Tag Archives: Fisheye lens

Skywhale: A Strange Beast Indeed

One more post with the Pentax DA 10-17 fisheye zoom before I migrate back to some of my other lenses. And for this post, rather than looking to use the ultra-wide angle field of view solely for creative purposes, the 10-17 zoom became the go to lens simply on the basis that I needed it to fit the subject into the frame.

Adelaide is currently in the middle of ‘Mad March’, the early autumn period where we squeeze almost every cultural event imaginable into the gap between our summer heat and the onset of autumn rains.

One of the less known events is the Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art which I must say would have passed right by me (and so revealing myself as a cultural pygmy) except for one hard to ignore exhibit.

For one Saturday morning only, the Biennial brought Skywhale to the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. Skywhale is a hot air balloon commissioned for the Centenary of Canberra events held in 2013. Conceived and designed by Australian sculpture and contemporary artist Patricia Piccinini, Skywhale is intended by Patricia to be an exploration of the wonder of nature and its extraordinary capacity to find ways to adapt to any environment.

Skywhale is a little hard to describe, being something resembling an unlikely mating of a whale, a dairy cow and a chook.  I’m sure it sparked many a conversation when it first took to the skies in Canberra (which, for non-Australian readers, I will point out is the capital city of Australia and located approximately half way between Sydney and Melbourne).

So maybe, I’ll just move onto the pictures…

Skywhale in Adelaide

On approach to the exhibition area, what do we have we here? Observation number one: it’s big! And reminiscent of the back end of a chook.

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Some more wide angle images

Following on from the most recent post that featured a day’s shooting with a new to me fisheye zoom lens (see Fun with a fisheye),  this next post will share a few images I’ve subsequently taken with this lens back in my home town of Adelaide.

Firstly, a quick recap for those who have not read the Fun with a fisheye post: I recently acquired a secondhand Pentax DA10-17mm fisheye zoom and set out to discover what sort of images I could make with the ultra-wide angle views this lens can deliver. The Fun with a fisheye post shared images of my first day with the DA 10-17, a day which happened to find me over in Sydney.

Back in Adelaide, I have since made a couple of trips down to the beachside suburb of Glenelg, a location I often head to when trying out new photo equipment. So, without further ado, over to some evening images of Glenelg.

Buffalo

A replica of HMS Buffalo – the original was wrecked off the North Island of New Zealand. The Buffalo brought the first settlers of the colony of South Australia in 1836, unloading its passengers at what became known as Glenelg. Photo-wise, a near 180º view towards the wide end of the lens can take a little getting used to. The tip of the bowsprit was over the top of my head and marginally behind me. Weird! Lots of green chromatic aberration in the upper right corner around the tree branches. This seems to be a bit of an issue down at the zoom’s wider focal lengths (this was taken at 11mm) with high contrast detail in the corners. If I had lots of time, the best thing for this particular image would be to clone out the tree branches altogether in Photoshop or similar software. I really didn’t want them in the image and were a by-product of wanting a field of view wide enough to take in the bowsprit. It was also one of those really flat and contrast-less evenings that was hard work to get much out of. I’ll have another go at this scene one day when there is better light.

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Fun with a fisheye

I had a mild attack of lens buying addiction a few weeks back, succumbing to a couple of temptations listed on Ebay. One of these was a Pentax DA 10-17mm F3.5-4.5 fisheye zoom.

I wouldn’t normally spend a lot of time introducing a lens, but I will on this occasion as the DA 10-17 is quite unique. At the 10mm end of its zoom range, the lens is quite ‘fishy’ in character with a 180º field of view across the diagonal of the frame. But at the 17mm end, it is much more rectilinear (‘normal’) in character, and what distortion there is can be substantially reduced using computer software should you wish to do so. This makes the lens quite a bit of fun as the act of zooming in or out also dials up or down the degree of fishy-ness. With fisheye lens, placement of subject matter can also impact upon the apparent fishy-ness of an image, so between zooming and subject placement quite a range of creative outcomes can be generated from a single scene.

Other nice things about the DA 10-17:

  • it’s light and compact, about the same size and weight as a 18-55 kit zoom;
  • fabulously rich colours without being overly contrasty;
  • while ultra-wide lenses tend not to be particularly sharp due to inherent optical compromises required by their design, the DA 10-17 is pretty good in the centre and by F8 not too shabby in the corners;
  • it focuses amazingly closely, like to within an inch or so of the rather large and protruding front element. It allows a surprisingly amount of selective focus from an ultra-wide lens.

On the negative side of the ledger, the DA 10-17 can be prone to purple fringing on high contrast edges, but my experience to date is that this readily cleans up in Lightroom or similar software in most cases.

The lens arrived in the post just a day before I was off to Sydney for a weekend away, so my first use of the lens is also something of a documentary of my Saturday in Sydney.

So here we go…

On most of the rare occasions I get up early to photograph sunrises, Murphy’s Law kicks in and the dawn fails to produce the goods – no cloud, too much cloud, whatever. So my general modus operandi is that I only get up early to catch planes. But occasionally I’ve been lucky, and on the Saturday morning, the act of being up early to catch the first flight to Sydney coincided with a really good dawn, just by dumb luck.

Dawn at Adelaide Airport

17mm, F5, distortion corrected in Adobe Lightroom. Some cropping and mucking about to remove a few annoying window reflections. Use of distortion correction software will stretch the outer portions of an image (as also does optical correction within a lens). You can see that demonstrated with the somewhat elongated fuselage of the second 737-800 to the right. First shot of the day and one of my favorites from recent shooting.

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