Sunday, December 2, 2018

Going wide

My early Christmas present to myself is another lens, the Sigma Art 14mm f1.8. For the non-photographers reading this, all you need to know is the photographers are drooling. In a bit more detail for the curious, the 14mm part means it's really wide, about as wide as you can go and still get a normal perspective. The f1.8 means the aperture can open really wide and swallow a lot of light, so it's perfect for night sky photography.

It's also pretty darn good for landscapes as well, because it captures that big wide vista, but you have to be careful. A person doesn't have to be very far away at all to be unrecognizable, and not much further away to become a dot. One of the theories about using such a lens is to have something in the foreground to capture the viewer's interest.

We got several cm of snow last night, and it was still snowing lightly when I went down into Fish Creek to see what I could find. I've been in the area around bridge 2 many times, but I was seeing it differently this time. As a side note, the river is almost completely frozen over, and with a bit of care I think one could snowshoe or ski on it now.

I'll post some shots and chat about them as shots, which I don't normally do much, but it will help understand what this lens can do. These are all tweaked in Lightroom of course, much the same as I do for any other shot. Apply lens correction, correct the white balance, level and crop if necessary, tweak the basic panel sliders as required. I almost never sharpen the photos beyond a bit of clarity and dehaze, and I usually  slightly unsaturate them. I'll remove spots if I notice them, but almost never use the healing brush or other Lightroom tools. These are all shot at f5.0, which is pretty close to the sharpness sweet spot for the lens. I mostly let autofocus do it's thing, and was pretty pleased about it. I haven't played with manual focus yet.

1) This image is one of those where I knew there was something good in that little pool of water, and I worked a bunch of angles to get the composition I wanted. It's HDR to get the colour in both the water and above ground.

2 and 3) Now that I've got your attention. From where I'm holding the camera to the far bank is about 2 feet or so. Here's another view of that scene. These might look a bit dull after that first hit of colour.

4) I know you'd be disappointed if I didn't actually show you bridge 2. Yes, the camera is almost in the water, and I'm not that far away from the bridge at all.

5) I kind of goofed on this shot. I'd wanted to just catch the corners of the bridge railings in the bottom corners of the photo, and was rushed because there was a herd of people coming. And a water spot, see comments later.

6) Here's three shots where I tried to either put something in the foreground, or give you leading lines into the shot. You might not be able to see it in the web version of this first photo, but there's a big water drop on the lens. Sigh. The shots just before this show the drop even more badly, and nothing I could do in Lightroom would make it go away.

7) This is cropped to 16x9 to get ride of a bunch of boring sky. I can't tell if those are a couple of water spots, or some darker cloud. Let's say it's clouds.

8) The sun was beginning to come out, so I played with the sky a little in Lightroom.

9) You can see from the bulbous front element it's going to be tough to keep water drops off the lens. I'll just have to remember to check periodically if it's raining or snowing, and carry along an absorbent wipe. That or learn how to fix smudgy watery smears in Lightroom or (frustration!) in Photoshop.

The astute of you will have asked why there is a twist tie hanging off the side of the camera. The connection where the cable release plugs in seems a little flimsy. I tie the cable release to the camera with the twist tie so that if I tug on the cable release or catch it on something, it will pull on the twist tie, not the expensive plug connection.

10) Here's a good illustration of how wide this lens is. I'm standing on the edge of the sidewalk. In real life the sidewalk in front of the house is straight, then it curves around to the light pole, then it's straight to the back alley, at 90 degrees from the front. Not that it looks that way here.

First impressions? Learnings?
In no particular order.
-So far so good!
-Some people have mentioned this is a heavy lens, but I used a shoulder strap and it didn't bother me. You can look up the specs yourself, but I think it's about a kilo.
-I'm so glad my camera has that level and vertical indicator in the viewfinder. That is critical! If the camera isn't level the vertical lines start curving in. I'm going to have to learn to think about composition a little differently. So far it seems better to shoot level and crop later, than to have to correct distortion and lose parts of the photo you might want to keep.
-Get close! Closer! The lens can focus on something that is just under a foot from the front element. Learning how to work that into composition is going to take a while.
-Reflections are amazing with this lens. I think I'm going to try lots of them.
-Pay attention to what the camera is focusing on. I lost a few foreground shots because either the foreground or the background were way out focus. Part of that is being the right distance from the foreground.
-It captures rich colour, not that there is a lot of it in Fish Creek now, and without doing a deep pixel peep it seems nice and sharp even into the corners. Wide open at f1.8 that probably changes.
-I mentioned water drops earlier on, if it's raining or snowing, periodically check the lens. I didn't notice the smudges when I looked at the photo in camera.
-I haven't played with depth of field yet. Today I was about getting most of the shot in focus.
-I'm doing a night shoot next week, and can't wait!


  1. I look forward to more experiments with the lens. Merry Christmas! Cheers, Sean

  2. Cool! I especially like the 4th image here - though the colour in the first one is lovely.


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