Ultra-wide angle (UWA) and aquascaping

George Farmer

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After being genuinely inspired by Ben's, Mark's and Stu's superb recent displays of ultra-wide angle (UWA) images, I thought I'd try myself (skip to the end of this post if you're not really interested in the blurb!)

UWA relies on short focal lengths to provide a wider perspective, so you can 'compress' a relatively wide scene into an image.

With cropped DSLR cameras, less than 15mm focal length is considered UWA. Full-frame is less than 24mm.

The results can be stunning, and many landscape photographers use this to their advantage, getting lots of scenery in one shot, whilst perhaps utilising strong foreground interest. This is a good example using a 10mm focal length on a cropped sensor.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/hknivers/s ... 448525797/
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When using UWA for photographing aquascapes the results can be very interesting. Recently I've noticed a lot of IAPLC entries relying on UWA for their full-tank shots. UWA basically makes an aquarium look a lot deeper, front to rear, than it really is. This suits some aquascapes and tank sizes more than others.

In my 60cm iwagumi a full-tank shot looks rather silly using UWA - but a close-up portrait shot looks quite effective. The foreground is exaggerated significantly, and the background appears very distant.

I borrowed a friend's Tamron 10-24mm for these. It's one of the least expensive UWA lenses available (£350), but I'm quite impressed with the results.

5696728453_bc96b661aa_b.jpg


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With more aquascapers taking photography more seriously I wonder if any will ever deliberately utilise the UWA-effect when planning and executing their aquascape...?

I hope that provides some food for thought for some of you that may have a DSLR but weren't yet aware of UWA photography and how it can go nicely with aquascaping.
 

Garuf

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Another reason to add to my list of reasons I don't like tank photography, I always feel lied to, the competitions really should be called photography competitions with aquariums as the subject, they're not really about the scapes when people are using techniques like this to create views impossible to experience without a lens.
 

Ian Holdich

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looks great George, can i ask a silly question?

Do tamron lenses fit all SLR's? are they universal fits?

I have seen some cheap Tamrons in the 'London camera exchange', i'm not going to get one yet, but need to start saving for one.
 

Garuf

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It might be considered part of the art but to me it's wholly misleading because it's not a true reflection of reality. As some one who appreciates the actual art of an aquarium rather than some contrived photograph I just don't agree with this sort of manipulation of the truth. Especially as it's a punishment to people like me who have absolutely no interest in photography at all, I'm here to grow plants and create a beautiful aquarium not take beautiful photographs.

Edited for careless spelling.
 

Ian Holdich

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the image isn't altered that much though has it? It's still what you'd see. I always find that most aquariums actually look better in the flesh than in the pics anyway, even if they have been shot with various lenses. For me, these kind of pics have just pushed me further into photography. It gives a different aspect on the planted tank, which for me looks great.
 

George Farmer

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Garuf said:
Another reason to add to my list of reasons I don't like tank photography, I always feel lied to, the competitions really should be called photography competitions with aquariums as the subject, they're not really about the scapes when people are using techniques like this to create views impossible to experience without a lens.
Interesting perspective, Gareth. If you'll excuse the pun.

Photography in aquascaping contests will always be controversial. Judges will deliberately try not to be influenced by the photography, but I guess it's hard not to be, when the medium being assessed is a photograph and not a live aquascape (with a few exceptions).

From my perspective it is still about the 'scape, first and foremost. It just so happens that most serious 'scapers who like to compete are also serious photographers. They go hand-in-hand very nicely and generally speaking if an aquascaper has the motivation, skills and dedication to create an awesome aquascape, they also have the props to take a good photo of it, or at least know someone that can...

Personally I really appreciate good aquarium photography, however it's achieved, UWA or not.
 

Garuf

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The fact you'd have to spend £350 to see that view is change enough for me, you're creating the "illusion" that there's more depth, this in itself is enough of a cheat because it means you'll never achieve similar depth without using their camera trickery, why strive to force prospective through plant choice, hardscape shape and clever use of tank sizes when you can just use any old hardscape and force views that just don't exist by using a lens?
A shot with a standard 50mm lens, what I seem to remember being the closest analogue to the human eye, to compare would be a nice touch to illustrate my point.
 

Garuf

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Of course I do, I studied art for 4 years, I understand depth and perceptual depth. But, my point is that one is a physical manifestation that can always be seen without a lens where as one is something that can only ever be seen through the lens of a camera because it simply doesn't exist in reality where as sloped gravel, finer leaves in the back, lighter stones in the background etc all physically increase perceptual depth.
 

George Farmer

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ianho said:
For me, these kind of pics have just pushed me further into photography.
Me too, Ian.

Aquariums are what really got me into photography in the first place. I wouldn't shoot weddings, or run my local photography club if aquariums hadn't come into my life and pushed me forward in this direction.

Garuf said:
The fact you'd have to spend £350 to see that view is change enough for me, you're creating the "illusion" that there's more depth, this in itself is enough of a cheat because it means you'll never achieve similar depth without using their camera trickery, why strive to force prospective through plant choice, hardscape shape and clever use of tank sizes when you can just use any old hardscape and force views that just don't exist by using a lens?
A shot with a standard 50mm lens, what I seem to remember being the closest analogue to the human eye, to compare would be a nice touch to illustrate my point.
If we can use tools (UWA lenses in this instance) to create a nice image, something a bit out of the ordinary, then why not? It's not cheating. Sure, it's not physically how you may perceive a view with the human eye, but why should we be limited by that in order to achieve something that's pleasant to look at?

The same principle applies to macro photography.

Photography is fun. You should try it out sometime! :thumbup:

All this said, I do agree that deliberately using something like UWA in contests to create a false sense of depth could be perceived as cheating, which I think is the main point you're driving at, and the reason I mentioned it in my OP...
 

George Farmer

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Garuf said:
... where as sloped gravel, finer leaves in the back, lighter stones in the background etc all physically increase perceptual depth.
How do you feel about exaggerating these aspects, using UWA, if they already exist (like the three examples shown)?

Can you appreciate the increased sense of depth at all, or not? :)
 

Garuf

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I've got an A-level in photography at a B, to assume I don't like it because I don't do it is a moot point, I regularly use a dslr, I don't really like using it though, I'm not a photographer, the results from the camera are never what I wish nor posses the qualities I imagine they should regardless of what I think I know about photography, compositionally I don't really struggle, technically I'm flawed.
My point was in regard to the line:
Recently I've noticed a lot of IAPLC entries relying on UWA for their full-tank shots
and more directly
With more aquascapers taking photography more seriously I wonder if any will ever deliberately utilise the UWA-effect when planning and executing their aquascape...?
It's deliberately misleading, for the purpose of competitions certainly so. I have no issue with creating art through photography but the line between the art of the photographer and the aquascaper is too blurred for my tastes, I think that at a competition level it should be about representing it as it really is not portraying a intangible objet d'art.
 

George Farmer

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Garuf said:
I think that at a competition level it should be about representing it as it really is not portraying a intangible objet d'art.
I think we all can agree on that. FYI I use 50mm for my contest photos.

Grade B at A-Level Photography? You're better qualified than me...

ianho said:
looks great George, can i ask a silly question?

Do tamron lenses fit all SLR's? are they universal fits?

I have seen some cheap Tamrons in the 'London camera exchange', i'm not going to get one yet, but need to start saving for one.
Sorry, Ian. I missed the first few posts in all the excitement! :)

Tamron, Sigma and Tokina will have lenses in their line-ups that fit most DSLRs. They're not universal fits, so you'll have to purchase the correct lens with the appropriate mount i.e. Sony fit.
 

George Farmer

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Garuf said:
... the line between the art of the photographer and the aquascaper is too blurred for my tastes
What do you mean exactly?

How do you propose the line is sharpened? This is a very interesting discussion. :thumbup:
 

Garuf

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Grade B at A-Level Photography? You're better qualified than me...
2 years of evening classes, my area was the history of photography, I can't take a good photograph to save my life which really goes to prove qualifications mean little to nothing without a genuine flash of talent. :rolleyes:

incidentally 50mm is what the landscape institute are making their standard measure for when they do visual value assessments because it's the closest to the human perception of depth.
 

George Farmer

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Garuf said:
incidentally 50mm is what the landscape institute are making their standard measure for when they do visual value assessments because it's the closest to the human perception of depth.
That's interesting. 50mm with what size film/sensor?
 

Garuf

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George Farmer said:
How do you propose the line is sharpened? This is a very interesting discussion. :thumbup:
Again I'm talking from a competition stand point, one way would be to set a standard lens type for photography but this is prohibitive as it would require investment and who's to say the choice is right, visitation of the scapes would be my preference as per the dutch competition but again, logistically it's impossible on a global scale, were these not a consideration it would level the playing field.

What I meant by the statement is that when the craft of the photographer produces images of a greater aesthetic quality than subject matter, the aquascape, then the line is blurred, or more when an aquascape photographs amazingly but when viewed in reality is aesthetically displeasing and becomes the aquatic equivilent of a Hoogstraaten peepshow.
 

Garuf

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George Farmer said:
Garuf said:
incidentally 50mm is what the landscape institute are making their standard measure for when they do visual value assessments because it's the closest to the human perception of depth.
That's interesting. 50mm with what size film/sensor?
I'm unsure off hand, it's in my Vis-qual guidebook somewhere, It goes as far as specifying the exact level/height the lens centre line should be from the ground so it'll be in there somewhere.
 

ghostsword

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The photos are amazing and for me the photography is a valuable side of the aquascaper arsenal.

I don't think that it is cheating, same as when an artist uses perception and shades to convey a feeling or trick our brain to see slightly more than what it's there, it has been done for centuries.

George, your photos are just amazing, great look.

Aquascaping is art, same as with photography and painting, so I believe that we should be free to use whatever is at our reach to interpret or convey to others our view of the subject.

Just not sure how that applies to the competitions, but as the photography is also a marked item it is very much on the air what can be done about it.


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