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Long Lenses for Landscapes Photography

Surprise: Long Lens Landscape Photos Can Look Terrific!

How often have we spoken that the perfect lens for shooting landscape photography is a wide angle lens?

I guess one too many. Here’s something that you should know about photography – rules are meant to be broken. Let us look at how you can use a telephoto lens for landscape shots.

The wide angle is not always the only lens choice you’ve got when shooting landscapes. 

Surprisingly the telephoto lens can also give you some excellent imagery to boot. Intrigued? Check this video by photographer Mike Browne

Browne was in Iceland conducting a workshop and he faced a similar challenge. He stumbled upon an old dilapidated wooden boat, the only human element on an otherwise deserted landscape, dominated by a gray foreground, snowy mountains and the sea which was also gray.

The fact that it was cold and overcast didn’t help much either.

How does one make a compelling shot on an overly gray day like this? The trick is in changing the perspective and experimenting with the composition.

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1. The Wide-Angle Perspective

When you are faced with such an ominous and ruggedly beautiful landscape that is typical of Iceland, your photography instincts will automatically make you reach out for your wide angle lens.

That’s all right because you don’t want to miss out on the angle that is ‘normal’ under the circumstances.

This first image using a wide angle lens was shot at:

  • f/16
  • ISO 400
  • focal length 24mm and
  • shutter speed 1/50th.

With f/16, the aim was to maximize the depth of field.

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ISO was cranked up as the dull gray conditions, together with the small aperture slowed down the shutter speed considerably.

Conditions were windy. Plus, Browne was shooting hand-held which meant there was a lot of shaking involved. At a shutter speed of 1/50, he was safe while using a focal length of 24mm.

wide angle lens landscape photography
The first shot with a wide angle lens

This first shot typically shows almost the entire expanse in front of the lens. The boat is the subject of the composition, the only human element in the picture.

2. The Telephoto Lens Perspective

For the next shot, Browne put on a telephoto lens on his camera.

The telelens has a smaller angle of view. Plus, with a small f-number (this one had a f/2.8 aperture) telelenses can literally ‘suck-in’ the background close to the foreground. That’s the aim of the second shot.

Bringing the mountains closer to the boat

With a telelens, you also get to control the depth of field more effectively.

Meaning, if you use a smaller f-number, much of the background will melt away, thus, isolating the subject in the foreground.

Here’s the first shot with the telelens:

breaking landscape rules with tele-photo lenses
The second shot with a telephoto lens

Watch how the background appears to be closer to the boat now than in the previous shot? Also, the background is softer, thus, isolating and bringing into focus the boat, which is the main subject of the image.

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Browne has subtly changed the composition so that the tip of the bow is now against the fairly lighter background and thus stands out rather than blend in with the background. Plus the off-center composition makes this image more compelling than the previous image.

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Bringing bokeh into the landscape is definitely a technique that’s borrowed from portrait photography. It is not something that you usually see photographers doing. But one cannot say this is wrong.

The image you produce is purely how you see things and how you want to portray them in your photography. There’s no right or wrong in that.

Portrait Perspective

Speaking of right or wrong, have you ever used the portrait perspective in landscape shots? For his third and final shot, Browne uses the portrait perspective.

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Again, the composition is critical because it helps him to put things in perspective and get the maximum out of the elements in the frame.

A slightly smaller f-number, smaller focal length, and ISO number and some moving up and down and this is what Browne gets for his final shot.

using tele-lenses in landscape photography
Final shot: Landscape in portrait perspective

There you have it. It’s a myth that’s now broken. You don’t always have to shoot with an extreme wide angle lens when shooting landscapes.

You can see more free videos here. We recommend you also subscribe to Mike Browne’s YouTube channel to learn more about photography.

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