When we think of shooting landscapes, typically it’s with pretty wide lenses. Most landscape photographers I know rarely shoot with anything that isn’t at least as wide as a 24mm on a full frame body. But does that mean you have to only shoot landscapes with a wide angle lens? In this video, Toma Bonciu challenges himself to shoot landscapes with an 85mm lens, typically used more for portraits, and the results are pretty spectacular.
Anybody who knows me knows that forests and woodland are my favourite types of environment in which to shoot, particularly if there’s a river running through them. And having a foggy woodland is the most ideal of conditions for me. And this is exactly what Toma got to experience on his day out with his Canon 6D and Canon 85mm f/1.8 lens.
It sounds quite limiting and challenging shooting just an 85mm lens, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still shoot wide if you wish. Panoramic images, for example, are a great way to get a wide angle of view out of a longer focal length lens. And that’s how Toma chooses to shoot his first image of the day.
With one side facing toward the open area with sunlight streaming through and the sun fading off through the fog as it goes to the left produces a nice pleasing gradient and an interesting image with an obvious focal point in the leaved branches on the right.
One of the benefits of shooting this type of subject with an 85mm lens, though, is that it allows you to really focus in on a subject and throw the background out of focus. But you don’t have to go so far as to turn the background to mush. Put it just slightly out of focus so you can still make out what it is.
The fog definitely adds to these images, and I wonder how the scene might look without it, and how Toma would approach the scenes differently. With the background not only fading off in focus, but in light level, it definitely introduces an interesting element of depth.
That last one makes me feel like if I stare at it for long enough, a rabbit or deer is going to just appear on the path.
It is interesting to see unconventional focal lengths used for a subject like landscapes, and it’s difficult to pull it off well. Too often with tighter shots like these, I feel like something’s missing. Like there’s nothing to really draw your eye.
But I might be slightly biased. I often shoot locations like this with longer focal lengths. Although, it’s usually during location scouting trips, and I’m specifically looking for spots in the scene to place people for when I go back in the future. And it’s why I suck at landscapes in general. I always want to put people in them.
Perhaps I need to start challenging myself more, as Toma has done.