A Tribute to a Lens – Canon EF 16-35mm f2.8L (Podcast 471)

A Tribute to a Lens – Canon EF 16-35mm f2.8L (Podcast 471)

This week we continue with our tribute to a lens series, with the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II lens. Once again, I’m going to share 10 photos made with this lens over the last six years, with some commentary on why I found this glass to be so very special.

To give you a bit of background before we start, I feel that I need to give an honorable mention to this lens’ two predecessors. When I bought my first digital SLR camera back in 2001, the line I used to my wife to get spousal approval to buy such an expensive piece of kit, was that I already had lenses. I just needed to buy the body and I was set.

At the time I owned a 24mm prime lens, a 35-105mm zoom and a 100-300mm zoom lens. The 24mm was actually pretty good, but the 35-105 and 100-300 were absolutely crap lenses, and I was only able to see this when I started shooting digital. Even at 3 megapixels I quickly saw that these lenses weren’t up to scratch, and also, because my D30 was a crop factor camera, even my widest 24mm lens was only the equivalent of a 38mm focal length, so I needed something wider, and with good image quality.

To the delight of the camera manufacturers, I’m sure this is what happened with a lot of people, but I turned my sites to the L series lenses, which had until that point been strictly for pro use. Hobbyists just didn’t seem to buy L lenses, but when digital camera along and showed us the flaws in regular lenses, people started looking at L lenses, whether they were pros or not, and at the time, I definitely was not.

With my promise of spending no more money still fresh on my lips, I decided to pass over the new 16-35mm lens that had just been released, and went for the cheaper 17-35mm f/2.8L lens, which had been released five years earlier. If you’ve been following this podcast for any length of time, you’ll probably have already guessed that this was a mistake on my part. The original 16-35mm seriously played on my mind.

I should give myself some credit as I was able to hold off for four years, but in 2005 I finally broke down and replaced the 17-35mm with the original 16-35mm, but that turned out to be another mistake, as Canon replaced the original 16-35mm with the Mark II just 18 months later, and the image quality was significantly better, so I ended up replacing it again, with the lens that we’re paying tribute to today.

I didn’t want to jump into this without first mentioning these two lenses though, as they played a big part in my development as a photographer. Having the ability to go so wide, way before I bought the 14mm prime lens that we looked at last week, and being able to zoom in this ultra-wide range was liberating. Of course, progress continues and I’m now finding myself liberated again by the incredible new 11-24mm f/4 lens that we also looked at recently, and this is why I have just sold my 16-35mm Mark II lens and 14mm lens, and why we are paying tribute to them today.

So, let’s jump in and start to look at our ten photos from the 16-35mm f/2.8L II lens. We’ll go through these in chronological order, and this first photo was made in 2009, a few years after I bought the new Mark II version of this lens, in the Oirase Mountain Stream area. Shot at 24mm, it was the middle of the zoom range, but I have always really enjoyed being able to zoom in and out to get what I consider the ideal framing for any particular scene.

Oirase Choushi Ootaki (Big Falls)

Oirase Choushi Outaki (Big Falls)

As I mentioned last week, I don’t subscribe to the popular zoom with your feet mantra. There is a track that runs along the valley side at this location, and it’s about a meter wide. If I moved forward, I’ll fall off the edge, and to move backwards I’d have to start boring into the rock behind me. Sure, if it was a 24mm prime lens, I’d have been fine, but with image quality as good as it is with modern zooms, I just find the ability liberating.

Stick on Arid Riverbed

Stick on Arid Riverbed

Once again, I’ve tried to select images that not only show what the 16-35mm lens enables us to do, but that also played a part in my history as a photographer.

This next image was shot in Miradores de Darwin in Patagonia, at the end of my first voyage to Antarctica. We’d come back to Argentina from the peninsula, and spent a few days photographing in the area before the end of the tour.

In this image, I used the wide angle to accentuate the cracked riverbed foreground by getting down very low, and included the dried twigs as additional elements of interest.

The middle ground is punctuated by the dark patches around other dried plants, and I placed the valley side along the top edge, and the black and white conversion helped me to bring out some texture and detail from what was otherwise a slightly uneventful sky.

I remember feeling so fortunate to be in this place having just given up my day job to pursue photography full time. I have always loved to travel, and this was really very much a dream come true, to be in a place that carries Darwin’s name on my way back from Antarctica, one of my bucket list locations.

One of the things I love about wide angle lenses is how they distort reality. In this next photo of the giant Gundam statue in Odaiba here in Tokyo is a good example of this. By zooming out to 17mm, and getting in close to the statue, I made the feet look huge, and enhanced the look of the size of this sci-fi spectacle. This actually moves and blows smoke etc. so it isn’t really a statue, but the movements are limited, so it isn’t really a robot either. It’s pretty cool either way.

The Power of Gundam!

The Power of Gundam!

The next photo represents another milestone in my own photography career, as I shot this photo of the Golden Gate Bridge during my first visit to the US after incorporating Martin Bailey Photography, to run my sort of semi-world tour, of Pixels 2 Pigment workshops. This is a great memory shot as well, as I was spending valuable time with friend Jack Andrys in this popular but iconic location.

Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge

I also recall receiving a silk wallet from my brother when I was a kid, with an illustration of the Golden Gate Bridge on the front. My brother had just joined the army and was traveling the world. I remember being a little bit envious, but mostly very proud of my big brother.

I mentioned earlier that the 17-35mm lens that I initially bought was my first Canon L lens, but since those early years of digital, I’ve really learned to value the weatherproofing of Canon L glass. I’m not one for mollycoddling my gear, and I have in fact had moisture inside my 16-35mm lens a few times, but in general, I allow it to get wet when necessary, and fewer places on the planet will put your gear to the test as much as Antarctica. We quite often find ourselves being splashed with sea spray, which doesn’t do gear much good, but generally a wipe with a damp cloth when you get back to your cabin is enough to keep things working well.

This photograph is from Cierva Cove, as we sailed around the cove in our Zodiac. This was during my fourth expedition down there, and third in a row in 2012. Again, this photo is very special to me, not just because I love the photo, but it reminds me of how fortunate I am to be leading this life. Here I opened up the lens to 16mm, to really accentuate the foreground water and monolithic icebergs.

Monumental Icebergs

Monumental Icebergs

I do like using wide angle lenses in places like the Tokyo International Forum building too, as we see in this next image. I included this image not only because I like it, but I am finding more and more that I enjoy images like this more when I’m able to include a human figure. As a nature photographer, I often wait quite a while to get a scene with no people in it, but quite often this is just what an image needs to really give it some context, as I believe was the case with this image.

Salaryman

Salaryman

The human figures in this next image are so small that you can hardly make them out, but then I didn’t need them here, in this photograph from my first Iceland Tour. Again, a testament to the weatherproofing of this lens, the spray from the waterfall here was literally pounding down on me as I shot this. I was literally rotating the camera towards me, away from the mist, for long enough to wipe the front of the lens clean, and then covering it with a cloth as I rotated the camera back around to face the scene, then I’d get one shot having whipped the cloth away, before the mist covered the front of the lens again.

Gullfoss (Falls)

Gullfoss (Falls)

I actually generally recommend using an air blower to remove droplets of water from lenses in the field, but when you are being constantly spritzed you have to wipe the lens with a cloth, which quickly becomes soaked through, but it’s workable to get the shot. The people by the way are the tiny dots along the ridge at the top right, to give you an idea of the scale of this amazing place.

Still in Iceland, but on my second tour there last year now, when I shot this side angle of the Hallgrímskirkja Church in Reykjavik. We do kind of a bonus day on the first day as people make their way into town, and go for a walk to the church and a few other locations in town. Reykjavik is a beautiful place, and this church, actually the third highest structure in Iceland, stands proud at the top of the hill behind the main street.

Hallgrímskirkja Church

Hallgrímskirkja Church

I love the design of this architecture, with it being made up of pillars like the basalt columns that we see over at Vik during the tour. I thought this was a fun angle too, although it was not that wide, as I’d zoomed in to 35mm for this one. Still, I thought it worked well with the columns leading down towards the camera and out the right side of the frame.

In this next photograph, we go back to the Oirase Mountain Stream here in Japan, to the same waterfall, Choushi Outaki, that we looked at in the first photograph today. That photo was more about the beautiful lush greens of course, but this one is from last October when the fall color was painting the valley gold.

Choushi Outaki Waterfall

Choushi Outaki Waterfall

This is from a slightly higher perspective than the first shot, and I zoomed out to 17mm for this one, to include more of the fall foliage, which is obviously more important for this photograph. I’m always in awe of waterfalls. They pour millions of tons of water continuously, year in year out, and there’s just so much power in them, yet they are so beautiful.

I also really like the cyclic nature of our photography. There is just over five years between these two photographs, and in many ways I feel my photography has changed and hopefully improved in that time, but I had to chuckle to myself when I checked the EXIF data and saw that I shot both image with a 0.8 second shutter speed, so I’ve been pretty consistent on how I approach photographs like this too. 🙂

The last photo that we’ll look at today is a little bit sad in a couple of ways. Firstly, it’s of a seven old boats, shot during my Hokkaido Landscape Tour in January this year, and these boats all had holes in their hulls or for some other reason had been left here in what I called the boat graveyard. It also saddens me somewhat that this tour was probably one of the last times that I would really, really use the 16-35mm until I sold it this month. I’m happy though that it was able to join me on this adventure, as we had a pretty amazing time together.

Boat Graveyard #2

Boat Graveyard #2

I know I’m a big softy when it comes to this stuff, and that’s fine. I’d rather think of my gear in this way. We go through a lot of experiences together, and that in many ways helps to bond us together like old buddies, until the time comes to cut the cord and move on of course.

By the way, if you didn’t notice this already, this last photograph is up for grabs in our current Fine Art Print giveaway, so if you’d like to be in with a chance of receiving a copy of this on Breathing Color’s amazing Pura Smooth fine art media at 17×24″, visit our giveaway page at mbp.ac/giveaway.

You know, our gear comes and goes, and I know that I get too sentimental about this stuff, but I really do like to pay tribute to the tools that enable our craft and art to be what it is. Yes, it’s only gear, and it’s not all about the gear, but with photography being such a technical pursuit, it can’t be ignored either. Neither can we ignore the fact that sometimes we have to put our gear through a lot, and if you select well, it will bear the strain, and deliver the goods, assuming that we are doing what we need to do behind the camera of course. It’s a partnership, after all. Neither of us can do much without the other.


Show Notes

Fine Art Print Giveaway: https://mbp.ac/giveaway

Hokkaido Landscape Photograph Adventure 2016: https://mbp.ac/hlpa

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Canon EF 14mm F2.8L II USM Lens (Podcast 168)

Canon EF 14mm F2.8L II USM Lens (Podcast 168)

Today’s episode is the last of three in which we’re taking a look at three lenses that I have picked up in the last few months, and not talked about yet. In the first two weeks we looked at the Canon 135mm F2 L prime lens and the TS-E 90mm F2.8 Tilt-Shift Lenses. Today we’ll take a look at some shots from the new version of the 14mm F2.8 L lens. So let’s jump right in and take a look at some shots from this Ultra-wide angle lens.

So, as with the last two episodes, I have a shot of the lens in my online gallery, so let’s bring up image number 2016. As a quick reminder, for those that are new to the podcast, I will be calling out a number for each image I discuss. This is the unique number for the images in my online gallery. If you are listening to the enhanced version of the Podcast, the images will automatically change on your computer or your iPod, so you might not need this number. If you follow the audio by looking at the images on my Web site though, you can input this number into the field at the bottom of the Podcast menu in the top menu at my site, martinbaileyphotography.com, then hit enter or click the button to jump to the image. You can also just locate this Podcast in the table on my Podcasts page at the same site, and click the thumbnails.

Canon EF 14mm F2.8 L II USM with Lens Cap

Canon EF 14mm F2.8 L II USM with Lens Cap

So, getting back to the lens, in the photo the first thing that you will notice is that the front element of the lens is big and round and sticks out of the front of the lens barrel quite a long way. Of course this means that there is no way to put a protector filter, or any kind of filter on this lens, so it’s a bit scary when you use it. You can see the special lens cap in the photo too, and I tell you, as soon as I’m not actually shooting photos with this lens, I put the cap back on to protect that front element. The other thing that you will be able to see is that the lens hood is built in. You can’t take it off, and this is also the reason for the shape of the lens hood. It kind of drop around the lens hood and clips into place. You’ll also will see that red ring around the front of the lens, showing us that this is an L lens, which is Canon’s high end professional lens range. Not all, but most L lenses are dust and moisture proof, and this is no exception. I’m not looking forward to the time when I have to use this lens in wet conditions though, as that may mean that I have to wipe that front element, which I don’t usually like to do. A small amount of moisture can often be blown off with a lens blower, but if it got really wet, I’d have to wipe it while shooting, which is going to be a bit scary.

The first photo that I wanted to look at today is number 1996. This and the next photo was actually shot with David Lee’s lens, and not my own, which I bought the following weekend. I’d met up with David, one of the active participants in our Photography Forum, in a park here in Tokyo, and we spent the afternoon of November 30th shooting together. David had asked if there was any glass that I’d still like to own, and when I said the 14mm, it turned out he’d got this lens in his bag. After we’d been shooting the autumn color for a while, we walked along and I noticed the sun shining through these trees creating nice shadows. I went for my 16-35mm F2.8 II lens, intending to point it downwards to make the shadows seem to radiate out. David at that point though handed me the 14mm which I used instead. The effect of the radiating shadows was emphasized even more of course than it would have been with the 16-35mm.

Radiant Shadows

Radiant Shadows

The diagonal angle of this lens is 114°. The horizontal angle is 104° and the vertical angle is 81°. One of the worst problems with ultra-wide angle lenses is that the image corners tend to look as though they are flowing out of the frame. The 16-35mm II version has corrected this really well, and I was looking forward to getting home to see how the 14mm II had handled this. On close inspection on the computer I was kind of surprised to see that the top corners had a little of this, yet the bottom corners showed hardly any distortion. I haven’t had time to look into why this would happen, but it seems that various conditions create different distortion.

It was about this time that David, looked behind us, and noticed the beautifully coloured tree canopy, which we can see in image number 1997. The tree trunks that we see here, seemingly converging inwards from the bottom corners are actually only about 45cm apart. There is not even room to get your shoulders between these trees, yet the extreme wide angle of this lens makes them look much further apart. For this shot, I pre-focused to about one meter, which is just a tad less than infinity on this lens, and extended my tripod legs fully, then pushed the camera mounted on the tripod up a meter or so, between the trees, and released the shutter with my cable release. I did this to get me a little closer to the canopy, which in reality is not that far away, though it seems to be here, and also to get me between the trees, which was not possible by physically sliding in between them. Pretty soon I’m hoping to put together my list of top five or top ten images for 2008, and when I do, this will definitely be included. I love this shot.

Rainbow Canopy

Rainbow Canopy

I also inspected this shot pretty closely for distortion, and here found very little, again puzzling me somewhat, because it seems to be contextual. Still, there is no problem right to the corners in this image, with regards to distortion. There is mind a little chromatic aberration in the corners of this image. For this wide a lens it isn’t enough to put me off using it, but it’s there. I was sold though. I’d been wanting to pull the trigger on this lens for a while, and having actually tried it out and taking a look at the images on the PC, I was having a hard time resisting picking up my own one. I lasted exactly one week, and went to pick mine up the following weekend.

I took the lens out straight away for a test run, and shot the rest of the images that we’ll look at today on that following weekend. The first of which is image number 2011. This was shot in a local park, again looking up into the autumn tree canopy. Here though I’ve taken advantage of the depth-of-field that the super wide angle affords us, and focused on a patch of leaves just above my head on the left side of the frame here, but then with an aperture of F9 have rendered the trees that reach up into the sky totally in focus too. Again, these trees are really not that big, but the angle of the lens makes them look much bigger. Again we have that convergence as we look up, which I’m really enjoying. I’ve shot this sort of image quite often over the years. This is one of the ways in which I like to use the 16-35mm, but the 14mm just takes it to another level. I’m really surprised at the difference that just 2mm makes.

Yellow Near and Far

Yellow Near and Far

The warped world effect is of course not just visible when looking up, but also when pointing the camera down, as in the first shot that we looked at. Let’s take a look at another example though, in image number 2013. Here we see a yellow carpet of gingko and other fallen leaves. Again, this is really just a simple image from a stroll in the park, but has become quite an effective image. It’s having the ability to do something different, even in relatively boring locations that was one of the most tempting things about this lens. You can by the way see a little of that distortion in the bottom corners, as though the image is flowing out of the frame. Again, not a big deal, but most certainly visible here. And, this time the top corners are fine, just adding to my confusion as to the circumstances in which this distortion shows itself. I’m sure there’s a good reason, and I’ll probably spend a little time to research this on the Web soon. If anyone knows about this though, maybe you could let us know in the forum.

Yellow Carpe

Yellow Carpe

As I got to the far end of the park, the sun had dropped well below the horizon, but was casting a lovely warm light onto the clouds, as we can see in image number 2014. Again I used the ultra-wide angle to make relatively small trees that were literally right in front of me look much taller. I also exposed for the sky here, to keep the colour in the clouds, and allowed the trees to pretty much dropped into silhouette. You can probably see a little orange spot near the center of the bottom of the frame too. I left that in as a hint, that there are actually loads of people playing games, and finishing up a game a baseball in the area between these near trees and the ones in the distance. This is a community play area, so literally teaming with people. They can actually be made out on the full sized image, and although I’m yet to print this, I’m thinking that they’ll make a nice little easter egg in a print of this image.

Yellow Carpe

Yellow Carpe

Cloud Leaves

Cloud Leaves

Shortly after this, as I was finishing up a can of hot coffee from the vending machine, I noticed the clouds moving to a position that there were pretty much lined up with the a tree, and so I shot image number 2015. This tree again is actually almost vertical, but the lens has bent it over, making it look like it’s leaning into the shot. The clouds behind the tree kind of look like leaves on the tree, with a bit of a stretch of the imagination. It was getting pretty dark by this point though, so I upped the ISO to 400, and shot with an aperture of F8 for 1/25th of a second. I could have gotten everything in focus at F5.6 or probably wider, but I’m still getting the hang of the depth-of-field with this lens.

I haven’t had a whole lot of time for my photography since, but wanted to take a look at one last shot from the following day, which is image number 2020. Not quite a silhouette, but with some nice long shadows, this is a scene from a shopping afternoon in Ginza, here in Tokyo. I arrived at this street that they close off to cars during the day at the weekends, just as the sun was reflecting off a building on the left of the street as we look at it. The sun is actually over on the right of the scene, hidden to us by the buildings on the right. I’d been shooting for a minute or so here, waiting for people to walk into the shot at a nice even spacing, to again make those long radiating shadows. As I waited, this little girl ran into the scene, getting ready for her much who we can see to the left, to take her photo. For just a moment, there was a gap behind the girl with very few people, which enabled me to shoot quite an effective image. Not one for street photography as such, when an opportunity like this presents itself to me, it’s as exciting as any other kinds of photography that I do, and made a little more exciting by the incredible angle of view that the 14mm gives us.

MBP_Ginza_20081207_15381

So, a fun lens, that I’m really looking forward to getting out with much more. It seems that whatever you point the camera at with this lens, you can make an image worth looking at, it’s just so different. This is quite a removal from much of my photography, which is often shot with much longer lenses, and with a very shallow depth-of-field, but again, that is part of the fun. The lens is built well, as we’d expect from an L lens, and is not that big, so it will be easy to drop into my bag as a way to make something different out of a normal location or subject

So, a few pieces of housekeeping before we finish. Firstly, the deadline for signing up for the Hokkaido workshop has come, but we still aren’t full, so I’m leaving the links up to continue to sign up at mbpworkshops.com. If you are interested, and still sitting on the fence, note that I will charge slightly less if you wire the funds, instead of using the Paypal links on the site, so contact me if you’d prefer to wire the funds and I’ll send you my bank details. Please don’t wait too long though, as the flight is filling up quickly, now that booking is open. I booked all the flights for our current participants last week and the plane was pretty full already, so don’t hold off much longer if you are thinking of joining us for the Winter Wonderland Workshop 2009.

On that same subject, you probably noticed that I was a little unenthusiastic about the Blurb book that I made of photos from the 2008 trip when I mentioned it last week. When I looked at the book in daylight, I was actually a little more disappointed with the quality than I let on last week. It seems that the printer heads either needed cleaning, or simply were not putting out enough ink, on all of the pages on the left side. The right side is perfect, so it proves that the quality can be there. Anyway, I have mailed Blurb about this, and send them some photos of the problem, and I’m now waiting to see what they say. Although pretty good, I would really like the book to be as good as it can be, and so want to see what they say before ordering a larger batch.

Finally, I’ve had a bit of a hellish last week, working on a script to build RSS feeds for Cooliris, the Web technology that I have recently build into my Web site. I wanted to be able to push one button and the script go away and build multiple feeds, for each album and category on my Web site, which is based on Coppermine, the free PHP gallery software. Well, finally, after midnight on Sunday the 21st, I got it completed. It’s working really well, and now there are some additional links below the bop menu in my Web site at martinbaileyphotography.com when you are browsing thumbnails or images in the gallery. You will see a Cooliris logo with an arrow pointing to the links when they are available, and if you have the Cooliris plug-in loaded, when you click the links, you will be launched into Cooliris, and see a full screen virtual wall with all of the images from that album or category displayed. You can click on them to view in the intermediate size, and even double click to make that image full screen and turn on the automatic slideshow etc. It’s really cool technology, and I do recommend you grab the plug-in from cooliris.com and take a look for yourself.

That’s it for this week though, and as we are now just a few days from Christmas 2008, I’ll finish by wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, and I hope that you and yours have a great time over the festive season. And even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, you just have a great week, whatever you’re doing. Bye-bye.


Show Notes

The music in this episode is from the PodShow Podsafe Music Network at http://music.podshow.com/


Audio

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