Benedict Brain is a UK-based photographer, journalist and artist. He is an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society and sits on the society’s Distinctions Advisory Panel. He is also a past editor of Digital Camera Magazine, and the author of You Will be Able to Take Great Photos by The End of This Book.
I’ve been off travelling the globe again. This time I was sailing from Lisbon to New York, visiting half a dozen or so countries en route while talking about the art and craft of photography. However, there was a creative twist: I was presented with a challenge by the folk at Sigma Imaging, who had asked me to try their new super-fast wide-angle 24mm prime.
At first I was thrilled to have been asked, but then it dawned on me that 24mm is a lot wider than I’d normally plump for, especially on a trip like this. I’d typically reach for 35mm, which is pretty much my go-to focal length.
I’m always up for a challenge, and decided that not only would I embrace it; I also wouldn’t use any other lens for the entire 25-day trip. I was using my Sigma fp L, and the body and lens combo proved to be an ideal travel companion. It even made me seriously reconsider my traveling kit bag. Despite the lens being wider than I’m used to, by the end of the trip, I was definitely seeing and behaving differently as a photographer. I think this can be an exciting way to invigorate your photography, stimulate creativity and shake off habits.
A 24mm lens is not generally considered good for portraits. However, I love making portraits of characters I meet on my travels. This image is of a fellow passenger, Marty, who I spent the day with in Belfast. Given that it was made with a 24mm, I had to get fairly close. This was another benefit of wide-angle shooting, as the forced closer proximity created a more intimate connection. The widest aperture of f/1.4 allowed me to blur backgrounds, too.
The Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG DN | Art is a delightfully versatile lens, allowing me to slip between urban topographies, landscapes and portraits without changing lenses. As a traveling photographer, size and weight are a significant consideration. However, I also have a desire for the best possible optical performance. These don’t always go hand in hand, but this lens offers both.
• Other articles in the Art of Seeing series