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10.18.2013

Fall is my favorite time of year to take photographs, and I always push myself to get out and make the most of the brief window of brilliant color. I have spent the last week chasing fall foliage in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. This year, after taking the obvious shots of deep oranges and reds, I used my Sigma 15mm F2.8 Diagonal Fisheye lens to capture the forest from a different perspective.

I find that the most compelling fisheye images include a strong foreground element that is positioned less than 12 inches from the front of the lens. For fall foliage, I decided to find colorful leaves to use as foreground elements to frame the forest in the background.

I took this image in the late afternoon, positioning myself underneath the leaves so that they would be backlit by the sun. I included the sun in the frame and like how the fisheye created a small sunburst.  The rich blues in the sky were achieved without the use of a polarizing filter.  Sigma 15mm f2.8 Fisheye, 1/1250 sec at f/7.1, ISO 250.

© 2013 Gabby Salazar | I took this image in the late afternoon, positioning myself underneath the leaves so that they would be backlit by the sun. I included the sun in the frame and like how the fisheye created a small sunburst. The rich blues in the sky were achieved without the use of a polarizing filter.
Sigma 15mm f2.8 Fisheye, 1/1250 sec at f/7.1, ISO 250.

At a towering 5 feet 2 inches, I am often too short to get my lens close enough to the leaves with my eye still on the viewfinder. I solve this problem by lifting my camera up above my head and moving the lens around to capture different angles. By reviewing the composition on the back of my camera, I am able to readjust and eventually capture a pleasing frame. A few of the images in this series were shot this way, enabling me to get a perspective I could not achieve with my camera on a tripod. Luckily the Sigma 15mm Fisheye is so lightweight that it is easy to handhold.

When shooting up at the sky, the foreground element is often dark or silhouetted. I deal with this by using a little fill flash to add light to the leaves in the foreground. I shoot with an off-camera flash dialed down to – 1 or -1 2/3 and use a small diffuser on the flash to spread out the light. In the following two images, you can see the difference a little fill flash makes in the overall exposure. The first image is shot without fill flash and the second has the fill flash set at – 1.

This image was made near Hickory Run State Park in Pennsylvania without the use of a fill flash.  Sigma 15mm f2.8 Fisheye, 1/100 sec at f/7.1, ISO 250.

© 2013 Gabby Salazar | This image was made near Hickory Run State Park in Pennsylvania without the use of a fill flash.
Sigma 15mm f2.8 Fisheye, 1/100 sec at f/7.1, ISO 250.

This image was made near Hickory Run State Park in Pennsylvania. I used a fill flash at – 1 stops to light up the leaves in the foreground.  Sigma 15mm f2.8 Fisheye, 1/80 sec at f/7.1, ISO 250. Fill flash.

© 2013 Gabby Salazar | This image was made near Hickory Run State Park in Pennsylvania. I used a fill flash at – 1 stops to light up the leaves in the foreground.
Sigma 15mm f2.8 Fisheye, 1/80 sec at f/7.1, ISO 250. Fill flash.

I have also found that midday is a great time to photograph foliage with the fisheye, because the foliage is backlit if you stand directly underneath the leaves. The sunlight adds beautiful contrast to the colors. On a clear day, you will also get a nice blue sky behind the foliage. I even include the sun in many images (as in the first example) because the fisheye adds a nice sunburst to the image and makes the sun small enough so that it is not distracting.

This image was made in the early afternoon when the sun was still high in the sky. By standing under the leaves, I was able to use the sun to backlight them. I shot this image at f/2.8 to blur out the background, drawing attention to the branch in the foreground. Sigma 15mm f2.8 Fisheye, 1/2500 sec at f/2.8, ISO 250.

© 2013 Gabby Salazar | This image was made in the early afternoon when the sun was still high in the sky. By standing under the leaves, I was able to use the sun to backlight them. I shot this image at f/2.8 to blur out the background, drawing attention to the branch in the foreground.
Sigma 15mm f2.8 Fisheye, 1/2500 sec at f/2.8, ISO 250.

I often hear people say that fisheye lenses are only novelty lenses, but I find myself using this lens more and more as I search for different ways to photograph common scenes. If used effectively, the results can be very dramatic. For me, the fisheye is also a great tool to get me out of my comfort zone, forcing me to look at subjects I love, like fall foliage, with fresh eyes.

For this image, I used fill flash to add light to the leaves in the foreground, separating them from the background. The sky was cloudy and white, so I angled the lens to shoot down on the leaves, including as little sky as possible.  Sigma 15mm f2.8 Fisheye, 1/13 sec at f/13, ISO 1600.

© 2013 Gabby Salazar | For this image, I used fill flash to add light to the leaves in the foreground, separating them from the background. The sky was cloudy and white, so I angled the lens to shoot down on the leaves, including as little sky as possible.Sigma 15mm f2.8 Fisheye, 1/13 sec at f/13, ISO 1600.

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  1. Awesome, really digging the lens. Might have to check it out soon :)