Nikon D7100, 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 lens, f/8, 3 frame HDR, ISO 800.

Ultra-wide angle lenses can add a lot of motion and engagement to your images. However, images may lack impact if you don’t have something in the foreground. When I say ultra-wide, I mean shorter than 18mm on cropped sensor, or shorter than 24mm on a full frame camera. These lenses expand the apparent distance in the image, and if you’re not very close to something, then the viewer doesn’t feel a part of the image, and it’s kinda boring.

I was recently in San Diego and I got personalized tour from my buddy, Tony Amat. I first shot the image above with a 50mm lens, but it was boring–totally average looking. So I borrowed Tony’s 10-24mm lens, laid down on the ground, and placed these rocks a few inches from the lens. Now the line of the rocks and the dock lead the eye through and point to the bright building and the lovely sky. For anyone who knows, it’s clearly San Diego, but it’s little different view, and maybe not quite as common.

In this next one, I used a 50mm lens, turned the camera vertically, and shot 12 frames for a panorama (which gives an even wider image than an ultra wide lens). I considered going past the boats on the beach to shoot the long bridge, but realized that the boats in the front would give some depth and perspective. The boats are my foreground element.

Nikon D7100, 50mm f/1.4 D lens, f/8, 1/200s, ISO 800, 12 frame panorama.

Nikon D7100, 50mm f/1.4 D lens, f/8, 1/200s, ISO 800, 12 frame panorama.

Then I swapped lenses with Tony, again, and moved in even tighter, using individual boats as the foreground and subject. The bridge still gives context, indicating exactly where the image is made.

Nikon D7100, 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 lens, f/8, 3 frame HDR, ISO 800.

Nikon D7100, 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 lens, f/8, 3 frame HDR, ISO 800.

Nikon D7100, 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 lens @10mm, f/8, 3 frame HDR, ISO 800.

Nikon D7100, 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 lens @10mm, f/8, 3 frame HDR, ISO 800.

Use your ultra-wide lens to get a new view of common places. National Parks, famous cities, and landmarks of all kinds take on a new flavor–your flavor–when you shoot ultra-wide with various foreground elements. Get out there and make your images uniquely you.

Don’t have an ultra-wide lens? I know a guy at LensRentals.com who can hook you up…use code PHOTOFOCUS15 for 15% off.

Thanks for spending some time with me, Tony! It was sure fun to see your town through your eyes.



Wanna join Levi on an adventure exploring a city? Come to Chicago for the Out of Chicago Conference where Levi will be teaching Lightroom techniques and joining other incredible instructors for a weekend of learning and photowalking madness. You’ll also find him on Twitter: @PhotoLevi

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Join the conversation! 7 Comments

  1. Beautiful photos illustrating a great lesson! I wish Nikon had better choices for prime ultrawides. In FX they’re all rather old at this point, in DX there are none.

  2. I have the same camera and lens, thanks for sharing your thoughts and great photography.

  3. Thanks, Guys. Brian, have you tried the 14-24mm, or the 16-35? I’ve used both, and I have no complaints about them being zooms. In fact, since they are zooms, it saves me from changing lenses in dusty environments like the breezy desert i was in last night.

    • Big, heavy, expensive. 14-24 has decent quality, better than Nikon’s old prime designs, but no filter threads. 16-35 would be good despite the size if it could produce sharp corners.

  4. Beautiful images, Levi! So fun to play around with different focal lengths! :)

  5. Thanks for letting people know about the conference, Levi! See you in just a few weeks! Good article too. I’ve had the Canon 10-22, Canon 17-40mm, and now the 17mm tilt-shift. I love a good wide angle lens!

  6. Thanks, Lauren! Hopefully next time I’m in town I’ll have more time and we can do some shooting, too. Chris, I’m stoked for the Out of Chicago Conference, and my ultra wide will be one lens in my bag for photo walking, to be sure.


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About Levi Sim

Passion drives Levi to make photographs, teach, and help new friends. He tells people he's a photographer, but he really does more than just make pictures. His professional photography is primarily commercial work for businesses, both small and large, and he really helps show how great it'd be to work with those companies. He excels at photographing people, from two-year-olds to oil field workers to couples married for 60 years, everyone has a good time making pictures with Levi. Besides people and businesses, Levi enjoys all other aspects of photography, and practices landscapes and still life, as well. Other people enjoy photographing everything, and Levi wants to be able to help, so he practices as much as he can to be ready to help. He also runs a local photography club, is a Rotarian, actively helps at church, is a husband, and poppa to a peppy four-year-old girl. Levi writes regularly for Photofocus.com and is co-author of books on Adobe Lightroom.


Commercial, Gear, Gear, Landscape, Panoramic, Photography, Shooting, Technique & Tutorials