Shoot wide | Travel Photo Tip 3

The subject of what lens is best for travel is often an issue of weight, efficiency, and even price, but all these will have to take a backseat once performance comes in.

photo tip 3

What do I mean by this? If you love what a lens does so much, you begin to ignore the fact that it weighs a ton, or that you had to take out a loan plus two months’ worth of salary to get it.

This is not to say, though, that lenses are the end-all and be-all of taking pictures, and taking pictures for travel in particular. They are not. What they do, however, is help us all get the job done as efficiently as possible, depending on our style of shooting and our needs for that particular moment. They are great tools, but remember that they are just that—tools that need someone’s skill to put them to use. That’s where YOU come in.

I have tried on different lenses in the past, others owned (and subsequently sold) or else borrowed, but I find the ultrawide angle (or simply UWA) the most versatile for travel (currently using a Sigma 10-20 for this). Other lens makers have their equivalent too, like the Nikon 10-24 and 12-24 for DX bodies, and 14-24 or 16-35 for the full-frame. That is, of course, just me. An 18mm should be good enough, but remember, you can always take two steps backwards to make the perspective even wider. My point is that I love shooting wide when traveling. You have probably noticed as much from the number of wide photos on this blog.

So, when do you shoot wide?
1. Shoot wide when you want to put context to your photos.

A close-up shot of sand in Calaguas might probably look identical with a patch of sand in Boracay. But when you shoot wide, you identify a place easier because its surroundings are included in the frame as well.

When taking portraits, especially of people whose environment is crucial to understanding their personality, shooting wide is almost always better than a close up. If you want to show just how cool a space is, it’s probably a better idea to show the whole thing instead of creating a patchwork of close ups.

photo tip 3

(L-R) MassKara Festival in Bacolod; kids at Balicasag Island, Bohol; man showing his catch in Bantayan Island, Cebu.

2. Shoot wide when you want to emphasize an element.

Wide-angle lenses, such as an 18mm or even wider, create distortion. The closer you get to a subject, the bigger it gets and the smaller its surrounding elements become, even if they’re just inches away from one another. Use this distortion creatively. UWAs especially produce interesting angles not even your naked eyes can see.

That said, you should make sure that everything included in your frame is relevant to your photo. Shooting wide does not simply mean including everything you see on the viewfinder, especially since wide lenses tend to include so much more than what you intend to take a photo of. Be mindful of these unneeded elements and remove them from the frame.

photo tip 3

Burnham Park, Baguio City


Apo Island, Negros Oriental

photo tip 3

Panagbenga Festival, Baguio City

3. Shoot wide when you want an easy life. :P

If I were to choose just one lens to use for my travels, it would be an ultrawide and I’ll be happy. I can shoot food, people, landscapes, festivals, and interiors with it. A telephoto, in contrast, will need a lot more complicated work to pull off all these kinds of shots. And it’s almost foolish to bring ONLY a tele on a trip, expect when you’re going birdwatching maybe or wildlife hunting.

photo tip 3

(L) Cafe by the Ruins’ Pan De Sal with herb cheese (R) Chaya’s Beef Sukiyaki

photo tip 3

Apo Island, Negros Oriental

An UWA does have limitations though. Those who love bokeh won’t get a lot of it from an UWA. It’s also terrible in low light conditions because of its narrow minimum aperture (mostly f/3.5 or f/4). But these are minor compared to how efficient it is in almost everything else, especially provided good lighting.

photo tip 3

MNL Boutique Hostel, Makati

One very important thing to remember when shooting wide:

Get as close as you can, even if it means brushing against your subject. Don’t be afraid to take those necessary two steps backward or forward.

ultrawide_ilocos norte

Bangui, Ilocos Norte

Talk to your subjects. Since wide-angles usually entail you to come closer than normal to your subjects, make sure you interact with them instead of simply shoving the lens right down their noses.

two2travel | apo island

Apo Island, Negros Oriental