I’ve been studying star and Milky Way photography tutorials as I prepare for what I hope will be a great trip to central Oregon next week. If the wildfire smoke cooperates I hope to come back with a few images that are totally new to me. I’ve never been a fan of star trails but I do enjoy sharp star shots. Since I don’t have any star shots I’m hopeful that the trip produces.
One of the considerations for star shots is lens selection. I have a 16mm lens that is wonderful. But… there’s always a “but”…. I want as much of the sky and Milky Way in the frame as possible. I discovered a low priced lens that got good reviews for star photography.. the Rokinon 14 mm f/2.8. It’s the f/2.8 part that is as important as the 14mm. Some of the technical reviews are not very complimentary but for the price I thought it was worth a try. Today was my first outing with the lens.
This is Cedar Mill Falls which just happens to be about 5 minutes from my house. I had never shot this falls before and thought it would be a nice place to start experimenting. The first thing I learned is that the 14mm demands that you get way closer to the subject than I normally do. Yikes… I felt like I was part of the falls. The next thing I learned is that, since this is a manual focus lens, the framing and focusing of a shot requires a lot more work and inspection than I normally take. That’s not a bad thing at all. The above photo is full frame and totally unsharpened. I was wary of the lens being soft in the corners but I don’t think it is terrible. In fact it doesn’t seem apparant to me at all.
Part of my plan to learn the lens was to go shoot some architecture to see how much distortion I’d have to fight. Since I didn’t have any shots of the little Helvetia country church I headed west to the site. What fun to stand on a country road and not be run over by heavy traffic. A great luxury to stand at the edge of the road and know you can hear and see any vehicles for a long time before they get to you. Again, I was amazed at how close I had to get. I knew that tipping the camera up would exaggerate distortion so I did what I could to get the camera as high as possible and as level as possilbe while still getting the top of the steeple in the shot. The lens does not have a profile for correcting distortion in Lightroom like many other lenses so I used the Nikon 14-24 profile to take some of the barrel distortion out. Again, not a bad deal I think. The clarity is remarkable after learning to focus using Live View which is a different task when using a manual focus lens that doesnt’ fully communicate with the camera.
My experimentation lead me to think that this is a useful lens but one which will be used for special situations. It demands time to compose, expose and focus. I look forward to some time with it next week.