Three Types of Wide: Space, Compression and Depth
All Photos © 2006, George Schaub, All Rights Reserved
While tele lenses are great for compressing space at a distance, and packing objects in a visual group known as "stacking", wides can help do the same with subjects that are closer at hand and that would require you to back way off with the tele. In addition, because of the wide angle of view and ability to focus closer than with a tele you can get closer to the foreground subject and exaggerate its size (known as foreshortening) to get a fairly intense group together in the frame. The ability to shoot at a narrow aperture and get a good DOF also helps with this effect. It's important to use DOF preview to make sure all the subjects are sharp, from near to far.
Of course, DOF can also be used to create a sense of space on the opposite end, when working with very wide apertures and shooting close up. Most fixed wides allow you to shoot at a fast f/2 or f/2.8 and focus very close, a combo that guarantees a very shallow depth of field and space created by the foreground jumping into 3D space out of a very soft background.
There's little doubt that teles and "normals" give you a distinct point of view. For me, however, the wides are my lenses of choice, whether I'm walking around the city photographing quick candids or taking my time when hiking and doing landscapes or scenics.