What’s your favourite lens? That’s a tough question, and obviously, it depends on several factors. What you’re shooting, what you have available, and how large your bank balance is. But there is one lens in particular that is usually recommended for landscape photography: the ultra-wide angle.
If you’re relatively new to landscape photography or photography in general, starting out with that lens might in fact be counterproductive. Photographer Mike Smith explains why in this video.
When we’re talking ultra-wide angle we specifically mean anything that falls between the range of around 12mm to 22mm on a full-frame sensor. Basically, anything that isn’t a fish eye lens, but also isn’t in the range of normal zooms (eg. the 24-70mm).
So why is this an issue? Well, these lenses are far more difficult to create a pleasing composition. You typically need to be much more aware of everything going on in the entire frame. It’s also more difficult to create a strong focal point that leads the viewer’s eye around the image. Basically, by leaving so much included in the frame, you are potentially diminishing the impact.
The other reason is that things appear much smaller and further away in these wide angles while foreground details can become distorted and look unnaturally large. So that gorgeous cottage you can see in the upper third of the frame could end up being just a tiny speck, while the scrubby bush by your feet is taking up all the space.
Many photographers use this distortion to their advantage and can create amazingly dynamic compositions. However, for someone inexperienced the more likely outcome is that they will be disappointed and ultimately discouraged.
An ultra wide lens is a great choice when you have a landscape with interesting and obvious foreground, midground and background features. For example, a mountain stream running through the image from foreground to background with the mountain behind. In this case, the muntain won’t be diminished in size too much and will balance nicely with the foreground, creating a dynamic composition.
A more useful lens for starting out in shooting landscapes might be to invest in a telephoto lens as Mike suggests like a 70- 200mm. Once you’re comfortable with shooting great compositions with these, that’s the time to invest in a great super wide-angle lens.