give a "style" but it would be very superficial and would not be very satisfying (or a very positive experience) if you simply did that imposed on your photography yet you did not care very much about high-contrast black-and-white.
In many ways, it comes down to something that is perhaps a little overused these days, passion. What do you care about? What turns you on about your subjects, your photography? What makes you excited is also about what will be true and authentic to you.
Photos: The spider is an orbweaver common to the Los Angeles basin in the fall. The California poppy is from Central California (from last year - it is still early for poppies in most areas).
Editor's Note: Rob Sheppard, Outdoor Photographer magazine's editor at large, teaches many excellent online photo courses at BetterPhoto.com, including Impact in Your Photographs: The Wow Factor and Creating Storytelling Photos.
When I was little, I used to think the moon got caught in tree branches. I liked the way it seemed to be nestled close to the tree. Maybe it's because many storybooks are illustrated this way, or perhaps just my imagination running wild with a crescent moon.
Twilight is the magical time between day and night, a wonderful transition for natural light photography that lasts only moments.
To photograph at twilight, you'll need a tripod and a cable release, or you can use the self-timer feature on your camera. Use the lowest ISO for the best image quality. When photographing cityscapes, you may notice smaller apertures/longer exposures create wonderful little starbursts from points of light, which can add a glamorous quality to a nighttime scene.
Take a few test shots before twilight to double-check the composition. It takes a little practice to get the timing right, photograph a few nights in a row and everything will fall into place. Have fun shooting!
More from the editor: Join Deborah Sandidge for creativity, learning and fun in 4-week online photo classes at BetterPhoto.com's digital photography school: Photoshop: Enhancing Images and Creating Works of Art and Digital Infrared Photography
"I know this may seem a little flip, but it is the truth: my favorite place to photograph is wherever I am. I have been to locations in nearly every state and a few foreign locations, too. I have yet to find any place where there is not some sort of interesting and good opportunities for nature photography."
In a new BetterPhoto article, Rob shares his views on photographing nearby nature areas. Check it out here:
To me, the most exciting forms to photograph in nature are icebergs. The combination of aquamarine and deep blue along with the snow and ice is incredible, and the forms are out of this world. I have never seen icebergs as beautiful as the ones I shot in Antarctica. I was breathless in shooting them.
These pictures don't show how cold it was, or how the wind-driven rain made the experience less than comfortable. Once a wave washed over the bow of the zodiac, and I was in the front and received the brunt of the water. Not only did I get wet, but saltwater is certain death for any kind of electronics. I was mortified, fearing the worst and that my camera would stop functioning. Fortunately, though, everything was fine and I continued shooting.
Note that all of these pictures were taken with a 14mm ultra-wide-angle lens. I was very close to the icebergs - just a few feet away. That's the secret in using a wide angle. Using the ice as a dominant foreground element made it disportionately large, and that gave the scene added drama. I was very glad that the weather was overcast, because the blue colors of the compressed ice and the amazing colors in the water were more intense in the soft light.
This is the opposite of what you might think. Had the sun been out, the contrast would have been too harsh. Shadows would have been very dark and the highlights on the ice might have blown out ... meaning complete overexposure with no texture or detail. That's the last thing you want in a picture.
Editor's notes: Photographer and author Jim Zuckerman teaches many excellent online photography courses, including Developing Your Creative Artistic Vision and Eight Steps to More Dramatic Photography. BetterPhoto's online digital photography school offers several courses in photographing art in nature.
My favorite place on a airplane for aerial photography is the window seat. I like to see the ever-changing sights, landscapes, cityscapes, and the most beautiful skyscapes. I feel a little trapped at times, but it's always worth the view.
This photo was photographed using an 8mm circular fisheye lens, which captured the surrounding window and gives the image a sense of place. The image was optimized in Photoshop using Lucis Pro.
Note: Deborah Sandidge teaches at BetterPhoto.com digital photography school online photo course: Photoshop - Enhancing Digital Images and Creating Works of Art
Recently I was in downtown Los Angeles scouting for the "Wandering in the Company of Strangers" workshop that I conduct along with Emilio Banuelos. It's been a while since I wandered the in and outs of this part of LA and it was like falling in love all over again.
Though most of my work has focused on Broadway, I ventured out and explored Spring and Hill and Olive and discovered an amazing collection of eye candy for the photographer. Not the least of which was the quality of the light. Most of Los Angeles is very flat, and this is one of the few parts of town where you get the benefit of shafts of light passing through tall buildings and spot lighting bits of street. The newer glass and steel buildings often serve as reflectors illuminating much older buildings or street scenes with a gorgeous quality of light.
I saw this fellow (above) while I was crossing the street. He was illuminated by the reflection of light of a tall building across from him. We said nothing to each other as I made a series of images of him. I'm looking forward to seeing what the other photographers at the workshop produce themselves.
Editor Notes: Professional photographer Ibarionex Perello teaches several online photo courses, including The Pursuit of Light and Portrait Photography Using Available Light. Also, the BetterPhoto photography school offers online photo workshops devoted to street photography and people photography.