In photography, a fisheye lens is a wide-angled lens that takes in an extremely wide, hemispherical image. Originally developed for use in meteorology to study cloud formation and called “whole-sky lenses”.
My first experience with a fisheye lens was when I borrowed one from a friend several years ago. I fell in love with the creative abilities that the lens allowed. I showed some of the images to my daughter and she thought that they were cool. She and her husband bought me a Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye Lens for Christmas that year. I ran out and created literally hundreds of images. I had only scratched the surface.
Once you see the world through a fisheye lens you may never be the same. In 2010 the 15mm lens was discontinued and replaced by the EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM Lens. I never upgraded because my daughter bought me the lens and I cherish her acknowledgement of my love for photography and because I was not a fan of the larger size of the lens. It is not a lens I use often and lugging it around would be an issue for me if it were larger. The 15mm lens is the size of a teleconvertor and packs easily into my fanny pack or pocket.
The 8-15mm is an f/4 and cost approximately $1,200.00, the weight on that is 1.19 lb. compared to the 11.6 oz weight of the 15mm. Also when you use the 15mm on a full frame sensor you get the fisheye look; if you hold it straight with the horizon level you have an ultra-wide angle view. The 8-15mm fisheye is supposed to be a much better piece of glass. I have borrowed it a few times and I do agree that the image quality is very good. I’m still not a huge fan of the circle look, but I do think that at times it can be a very fun thing to play around with.
A couple of things to consider when photographing with a fisheye lens. When composing you will need to make sure that your image is level especially if you are working tight (unless you are using 8mm, then you can simply rotate the image). If the sun is out there is a very good chance that your shadow will be in the image. I like to use my fisheye on cloudy days. The lens is not well protected against water or rain and sometimes you will get so close to your subject that you will hit the front of the lens!
Just because I am using a fisheye lens doesn’t mean that I won’t be creative with in-camera effects, including: multiple exposures, slow shutter speed blurs, camera movement blurs, HDR , etc… I also like to add some special effects in post-processing that include: textures, borders, filters and plug-ins.
For the above image I used Topaz B&W Effects for the desaturation and border, I used a texture that I downloaded from Shadowhouse Creations and Nik Color Efex 4 to adjust the lighting and colors a bit. I wanted a moody look for the image. CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO SEE A LARGER, SHARPER VIEW.
If you don’t have a fisheye lens consider purchasing a used 15mm or the new 8-15mm-either way you will have tons of fun and I am sure you will be creating many interesting effects with it!
To learn more about adding post processing effects check out my newest filter guide “A Guide to Creative Filters &Effects II”.
I will be returning to Greece in 2017 for my second workshop with the amazing Dalmatian Pelicans of Lake Kerkini, Greece. To join me or to read more about the trip, click below.