Wide-angle Experiments

Wide-angle Experiments

Oct 6, 2017 ~ A while back I succumbed to that dreaded malady that strikes photographers, musicians and many others. The all-consuming desire to expand your collection of gear... otherwise known as GAS or Gear Acquisition Syndrome. You read about a new lens or an updated camera body is offered and you start dreaming and scheming. Suddenly you need flash equipment (hummingbirds are here!) or your tripod just isn't doing its job well enough. Out of nowhere you find yourself wanting to do focus stacking when last month you had no idea what it was! I hear even quilters are susceptible; they crave fancier sewing machines or special cabinets offered on websites that provide financing. Almost all hobbyists are at risk. It is not that new gear will make you a better at your craft, but it will offer more opportunities. It is kind of hard to do birds without a long lens just as landscapes need a wide angled view. 

Well... I didn't have but one lens for my Nikon D810; the wonderful Nikkor 500mm prime. When I wanted to do landscapes I had to use my old crop camera Sony A77II with either the Sony DT 16-50mm f/2.8 or a Sigma wide-angle that I have never been happy with. So, it wasn't so much as I wanted a new lens as I really needed one. Bill has the Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8 and I had used it a few times and liked the fact you can get really close; minimum focus distance is just less than a foot. It seems silly to buy exactly the same lens he has so I researched a while and found the Tamron 15-30 f/2.8 which is very similar, less expensive and still quite impressive. And since Harvey scattered the birds to who knows where and we have had nothing but Blinding Sunstorms recently, I have been using it a lot. 

All of these were taken as five bracketed shots and then post-processed with Google NIK HDR Effects Pro 2. Or other additional post-processing as noted.

The above is a screen shot from HDR Effex Pro 2 showing the five shots I took across the top. Using your camera's bracketing feature is a wonderful way to get a proper exposure when you have high contrast (bright sun and dark shadows) subjects. You pick the ISO and f/stop and the camera changes the shutter speed to capture a range of exposures. You can even set your timer for the shots if you aren't steady with hand-holding. 

Then, through the magic of Photoshop, the five images will be combined as one. After it is blended, you get to choose from a bunch of presets for the finished look. And this is where I think a lot of people go wrong. The Default and Balanced choices are usually best; choosing down the list can end up with that crispy look that screams "OMG! Look at my HDR Mad SKillz".

Just restrain yourself. 

Big foot at Texas City Dike
Nikon D810 with Tamron 15-30 f/2.8 ~ ISO 250 f/6.3 HDR

And here is this is a YUGE amphibious excavator we found at Texas City Dike one day. The operator told us he can work in several feet of water and the pontoons can be adjusted for a narrow or wide track. He was high above in an air conditioned cab and told us he had run all kinds of marsh buggies and equipment in his 30 yr career.

The combined bracketed shots show detail in the under part of the track and the shadows; a single shot might have overexposed the sky and revealed no detail in the dark areas. 

Men at work
Nikon D810 with Tamron 15-30 f/2.8 ~ ISO 100 f/8.0 HDR

This crane barge was waiting to start a dredging project that was delayed by Harvey. The two-man crew told us they went home to Louisiana during the storm and had just recently come back to work. I thanked them for sending the Cajun Navy to help us out after the storm. This photo has a bit of straitening in Photoshop. Wide angle lenses are notorious for distortion of vertical lines. 

Down by the boardwalk
Nikon D810 with Tamron 15-30 f/2.8 ~ ISO 100 f/7.1 HDR

These piers on the Texas City Dike were damaged during Ike and never repaired. We are always afraid they will declare them a navigational hazard and take them out someday. Usually there are a lot of pelicans, gulls and cormorants perched on the pilings, but this day I had it almost all to myself. Wide angle images always look better if you get low and shoot up into the subject. Something big in the foreground and leading lines help.

And this one was also straightened in Photoshop. You know how to do that, right? Make a layer then then use Edit > Transform and experiment with Skew and Scale and Distort. If the Grid is showing it will be easier to tease it into straight lines. 

Nikon D810 with Tamron 15-30 f/2.8 ~ ISO 100 f/7.1 HDR

Do you like to shoot in abandoned buildings? Part of old Texas City has some derelict storefronts that are right off the main drag so it isn't too scary to wander around taking shots. This building was roofless and partly burned and for some reason a big hole had been knocked in one wall.

I just gave it a better view.

Beach shelter in a field of grass burrs
Nikon D810 with Tamron 15-30 f/2.8 ~  ISO 200 f/8.0 HDR

A little minimalist structure here. I have scads of images of these picnic shelters from the Texas City Dike. Depending on the angle of the sun you can get some great shadows and they are useful for combining with other images in blends and Photo Art. 

Photo art ~ Circles

Can you see glimpses of the old biplane shown at the top of this adventure in the image above? And the picnic shelter? And a familiar building with a big stainless steel art structure out front on Beltway 8?

I got enthralled by the repetitive circular shapes. 

Nikon D810 with Tamron 15-30 f/2.8 ~ ISO 320 f/8.0 HDR

Over by the railroad bridge in Freeport is a marine junkyard. Old boats and parts, some tin buildings and a couple of cars. Tied up in the canal are a few boats that float, but don't look seaworthy. Sometimes, old things look better in black & white. I got down low for this shot and Bill had to help me back up. Yes, it is hard, but wide-angle work looks so much better if you experiment with the perspective. 

Have you tried doing bracketing/HDR for your landscape photos? Do you have an ultra-wide lens? Do you crave one? And do you just take landscape photos from standing eye level? Let me know about your landscape aspirations in the comments below. 

High Tides

High Tides

Bringing the House into the Light

Bringing the House into the Light