Wide angle lenses are traditionally used for subjects that require wide coverage, like grand landscapes or buildings, and for subjects from which you cannot back up enough to capture its entirety in a single frame, like tight interiors. They are a little tricky to use, however, precisely because they capture so much of the scene.
Like a run on sentence that won’t end, never encountering a breather like a comma, semi colon, let alone a period, photographing with a wide angle lens can produce cluttered images because they try to say too much in a single breath. And like in writing, the trick is to say something briefly, clearly, and write down a period.
While many photographers, like yours truly, espouse the philosophy that less is more and keeping it simple a priority, wide angle lenses conspire against that goal. So can you use a wide angle lens and keep it simple at the same time? You bet.
During a recent trip to Washington, D.C., I wanted to take a picture of the newly restored Washington Memorial, the pointy white obelisk near one end of the National Mall. Near the memorial on one side is the World War II Memorial, while on the opposite side, though far away, is the Capitol Building. The memorial’s base is circled by American Flags, and fluttering below them are hordes of tourists. Luckily I had my wide angle lens so I could capture the whole enchilada in one shot, but the resulting visual stew would have produced a mediocre picture at best.
Because the memorial and surrounding flags were lit against the cobalt blue sky of twilight, I decided to declutter the scene by getting very close and shooting up against the sky. I only wanted to show the striking memorial against a dark blue sky, sitting on a bed of red, white and blue. And I still used my wide angle lens!!!
For the techno-gluttons of you out there, I shot the image at 17mm, for 4 seconds at f/8 and ISO 200. My camera was on a tripod of course.
Now get out and shoot something.