The dancing eye: seeing in wide angle

Even though the human eye covers about the same angle of view as a 20mm lens (35mm format) the lenses new photographers often gravitate to are the telephotos. There are many reasons for this which I’ll get to in a minute. But first: seeing in wide angle.

It’s not as easy as it might seem given the aforementioned angle of  view by the human eye. Translating a wide angle of view with a camera into a photograph can be tricky business. Mostly this is because you end up with all kinds of extraneous things in the shot that dilute the point of the picture.

Anything that does not contribute to the message should not be in the frame. This is why many beginning photographers gravitate to the long lenses. With the telephoto’s short depth of field and telescopic ability to isolate a single element, long glass is an affective way to leverage your version of  reality. Additionally, there seems to be a direct relationship between the wish to be taken seriously (as a photographer) and the size of the lens protruding one’s camera. Bigger is better.

But many photographers begin gravitating to wide angles eventually. Wide angle scenes are typically more nuanced and inviting the viewer to “read” the image. Wide angle images can have more depth and take on a three dimensional quality giving the viewer perspective.

But the wider the glass, the more discipline  it takes from the photographer. Edge and straight line distortion can often distract from the message. And the photographer must constantly check “the corners” to make sure unwanted elements are not creeping into the frame.

The combination of these actions often has the eye dancing around the viewfinder checking for distortions, unwanted elements and the status of the main subject. Just writing about it is making my eye tired.


~ by keithphilpott on January 22, 2010.

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