Lens Articles

Fotofying with a 24mm lens

I want to try to present different kind of lenses to you, and how they work in different kinds of photography. It will mostly be focused on the focal lengths of the lenses, but with a little luck I might be able to also present different kinds of lenses for specific purposes or effects.

The first part will be a presentation of the 24mm focal length. Since I’m mostly doing street photography, the examples will of course mostly be in this context.

First, a little about the 24mm lens. The particular one I’m using is the Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8. What that means, broken down, is that it’s a Canon lens, build for crop censor cameras, having an aperture which can be open down to f/2.8. I will be explaining these terms more in future posts, but in short, a crop censor has a smaller censor, which in turn covers a smaller area than what is called full frame censor. The aperture is the hole in the lens, which decides how much light can come in at once. The smaller the number, the larger the hole (yeah, not very intuitive). At the same time, the larger the whole, the shallower the depth of field, which decides how big an area is in focus (though this is decided in combination with the distance of the subject). Also, the larger the hole, the more blurry the background will be.

So with all the technical out of the way, what does a wide angle lens do for you? In short, it spreads the vision wide, allowing for a lot of different things to be in the frame. This is the type of lens, which is particular good for landscape and architecture, when the subject (whether a beautiful landscape scene, or a large building) is large, or you want to have a very wide scene included. It is less good for portraits – depending on the type of portraits.

While the following photo isn’t really a portrait photo, it shows what the wide angle can do for your photo. As you can see, a lot of details have been added in the background, I managed to add a large part of the Azrieli center in the background, even though I was relatively close to the woman with the bike. This gives a good idea of what kind of portraits you can do with the wide angle lens, a person standing small against an epic background, for example mountains or something the like. Or think of a speaker in front of a large crowd, where you want to capture the moment of him/her talking to the crowd, having a lot of listeners, rather than only the speaker talking. Or the same effect for a performer. The wide angle can be used creatively for a lot of things.

24mm and architecture.

So I have been referring to the technical details, and the perspective of the 24mm lens, when it comes to the subject vs. background. The next three parts will be referring to the lens in context of specific fields of photography, namely architecture, landscape, and street photography.

With architecture the wide angle lens is great. You need to have a lot of details added to the photo, whether shooting a whole building, or shooting the interior of the building. This doesn’t mean that telephoto lenses are not great for this, but they would be better used to catch the details (and I will be dealing with that subject in later posts).

Today’s photo is the round tower of the Azrieli center in Tel Aviv, taken from beneath a bridge, as seen from the bottom of the stairs up to the bridge. One of the great things about shooting architecture with a wide angle, is that you approach the subject as the designer intended it to be seen, when you pass the subject. That is, you see the building appearing through this “portal”, when you walk up the stairs, being revealed more and more, the further you get up the stairs. First the round tower, but the more you near the top of the stairs, the more you see the other two towers as well.

The wide angle allows you to play around with the angles and perspectives of the subject you are shooting, as seen from different places. Here I chose to take the shot from beneath the bridge, but there are also great angles from the bridge itself. Or you could choose to take the shot from a distance, and imagine how the designer wanted the subject to be seen in context of its surroundings. Using the wide angle for this kind of photography, is really to see the subject in context of other subjects.

The Round Tower of Azrieli seen from the bottom of the stairs up to the Azrieli bridge

24mm and landscape.

The 24mm is among the medium focal length lenses, when it comes to wide angle lenses. You can find anything from 10mm to 35mm, and even wider angle lenses than 10mm, though then we’ll be dealing with fish eye lenses, which are for more creative use.

Of course, putting it on a crop sensor camera will make the focal length longer, so if you have a crop sensor camera, and you want to take a really wide landscape shot, then you might want to find an even shorter focal length. Canon has an amazing zoom lens, the 10-18number, which will give you a very wide shot even on a crop sensor camera.

However, as you can see on the photo, the 24mm does manage to make somewhat wide landscape shots, even on a crop sensor camera.

And about the photo. I wanted to experiment a little with long exposure, giving the clouds movement. However, since I haven’t had time to sit and work on the actual raw file, I transferred the photo to my phone as a jpeg, which gives a bad quality image. Playing around with it, I arrived to this “old school” result, giving it a somewhat timeless feel. It’s not the best shot, but I like it nevertheless.

24mm and street photography.

So we’ve seen what the 24mm lens can do with architecture and landscape. That’s fine and good, but what if you’re interested in street photography?
The 24mm lens can be used for street, but be prepared for close encounters. This is not a lens, which allows you the save distance, where you can try to avoid notice. This is up in front of your subject, and you will be noticed more often than not.

This can for example be seen in the below example. The lady in the box only noticed me when I took the shot, but she did notice me. She didn’t make a lot of fuzz out of it, but some people might. However, if there is a context you want to include, as in this example, where I wanted to show the scene she appeared in, then the 24mm is a great lens.

So what do you think? Is the 24mm lens something for you? What do you normally shoot, and which lenses do you normally use?

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