Wide-angles are the go-to lens of choice for most landscape photographers; ideal for capturing sweeping vistas, and enhancing the sense of distance and scale in a composition. But are these lenses always the best option?
You may be surprised to hear that in some cases, the somewhat unlikely telephoto lens may prove to be an ideal option. These lenses are ideal for compressing the elements in a scene, and helping to minimize the sense of scale and distance in a composition.
This means that for those times where you’re hoping to showcase a distant mountain in all of its grandeur, photograph a full moon looming over the horizon, or capture a distant bird in flight, a telephoto is your lens of choice.
When presented with a beautiful landscape, the challenge shouldn’t be to “fit everything in,” rather; your goal should be to effectively capture the scene at hand. Often, this means finding a focal point, and isolating the main point of interest. Using a telephoto can help you to capture powerful images since it makes it easier to select a slice of the landscape that has the most appeal or interesting details. Focusing on part of the scene, rather than the entire vista will allow you to create a tighter and simplified image, and leaving out any unnecessary and potentially distracting details.
Telephotos are ideal for those times when you want to compress the visual elements in a scene. Any time that you’d like both near and distant objects to appear similar in size or closer together, you’ll want to reach for your telephoto. This is also the case if you’re hoping to draw a distant element – such as a hill, a distant house, or the moon – a bit closer. If your focal point is a distant element, you’ll want to use a telephoto.
A telephoto is also ideal for creating panoramic images – and with a minimal amount of image distortion. Using a telephoto will allow you to zoom in on different areas that you’d like to photograph, and capture a series of images that you can stitch together in post processing.
Optimal lighting can enhance almost any image, especially if you’re using a telephoto. These lenses are ideal for emphasizing particles in the air such as mist, haze, and dust, helping to add a beautiful and ethereal look to your images.
Your telephoto will also prove to be useful during misty weather conditions, allowing you to easily capture a patch of the distant, brooding sky, or isolate a section of a beautiful foggy valley. Instead of feeling tempted to fit everything into your scene, try zooming in and filling the frame with a section of the setting for a unique and powerful image.
When using a telephoto, you’ll want to keep in mind the optimal aperture that’s required to capture the scene in sharp focus. When using a telephoto to capture a distant focal point or subject, a large depth of field is often easily achieved. So consider using an aperture that’s optimal for your lens, usually somewhere around f/8 to f/11.
When using a telephoto, you’ll most likely run into situations where different areas in your image will require different exposures, especially images where you’re capturing both the sky and foreground. For situations like this, it’s a good idea to get some neutral density (ND) filters that will fit your lens. Or, you could capture bracketed exposures, exposing for the sky, then the foreground, and then the whole scene, and then blending them together in post-processing.
While creating breathtaking compositions with your telephoto may prove to be a challenge initially, being able to use these lenses for landscape photography will open up a whole new world of potential photo opportunities. Soon you’ll be using your telephoto to create images that are breathtaking and powerful, and capturing scenes that are every bit as beautiful as they appear in person.