Tuesday, December 4, 2012

GUEST BLOG: Fisheye-Hemi by Clifford Pickett

Corrected with Fisheye-Hemi – read the article to learn more…

Fisheye-Hemi is a plugin created by Image trends that offers a unique solution to a “problem” caused by the massive distortion inherent in Fisheye lenses.  “Problem” being in quotes because in certain circumstances, this distortion can and is used for creative effect.  This quickly gets old however, much like the tilt-shift effect, and for many of us, you’ll go through your “fisheye phase” where you’ll shoot everything with this lens, and then you’ll move on, never to use it again.   

I guarantee you, once you realize what can be done with this program (and proper technique and basic Photoshop) your fisheye will stop collecting dust.  So, the case for the fisheye. The first reason, distortion, is a given.  If you want it, you got it.  If you don't have it, check the label, it’s not a fisheye.  The second reason, massive field of view (180 degrees in some cases), if you have a fisheye, you’ve got that too.  And you want to keep it. What if you want the field of view but don’t want the distortion?  This is the most common problem facing this quirky type of lens and this program solves it in a unique way. 

Do a quick search on Google for “defishing”, scroll past the activists, and you’ll find a few programs offering solutions.  All of which attempt to remap the distortion of the lens back to being rectilinear (read flat).  Sounds like a great idea?  Try it.  Most of these programs have a free trial.  You’ll quickly realize that at any size other than the smallest thumbnail for web, the image will be remarkably soft in the corners, the image size ratio will be changed and most importantly, things will look funny.  Especially know sizes and shapes, like say, peoples faces.  Not good. 

Fisheye-Hemi offers a unique solution to this.  It’s a simple, plugin that offers virtually no user input other than to choose which type of lens/sensor you have (circular, full frame, cropped sensor).  You click once and it spits out a corrected image.  Here’s why it’s unique, it only corrects for vertical distortion.  This means a lamp post, a door, a persons head, will look normal.  Horizontal distortion is kept in place however, preventing the entire remapping of the image and the loss of composition and sharpness that comes with it.  With one click, you ditch the bad distortion and keep the good/necessary distortion that makes this lens unique. Great, so what the hell does that mean? 


Here’s an example of people:

This alone is a significant reason to buy this program.  Now, a brief disclaimer, I do not recommend shooting people with a fisheye in general but in certain situations where you need to cover a large area and panoramic is not feasible, it’s nice to know you can use this program to get the shot you want and avoid people (women) hating you later. 

This works great for architectural/indoor shots too.  Here’s a few examples. 

Take a look at the scaffolding on the sides, they’re rendering perfectly straight while retaining the composition of the original photograph

These are from a series of pictures taken recently in the Rockaways and Breezy Point in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.  The fisheye works well here as the goal was to take an environmental portrait of sorts of an entire house in it’s surroundings.  I was using a Sigma 15mm 2.8 full frame fisheye on a Canon 5D mark III.  Pay attention to the lines along the edges.  All of the lines that we know are supposed to be straight, i.e. wood, steel,brick etc., are rendered straight. 

It works on verticals too. Take a look at the circle on the bottom.

This program also allows you to create super simple panoramic.  Most cameras these days have way more pictures than we need.  Most of the time.  Using a fisheye and cropping into a panoramic format allows us to take advantage of those pixels.

So there are a few tricks to keep in mind.  First, always keep your horizon in the middle.  Yes, everyone knows from day 1 we are taught NOT to do this but when shooting with an ultra wide angle lens, Keystoning (when a building looks like it’s leaning backward) is big problem.  This is exaggerated even more with a fisheye.  The trick is to compose loosely, keep the horizon in the middle and “compose” by cropping in post.  Yes it’s cheating, but it beats stitching panos and hoping people won’t move or the wind won’t blow from shot to shot.  High pixel DSLR allow us to do this without worrying about picture quality now and if it helps, know you’ll be cropping into the part of the picture that is the sharpest.  The second trick is to try and keep your key subjects closer to the middle of the lens, yes, similar to first, compose loosely, but this focuses on the idea that the distortion gets significantly worse as it approaches the edge of the frame, don’t put any heads there if you can avoid it.  Third trick, shot at 2.8.  Don’t bother bumping up your ISO and shooting at F16, you’ll get plenty of depth of field at 2.8 or F4, you won’t notice the difference.  The slight gain in sharpness from stopping down will be offset by the ISO increase if shooting at dusk. 

Just remember to use this lens with the end goal in mind, keep the distortion if you want it, lose it if you don’t.  Use these techniques along with this plugin to achieve truly dramatic images.  

A Word from Ron

Wow, I’d like to thank Cliff for putting together such a cool article. Cliff is like a brother to me, so he’s a guy I really trust. He’s has been telling me for a while that I’ve got to check this product out, but like we do with our brothers – I ignored him because I haven’t had time. He finally proved to me that he’s right (again) and that I should check this out – which I will in a future article.

Check out Cliff’s amazing work at http://www.cliffordpickett.com/

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Fisheye Lens Links

Wanna buy a fisheye now? Me too! I was just looking at these links so I thought I’d share them in case you wanted to look too…

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