Back in my youth, a few weeks ago, I read in one of the popular photo magazines that the first accessory lens bought by new photographers is a telephoto. That placed me in the select group of people whose first lens purchase was a wide-angle. I purchased a telephoto a few weeks later when I was assigned to cover a series of motorcycle races at a track in North Dakota.
I think the designation given to short focal length lenses should be more descriptive of their greater purpose. Wide-angle more accurately describes their angle of view. It doesn’t even consider the perspective altering capabilities or how depth-of-field characteristics can be used to interpret a scene.
This photo of a group of women finishing their trip through the fields at a u-pick strawberry farm illustrates how objects in the foreground of wide-angle lenses can help define what the photo is trying to say.
Placing the strawberries large in the foreground quickly tells the viewer much about this event. It also, if you’ve ever had a fresh strawberry, might elicit some sort of Pavlovian drooling response.
Foreground objects are like the opening paragraph of a great novel. Imagine a run-on sentence or a set of fragmented, unrelated words, opening a novel. Who would continue to read?
Just as a great author has the ability to move and arrange words into sentences, sentences into paragaphs, paragraphs into chapters and chapters into a great book, you have the ability to arrange objects in the frame of your photos.
The placement of objects in your frame can emphasize their importance. A wide-angle lens draws interest to what is mot important in telling your story.
Using a wide-angle for nothing more than increasing the angle of view is a poor use of an important tool in your bag.