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Creative photography with a fisheye lens

I recently got back from a trip down to North Carolina and had the chance to go back and visit Duke University, a place I first visited in 2017. While it rained most of my first trip there, I was lucky this time around to finally capture the campus in its glory, as I was shown around by fellow photographer Shaun Kenan King.

A fisheye lens captures a slightly distorted view that shows movement in the sky. The grass leads the eye to the chapel itself.

I wanted to go back and look at some of my photos from 2017 and approach them with a different view during this trip. Specifically, I wanted to photograph the same scenes, but this time with a fisheye lens. I was lucky enough to have Olympus loan me out its 8 mm f/1.8 PRO fisheye lens, which I had not used before.

During my first trip to campus, I focused my attention on Duke University’s Chapel. This is an amazing building on campus, and it reminded me of some of the churches I visited in Ireland. It really is beautiful. It has amazing architecture both inside and out. So for my return trip, I wanted to go to the chapel again, and photograph the interior with the fisheye lens.

You can easily see the difference in the above shots, and how much the fisheye just lends itself to creativity. While you would never use a fisheye lens for commercial architecture work, it just adds a little something, providing a completely different view than you otherwise would get.

To put it simply, the fisheye look certainly makes the scene stand out from the crowd.

What if I don’t want a fisheye look?

Luckily, Olympus has a built-in technology that lets you turn off the fisheye view. Called “Fisheye Compensation,” this lets you remove the fishbowl effect and replace it with a more flat view. This is available on the Olympus OM-D E-M1X and E-M1 Mark II, and allows you to select from a few different compensated angles.

Having this is great, as it allows me to capture a totally different view without changing lenses. Perfect for when you’re traveling, or if you’re inside a quiet place like a chapel.

If you don’t have an Olympus camera with Fisheye Compensation, the Fisheye-Hemi plug in from Imadio offers some great results, available for both Photoshop and Lightroom Classic. The lens corrections panel in Lightroom’s Develop and Photoshop’s Camera Raw do a great job on these corrections too.

For me, using the fisheye was able to get me some unique views of the Duke campus, and it’s definitely a lens I feel will be next to join the rest of my lenses in my camera bag. While it might not suit every instance of photography, it’s a creative way to see the world differently.

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