Monday, August 24, 2009
Oh wide-angle lens, where have you been my whole life???
It’s come to my attention several times over the past month or two that I’m perhaps limiting myself a bit by not having a wide angle lens. That I may be missing out on the opportunity to get some great shots without one. In fact, not only do I not have a wide angle lens, the lens I use almost exclusively is a 28-300, so I start even further in than a “regular” lens would. (And by that I mean an 18-55 mm kit lens.) So, when I saw Eric’s pics from Banff, Glacier, Waterton, and Yoho national parks (linked to them on Friday), and I asked him what lens he used for some of the shots, and he told me he used a Canon wide-angle (10-22), that was the last straw.
Okay, I should take a step back. I’m throwing a lot of numbers out there, which probably don’t mean much to most people. In fact, the numbers, taken out of context, truly don’t mean anything at all. An 18-55 mm lens on one camera can be entirely different from an 18-55 mm lens on another. Basically, those numbers are representing how much zoom you’ve got. As in, when you’re fully zoomed out, you’re at the 18mm end of the lens, and when you’re zoomed in, you’re at the 55 mm lens. The bigger the number, the further zoomed in you are. Keeping up with me so far? Good.
So, these numbers that I’m using are all for a reduced-size sensor like those found in just about any entry-level digital SLR (which is what I have.) If you have a “full-frame sensor” in your camera (meaning a sensor that’s the size of a 35mm negative) an 18mm lens will be quite a bit different (zoomed out more) than on my camera. So that’s what I mean when I say it’s all relative. If you know what 18mm and 55 mm mean on your camera, then you can at least visualize what 300mm or 10mm would look like. But if you don’t have that baseline context, they’re just numbers.
So, to give you a little bit of context, 18mm on a standard entry level SLR (which is what the kit lenses, at least for Canon, start with – they’re 18-55 mm lenses, right?), when zoomed all the way out, looks basically like what you get from a point-and-shoot that’s all the way zoomed out. Point and shoots usually talk about their zoom in terms of “3x” or “4x”, which is a completely different measure entirely, but as you would expect, 4x means it zooms in more than 3x. But, the key takeaway here is that 18mm is kind of a “normal” amount of zoom, then you move from there. So, the lens I use a lot, being a 28-300, would be like having your point and shoot be permanently zoomed in a little bit with no way of zooming it back out. But then it has the capability of zooming WAY in from there. It’s really flexible, as long as you’re not taking pictures of stuff right in front of you. (Except for macro stuff, but let’s not go into that here.) So I’ve realized that even stepping back to 18mm would allow me to get some shots that I haven’t been able to in awhile. Or, if I’m willing to shell out some cash, I can get a lens that specializes in getting even wider, like Eric’s 10-22mm.
Using a wide-angle lens is just something you have to experience. It’s impossible to describe the feeling accurately using words alone. I never believed it until this weekend when I used one for the first time. I was shocked. I was blown away. I couldn’t believe that it had taken me this long to try using one. And now I’m hooked. I’m fully, hopelessly, obsessively hooked. I can never go back to my life before Friday. Ever again. It was that powerful of an experience. When I put the viewfinder up to my eye, it’s like I can physically feel something reaching out from my gut and pulling everything in to the frame. It’s weird. And wonderful.
So, what happened on Friday? Well, I had this trip planned to Neah Bay for the weekend, and I knew I wanted to try out a wide angle lens. I went to my favorite camera shop (Glazer’s, in Seattle), and asked them about 4 lenses I was looking at. They unanimously recommended one in particular (I won’t tell you which one until I can get my hands on one, because they’re very rare and very backordered, so I don’t want to manufacture competition with myself), but unfortunately they were sold out. BUT, they DID have a Canon 10-22 in their rental shop, so that would solve my immediate need. (It costs 20 bucks to rent a lens for a weekend, not a bad deal!) So I rented the lens, and took it with me. And the rest was history.
Now that I’ve had to return that lens to the shop, I feel like a piece of my heart was wrenched out of my chest. And the only way to fill it is to buy one of my own. I’m digging online right now, we’ll see what I can find.
Anyway, on to the picture. This is Shi Shi Beach. It’s just inside the boundary of Olympic National Park, at the extreme northwestern corner of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. The closest town is Neah Bay, which is on the Makah reservation. The reservation itself encompasses Cape Flattery, which is the most northwesterly point in the continental US, and Shi Shi Beach is a few miles south from there. The trailhead is on reservation land, but enters the national park just before you get to the beach. the weather out there is crazy – it was sunny all day except for the hour or so I was on the beach. Then as I climbed back up to the ridge, the sun came out again. Ugh. Oh well, the pictures turned out fine.
So, go ahead and enjoy it. But it won’t be the last picture you’ll see from this hike, and it *certainly* won’t be the last picture you’ll see from a wide-angle lens.
Notes: Canon EOS Rebel T1i, Canon 10-22 mm lens. 1/200s, f/7.1, ISO 100. Focal length: 17mm.