Creative Field Techniques - Using a Wide Angle Lens

If you've seen any of my photographs, you have seen a lone mangrove shot. What I look for in those shots is an interesting sky to frame the tree. It should make sense that I would want to capture a wide expanse of sky and then place the tree somewhere in the foreground. In order to do that, I use a wide angle lens. Wide angle lenses have very short focal lengths and wide angle of views relative to our normal view. This is appealing for photographs that include the sky or ocean; however, the other characteristic often overlooked is that all objects appear farther away than they really are. I think of it like a rubber band, everything in the photograph is stretched outward away from the eye. So if everything appears smaller, how can I make a small mangrove tree look prominent within the frame when using a wide angle lens? 

The photo above was shot at a very wide angle using a focal length of only 13 mm. How close do you think I was to that tree? You can see below where my camera was positioned.

The camera was only about 5 feet away from the tree! Wow, amazing how stretched out everything looks, including those clouds. This gives the scene more drama and adds depth, especially with those foreground reflections. Below is another one where I had the camera about 3 feet away from the mangrove.

In this photo below the closest rock in the foreground was inches from my tripod and the one that looks farthest away was only 10 feet away.

So here are a couple tips to help you make the most of a wide angle lens.

1. Add foreground interest, be it a reflection in the water, rocks, a tree, flowers; and then get close to the object(s). These will add interest and balance to your image, but also generate depth and lead the viewer's eye into the scene.

2. If you are shooting with the sun behind you, be mindful of the shadows cast by you and your tripod because they will get into the shot. In such cases, you'll have to shoot with the sun at an angle to keep your shadow out of the frame.

3. If possible, apply lens correction in your post-processing. Wide angle lenses naturally have distortion and editing software (such as Lightroom or Photoshop) will help correct that. 

Thanks for looking on and if you want to learn more about Photoshop layers and masks in Photoshop, need help with your editing workflow or simply want to get started in Photoshop, I offer tutorials at $75/hour. Please check out my website and feel free to contact me at