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A Cold Morning on the Beach with WonderPana & the Nikon PC NIKKOR 19mm f/4E ED

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A Cold Morning on the Beach with WonderPana & the Nikon PC NIKKOR 19mm f/4E ED

On November 22nd, at 5:30am, my alarm blared on my bedside table. My eyes snapped open and I sleepily looked at the time. I slammed the snooze button, needing another few moments to prepare myself mentally for the early morning. I want to take pictures of the sunrise over the Lake Michigan, using our new WonderPana holder for the Nikon PC 19mm f/4E Tilt/Shift lens.

Before even setting your alarm to take your pictures, I'd recommend keeping any eye on the forecast a few days before your shoot (if it's gonna be a cloudy day, or worse, rainy), no point in getting up, right? After a few snowstorms and a cold front, the forecast said today would be the first sunny day and first warm day we've had in a while. Another thing to keep in mind is what time the sunrises. For this, I use timeanddate.com.

The tilt and shift functionality is niche to most, but right away, I see the appeal for the extra features. I primarily used the shift features, which moves the lens parallel to the focus plane. This lets you get the top of structures to fit into an images without aiming the camera up (which can cause converging lines):

Without shift

With shift

While not perfect, shifting the lens does remove most of the distortion that aiming the camera up can cause. But that's more of a bonus, and doesn't much relate to the WonderPana, and what I wanted to use the lens for.

The shift function more so came in handy when I needed to change what shows in the frame. When I set up the tripod after getting to the lakefront, I noticed the lens was wide enough to get the sand in-frame. To make things simple, all I had to do was shift the lens upwards, and I have a hassle-free way to reframe my shot.

Without shift

With shift

Yes, I could've definitely just raised my tripod until the sand was no longer in the shot, but by the time the camera would have been high enough for that, I would've probably needed a ladder (which I don't usually include in my gear loadout, unfortunately). Besides, the last thing I'd want is to miss the sunrise from fiddling with the tripod.

After recomposing my shot, I took a few tests, eventually adding an ND1000 to get the water as smooth as possible:

1 / 2
2 / 2

The first shot had a shutter speed of 1/200th of a second, while the second shot had a shutter speed of 8 seconds, so it's a drastic change.

I checked my watch habitually, wondering why the sun wasn't up yet. One thing I learned from this shoot was that clouds on the horizon will delay the sunrise for pictures (the sun is above the horizon, sure, but it's behind the clouds).

Another twenty or so minutes later, I took more images, once the sun had risen above the clouds:

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2 / 2

Shortly after, I changed the subject and composition: 

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2 / 2

While not a lens I imagine owning for myself (I personally don't do enough landscape or architectural work to justify it), the lens handles beautifully. The knobs to control tilt and shift are smooth and easy to use. The lack of autofocus may seem intimidating, but it can't be more intimidating than the price of a lens that could tilt, shift, and still somehow maintain autofocus (obviously a figment of my imagination, but it'd be pretty cool). But anyone looking to use filters with the lens could look at the bulbous front element and recognize that a normal filter wouldn't work for this lens at all. It doesn't have that built-in hood that other lenses (like the Nikon 14-24 f/2.8) have, so the standard two-piece construction for the WonderPana holder wouldn't work.

Thankfully, the lens uses a bayonet fit for its lens cap, so the dedicated WonderPana holder for the 19mm uses the same bayonet fit. This actually made mounting the filter holder much easier, since it can be put on when the lens is already on the camera. It gave me the ability to focus the lens without the filter, then twist on the filter holder (I just had to be extra careful to not bump the focus ring.

Despite the cold, despite the early morning, and despite not staying as long as originally intended, it was a fun shooting experience. The entire process of manually focusing, adding the filters, and figuring out the optimal exposure can be meticulous and tedious to some, but I enjoy it because it lets me slow down. The beauty of long-exposure photography is that in the few seconds that the camera is exposing and processing the image, you can sit back and enjoy the view.

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