Taking my Fisheye to San Francisco

I am a fan of Allan at Ohm Sweet Ohm and was talking with him about shooting the Golden Gate Bridge – he works on it every day –  with a fisheye lens. I have been meaning to put a post together ever since. If you want to see some amazing photography of the Golden Gate Bridge, or some really creative imagery of everyday objects, check out Allan’s blog.

I got a chance to spend the day in San Francisco a couple of years ago – it was the day after my nephew’s wedding and my sister-in-law Karen and I explored the parks with our cameras and our National Parks Passport Books. I took my new fisheye lens along for the trip and experimented with it for the first time. I was getting a feel for how much a really wide-angle can distort things.

The Bridge and the Fort

An eye level shot produces minimal distortion on a ling shot.

An eye level shot produces minimal distortion on a long shot.

The same shot through the gage - notice the extreme bend of the parallel poles near the camera.

The same shot through the gate – notice the extreme bend of the parallel poles near the camera.

A shot directly up from inside Fort Point bents the brick walls of the fort inward.

A shot directly up from inside Fort Point bends the brick walls of the fort inward.

This shot indoors shows how much the perspective can me distorted in an enclosed space - the ceiling is actually vaulted, but not curved.

This shot indoors shows how much the perspective can me distorted in an enclosed space – the ceiling is actually vaulted, but not curved.

The Bay

Lowering my view creates both a curved horizon and posts.

Lowering my view creates both a curved horizon and posts.

A waist level shot curves the parking lines and the chains more dramatically than it does the horizon.

A waist level shot curves the parking lines and the chains more dramatically than it does the horizon.

A shoulder level shot across the bay creates a curved horizon.

A shoulder level shot across the bay creates a curved horizon.

This macro-close shot causes the curve of the red curb to be exaggerated.

This macro-close shot causes the curve of the red curb to be exaggerated.

The City and the Palace

A wide angel lens makes Lombard Street look more compressed and less tall - at this distance there is not a lot of curve distortion.

A wide-angle lens makes Lombard Street look more compressed and less tall – at this distance there is not a lot of curve distortion.

A fisheye lens at a couple of feet can really bend these lines - the horizontals and verticals are actually perpendicular

A fisheye lens at a couple of feet can really bend these lines – the horizontals and verticals are actually perpendicular

A low angle with a fisheye makes columns curve inward as the move away from you. This shot was taken from a foot outside the entrance to the structure.

A low angle with a fisheye makes columns curve inward as the move away from you. This shot was taken from a foot outside the entrance to the structure.

Even though I probably missed out on the classic tourist shots, it was fun to take a lens out and make myself experiment with it. The more I used it the more I got the feel for bending reality to my will. The lens was pretty economical – it’s a conversion lens – meaning that it is an attachment to a standard kit lens. I have used it more tactically since my time in San Francisco, shooting it when I need to get something wider into a narrow field or when I want a curve to be really curved.

This masonry really is almost a full circle - the fisheye lets me show you that because I can get the whole perimeter in the frame. To get this view I would need to be almost underground with a standard lens.

This masonry really is almost a full circle – the fisheye lets me show you that because I can get the whole perimeter in the frame. To get this view I would need to be almost underground with a standard lens.

My experimentation in San Francisco gave me confidence to know that I could make the spring shot above work.

Do you have any fancy lenses or gadgets that you have been waiting to try out? Have you tried something new and added it to your repertoire?