Do I Really Need A Wide Angle Lens?

by | Mar 8, 2024 | Impressive Places, Perspective, Stories & Expeditions | 2 comments

“Let me think. Should I bring my wide angle lens with me?”

One of my responsibilities at the family conference last weekend was to take family portraits. “No, I wouldn’t need a wide angle lens for that.”

Also, even though the conference was all the way down in North Carolina, it was going to be a whirlwind of a trip. I wasn’t going to plan in any landscape photography stops. Plus, I was riding down with my brother who has two young children of his own, so I wouldn’t have time for landscape photos anyway. “There’s no point in a wide angle lens taking up precious space if I’m never going to use it. No, I won’t bring it.”

Well, the drive down went as expected. Wonderful family time.

But then the day of portrait photos arrived. I had forgotten that I was supposed to take the team photo! “It’s super rainy, can’t do it outdoors. Sweet. Look at that, this foyer area of the church has a great backdrop. Let me set up my camera. Hmm, this portrait lens is not wide enough. Let me get my . . . uh oh!”

Who would have thought I’d need wider than 24mm! But a 24mm focal length on my crop-sensor camera is an true focal length of 38.4mm. That’s great for portraiture, but not wide enough for a giant group of people in the foyer of a church!

Thankfully, I was able to prop open some double doors and stick my camera in another room to get back far enough to include everyone in the photo. “Whew! That was close.”

Now it was time to set up the family portrait area. “That couch. Pulled out from the wall. Yeah! Nice little homey setting. Let me set up my camera. . . . Uh. Uh oh!”

I hope that people (especially people in a large family who are arranged on a long couch with two folks kneeling on either side of that long couch) don’t think it’s odd for the portrait photographer to be taking pictures with his head crammed up against the wall. Open-mouthed smile No, not at all. Not at all.


I had made it through the conference ok. Now we were on our drive back home. “Well, imagine that! It’s getting to be around supper time, everyone is ready for a bathroom break . . . and New River Gorge National Park is just half an hour up the road!”

It was a great spot for a picnic. Great weather! And a great time of day too. “Mind if I head down to the overlook to take a few photos while you all clean up?” (I had done most of the picnic prep and changed a diaper, so it was a reasonable request.)

Very first composition. “Unbelievable. James Alan Staddon, where on earth is your wide angle lens?!”

So I did the best I could. I wanted to include more sky, and there’s just not enough breathing room around the bridge, but here’s a horizontal version of the scene.

240303_James Staddon_3008 Canon EOS 7D Mark II, 24 mm, 0.5 sec at f - 11, ISO 100

Perhaps I could get more space around the bridge and include more sky if I went vertical?

240303_James Staddon_ Canon EOS 7D Mark II, 24 mm, 1-4 sec at f - 11, ISO 100

Yes. But now there’s not enough space to the left of the bend in the river.

“Well, maybe I’ll embrace the fact that I can’t zoom out any more, and zoom in instead.”

240303_James Staddon_3012 Canon EOS 7D Mark II, 25 mm, 1.3 sec at f - 11, ISO 100

I don’t know. It’s ok. Just not vast and sweeping.

The color was really ripening up in the sky. Over in the direction of the bridge especially.

240303_James Staddon_ Canon EOS 7D Mark II, 24 mm, 1-6 sec at f - 11, ISO 100

At this point, I didn’t know it was going to be a gorgeous sunset, so was contemplating heading back. I had been gone for probably 20min and that felt like a long time. Plus I didn’t have my wide angle lens with me, so what would be the point of staying? Smile But I hadn’t gotten a call from Julianna yet, so I decided to wait it out.

I almost wish I hadn’t. Smile

The sky blushed perfect pink. The light started to softly reflect off the clouds, bathing the whole landscape in a beautiful, warm, glow. The landscape photographer’s dream! With the sky looking so nice, I just composed the best I could.

240303_James Staddon_3032 Canon EOS 7D Mark II, 24 mm, 1.3 sec at f - 11, ISO 100

I did the vertical composition too.

240303_James Staddon_3035 Canon EOS 7D Mark II, 24 mm, 1.6 sec at f - 11, ISO 100

And how could I not do the horizontal one with the bridge. Smile I just couldn’t help myself!

240303_James Staddon_3037 Canon EOS 7D Mark II, 24 mm, 3.2 sec at f - 11, ISO 100

It was so pretty! In retrospect, I should have taken the time to photograph multiple photos that could be stitched together in post processing.

By this time, the sky was really looking amazing to the west, so I pointed the camera out that direction and did the best with what God had given me in that situation.

240303_James Staddon_ Canon EOS 7D Mark II, 24 mm, 0.3 sec at f - 11, ISO 100

Pathway to Light
New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia
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After shooting that, I got the call from Julianna, so it was time to go. On my way back to the car, I “snapped” the two photos that would be merged into the following image at a higher overlook.

240303_James Staddon_3045 Canon EOS 7D Mark II, 34 mm, 1.0 sec at f - 11, ISO 100

Thankfully, those last two photos were able to be photographed without the traditional wide angle, landscape lens. However, I think I’ve learned my lesson. I don’t think I’ll go anywhere far without being equipped with a wide angle lens.

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished [equipped fully] unto all good works” (II Timothy 3:16-17).

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  1. Logan Lamar

    James—I don’t know if you take dares… but I dare you to go landscape shooting with only a 70-200mm (and no cheating! leave your wide angles at home!). It’s a great exercise!

  2. James Staddon

    Ha, what a great idea! I just might take that dare . . . 🙂


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