Since the popularization of the fisheye lens in the 1960s, its use has varied from scientific applications to hip hop music videos to caricaturistic portraits of Golden Retrievers. Its value in the action sports realm burgeoned with help from the early pioneers of skateboard photography like C.R. Stecyk, Glen Friedman and Hugh Holland. The ultra-wide view and extreme distortion adds energy to the subject while keeping them in context with their environment. It also helps when there are obstructions in the scene which work against the use of a longer focal length.
Regardless of the reason, action sports photographers use the fisheye a lot (too much?) and it doesn’t take a professional to recognize when it’s being used incorrectly. While I like to believe that there are no “rules” in photography (therein lies the art), there are definite guidelines and any photo editor will tell you that the fisheye lens brings with it a certain expectation that the photographer will follow them- to a certain extent.
My go-to comment in the Push It A Stop Flickr pool is “get closer!” when I see a fisheye photo where the rider is a speck in the frame (and the rest is filled with useless information). I read/heard somewhere that “if the fisheye isn’t in danger of getting hit then you aren’t using it correctly.” This somewhat hyperbolic statement rings true in what my friends and I used to call “the DIG cover shot” (shouts to Ricky Adam) where a headless rider’s front wheel had to have been brushing the camera.
On the other end of the spectrum, the fisheye can be used to fill the frame with an exaggerated environment while the rider- still the subject of the photo- becomes a drop in the ocean (the most prominent example in my mind being a photo of Mike Hoder riding the ramp in his Brooklyn backyard shot from the upper-level fire escape by Rob Dolecki).
This contest is about proper fisheye usage, not just seeing who can get their lens destroyed by a flying bike.
Upload your entries (limit 3) to the Flickr pool with the words “Fisheye Contest” somewhere in the title. Much like the guidelines for using the fisheye lens itself, the rules for the contest are vague and will probably not be adhered to. In any case, we will choose our favorite fisheye shot at the end of June.
Winning photographer and rider will receive Push It A Stop/The Come Up prize packages and be featured on the front page.
Good luck and be careful of front wheels!
Scotty Wemmer, 2002