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03-08-2018, 07:19 AM - 1 Like   #1
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DFA 15-30 -- confidence

We are going site seeing out in West Texas, New Mexico and Arizona for spring break. I pulled the trigger yesterday on the DFA 15-30 since we will be site seeing in areas where I could get some good landscapes and some potential astrophotography (depending on weather). The lens is supposed to arrive tomorrow and we are leaving the day after.

Any landscape shooting advice before my trip would be welcomed. Anything at all to give me a little more confidence!

I just don't do as much shooting at the wide end and will probably feel uncomfortable...only time will tell if i have an artistic eye for landscape i see so much of on this forum. I was also considering the DFA 24-70, but opted for ultra wide and I'm lacking confidence I'll bond with the 15-30. It will be tested in the field and I'll probably keep it on the K-1 for the whole trip and switch out lenses on the K3ii and K5iis when needed. i have the hitech 100mm filter system with a few filters that i used on the with 18-55, but the filter holder and filters for the 15-30 is not in the budget at this point...maybe will be if the 15-30 and I get along...I will miss a CPL the most, I don't think that can be duplicated in post.

I shoot K-1, K-3ii and K5iis and as more FF lenses are added to the lineup, will shift towards that mode. I mostly shoot normal to longer primes DA 50 1.8, DFA 1002.8, DA*200 and DA*300. Also have the DA* 50-135 which gives me prime like results for portraits. I had the DA*16-50, but a couple years ago dropped my bag and it took the brunt of the impact and almost split in half. The IQ of my copy of the 16-50 was fabulous, but autofocus was horrid, so i have mixed emotions about losing that lens. I will eventually fill the 16-50 gap with the 24-70. Sports action, macro, some portraiture, landscape and astrophotography are my main subjects with sports being 80% of what i've shot.

03-08-2018, 07:36 AM - 1 Like   #2
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I don't have the 15-30 but do shoot with wide lenses, mostly the DA 15 and I also own the DA 10-17 but that's a different look altogether. As with any new lens, go out and shoot! It takes a while to learn a lens, ANY lens. The standard rules for landscapes are to stop down for max DOF, use a tripod when possible and low ISO. If you do that, your shots should be clear and sharp.

The bigger challenge is learning to compose with the wider field of view. Practice, practice, practice and don't give up if your first batch of shots aren't up to what you expect. Good luck with the new lens!
03-08-2018, 07:57 AM - 1 Like   #3
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My pennies worth ... I think wide angles work best when there's a foreground to show scale. Standard advice, but then the foreground is often just included as this is what is 'required'. Think foreground as an essential part of the composition and get in real close to it and let the depth of the background show-up against this key near part of the image.
03-08-2018, 08:00 AM - 3 Likes   #4
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UWA is a special breed of photography and a lot of fun. A few useful rules for getting decent results:

1. Keep the lens level (using the camera's electronic level or pointing at a part of the scene with the same altitude as you) to avoid severe keystoning of buildings and trees;
2. Avoid putting people and round objects (wheels, clocks, flowers) in the wide edges and corners of the frame (or they will be seriously fat-looking and distorted);
3. Get directly in front of buildings, paths, and roads to avoid weird skewed vanishing points;
4. Use the lens as a poor-mans shift-lens by pointing straight at a tall object and cropping the foreground in post; and
5. Intentionally break rules #1, #2, and #3 to create crazy distorted/skewed scenes!

I think you will love the 15-30 on your trip. Wide-open vistas really look good in UWA. Also look for opportunities for cloud-scape pictures (usually with the landscape along the lower portion of the frame with the sweep of clouds above). Another fun UWA image is to point the lens in the opposite direction of the sun just after sunrise or before sunset to get your long selfie-shadow in the foreground and a sweeping vista in the background.


P.S. A CPL would be useless on UWA even if you could put on the lens. Variations in polarization across the sky in the frame mean that there's no single setting of a polarizer that gives good results. All you'd get is a strange tongue of darkness in one part of the sky or another.

03-08-2018, 08:18 AM   #5
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Will just re-iterate the importance of having something dominating in the foreground. If not you'll quickly end up with pictures of a whole lot of nothing.

Going close to the ground can be a good way of creating a foreground if you don't have else as a foreground. Even a pebble can look huge with this lens.
03-08-2018, 08:43 AM - 4 Likes   #6
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I think Photoptomist hit the high points. Probably the most important thing to remember is that when you use an ultra wide angle, things in the foreground will dominate, while even huge mountains in the background will be shrunk. Use leading lines and other composition techniques to make your images interesting.

The 15-30 is prone to flare if the sun or a strong light source is just out of the image and so I would be careful of that. Try to keep your camera level and keep it low (I do a lot of composing using rear screen and live view).









(random 15-30 shots)
03-08-2018, 02:17 PM   #7
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Unrelated to the lens, Chaco Canyon NM is a dark-skies heritage site. Probably your best bet for astro.

If you’re down south, White Sands has more-unique landscapes. Carlsbad caverns is also a unique opportunity worth your time.

If you’re near Albuquerque, the view from Sandia Peak is wonderful. 10,000 ft altitude, so take it slow up there.

Last edited by Kozlok; 03-08-2018 at 02:22 PM.
03-08-2018, 03:22 PM - 4 Likes   #8
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G'day Russell,

The main thing I'd recommend is enjoy your trip, and as an owner with the K-1 and the 15-30 I reckon once you get the hang of the wide FoV it should allow you to start seeing the big picture images that such a lens can capture.

I have some K-1 and 15-30 images on Flickr and the forum, as well as many more captured with the 10-20 and the 15/4 LTD. For the K-1 I also have a Zeiss 21/2.8 that competes for attention with the 15-30 but the principles I use for all of these lenses are the same, so I'd like to add my 2c worth if I may. The advice provided already covers the main points so hopefully anything I include will add to those.

I'm glad to see you're taking long lenses on your trip. I'm a big fan of telephoto landscapes, and there's a thread on this style here: Post your Telephoto Landscapes! - PentaxForums.com The look of these landscapes is completely different to those captured with the 15-30, and it might be interesting to find some telephoto landscapes you like and compare them with some landscapes captured with the 15-30 that you like from here: HD Pentax D FA 1:2.8 15-30mm ED SDM WR lens club! - PentaxForums.com

The strong images other than being well exposed are likely using strong compositional elements based around the rule of thirds or have some other element to draw you in. For me telephoto landscapes are best at distance compression to create something special. They enable you to see a particular element within the landscape and highlight it. And I mention this as I regularly see something when I've got a wide angle on and decide to swap that and get right into something in particular.

The 15-30 on the other hand is going to reach out to everything in view and make it small whilst making the sky look massive, which can be really cool. It creates more of an explosion of scenery than a precision sniper shot of a part of the landscape. What you need is something to anchor the image, or draw people in as this will provide context for the backdrop of mountains, sky, ocean or whatever.

And that really wide view is the part that can be really exciting, especially when there's drama in the sky. With an UWA if the sky is full of drama your mission should be to find a subject to place in the scene to allow you to capture the sky. The horizon shouldn't be too high, but the important part is to allow your foreground subject be the anchor for the drama behind. This image was captured using the K5 and the Sigma 10-20 which provides an equivalent FoV.

The positioning of the horizon is a bit high, but hey, rules are for breaking if it means there's more balance in the image, and there was more symmetry with the horizon around the centre. I don't think I quite got it right but the sky and other parts of the scene are anchored by three elements being the sun, trees and the rock with the highlights. I wonder whether I should have been lower and closer to the rock, but if I was I may have lost some of the balance. I could be wrong, but what do you think?

So I don't think I got that image quite right but I was really fixated on the rock so I went with trying to create an image with more of an 'other-worldly' look. To do this I needed to get the lens as close to my foreground subject as possible to create the distorted look where the rock seems larger than it's surroundings. I did this as it reminded me of an asteroid, hence I came up with the alien planet concept. And that's one of the really cool things about UWA lenses, they have the ability to close focus allowing you to get close to a subject and also capture their surroundings like this.

This is the same rock BTW.

Each image has sky, landscape elements and something in the foreground. The balance of the sky and therefore placement of the horizon can be led by what's happening in the sky. If there's lots to capture on the ground then the sky is just a backdrop, however it can be a powerful element to exploit with an UWA.

Some final points on using an UWA:
  • Look for the scenery and work out how much of the sky will be needed.
  • Look for a strong foreground element and decide whether it will just be an anchor for the broader vista or be the primary element of your scene.
  • Look for leading lines like roads, fences, rivers or a line of hills as these can be strong compositional tools to lead a person into the image.
  • Look for variable light. Crepuscular rays, shafts of light through cloud or spotting of the landscaped through gaps in clouds can present themselves when the sky is dull and cloudy.
  • Get up early and be out when the sun goes down, face the sun but don't forget to look over your shoulder.
  • Be patient, Mother Nature does what she does in her own sweet time.
Apologies for the novel.


Tas

03-08-2018, 03:42 PM - 1 Like   #9
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A very versatile lens that can do more than just landscapes:







03-08-2018, 04:07 PM - 1 Like   #10
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The biggest mistake I see people make with UAW lenses shooting landscapes is not having foreground interest and having that interest in focus.
So before you frame a wide shot like you would a normal shot, get some foreground interest into the frame and make sure it's in focus.
03-08-2018, 07:31 PM - 1 Like   #11
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I really appreciate all the advice on techniques/rules and suggestions(locations to visit included) -- you folks are awesome! Gives a boost in confidence each time I read through these. Lots of info here along with some excellent samples. I'll definitely read through these again a few times especially while the wife is driving down the road.

The main points I gathered so far are

using foreground interest
making sure the camera is level
look for opportunity to use composition rules/techniques to make for interesting shot
sky/cloud formation opportunities
unless intentional be mindful of using the corners/edges for some shapes (probably will experience this by hard knocks)

Again I really appreciate you folks taking the time to comment. Good or bad, I'll post some shots from the lens.
03-08-2018, 08:02 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by rtmarwitz Quote
making sure the camera is level
... or be prepared for some exciting wild perspectives (highly recommended).
03-09-2018, 01:02 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by rtmarwitz Quote
look for opportunity to use composition rules/techniques to make for interesting shot
Yep, and as Vincent so expertly demonstrated above, especially:

QuoteOriginally posted by Rondec Quote
Use leading lines
03-09-2018, 11:55 AM - 2 Likes   #14
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first pics with 15-30

Received the lens just before lunch while getting things ready to go. Couldn't resist, and here's my first test shot with the lens. I think lens is going to be a load of fun.

I took a couple of non-controlled pics of a block wall at 2.8 and 6.3. 2.8 looked sharp in center and right edge and corners...left edge and corners were a bit more soft. 6.3 was sharp around the entire edge and corners. I think it may be back focusing based on the horse being more in focus as you work back from the head. I'll going to at least adjust that before leaving tomorrow. I'll do some controlled testing when i get back.
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03-09-2018, 05:53 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by rtmarwitz Quote
I took a couple of non-controlled pics of a block wall at 2.8 and 6.3. 2.8 looked sharp in center and right edge and corners...left edge and corners were a bit more soft. 6.3 was sharp around the entire edge and corners. I think it may be back focusing based on the horse being more in focus as you work back from the head. I'll going to at least adjust that before leaving tomorrow. I'll do some controlled testing when i get back.
Cool stuff. I would check for back focus, I'd also use SEL in AF to direct the AF to where you want it to be. If you want to be more precise use the centre focal point and the back button AF to lock AF then recompose. It's slower but if you're not sure of where the focal point is locking onto that should help.

Did you try portrait orientation and getting front on with your horse. I would have been exploring that orientation, plus getting closer and adjusting height to see what I get lower and slightly higher. The great thing with this lens is the variety of options it can give you to compose with, but always keep an eye on what's around the edges of your frame. It's easy to let distractors in if you don't look for them.

I'm not sure if I have a slightly softer side with my lens as I've not tested it. What I do find is the edges can seem soft depending on the angle, focal point distance a subject is from the lens as well as the aperture. Just keep chimping as you shoot to manage anything that looks odd and whilst I don't know how you feel about vignettes this type of lens is going to capture scenes that quite often look better with a subtle vignette ( not always of course). This is a good way of drawing the eye away from things you couldn't compose out.

Good luck with your trip mate.

Tas
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