CHRISTIAN COLUMBRES: Travel Photographer
After obtaining a degree in architecture, Columbres traveled the world before settling down in Portland, OR, to build a travel and architecture photography studio. “I’m inspired by dramatic and dynamic space, places, and faces,” he says.Base in Portland, OR, Christian Columbres specializes in travel and architecture. The two fields may seem completely different, but for Columbres they’re almost one and the same. Whenever he travels, it’s usually the architec-ture that calls out to him. What Columbres demands of his lenses are sharpness, utility, distortion control, and solid construction. All are defining traits of his favorite glass described below—all wide-to-normals, including…
Christian’s Favorites Lenses:
NIKON AF-S 14–24mm f/2.8 ED Zoom-Nikkor M
Used for the photo opposite, this $1,785 (street) lens is Columbres’ favorite for interiors. “It’s crazy sharp for a lens that’s so wide,” he says. “It’s fast, and the minimal distortion it allows is easily fixed in postproduction. Its colors are rich and flare control—considering that the front element extends way out into the lens shade—is extraordinary.” Notice in this shot that the primary light source is directly in front of the lens, yet the image is contrasty, with no evidence of flare.
NIKON AF 50mm f/1.4D Nikkor
If you encountered Columbres foraging through the markets of Istanbul or strolling the streets of Montmartre, this is the lens he’ll be shooting. “For me, the 50mm is a perfect everyday lens,” he says, “and I love it for almost all travel, street, and general photography.”
Why? It’s light, sharp, contrasty with rich color, and, an f/1.4, it’s great in low light. Other pluses: It’s inexpensive ($310, street), compact and calls little attention to itself in dicey environs.
Finally, because it’s not a zoom, this lens forces Colum-bres to hunt, move, and really explore a location. “Before I got this lens, I would stand in one place and change the zoom setting. That was working the scene for me,” he laughs.
NIKON PC-E 24mm f/3.5D ED Nikkor
“This perspective-control, tilt/shift lens ($1,990, street) is my absolute favorite,” Columbres says. “The shift ability allows me to successfully capture architecture without weird, converging lines.” Also, to ensure undistorted perspective with ordinary lenses, he must shoot with the camera level with the horizon. That means that in the resulting picture, half the content is foreground. Yet, for most architecture, the interesting stuff happens above, not below, the horizon line. Shift control lets Columbres maximize his framing by effectively eliminating unwanted foreground.
Used in this Shot: Nikon AF-S 14–24mm f/2.8G ED Zoom-Nikkor
With its ultrawide focal-length range, this is the perfect Nikon zoom for tight interiors. Its edge-to-edge sharpness, falloff-free corners, and superior distortion control mean travel photographers need not crop the edges of their pictures to eliminate “problem areas.” A full-frame lens, it becomes a 21–36mm on Nikon APS-C bodies.
Canon EF 16–35mm f/2.8L II USM ($1,520, street) High-performance, water-resistant, and ultrawide, this well-built zoom is internal-focusing, extremely quiet, and wide enough for almost any subject you may encounter.
Olympus 7–14mm f/4 Zuiko Digital ED ($1,470, street) Four Thirds shooters, even with that 2X lens conversion factor, also have an ultrawide at their disposal. Its constant aperture means consistent exposure, and its incredibly small minimal working distance of less than 5 inches lets you really have fun with apparent perspective distortion.
Sigma 10–20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM ($650, street)Though not as fast as most top-drawer ultrawides, Sigma’s digital-only offers very attractive pricing, quick and quiet autofocus, a constant aperture, and plenty of sharpness.
Tamron SP AF 17–50mm f/2.8 XR Di II VC ($650, street) Also for APS-C bodies, this ultrawide packs a triple punch of speed, built-in vibration control, and a very favorable price.