I first started shooting surf photography. Shooting surf helped me compose, lock in and execute a photo in the blink of an eye, allowing me to capture the center of a curling wave. A wide angle lens was no doubt the best way to capture the power and energy of those waves. Because of this I started shooting with a 11-16mm lens on a small sensor, which is the equivalent of a 16-28mm lens on a full frame sensor.
For so many years I didn't even realise that it was all about training my eye for timing and composition. Learning how to use the lens helped me out in two specific areas that I base my night and landscape photography on today.
I love to shoot wide. If I could only take one camera and one lens with me, they would be my full frame Sony a7r II with my Tokina Fírin 20mm f/2.0. I am a big fan of capturing the whole wide world and with this combination by my side, I know that I can do so.
With this in mind, I’d like to offer you some advice on techniques that I use myself.
There are many ways this can be explained. I imagine a see saw. Too much weight on one side will make it unpleasing to the eye. The non-photographer viewer will not notice what might be wrong with a picture but they may feel disconnected in some way, feeling like there is something missing.
This may be the biggest problem with shooting wide as you have more of a field of view to balance. Take the image above for example. In this image I used the road to balance the three monuments. If the road wasn't there or if I was a few feet more to the right, the image could have been unbalanced and heavy on one side.
If you are having problems with balance, try moving to your left or right just a few inches. Even small movements can be beneficial to a composition when shooting wide.
Center focal point
Drawing attention to the center of the frame is probably one of the easiest techniques that work well with wide angle images. Here I used myself as the center focal point. I set a 10sec delay on the camera, pressed the shutter release and ran, trying to keep the same distance while keeping myself centered within the frame.
Go ultra wide
Another advice in shooting even wider is capturing a panoramic image. This is a panoramic image of the Mesa Arch in Canyon Land, Utah on a gloomy winter morning. This picture has been created by stitching 5 vertical frames in Adobe Lightroom. I tend to always shoot vertical and shoot each image from left to right making sure that there is at least a 20% overlap. I also use a Slik Levelling unit to make sure the horizon is nice and straight.
A little planning and preparation helps immensely with stitching all the images into a singe panoramic capture. I also shoot vertical for greater resolution. With 42 mega pixels coming out of the Sony a7r II, sometimes I get a final pano of 15-20 thousand pixels wide. That size image could cover a house!
It’s a beautiful world we live in, why not try to capture it in one wide frame?