Landscape photography isn’t only about wide-angle lenses as we’ve seen before. You can use a wide range of lenses for landscape shots, from ultra-wide to really long, even over 200mm. But which one to pick? Nigel Danson has the answers you need. In this video, he’ll help you choose the ideal lens for different scenes and compositions.
When you look at the scene, your eyes have quite a wide field of view if you include the peripheral vision. If we speak in terms of lenses and focal lengths, the angle covered by your eyes’ vision would be somewhere around 20mm focal length. But what we focus on with our central vision is what we would capture with a 50mm lens.
Depth of field
Nigel starts the video talking about the depth of field. It’s important to mention it because it affects our decision on the lens we’ll use. If we want to include a foreground element into the composition, we probably won’t choose a longer lens. If we do, we’ll struggle to get everything in focus, since longer lenses create a smaller depth of field.
Nigel mentions that scale is another element to think about. Longer lenses compress the background, whereas ultra-wide lenses make it seem smaller. This is something to keep in mind when making your choice of the lens.
Nigel uses a 14-30mm f/4 lens when taking photos at ultra-wide angles. He notes that you should be super-careful because an ultra-wide-angle lens captures a lot of the scene, which makes it more difficult to compose a shot. So, when you shoot at an ultra-wide angle, pay attention where you’ll place all those elements.
Another thing to keep in mind is that with ultra-wide focal lengths, a few millimeters can make a huge difference. Nigel shows a few of his example shots and how only 2mm can make a difference in the composition.
Lenses like this are useful when you have a foreground that is close to mountains in the distance. Ultra-wide lenses make mountains seem smaller and less dominant, which will balance your composition.
According to Nigel, this is the easiest range of wide focal lengths to work with. With lenses that cover I, it’s easier to spot compositions. Also, you’re still at a wide-angle, but you don’t need to be as close to the background to make it seem proportionate to the foreground.
This is the range that’s covered with your super-versatile 24-70mm lens. This is a really interesting focal length range that gives you lots of opportunities. Nigel even advises it as the lens to start with in landscape photography, and it’s even great for when you’re just walking around, as your go-to lens. This focal length range allows you to bring distant subjects a little closer to you. While it’s tighter than the wide-angle range, you can still get some foreground in the scene. At the wider end of this range, you’ll still have everything in focus, but it will be easier to compose a scene because you’re not incorporating lots of elements into a shot.
Nigel points out that this focal length range is fantastic for shooting woodland. You’ll get foreground and mid-ground in focus, and you probably won’t mind that some trees in the back are not perfectly sharp.
Longer lenses (70-200mm+)
While telephoto lenses probably aren’t the first that come to mind for landscape photography, they can be great for this genre. Nigel recommends them especially if you’re struggling with creativity and need something to challenge yourself.
If you start looking in and finding little bits and details in the landscape, lenses like this are an ideal choice, especially shooting at the longer end of a 70-200mm lens. If you have a scene that has a lot going on, a telephoto lens is a way to go because you’ll focus on specific details only in your composition. Just make sure to avoid “scene stuffing” and other mistakes when using longer focal lengths.
In Nigel’s video, you can see a bunch of examples of landscape shots taken at different focal lengths, and he also talks a bit about lenses that he uses most often. Looking at my shots, it’s usually somewhere between 24mm and 55mm, but keep in mind that I use an APS-C camera. And even on a crop body, I rarely use the widest end of my 18-35mm lens.
What is the focal length range you use most when shooting landscapes?