Getting Wide

I play around with my new fisheye lens.

With my helicopter in the shop for some routine maintenance — can you believe I flew 100 hours in the past three months? — Mike and I decided to spend the weekend at our vacation place at Howard Mesa. The shed needed to be winterized and Mike wanted to replace the PVC plumbing (which cracked twice last winter) with real copper pipes.

When I wasn’t holding pipes so Mike could solder them (or driving down to Williams to pick up the fitting he’d forgotten to buy), I played. I’d brought along my Nikon D80 and the two new wide angle lenses I bought for it, including the 10.5mm fisheye (equivalent to a 16mm lens on a 35mm camera). I’d gotten the fisheye lens last week and didn’t have time to try it out.

A fisheye lens offers a 180° view of whatever you point it at. This introduces all kinds of distortions into the image. It also poses special challenges to the photographer, not the least of which is to keep herself out of the photos.

I played with it a tiny bit at home, where I got confirmation of what the lens’s instruction booklet said: the built-in flash would cause vignetting.

Mike Fixes the FurnaceSo when I tried it in the shed last night, I turned the flash off. I held the camera steady for the 1/4 second shutter speed that captured this image, which shows my husband, Mike, taking a quick drink before trying to fix the furnace. In the lower part of the photo, you can see my knees (clad in my wild chili pepper pants) and the sofa I sat on. Jack the Dog was sitting between my legs, watching Mike. The shot shows 90% of the shed’s main room.

(Mike was not successful fixing the furnace last night. It got down to 55°F in the shed. In the morning, he took the darn thing apart and pulled a mouse nest out of its innards. It now works fine.)

In the morning, I went out to photograph the horses. We’d brought them with us, primarily because it’s easier to bring them along than to find someone to feed them while we’re away. It got down into the low 40s last night, but they have thick winter coats. (In fact, they feel quite cuddly and very huggable.) At about 9 AM, they were standing together in the sun, in a spot out of the mesa’s incessant wind. Jake, who is about 25, had led Cherokee to the spot. Cherokee probably didn’t know why they were standing there, but he always follows Jake’s lead. Occasionally, he’d nibble on some of the dried grass that grew in clumps all around him.

Jake and Cherokee getting wideI brought out two apple pieces, which was a bad idea. As soon as they realized I had food, they wouldn’t leave me alone. They kept nosing my camera bag and shirt and it was all I could do to keep the camera out of their reach. But finally they realized that I wasn’t an apple tree and left me alone. Then it got tough to photograph them. They wouldn’t stand still. I managed to capture this shot of Jake with Cherokee in the background.

This was a good experiment. First, the challenge was to keep my shadow out of the photo. I couldn’t shoot with the sun at my back, like I normally would. My long shadow would have made it into the photo. I had to shoot at about a 90° angle to the sun. You can see the horses’ long shadows. I think the shadow in the lower left corner might be part of mine.

Also, from this shot you’d think I was standing quite a distance from Jake. I wasn’t. He was about a foot away. And Cherokee couldn’t have been more than 2 feet from him. The lens really exaggerates distances.

And check out the horizon. It should be flat. But the closer a straight line is to the edge of the image, the more curved it is. So a relatively flat horizon becomes an exaggerated curve. Kind of cool, no?

The next thing I tried was a duplicate of one of the shots you might see among the images that appear in the Header of this site: a dead tree with my windsock in the background.

Tree experiment, fisheye lensThis first shot was taken from about 2 feet from one end of the log. There’s not much curvature at all. And yes, that’s the sun. With the fisheye lens, it’s hard to keep the sun out of photos.

Tree experiment, fisheye lensThis second shot was taken about a foot and a half from the middle of the log. It’s a bad exposure; I’m not quite sure what I did wrong here. Still not much curvature.

Tree experiment, fisheye lensThis third shot was taken 6 to 12 inches from the end of the log. I focused on the log, but because there was so much light, there’s a decent amount of depth of field. You can really see the curvature of the horizon, but can still clearly identify the horses and windsock.

Okay, so it’s not art. But it is interesting. And it’s helping me to learn how this lens “sees” my subjects.

This evening I’ll do some panoramas of the western sky right after sunset. It was outrageously beautiful last night when we arrived up here. I’m also hoping to do a long exposure of the night sky, which should be star-filled. (No clouds in sight again today.) Tomorrow, I might go down to the local “four corners” intersection and do some 360° panoramas of the view from there.

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6 thoughts on “Getting Wide

  1. I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time now, as both someone who loves flying (hope to get my license in a couple years) and a new Mac user, and what causes me to de-lurk?

    The chili pepper pants. From what I can see on that shot, I think I have the same ones. I wear them around the house all the time, and my friends and roommates roll their eyes at me.

  2. I did wear them to the gym once, which is adjacent to my community’s leasing office. My roommate at the time worked there, so everyone in the office gave me quite the hard time.

    I’ve put a good amount of effort into building my wardrobe over the last couple years, so whenever I pull out the chili pepper pants it’s a real shocker to those who know me. I need to play up that shock value some more :-)

  3. Thinking of buying land on Howard Mesa and moving there..from SoCal. Would be totally new to the

    rural life. Goal is to walk out of my house and see NO one. Would have to work remotely (internet/phone) . Is the connection good enough to be online all day?

    Aside from that-friendly folk? Enough to ask for help if we need it? Snakes (stupid, I know, but arrrrrrrg)?What happens in a medical emergency?


    Will be visiting in May and trying to decide.

What do you think?