The Dog Days of Summer are Upon Us. Nothing left to do but go out and shoot a few photos with that Tokina 16-28mm lens I bought earlier.

My little "office corner" of the studio.

I like to do self portraits from time to time. I find them years later and it reminds me of how things were at a specific point in time. This photo (above) is from a few hours ago. I put it here to talk about something I bought for the Nikon D800's a little while back. 

After I bought two D800 variants (used) from my friends at Precision Camera I asked the repair/rental expert at the store if there were any "known" issues with those cameras beyond the early problems with left/right focus differences. He told me never to bang the camera hard on the bottom. Apparently earlier cameras like the D700 had a solid metal bottom under the cosmetic skin. It protected the little circuit boards and stuff from damage from blows to the bottom of the camera. The new cameras have a split plate that, once struck hard enough, kills the cameras badly enough to make them too costly to fix. The remedy for a camera disabled in this fashion is....total replacement. 

I asked if there was any workaround or fix and he suggested fitting a battery grip to each. I certainly didn't want to splash out for the Nikon grip because the price is outrageous so I did what every cheapskate photographer does and went looking for a cheap, generic substitute on Amazon. 

I found the Powerextra MB-D12 on the giant shopping site for a whopping $34. It's worked great. I have mine loaded with an extra battery and so far have had zero issues. Even the AF button on the battery grip works well. But included in my extravagant expense of $34 was also a wireless remote shutter triggering device. One button. Push it and the camera (with battery grip attached) fires. I tossed the remote in a drawer and didn't think about it until I needed to do a product shot and wanted to remotely trigger the camera. I pulled the remote from the drawer and it worked perfectly. 

Once vetted on a client's job I then moved forward and used the remote for my most important work --- my self portrait at my desk. It works for that too. So, in addition to camera protection I also got extra features for my big expenditure. I've kept the remote in the camera bag for those special occasions when the human touch on the shutter button isn't optimal. Like when I'm halfway across the room...

The Austin Public Library.

I had to retouch out the power lines that ran through this view...

I bought a used Tokina 16-28mm f2.8 lens a couple of months ago with the intention of doing more interior architectural work and then I realized that I have a tiny attention span when it comes to non-portrait photography and the lens has languished since its indifferent debut. 

The potential project for which I bought the lens has been rescheduled a couple of times and, based on need, the lens might have lain unproductive for months if I had not had to move it to get to a battery charger yesterday. I felt kind of sheepish having run out and bought the lens when the need was nowhere as pressing as I first imagined and, feeling a bit guilty for not trying harder to like very wide angle lenses, I vowed to try using it and to try getting used to seeing way too much in each frame. 

So, after yesterday's logistical missteps (driving 80 miles for a real estate closing which got delayed) I thought I deserved a little time away from the keyboard and the office and I grabbed the Nikon D800e, and the Tokina 16-28mm f2.8 lens, and headed downtown to take a few images of the new(ish) public library, along with a few photos of my favorite, white industrial constructions.

I've been taking advantage of the "system" when it comes to car parking for the last few days. Austin is the kind of city that isn't keen to send non-essential workers out if there are "dangerous conditions" afoot. A National Weather Service "excessive heat" warning generally means that the parking meter attendants remain indoors doing paperwork instead of writing tickets for expired meters. Works for me. I've been parking with impunity for the last two days. No tickets! But now that I've written it out loud I can only imagine that the gods who detect hubris and mete out punishment can't be far away. 

I've been trying to get a good shot of the new library for a couple of months now but my attempts reaffirm that I am aesthetically hamfisted when it comes to the nuances of good architectural photography; either that or I am too impatient to wait for the perfect light. 

Once I realized my limitations all that was really left was to try to like it. While I'm sure a more expensive optic might offer something more the Tokina 16/28 is very sharp and capable of rendering a lot of detail; especially when wedded to a 36 megapixel, full frame camera. I find the lens seems to be at its best at f7.1 and that's where I'd use it for paying work on a tripod, but I would not be afraid to go all the way to f11.5, given the right camera, with the right sized pixels. While it opens up to f2.8 I think some of these fast apertures on very wide zooms are really just a throwback or nod to the time of film when every photon needed to stand up and be counted, and when lenses needed to be fast in order to be easier to focus. 

There is actually a lens profile in Lightroom for this lens and it does a great job correcting for vignetting and most of the geometric distortion in the frame. Once you toss in the correction for chromatic aberrations you have a photo that's pretty convincing at all the focal lengths the lens offers. 

I got a great deal on mine because it was used, so for around $400 I think it's the bargain of the century. But then I'm not a power-user/architectural photographer. On the wide side this lens matches the angle of view I have with my Panasonic/Leica 8-18mm zoom.  16mm seems pretty extreme to me but I do remember getting some interesting and highly usable stuff with even wider lenses, like the Rokinon 14mm f2.8 lens. You really need to have the right subject matter to get the most out of lenses with extreme angles of view. But when you find yourself in situations like that these lenses can be a lot of fun. They create images so different from my usual perspective that the photographs do stop me cold sometimes. 

I guess it's like anything else, if I use a very wide zoom lens enough I'll start to figure out the strengths of these focal lengths and maybe even start to master a different look. I can tell you this: I could hardly wait to get home and drop a 50mm onto the front of the camera....

I'd be interested to hear how many of you like shooting with extreme wide angle lenses? How do you figure out how to compose? Why do you like them? And, of course, of all the stuff available out there what ends up being your favorite focal length. (For me, it's the 90mm). 

Thanks for reading.

The problem with shooting this building is that most of the angles that make the building look good have other buildings intruding into the frame. I guess the architectural pros just retouch the extraneous buildings out.....

I can't get enough of this wacky bridge. 
I like the soaring curve shots but I really, really like the details.

Not sure 16mm is great for street photography....

This is just "bad-vertising." Weathered signs that used to tout this project as a luxury living situations fallen into disrepair and sending exactly the opposite message. If I were the developer I'd be chasing out this kind of signage until I've sold the very last unit. It's just a lazy approach to chasing real estate dollars. Ooops. I hope this isn't one of my friend's properties.....


Anonymous said...

I've come to like powerlines.

I was doing a landscape project (not my usual stuff) and looking at how Hokusai used elements in the frames to link 100 views of Mt fuji.

I opted for a triptych and used the powerlines to provide that flow.

That said, doing a triptych using film and making my own prints proved tougher than I'd expected...

Came out well in the end though.

With that library I think I'd try for a diptych or triptych as it's would allow you to chunk up the structure into slices in the same way the eye falls on it in real life.


Gareth said...

Hi Kirk. The closest FL I have to this is the Samyang 12mm f/2 on my Fuji. I love it but I find it very challenging/ requiring a lot of time and patience to get compositions that work. It works well in epic landscapes but more interestingly in urban where you have to be very brave and get very close to include people.I don't consider it to be an everyday street lens. I've enjoyed experimenting with a more panoramic aspect ratios in urban settings and seeing what abstraction I can create.

scott kirkpatrick said...

" I can't get enough of this wacky bridge.
I like the soaring curve shots but I really, really like the details."

The trick is to get the neat details and the soaring curve into the same picture. I don't see how you can do this on the street with people as the details unless you are willing to go the full Gilden.

Edward Richards said...

F2.8 will give you a little separation even at 17mm, if you are close:


Crowded, small dance floor, Nikon 17-35 at 17, f2.8, D700.

Eric Rose said...

Nice to see where all the blog magic happens. I have a Tokina 16mm prime and on the D700 is was fantastic.

Larry Angier said...

Wide angles, Kirk? I love 'em and I can't get enough!

I guess I fell in love with the "ultrawide" when one of my teachers on a field trip had an 18mm Spiratone on a field trip. About the same time I saw an Ektachrome transparency taken with a Veriwide 100 in the mid-1970s. That would form the basis of my vision and I was hooked!

I saved from my photo job with the newspaper and paper route and got a Spiratone 18mm a few months alter, I learned about the near-far relationship in compositing from explanations and photos in the Time-Life photo series and sort-of figured it out crafting wide, near-far images within a few months shooting with it.

When I graduated from high school, the studio shooting my senior portrait was clearing out some of their old equipment and on the list was the Veriwide 100... I put in my dibs and it was mine! I shot with it and a second I acquired for nearly 30 years... I wish there was a digital back for that beautiful 47mm Super Angulon so I could use them today...

Today my workhorse lenses include a 14-24mm, 17-35mm, 24mm pc, 8mm and 15mm fisheye lenses for my D800 pair. In fact, I just used the 17-35mm for a large group photo this morning. For my Olympus 5D-II bodies, I use the 7-14mm Panasonic and occationally the 4.5mm Sigma fisheye for one of my clients, an iconographer who "writes" Serbo-Byzantine icons in churches in the US, Greece, Switzerland and Serbia.

I used to travel overseas with the Nikon with fishye and wide angle zooms but the weight, size and noise along with creeping age keeps them at home and I go with the Oly bodies and that 7-14 is always along.

Why not longer lenses? Part of it was that many of the places I would photograph were quite small, especially shooting weddings in small churches where I live and where wide angle gave me the width I needed for groups (keeping wider people toward the center the best I could :-). Same thing when I would shoot architecture and interiors. Most of where I live is quite tight.

For the vast, western landscapes I shot for years in b&w and later with color (and that I occacionally still do), I really needed the wide-angle for the skies and near-fars. It kept up with me as I moved up from 35mm for my commercial work with that Swedish camera and it's lovely T* Distagons and even with the 4x5 it, too, with its Super Angulons. If it was wide, I had to have it!

One memorable photo was a group photo of 60 Lions Club members deep, down in a then active gold mine that I photographed ten years ago. The club's photographer was heading to Hawaii. Two local commercial photographers got spooked over the concept. When I was called, I even had a copy of the photo from 80 years prior.

The Lions wanted to recreate the photo from years before the best they could. The original was taken more than a mile below surface in the 1930s when their club was new and half the current size. Once I had the room lit and stuffed all the members into it bout 1,500 feet down even a 12mm on the D300 wasn't wide enough and I was glad I had even wider, my little 10.5mm Nikon fisheye to squeeze them all in.

The photo was a success and within a few minutes, the photo was complete and even had room to spare in the margins for the some inscriptions just like the original photo taken decades before!

Now, to keep my back and knees happy when I travel and I walk around all day, it's with the M43 & 7-14mm (and 14-150, usually), move in closely, shoot silently and construct my image showing the context of the situations I've now evolved in taking.

Though a lot of my work is still created with with the wide angle and fisheye lenses, I'm not afraid to use more pedestrian 12-40/24-120 as the mid-range and the 2.8 telezooms for both systems, provided there's room for me to back-up when needed!

So after more than 40 years, my love affair with wide angles continues without abatement, lovingly getting me out of tight squeezes within the close quarters others fear to tread.