Do you use long lenses for landscape photography?
When most people think about landscape photography, they often think Wide. Using wide angle lenses is very common with landscape photography and for a good reason. Wide lenses have some great advantages for landscape photography. They capture a wide view of the scene; they provide great depth of field; and they create a deep perspective which emphasize the foreground and minimize the background. But in many cases they’re not the best choice, and you shouldn’t fixate on shooting wide every time you see a great landscape.
Using long (or tele) lenses allows you to capture amazing scenes you wouldn’t be able to shoot with a wide angle lens for several reasons:
- The immediate foreground (which is closer to you) is not always interesting, and it doesn’t have to be included in the frame in every shot. Sometimes you only want a more distant part of the scene.
- Landscape is not always about huge and wide scenes, it can also be more intimate and include a small part of a scene like part of a water stream or mountain edge.
- A long focal lens does exactly the opposite of a wide lens in terms of perspective – long lenses compress foreground and background so you can capture and balance them both.
Here are some examples:
For this photo I was standing at the green hills of “Alpe di Suissi” at the Italian Dolomites, quite far from the “Sassolungo-Langkofel” mountain. By shooting at a 70mm focal length I was able to capture The green hill next to the mountain, the mountain itself, and the blanket of clouds wrapping it from above. With a wide lens I would get way more of the green hills in the frame, and the mountain would have been a lot smaller in the frame
This photo, taken at the viewpoint of Marmolada mountain (Dolomites), displayed a fantastic scene of clouds hovering above several distant ridges and valleys. The immediate foreground was far from interesting and did not belong in the frame. But also, I wanted to focus on all the different layers of mountains and valleys which were far apart of each other, and I achieved so by using a focal length of 100mm.
This frame was taken completely unplanned from a place I was parking (again at the Dolomites). I simply raised up my lens and used a focal length of 180mm to isolate this fantastic intimate scene of clouds walking between the mountain edge.
Here is another example. This photo captures an intimate scene in the woodlands at Ngorngoro forest (Tanzania) with early sunrise mist. It is a panorama of several frames taken at 400mm.
So, next time you visit a beautiful landscape, consider adding a long lens to your kit and see the great frames you can capture with it. Try looking at smaller parts of a scene which are attractive and isolate them. Consider if the a specific is better when it compressed or open. Consider if you want to include the foreground, and the ratio between it and the further elements. Obtaining good landscape composition with a long lens is not always trivial, but if you try again and again and keep looking for a match you’ll see the benefits of shooting landscape with a long lens.
About The Author
Tomer Razabi is a passionate freelance landscape photographer and owner of Wild Travel – adventure and nature expeditions company. Tomer guides photography expeditions in Israel and around the world.