Several weeks ago a client and I traveled to the Samut Songkram Boat Yards for a workshop.  About 90 minutes outside of Bangkok we’d planned to arrive in the late morning when the temperatures were cool, the air clear, and the sun hits at a certain pleasing angle.  Due to a dangerous hit and run driver we were delayed for several hours filling out police reports and insurance forms, and freshly duct taped together we limped into the boat yards in the mid-afternoon vs. late morning.  I couldn’t believe the difference a few hours makes! 

A thick dark haze had settled over the entire area doing strange things with the light and effectively dulling the colors the naked eye could see.  Clarity was drastically reduced.  It really was a good example of how the local weather can really affect a photography outing.  Nonetheless, we were there for an ultra-wide angle workshop and all we needed for this purpose were the interesting curved lines of the boats being refitted 

I tried, with marginal success, to eliminate the effects of the haze, and if the images were taken individually you’d have a hard time putting your finger on it.  But a series of images reveals the issues. 

This was one of my favorite images from the outing.  I placed the camera directly on the rail and without looking through the viewfinder (which would have required laying in the greasy muck) made several captures.  With a F11 aperture and 20mm focal length there was a great depth of field (DOF) though you can still see the first few inches from the lens are out of focus.

 

Changing the camera from landscape to portrait orientation and making sure the lens shade actually touched the rail yields a different perspective.  I think the rail is more interesting, but the background less interesting.  During future trips I’ll try to combine the best attributes of both.

Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4  @F11  1/125th  20mm  ISO 100

Changing the camera from landscape to portrait orientation and making sure the lens shade actually touched the rail yields a different perspective.  I think the rail is more interesting, but the background less interesting.  During future trips I’ll try to combine the best attributes of both.

 

This is a good example of including a foreground (wood planks on the left), a mid-ground (the cement wall extending towards the rear of the frame), and background (boats) where the extreme depth of field (DOF) a ultra-wide provides, results in an image you just can’t achieve with a normal focal length.  The rope is close enough to touch and you could be sitting on the wall.  An ultra-wide, properly used, places you 'inside' the composition rather than 'outside'.

Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4  @F11  1/100th  17mm  ISO 100

This is a good example of including a foreground (wood planks on the left), a mid-ground (the cement wall extending towards the rear of the frame), and background (boats) where the extreme depth of field (DOF) a ultra-wide provides, results in an image you just can’t achieve with a normal focal length.  The rope is close enough to touch and you could be sitting on the wall.  An ultra-wide, properly used, places you 'inside' the composition rather than 'outside'.

 

Another like example using the green metal dollies (the boats are placed on these to drag them along the tracks) as a foreground, and in this case the ends of the dollies also provide a mid-ground, and the boats in the background.  The light rays from the sun in all of the above images adds interest as well.

Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4  @F11  1/125th  13mm  ISO 100

Another like example using the green metal dollies (the boats are placed on these to drag them along the tracks) as a foreground, and in this case the ends of the dollies also provide a mid-ground, and the boats in the background.  The light rays from the sun in all of the above images adds interest as well.

 

Here we’re standing not even six feet from the workmen, yet they look much further away.  Using this effect you can make something brightly colored, like the bright blue wood pieces, stand out as a foreground, while letting the curved lines of the boat wrap the frame.

Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4  @F16  1/80th  15mm  ISO 100

Here we’re standing not even six feet from the workmen, yet they look much further away.  Using this effect you can make something brightly colored, like the bright blue wood pieces, stand out as a foreground, while letting the curved lines of the boat wrap the frame.

 

This image shows how powerful the curved hull of the boat becomes throughout the frame of an ultra-wide perspective.  At the top it feels like you can actually touch the caulked wood plugs, while the mid-ground screw shaft seems much further away than it is, as does the worker.

Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4  @F16  1/125th  21mm  ISO 250

This image shows how powerful the curved hull of the boat becomes throughout the frame of an ultra-wide perspective.  At the top it feels like you can actually touch the caulked wood plugs, while the mid-ground screw shaft seems much further away than it is, as does the worker. 

 

This was a really fun shot.  The workers zipped by me on a yard trike with huge smiles for the camera and I panned them at a really wide angle, yet I was close enough to them to almost get ran over!  The wide angle provided quite a different perspective than if I’d captured this with a telephoto lens.

Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4  @F11  1/13th  13mm  ISO 320

This was a really fun shot.  The workers zipped by me on a yard trike with huge smiles for the camera and I panned them at a really wide angle, yet I was close enough to them to almost get ran over!  The wide angle provided quite a different perspective than if I’d captured this with a telephoto lens.

 

Used properly, even at 12mm (the widest rectangular focal length you’ll find on any DSLR), the image can achieve a normal perspective if held exactly perpendicular to the ground and subject at the same time.  No one would guess I was less than ten feet from the hull, it appears I’m at least 50-60 feet from the boat.  The point of this is:  While an ultra-wide is great for fun curves and effects, there are times when you need the ‘wideness’ without apparent distortion to complete specific tasks such as interior shots and other settings where you just can’t back up to use a normal focal length.

Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4  @F8  1/60th  17mm  ISO 100

Used properly, even at 12mm (the widest rectangular focal length you’ll find on any DSLR), the image can achieve a normal perspective if held exactly perpendicular to the ground and subject at the same time.  No one would guess I was less than ten feet from the hull, it appears I’m at least 50-60 feet from the boat.  The point of this is:  While an ultra-wide is great for fun curves and effects, there are times when you need the ‘wideness’ without apparent distortion to complete specific tasks such as interior shots and other settings where you just can’t back up to use a normal focal length.

 

This was just a fun shot.  A worker pedals by on an old yard bike delivering supplies to another boat.  I panned the rider at 17mm while only 3-4 feet from him.  By panning the rider I kept him in focus, while using a relatively slow shutter speed and the motion to blur the background despite  the deep depth of field provided by the focal length and aperture otherwise.  To bring the bike rider out, I de-saturated the background using techniques discussed here.

Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4  @F8  1/80th  12mm  ISO 100

This was just a fun shot.  A worker pedals by on an old yard bike delivering supplies to another boat.  I panned the rider at 17mm while only 3-4 feet from him.  By panning the rider I kept him in focus, while using a relatively slow shutter speed and the motion to blur the background despite  the deep depth of field provided by the focal length and aperture otherwise.  To bring the bike rider out, I de-saturated the background using techniques discussed here.

 

This was taken from the other end of the rail and allows you to really see the thick dark haze.

Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4  @F8  1/40th  15mm  ISO 100

This was taken from the other end of the rail and allows you to really see the thick dark haze.

 

Wide angles also allow you to show a subject, and a great amount of what’s around the subject.  In this image the road wraps around the boat and the lens helps you isolate both into a decent composition.

Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4  @F16  1/40th  24mm  ISO 100

Wide angles also allow you to show a subject, and a great amount of what’s around the subject.  In this image the road wraps around the boat and the lens helps you isolate both into a decent composition.

 

I liked this scene, workers working, the yard trike parked in front, two boats, and lots of clutter.  Too much clutter which looks much better in black and white.

Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4  @F8  1/60th  24mm  ISO 100

I liked this scene, workers working, the yard trike parked in front, two boats, and lots of clutter.  Too much clutter which looks much better in black and white.

 

My left foot was actually touching the scaffolding you can see on the left.  I was leaning against it for bracing, yet it looks much further away.  The hull looms from one end of the frame to the next.

Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4  @F8  1/125th  12mm  ISO 100

My left foot was actually touching the scaffolding you can see on the left.  I was leaning against it for bracing, yet it looks much further away.  The hull looms from one end of the frame to the next.

 

For this shot I was right on top of the workers with my arms bracing on the wood planks you see running from left to right.  They’re patching around the screw shaft.  Because the boat yards are an exercise in vintage times I wanted to try not only making a photo like was done 100 years ago, but to make it look like the print was also that old.

Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4  @F16  1/30th  24mm  ISO 100

For this shot I was right on top of the workers with my arms bracing on the wood planks you see running from left to right.  They’re patching around the screw shaft.  Because the boat yards are an exercise in vintage times I wanted to try not only making a photo like was done 100 years ago, but to make it look like the print was also that old.

 

It was an interesting trip.  Despite the accident, the haze, and the poor light, I still managed to make several captures I didn’t make during many trips previously.  I’d call that a success!  Meanwhile my workshop client was having a blast climbing up into the ships and experiencing the boat yards for the first time.  I’d bet anything he’ll find his way back again soon.

Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4  @F16  1/13th  12mm  ISO 100

It was an interesting trip.  Despite the accident, the haze, and the poor light, I still managed to make several captures I didn’t make during many trips previously.  I’d call that a success!  Meanwhile my workshop client was having a blast climbing up into the ships and experiencing the boat yards for the first time.  I’d bet anything he’ll find his way back again soon.