Going wide in Coyote Gulch

“Water damage is always negligence” states the LensRentals’ contract, but narrow and sometimes water-filled canyons are ideal places to test out an ultra wide lens! Returning to the Escalante last weekend for a quick hiking trip, I rented the new Canon 11-24mm f/4L. At 11mm on a full-frame camera, it’s the widest rectilinear lens ever manufactured. For regular landscapes 11mm is crazily wide, and not often of much interest, but in the overhanging alcoves of Coyote Gulch it was just right for a dramatic perspective.

Coyote Gulch alcove Escalante

Coyote Gulch, single frame at 11mm

A rectilinear lens projects straight lines in the real world into straight lines in the image, but at ultra wide angles it does not (and mathematically cannot) prevent noticeable stretching and distortion of objects towards the edges of the frame. In the image of Jacob Hamblin Arch below, Chris was (I think!) standing upright, though he doesn’t look like that in the image. You need to watch out for such visual cues that “something is not normal”, which can be distracting I think.

More generally, a rectilinear view of such a wide field is often going to give a love-it or hate-it sort of image. I rather like the dramatic perspective 11mm gives of the arch and the canyon but – let’s not pretend here – although this is a spectacular location it’s not really as spectacular in person as it appears in the image.


Jacob Hamblin Arch, single frame at 11mm

Of course sometimes 11mm isn’t wide enough! I find the above image to be a bit tight at the edges, and prefer the version below which is a stitch of multiple 11mm frames.

Jacob Hamblin Arch

Jacob Hamblin Arch, stitched panorama

It was tremendous fun playing with the 11-24mm, first in Coyote Gulch and subsequently in Sulphur Creek (a trickier and wetter canyon where the “water damage is always negligence” clause was a bit more worrying). It’s a more practical instrument than I expected, and I was sorrier to see it go than any of the previous lenses I’ve tried out.

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