Getting Wide, and Outsmarting Midday Light

Somehow, I managed to spend my first thirty or so years of photography without a wide-angle lens. I haven’t mastered the Tokina 11-16 f/2.8 yet, but the learning curve is a lot of fun.

In the prior post, I said this one would be about shooting with a wide angle lens and fill flash. As you may recall, I wrote that post in a bar, and this is a good time to invoke Hemingway’s dictum: “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” I’d rather be blogging about my latest dance shoot, but…

I’m still learning how to handle a wide-angle lens, and the learning curve has steepened with the Tokina 11-16 f/2.8.  For these shots during the Family Fest portion of the Ojai Storytelling Festival, I practiced shooting from a low angle when possible, but I also felt unafraid to exaggerate perspective and distortion by tilting the camera as needed. Because a wide-angle lens provides greater depth of field, I also felt comfortable setting the camera to auto-area focus and shooting without looking through the lens.

Taking advantage of the wide-angle lens’s depth-of-field and the camera’s auto-area focus mode, I can get the camera low without overworking my back and knees. Hooray for technology! A little bit of fill flash lightens the kids without making the image look artificially lit. Without fill flash, I could expose for the background or the kids, but I couldn’t have both.

It was a bright,beautiful day, and would have been far too contrasty without fill flash.  My own recipe for midday light includes setting the Nikon SB800 for Balanced Fill Flash, which attempts to balance the flash with the camera’s ambient light exposure. However, TOO much balance looks unnatural to me, so I also set the flash to underexpose by 2/3 stop.  This way, shadows are lightened, but not eliminated.

With the wide-angle lens, auto-area focus mode, programmed exposure mode, and balanced fill-flash -2/3 stop, I could point-and-shoot from pretty much any angle and get a sharp, well exposed image. The composition didn’t always work, but hey, you can’t have everything. Where would you put it?

There. Now I can start work on a blog about my latest dance shoot. D’oh! I mean, I have no idea what the next blog will be about. Whew.

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Filed under Camera Gear, Camera Settings

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