The Irix 11mm f/4 Firefly Lens Finds Center at the Cathedral
When the Irix 11mm f/4 Firefly Lens showed up, I had a couple of subjects immediately in mind for it. The Cathedral Parish of St Patrick in Harrisburg, PA was one of them and on the next very-cloudy day, I made the trip to this beautiful place.
Why did I need a cloudy day to photograph the interior of a church? Any direct sunlight shining through the windows creates overly bright spots on the interior. While daylight was needed to light the inside of the church and bring life to the stained-glass windows, strongly-diffused sunlight creates a far more even light than direct sunlight.
Perhaps the biggest challenge to creating an image like is perfectly aligning the camera to the ceiling. With the centered framing, the camera must be positioned precisely below the subject in the exact center of the frame. Often aiding in finding this exact position are tiles and other structural elements that help indicate where the center of the floor is.
I had another aid in this case. The gold-colored subject dead center in the frame is a chandelier that hung far below the ceiling. When I saw the gold chandelier centered in the blue and gray area of the ceiling behind it, I knew that the camera was perfectly centered.
Centered, however, did not mean squared. The Really Right Stuff TVC-34 Carbon Fiber Tripod and BH-55 Ball Head were especially helpful for this part of the endeavor. I wanted as much of the ceiling in the frame as possible, so I fully retracted the tripod legs, which, with the precise construction of this model, meant that the tripod was level. Similarly-precisely-constructed is the BH-55 ball head and with the stem fully against the bottom of one of the drop notches, the camera was directed straight up.
With the camera centered and angled straight up, only final adjustments were needed. The camera still needed to be rotated within the notch (adjust the camera so that it is visually straight up to get started) and then I simply rotated the tripod on the ground, keeping the camera in its centered location, until the viewfinder showed that it was squared with the ceiling. Yes, panning adjustments could have been made using the head's panning feature, but rotating the camera around the head moves the camera slightly from its centered position, meaning that the tripod would need slight repositioning anyway. So, I simply adjusted the tripod position to begin with. Using a Canon Angle Finder C made finalizing the absolute straight-up framing much easier (as would a vari-angle LCD).
Focusing with this manual-focus-only lens was simple. I turned the focus ring to the slight detent/bump at the infinity focus mark and everything in the frame was in focus. The 11mm depth of field is huge at normal subject focus distances and this haptic-feedback setting works for a large number of uses, including with wider apertures than the one used here.
This is an HDR image, processed with Photomatix.
I left the cathedral quite impressed with the Irix 11mm f/4 Firefly Lens. The angle of view it provides is amazing and my first impression is that image quality is very good, especially for the very low price of this lens.
11mm f/8.0 3.2s ISO 100
Add Life to the Kit – Get a New Lens – PA Capitol Rotunda
The addition of a new lens can add life to a kit, sparking creativity and inspiring a new look on old subjects. One such lens example is the Irix 11mm f/4 Firefly and for most photographers using full frame gear, the extreme wide angle focal length is the big appeal for this lens.
Shared here is the Irix 11 view of the Pennsylvania Capitol Rotunda ceiling. While this appears to be a simple image to capture, establishing the perfect camera alignment is very challenging. Any decentering within the space causes opposing side detail alignment mismatch and forces slight camera tilt to establish balanced framing with the latter quickly being made apparent by converging lines.
While software can be used to correct some issues such as perspective, it cannot easily move the relationship of near and far details. Getting it right in the camera is a much better option.
With those bright lights in the frame, an HDR strategy was needed for this picture.
Consider getting the Irix 11 or another lens that would be useful to you and provide a creative spark. The holidays are great time to use such a lens and your Christmas tree makes a great 11mm subject.
11mm f/8.0 1.3s ISO 100
Taking the Irix 11mm Lens to Church
The Cathedral Parish of St Patrick is one of my favorite churches and I previously shared an image of its ceiling captured at 12mm. While I liked that one a lot, I wanted to see what the same scene looked like captured at 11mm.
Can a 1mm difference in focal length make a significant difference in an image? Absolutely. While a 1mm difference is meaningless at 400mm, it is substantial at extreme wide angles and the difference between 11mm and 12mm is very noticeable. Of course, wider is not always better and sometimes 12mm is a better choice than 11mm. If you must decide between these two focal lengths, keep in mind that an 11mm image can be cropped to 12mm framing. Cropping of course results in reduced resolution, but going the other direction requires panorama capture and that becomes especially complicated when mixed with an HDR technique as was required by this image.
While it seems that going into a church and photographing straight up would be easy, this image was very challenging to capture. Getting the camera alignment (nearly) perfect was the big part of the challenge. The camera had to be perfectly centered in the scene, directed straight upward and aligned square with the architecture. Any misalignment meant that certain aspects in the scene would not match throughout the image, such as the bottom of the arches being equally aligned with the designs painted on the ceiling.
A slight misalignment makes it appear that you didn't do your job correctly. Intentionally framing the scene so that it is not close to square saves a lot of effort. Challenges are fun, but those not wanting to make that effort should consider the latter.
If you don't have the very-fun 11mm focal length covered in your kit, the Irix 11mm f/4 Firefly Lens is an inexpensive option that performs very well.
11mm f/8.0 .6s ISO 100