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!
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.
Which is often not possible due to image size...
I'm afraid it is not a trend, it is pure not caring from the side of the photographers and getting used on the side of the viewers.
Not the same problem, but it illustrates how we got used by unnatural distorsion.
Both photographs are the product of this weeks news.
The ultra-wide aesthetic has its place, just as the meniscus lens aesthetic has its place. While it certainly has become more common as the price of wide-angle zooms has dropped just as the bottom end of the focal length, what bothers me more than the increased use in photojournalism is the prevalent use of inexpensive lenses with uncorrected distortion. There are also ways to shoot with such lenses that do not make the focal length the subject. Anyone can rationalize the use of a zoom in place of fixed focal length lens (don't even get me started on the late trend of incorrectly using the term "prime" lens as a synonym for fixed focal length, an entirely different thread) but I don't think a person making their living shooting can rationalize the purchase of an inferior lens. While a photojournalist wouldn't use a 38mm Biogon (I think that's the lens that is permanently attached to the SWC/M), there are plenty of high quality ultra-wides in every brand that can be carried without much additional weight. If the distortion is the issue, I'm in total agreement. If the focal length is the issue, I'm neutral.
Years ago when photographing celebrities and happenings I often had to jostle for space among other people with cameras. That was until I got a Spiratone Ultrawide 18mm lens. Now I could push my way forward, stand in front of the competition, block their view, and still get everything in! Failing that I could hold the camera at arm's length, point it the general direction of the action, and be pretty well assured of getting the shot.