It’s easy to fall into the trap of shooting everything at medium-far distance as “classic landscape”: it becomes a visual habit and pattern just as quickly whether it’s my own shots (I consciously prompt myself, asking what can I do differently this time?), or National Geographic, which suffers from the same flaw of articulation, namely, failing to show the intimate details of a place; the stuff that won’t make the tourist brochure (so to speak). The overall look of any location often leaves me wondering: “well, what is it really like there?”. The “stunner” stuns but doesn’t say much at all about what it’s like to walk through a place, paying attention.
With the images below, I hiked from stone to stone along and in the creek, I squatted, I got down on my belly, I literally took the path less traveled (or no path at all). It takes a conscious mental effort to do so, contrasting sharply with the risky habit (photographically speaking) of walking down the grooved and dusty boot-trodden trail—I try to avoid trails and follow countours, streambeds, etc whenever I can. In fact, it is very difficult to find good images in the Yosemite area in August: most days are blue-sky wonders. Pretty, but same-old day after day.
Accordingly, going very close and wide can be stimulating, creatively speaking. At close range, the depth of field is minimal even at f/13, but context need not be sharp: it is often the juxtaposition of sharpness against unsharpness that makes an image “pop”.
The about $1499 Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 focuses to 25 cm / 9.8 in at 1:9.5, making juxtaposition of very near and very distance elements possible. Unlike the Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8 which is manual focus, the autofocus of the Zeiss Batis 18/2.8 helps greatly when flowers are waving in the wind, or when perched on a slippery rock in the middle of a stream or on a loose steep slope, etcetera: it’s just to awkward to focus manually. Similarly, the low shutter speeds used here are a testament to the value of Sony IBIS (SteadyShot image stabilization).
The Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 Distagon is the highest performing 18mm lens on the market today, outperforming the Leica 18/3.8 SEM without any doubt, particularly at the periphery and in control of color fringing (and at about half the price). As such, the Batis 18/2.8 is surely a must-have for the Sony mirrorless shooter.
All images shown here were shot handheld with IBIS (SteadyShot) enabled.