This Article Features Photo Zoom
The wide-angle zoom is an incredibly useful and multifaceted tool for a nature shooter. It’s as well-suited for sprawling landscapes as it is for close-ups, where you want to provide context for the subject by capturing more of the surrounding environment. And the added zoom capability is great compared to a fixed-focal-length lens, because you have more framing options without having to physically move to change a composition.
Focal lengths shorter than 24mm or 28mm are generally considered ultra or super-wide angle, unless the lens is designed for smaller-format sensors. A focal length of 18mm, though considered ultra-wide for 35mm film or full-frame digital sensors, won’t be ultra-wide with an APS-C-sized sensor, which is roughly two-thirds the size, or a Four Thirds System sensor, which is even smaller.
Once you apply the magnification factor of 1.5x, 1.6x or 2x for Four Thirds System cameras, that 18mm will actually give you a perspective of 27mm, 28.8mm or 36mm respectively, which brings you back to the realm of the standard wide-angle. That’s fine, except when you really do want an ultra-wide perspective. Then you’ll have to get a lens starting in the 7-14mm range, which effectively gives you frame coverage starting at 10.5-21mm.
We talked to several professional nature photographers to find out what their “must-have” wide-angle zooms are and why. These pros make their living from these tools.
“When I’m in a tiny space,” says Middleton, “in a calf pen or hay wagon, for example, I get as close as I can to my subject. And by the way, close means really close—just a couple of feet away. Ten feet is sort of close and not close enough. Getting really close emphasizes what I want my viewers to see, but also provides context for the story I am trying to tell. You will have to close down a bit to get all the depth of field you need, but you will be very happy with the results. Just remember… take a step closer, and then take another step. You can thank me later.”
Planck says he finds that it’s also versatile enough to use with both Nikon’s DX and FX digital formats. In the field, he routinely switches between the two formats according to his compositional needs.
Olympus Zuiko 12-60mm
As an Olympus Visionary and accomplished nature photographer, Jay Dickman travels the world and never goes anywhere without a wide-angle zoom. “At heart, I’m a wide-angle guy and have been for years,” says Dickman. “I love the process of working close and arranging the composition from that perspective.”
Dickman says he’d almost have to split his allegiance between the Zuiko 7-14mm ƒ/4 and the Zuiko 12-60mm ƒ/2.8-4.0. “The 7-14 is amazing,” he says. “It’s rectilinear and extremely sharp, as is the 12-60, and having that ultra-wide perspective allows me to work in close to my subject. If I had to carry only one lens, it would be the 12-60. Its range of 24mm to 120mm (in 35mm parlance) is great, and the 12mm setting on that lens provides just enough of a really wide look.”
Without a wide lens like the Zuiko 12-60mm, Dickman says he would not have gotten his photo of penguin feet on the rock—a close-up environmental portrait on the Antarctic Peninsula, with a background that gives the viewer a nice “supporting cast” of information.
Kemper says the best part of a zoom is that it allows you to bracket your compositions without having to move your camera position too much. With just a slight shift of the zoom, you can have a totally different feel to your picture. “I personally don’t like to carry too much gear,” adds Kemper, “and Canon’s EF 16-35mm ƒ/2.8, along with a nice midrange zoom, is all I need to carry in most locations.”
Gale also likes the fact that Tamron’s lenses tend to be physically smaller and easier to carry around. He used to think if a lens was small—and there’s a lot of stuff moving around in there—it wouldn’t be as good as a bigger lens. “But recently,” says Gale, “whatever Tamron is doing with its designs is allowing it to make lenses with focal lengths equivalent to those from other companies, and yet Tamron lenses are smaller. And I haven’t seen that the sharpness or optical quality has been compromised in any way.”
|Tokina AT-X 12-24mm ƒ/4 PRO DX
This is Tokina’s first lens designed for use exclusively on Canon and Nikon digital SLR cameras having an APS-C-sized sensor. With an equivalent focal range of 18-36mm (35mm or full-frame format), it provides a wide perspective with moderate zoom capability for variable framing options. Super-low-dispersion glass elements ensure optimum color reproduction and sharpness, while two aspherical elements correct for aspherical aberration, a problem associated with ultra-wide-angle lenses in the past.
|Sony DT 11-18mm ƒ/4.5-5.6
For Sony or Minolta shooters, the DT 11-18mm is an excellent lens for wide-angle work. Its DT design makes it ideally suited for all their APS-sized sensors, giving you a super-wide 16.5mm angle of view up to your standard 27mm wide-angle view. Aspherical elements correct frame distortion at the short end, while ED glass elements minimize flare and greatly reduce chromatic aberration for sharper images with more accurate color separation.
>> To see more work from Lewis Kemper, visit www.johnisaac.com
>> To see more work from David Middleton, visit www.davidmiddletonphoto.com
>> To see more work from Rod Planck, visit www.rodplanck.com
>> To see more work from Jay Dickman, visit www.jaydickman.net
>> To see more work from Gary Mercer, visit www.garymercer.us
>> To see more work from Kerrick James, visit www.kerrickjames.com
>> To see more work from Don Gale, visit www.photographybydon.com