My first experiences with a fisheye lens

Smithville through a Fisheye Lens

Smithville in the Round by Richard Lewis 2014

Photographs are rectangles and sometimes squares right? Well…. If you want to upset your sensibilities as a photographer try photographing in circles. The above is from the new love in my life, an 8mm fisheye lens. Like all new loves, this one is full of the passion along with the challenge of getting to know someone.

It is kind of shocking to look through the viewfinder of your camera and instead of seeing that familiar old rectangular view of the world there is a circle. It is kind of like looking through a periscope or one of those peep holes in hotel room doors. But then you accept it and you start to redefine how you look at the world with your camera.

How I Did It – Here are a few things I learned from walking around the Smithville Historic Park in Westampton, New Jersey with a fisheye lens for about an hour or so.

  1. Forget the rules of composition. Rule of thirds, forget about it. “S” curves, everything is a curve. Using a Fisheye redefines composition because of the severe distortion and the simple fact that everything is in a circle.
  2. Look at the bottom of the frame. This is probably the most important Fisheye advice that no one ever mentions. A fisheye lens shows a 180 degree view. That is half of your world in one little circle. The reason to look down is that most likely your legs and feet are in the photograph. I found it necessary to lean forward when clicking the shutter.
  3. Tripods are not necessary. I feel like I’m breaking the sacred oath of landscape photographers by saying that. Not only can you get away with longer hand-held shutter speeds when using an 8mm fisheye lens, but just like your human legs, your tripod legs will probably be in the photograph unless you are using a monopod.
  4. Get close. An 8mm lens is a really, really, really wide angle lens. Because the wider the lens the more distance is distorted, it is good to get close, really close, to your subject.
  5. Don’t fight the distortion. Anything not in the middle of the image will be distorted. Use that and enjoy the lack of reality.  Embrace a circular view of the world.

A fisheye lens is a great tool for expanding your vision as a photographer. It can also make the familiar and possibly the boring fresh again. There is nothing like a little challenge to help one grow as an artist.