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Lens Choices For Landscape Photography

Techniques > Lens Choices For Landscape Photography

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Category: Landscape and Travel

Make The Most Of Your Lenses For Scenics - Here's ePHOTOzine's guide for lenses in the landscape and a few tips on composition and depth of field.

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You can use any lens you like for landscape photography as with many things in life, it is not what you have got, it is how you use it.

Your choice of focal length entirely depends on how you want to interpret a scene. It is true that if you put two photographers in front of a stunning scene, one will fit a wide-angle and move in closer and the other will fix a telephoto and take a few steps back. Basically, there is no right or wrong when it comes to lens choice so long as it has produced the image you imagined in the first instance.

Standard Zoom
Your standard zoom will find plenty of uses for landscape shooting, and you probably know that already. Its focal length coverage from moderate wide-angle through to short telephoto makes it a perfect partner for general photography.

Using a standard zoom is straightforward enough and the two sections on wide-angle and telephoto lenses cover the key techniques you need to know at the two lens extremes.

Wide-Angle Lenses

Wide-angle lenses have a wide angle of view so get more into the frame. That is pretty straightforward and that is how such lenses are used, ie to get more in. But wides are also great at letting you get in much closer to the subject, giving greater intimacy.

There is a knack to getting the most from wide-angles. The most important technique is to fill the frame, especially the areas directly in front and directly above the subject. A common mistake of inexperienced wide-anglers is to include too much blank foreground or too much bland sky. To stop this, just look around the whole viewfinder before you take the pictures, and if you think there is too much emptiness use the zoom to alter the crop. Or simply move your feet. It is too easy to be rooted to the ground when taking a stride or two closer to the subject or finding some foreground to fill the frame will improve the picture.

Telephoto Lenses

While wide-angles include more, telephotos let you be much more selective in what you include in your frame. For landscape shooting, a telephoto lets you isolate details and it will also make it easier to crop out a blank sky and compressed perspective.

For landscape work, being able to isolate detail and to compress perspective is a very powerful tool in your armoury. Picking out strong lines, textures and features like trees, barns and so on is incredibly useful. As the saying goes 'less is more'. On days when the sky is not very interesting, a telephoto also makes it much easier to crop it out.

Beach Black & White
Photo by Peter Bargh.

Macro Lenses

You might think that a macro lens is not much use for landscape, but you'd be wrong. A typical macro lens is a short telephoto so it has plenty of general uses, but being able to focus really closely can be a real bonus in certain circumstances such as when the light isn't great and you have a very bland sky.

If you have a day like this, turn your attentions to micro landscapes where you can use the close-focusing ability of a macro lens to get you right into a scene. With a macro lens you can explore clumps of moss and lichen or patterns in leaves or flowers.

When working with macro lenses you do have a very limited amount of depth-of-field available even at very small apertures. With this in mind, focus very carefully and use the camera's depth-of-field preview to check what is going to come out sharp at different apertures. If you use the preview, allow your eye to get used to the darker viewfinder image before making an assessment.

Once you are this close, the camera's auto focus can struggle and it will end up searching back and forth for sharp focus. If this happens, just switch to manual focus. Have a tripod handy too as it will help avoid camera shake and allow you to make very precise and repeatable compositions. 

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