Saturday, 20 June 2009

My spirit guide.


Had a few people asking me about the Sigma 10-20 recently.  I’ve always loved this lens since I bought it a couple of years ago and I use it for most room shots I do.  However, I think there’s a bit of a learning curve with any extreme wide angle (WA) lens.  All the reviews I read about WA lenses rated their distortions and the Sigma seemed to come out on top most of the time and that’s one of the reasons I went for it.

However, when I first got it I couldn’t believe the amount of distortion I was seeing.  Now this is clearly user error as I was totally new to WAs and I actually had some fun with the WA ‘look’, but when I used it for house shoots I was spending quite a while ‘fixing’ things like converging verticals.  Then I read up on it a bit more and realised I needed to make sure the camera was as level as possible to minimise distortions.  Hence the above pic. 

Anyone who is buying a WA lens MUST have some form of spirit level.  This little thing is THE BEST piece of kit I have.  It cost me less than a tenner and yet it’s saved me bloody hundreds of hours at the comp.  Sure it’s not perfect but the files that still show a bit of distortion only need minor corrections now.  I look back at the ‘corrected’ images when I first started out and I cringe because they’re still a bit crooked one way or another! I’m sure most people know this already but there could be a few people out there as clueless as me so I thought I’d stick this up.

Sometimes though I do need to resort to heavy distortion fixing in photoshop even though I’ve used my spirit guide!  The picture below was taken recently for one of my clients who wanted some street pictures of one of their developments.  I managed to capture some from a different angle but I really wanted one showing this row but I had to point the 10-20 upwards to get the whole place in and when using such a WA this leaning back effect is what you get…


So once in photoshop I used the ‘Lens correction’ option which is in ‘Filter | Distort’ to move the image horizontally and vertically until I got close to the picture below…


It’s not as perfect as a Tilt-Shift lens would get it but then a decent TS is around £1k.  It’s on my shopping list at #2, although I might have to relegate the 85 f1.4 in favour of bumping a TS up to #1, have to wait and see how much I get for a kidney on ebay.

Incidentally, I was also up on the top of the scaffolding at the top right there to get a few scenic shots.  It was bloody windy though so we only had 5 mins before that section was shut down.  Fun fun fun!  Here’s the view…





Luckily, I made it down in one piece!  Had to go through the whole health & safety thing before being let up there even for five minutes but the guys were cool and watched my back in case I fell off.

Thinking of starting a wee project for myself soon, perhaps a weekly one and maybe even a theme.  Thinking of something like ‘natural pairs’ kinda like the sigma 10-20 and a spirit level :)  Have a few ideas so far!


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