I know February is a short month, but it’s hard to believe I’ve let it slip away and that we’re now in the first full week of March without any kind of update. I could blame it on being too busy, or that I’ve had a cold, or a dozen other excuses, but mostly it’s just not getting around to it. Regardless, here’s an update, mostly focusing on the acquisition of a new camera lens and the outings to give it a test run.
Just a shade over a year ago, fellow photographer Bennie Brawley and I were invited to photograph the Mount Zion Institute in Winnsboro, SC. Bennie got some amazing shots, so I had to know what lens he was using. That was my first introduction to the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens. Bennie also uses this lens to capture some incredible Milky Way shots. Since that trip I’ve encountered other photographers with this same lens, and all gave it rave revues.
I’ve been wanting a super wide angle lens and this one seemed to hit that sweet spot of price vs performance. I added it to the list of items I wanted to get before we moved out west next year, and slowly started saving up for it. With paychecks from several singing gigs coming in, I figured the time was right to make the purchase. A couple of weeks ago the lens arrived, so I took it out to put it through its paces.
My first outing was local. I know, I know…I’ve shot Falls Park and Downtown a thousand times before, but that’s why this locale worked for a lens test. It was a known quantity. Plus, I have another talk to give at the end of March and needed some specific downtown shots.
I found parking on a side street and first headed to the Court Street area. Right away I was blown away by how wide the image actually was. As with any super-wide, there’s a lot of distortion and skewing. You can do some correction, but it just looks…wrong. For example, here’s a shot of the old courthouse and Poinsett Hotel. The image bows in at the top. This is is the photo at the top of this post, BTW:
Here it is with some “auto” correction for skewing in Lightroom. To me, this makes the buildings look even more distorted.
I wandered down to the Peace Center where I was able to get a shot that captured the sign and both auditoriums in one image. Clouds were a bit of a problem.
I made my way on down to Falls Place and the Liberty Bridge, taking shots from familiar locations. I found myself starting at 16mm and widening the frame as desired, rather than starting at the widest point and moving toward telephoto, as I do with my other lenses.
The lens didn’t work for everything. In this shot of the Liberty Bridge from the park the bridge gets lost. The image is too wide. It would have been better if I’d been closer.
I continued up to Falls Place and got some good shots of the Peace Center and Wyche Pavilion reflecting in the Reedy River.
I walked back up Main Street taking random shots of buildings along the way. Over all, I was please with the way the images turned out.
I had to get some tickets over to Ken in Clemson, and that gave me another excuse to take out the lens.
Central and Pendleton
Ken and I started out by lingering over coffee in Clemson, as we usually do. From there we headed into the town of Central, stopping first at the old roller mill. The first thing that I noticed was that I could get an entire shot of the mill without the power lines in the way. Here’s a shot from my Panasonic Lumix, which had been my go-to for wide angle shots…
…and here’s the shot from the Tokina lens, where I was able to move forward beyond the wires.
On the other side of the main street we stopped at the old Central School, now converted to apartments, and Mount Zion Methodist next door.
After zig-zagging through the countryside and rejecting a few targets we wound up in Pendleton, stopping first at St. Paul’s Episcopal. Once again I was able to avoid some wires (seen in the first shot below, taken with the Lumix) by using the new lens. However, some of the distortion just couldn’t be avoided.
We wandered through the cemetery, visiting the grave of Thomas Clemson. I took shots of stone textures with both cameras to use as overlays for future photos. I also took a few shots of the blooming camellias to see how the new lens would work in close quarters.
From St. Paul we drove to the south side of Pendleton to the ruins of Tanglewood Mansion.
We had lunch, then stopped at the old Welcome Baptist Church on Highway 76 in Sandy Springs.
I left Ken and drove back home, but I wasn’t done for the day. After a brief respite I was off to catch a sunset.
I drove straight on up to Caesar’s Head to try out the new lens with some sunset shots. In addition to my usual complement of cameras I had my old Nikon D50 with the Sigma 18-250 lens. I snapped a variety of shots.
Table Rock tended to get lost. It looked more like a generic mountain sunset with a wide view, which was OK. I had also been warned that these ultra wide lenses tended to have lots of sun flare. That was definitely the case. Opening the aperture a bit took care of some of the problem, but some of my best shots were ruined with flares.
So far I really like this lens. As with any lens you have to be aware of its strengths and weaknesses. This one is really sharp, but does cause some distortion. Even so, I’m glad I’ve got it, and I’m looking forward to using it with some astronomy shots.