Excessive use of wide angles?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Eugen Mezei, Aug 7, 2013.

  1. Eugen Mezei

    Eugen Mezei Member

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    I realise this don't really fit here but I found no subforum about photographing tehniques.

    Are you disturbed by the excessive use of wide angle lenses? (I suppose mostly zooms.)
    I am, reason is the distorsion they give.

    Look at this picture for example:
    http://adevarul.ro/assets/adevarul.ro/MRImage/2013/08/07/52022f7fc7b855ff56b382d4/978x0.jpg

    Was it necessary to be shot witha wide angle? A few steps back would have done the same without ditorting the margins.

    When did it become common place in reportage photography to use wide angle lenses just because we could?
    I don't see this type of images in the reportages of the 70s and 80s.
    Just because these days every reporter has a zoom going from extreme wide angle into the telephoto does this make it necessary every second picture shows egg shaped and plated heads? I can accept these picutres as a compromise when the shot could not be taken otherwise. But often this is not the case. Very often.
     
  2. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    I guess one would have to be there to know for sure. It would be safe to assume that the crowd of people completely surrounded the vehicle and backing up to photograph would not be an option.

    Focal length is a 'tool', and as with any tool, it should be used properly. I maintain 20 enlargers for the university and have a big rubber mallet. I have used it a couple times in the past 20+ years...but never to adjust the alignment.
    :smile:
     
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  3. Tom1956

    Tom1956 Inactive

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    I believe it could be agreed that the inbreeding of the media orthodoxy is quite obvious in copycat techniques in both writing and photography. They seem enthralled with wide angle lenses, and have been for quite some time.
     
  4. Shawn Dougherty

    Shawn Dougherty Member

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    I have been bothered by this as well. As you say, a compromise when an image cannot be made another way...? Absolutely, especially in journalism.

    That being said, I find the distortion produced by an extreme wide-angle to be incredibly distracting and that it has the effect of pulling me OUT of the scene. Of course there are cases where I think it has been well used, but not often. In my own work I try to avoid the extremes of focal length, both long and wide, so as not to make the optical qualities of my lenses the focal point of my photographs.

    To each their own...
     
  5. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Think of it from the perspective of a news photographer - you're in a situation that is extremely dynamic and fluid, and events are unfolding in front of you at lightning pace. Your first and foremost concern is to get the image, and get it into the hands of your editor as fast as possible. Taking time to change lenses or move to a different vantage point to aesthetically improve an image in a way that 99.99% of your viewers will not be concerned about will cost you the shot. It also means hauling around that much more gear that slows you down, weighs you down, and makes you more of a target for thieves and/or enemy combatants who nowadays like to shoot journalists and EMTs as much as they do their enemies. A zoom lens it is, then. The journalist is not taking photos to appease your sense of aesthetics, they're taking it to convey information and to make money for themselves and their editors. When you can plan ahead for something, sure, by all means, use a normal prime lens, but when your back may be up against a wall (sometimes literally), you want an adaptable tool.
     
  6. Shawn Dougherty

    Shawn Dougherty Member

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    Absolutely, Scott. And the OP said as much... "I can accept these picutres as a compromise when the shot could not be taken otherwise. But often this is not the case. Very often."

    And of course they are not out to appease the OP's (or my) sense of aesthetics. But most serious photojournalists certainly photograph with aesthetics in mind, at least the good ones.

    A quick look at the history of photojournalism shows that great images can be made without ultrawide lenses, and is still being done so today.
     
  7. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    The same scene taken with a normal lens would not have the same impact. Often the distortion of a wide angle is desired.
     
  8. Shawn Dougherty

    Shawn Dougherty Member

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    I do think these are excellent points...

    On another note, I first started seeing this pervasive use of ultra wides in early 1990s skateboard photography...
     
  9. Slixtiesix

    Slixtiesix Subscriber

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    Wide angles definitely have become more popular during the last decade and it is true that their use has become somewhat excessive.
    The fact that extreme wide angle lenses, that were exotic and expensive tools 20 years ago, have become cheap mass produced items now also may have helped this. Personally, I find this trend somewhat tiring. Especially in people photography, I find it rather accounts of a lack of technical knowledge, not to say good taste. Nothing against a good WA architecture or landscape, but today the shortness of focal length used sometimes seems immoderate to me.
     
  10. tron_

    tron_ Member

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    I think the example in the OP is kind of poor. The wide angle does work (imho) but I definitely agree that wide angles have become VERY popular to shoot with. Not sure why but I'm seeing it a ton in automotive photography. The distortion is "cool" when it makes the wheels look angled in.
     
  11. tron_

    tron_ Member

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    Example of what I'm talking about:

    [​IMG]
     
  12. Eugen Mezei

    Eugen Mezei Member

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    OK, so take the photograph and crop the margins. If you don't care the persons in the corners look like cut out of cardbord they can't add too much to your composition, not more than a white border.
     
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  13. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    I agree that wide angle lenses are useful when either the visual impact it lends is desired, or when a situation forces its use.

    Trends come and go.
     
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  15. Eugen Mezei

    Eugen Mezei Member

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    @tron: It was one image I saw today and it shows what I consider disturbing about extreme wide angles. It may be a poor example for the reason Vaughn mentioned, we were not there. (Although I'm shure it was not the only photograph the reporter took. It cost nothing to play with the zoom, if you can't move some steps further or nearer. And also scissors still exist, even in PS.) But I think my example illustrates very well that the persons gett egg heads and look like cut out of cardboard.
    Regarding the example of the car I have exactly the same problem. It just don't show the object as my eyes see it. Ofcourse this is not a point, effects can be welcome, but than I want to see the reason they are used. You say it is cool, can agree with you (at least when I see it once or twice, it becomes boring after the 20th photograph), problem is it is used even i product photogrpahy. I don't want to buy a car cut out of cardboard and with egg shaped wheels.
     
  16. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    I can see that zooms have their place and that wide angle shots may be in vogue. I can also appreciate that if you are a photojournalist and your bread and butter depends on it, you may want to use a wide angle lens all the time. Also certain focal lengths lend themselves to the technique in hand such as portraiture, macro etc. That said, I prefer a 50mm on a 35mm camera for most general shots. Changing focal lengths is often an added complication which does not lend itself to simplicity of means and practice.
     
  17. tron_

    tron_ Member

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    You may have misunderstood my post, I said it was "cool" as in many people think it looks cool. Unfortunately I'm not one of those people that thinks it looks good and I agree it looks kind of weird haha. I definitely agree that wide angles have gotten more popular.

    Imo it's just a trend and I think it's going to fade away like the numerous photographic trends that have come before this one.
     
  18. pdeeh

    pdeeh Member

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    A whole thread serving only to complain about the "excessive" use of a class of focal length by other photographers?

    Doesn't it just take up valuable time that could be spent taking some photographs with a lens of focal length that you do like ... ?
     
  19. lxdude

    lxdude Member

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    Well, this is a photography website, and this is its "Ethics and Philosophy" forum. As was said earlier, to each their own...
     
  20. tron_

    tron_ Member

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    Some of us are posting from work :whistling:
     
  21. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    I think some of the use of ultra-wides for skateboard photography came from a need/desire to position the camera in such a way as to capture the skateboarder in motion, from a particular angle. It obviated the need to compose/focus while the skateboarder was riding right at the camera at speed, and it conveyed a sense of dramatic motion. Throw a 14mm fisheye on a camera and you can put it down on the edge of a skate ramp and trigger it remotely as the skaters pass it and do tricks over it and they'll still be in the frame. Not so easy to do with a 35mm. I think it evolved from a somewhat practical response to a need into a "style", kinda like wearing your jeans halfway down off your ass to show off your boxer shorts (convicts in maximum security facilities were issued one-size-fits-all pants and no belts, therefore the pants would droop. Their children on the outside, and their kids' friends, would take it up and emulate it for the very worst of possible reasons).
     
  22. lxdude

    lxdude Member

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    :D
     
  23. Shawn Dougherty

    Shawn Dougherty Member

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    Exactly, Scott. At first it was mostly action shots and then the skaters' portraits and eventually just about everything skateboard related was shot with an ulta wide. I knew kids back then with F4s or F5s and only one or two lenses, both being wide of course. So it was also out of necessity, those lenses were pricey back then!
     
  24. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Wide angle lenses don't distort. They just require the viewer to view the photo from up close in order to normalize the perspective.

    And a desire to draw the viewer closer is often the point.
     
  25. AgX

    AgX Member

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    Which is often not possible due to image size...
     
  26. michael_r

    michael_r Subscriber

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    In theory the don't distort perspective, but there are also often pronounced geometric distortions (barrel, for example) which shouldn't technically be there in a fully corrected lens.