Photographer Tom Adamson has found a way of making derelict buildings beautiful again by photographing them with the SIGMA Art series of lenses; the SIGMA 20mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art and the SIGMA 24-35mm F2 DG HSM | Art lenses. In this blog Tom describes his ideal opportunity of photographing the remains of Chernobyl disaster zone and how these lenses helped him to achieve the quality of images he wanted to produce.
Exploring the Chernobyl disaster zone with the SIGMA Art series lenses.
I learned very early on in photography that your glass plays a majorly important role in the images you want to create. This is where my first experiences with Sigma lenses came in. I saved up some funds and got myself a couple of second-hand lenses. A Sigma 10-20mm F4 DC HSM wide angle and a Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 EX DG. These lenses opened up a whole new world of photography for me. The image quality and reliability was amazing. Soon after I invested in a 135-400mm F4.5 apo lens for wildlife shots and an old school 28mm manual prime lens for my 35mm film camera. These lenses have been my go-to kit for many years. I still have them today and won’t be parting with them any time soon. They are fantastic lenses and they still produce great images.
I have done a fair amount of travelling with photography, especially when it comes to exploring derelict buildings. A group of friends and fellow photographers approached me with the idea of a trip to Chernobyl. It was one of the names at the very top of my photography bucket list. The nearby town of Pripyat and the surrounding villages are considered one of the holy grails of urban exploring. The trip was booked and three days in the exclusion zone was granted. The chance to photograph and record these ghost towns and the decaying signs of civilisation was a privilege and a rare opportunity not many people get to witness first hand.
I had to make sure every moment and picture taken in the zone was right, and having the correct kit was essential. I had been hearing lots of buzz about the new Sigma Art lens line, and after some research on the lenses I was very intrigued by the specs and premise of what they are and what they could do. The main items that caught my eye were the 20mm F1.4 DG and the 24-35 F2 DG lenses. The main remit I had in mind was wide angle for taking in the full scope of a building interior, and of course prime lenses to pick out the detailed features of any room I was working in.
Shooting in derelict buildings can be a tricky business, mainly due to the darkness and the harsh contrasting light. Plus, with lots of dust and decay it can be difficult to separate interesting features from the back ground, so large aperture brightness was a must in the lenses I chose. After some more final research my decision was made.
First up was the Sigma 20mm F1.4 DG Art lens. Sigma has created the world’s first 20mm 1.4 lens thanks to advanced large diameter aspherical lens manufacturing technologies. An ultra-wide angle lens with 1.4 brightness thanks to the 20mm focal length and 1.4 aperture. This lens is not only ideal for such ultra-wide angle subjects such as landscapes and starry skies, but also allows the freedom of low light photography such as building interiors, indoor photography and stunning close ups or portraits with a natural bokeh effect. A fantastic and adaptable piece of kit. This lens gave the ability to go from a wide angle shot of an interior to being able to take a razor sharp close up hand held shot in low light of any detail I wanted to capture in an instant. From wide to prime the quality was outstanding.
Then it came to the prime lenses. A staple of urbex photography and a must have in any explorer’s kit bag. But which one to take? This is where the Sigma 24-35mm F2 DG art lens came in. This lens allows photographers to carry one lens to do the work of three fixed focal lengths, a 24mm, 28mm and a 35mm. All with f2 brightness and super sharp top optical performance. This lens offers the performance that is the equivalent to that of two prime lenses in the Art lens line. Instead of having two lenses and having to change them over which is never a great idea in a dusty old building, simply zoom. The 24-35mm is the world’s first zoom lens for the full frame sensor with an f2 aperture through the zoom range. This helps create beautiful bokeh effect at wide aperture through the focal lengths. The 24-35mm fast became my favourite and work horse. Extremely versatile, stunning depth of field, razor sharp and beautiful colour toning. This fantastic piece kit is also extremely good for landscape work and will take most standard filter sets with ease. A lens that can live on your camera all day and adapt to most shooting situations you might find yourself in. Wide or prime the possibilities with this lens are endless.
So to sum up my experience of the Sigma lenses: just amazing. Amazing optical performance, truly versatile, durable and reliable pieces of kit. Whatever images you set out to create or whatever environment you intend to visit these lenses are, in my opinion, a must and will not disappoint. World class optics and a range Sigma can be extremely proud of.
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To see a full range of images from Chernobyl by Tom Adamson, visit his website at the following link: