This is a bit of an older photo, but I posted it on Instagram recently and it got a great response so I thought I’d talk about it in the BTS series because it uses a fisheye lens which is definitely one of the more unique types of lens.
Equipment Used For This Shot
A fisheye is typically a lens that has a field of view in the region of 180 degrees. In full frame 35mm terms this would be a 15mm lens, but note that this is not the same as a rectilinear 15mm lens, which doesn’t show a field of view that’s even close to as wide as 180 degrees. On an APS-C camera, you need about an 8mm focal length to achieve that 180 degree field of view. Canon’s unique 8-15mm lens is quite a handy tool then, because it works as a proper fisheye on full frame cameras when set to the 15mm setting, and also with APS-C cameras when set to the 8mm setting. This older shot used an APS-H camera which required about a 12mm setting to get the full fisheye effect.
Fisheye lenses show heavy distortion in order to display such gigantic fields of view, so it’s a look that’s very distinctive and can be easily overused. Learning to visualize how the distortion is going to work is an important part of using one of these lenses. You can see from our sample photo that the skier in the centre has relatively little distortion, so this is a great place to put people and other objects which would really suffer from heavy distortion. The trees around the edge are highly distorted though, but I’ve used this to my advantage to actually show the tree directly above my position, and create more of a sense of being tightly surrounded by trees. Knowing that straight objects around the edges of a fisheye frame will get distorted, you can often use them as leading lines to draw people inwards towards your subject.
Does everyone need a fisheye lens? No! They are very useful for exaggerating height and distance, which is why action sports photographers (and athletes) love them, but beyond that usage it becomes a very special use case lens.
The other thing I wanted to draw your attention to in this image is the use of colour. This image simply wouldn’t have worked without the added vibrancy of the skis and the skier’s jacket. On a cloudy day such as this, it’s really important to ask the athlete to wear something nice and bright! Crouching down low as I did, allowed me to get underneath the skis more, in order to both exaggerate the height of the skier, and also make those lovely bright ski bottoms more visible. Top athletes of this kind are well aware that they should bring bright colours with them, but if you’re out practicing your photography with your buddies then they might not know, so don’t forget to ask them because it can make all the difference!