Why you Need a Telephoto Zoom Lens for Landscape Photography - Digital Photography School

Why you Need a Telephoto Zoom Lens for Landscape Photography

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In this post naturalist, photographer, and computer scientist Steve Berardi from PhotoNaturalist explains why you need a telephoto zoom lens for landscape photography.

telephoto-zoom-landscape.jpg When you think about landscape photography, you might immediately think of the wide angle zoom lens, which is great for capturing those expansive landscapes and “taking it all in.”

But, a telephoto zoom lens can also be helpful when photographing landscapes. To understand why, it’s important to know what determines perspective and how perspective can help convey a particular feeling in a photograph.

What determines perspective?

As Ansel Adams repeats so often in his wonderful book, The Camera: “perspective is a function of camera-to-subject distance.”

There’s a common misconception that perspective is determined by focal length, but in reality, the only thing that determines perspective is where you put the camera.

There are at least two rules of perspective that you should be familiar with:

  1. the closer you get to a subject, the larger it will appear on the image frame (yeah, this one’s obvious)
  2. as you move closer to your scene, the closest objects will increase in size faster than the distant objects (not so obvious)

The second rule is the one we often forget, and it’s best illustrated with an example, so take a look at this photo I took in the Eastern Sierra of California:
telephoto-example.jpg

In this photo, I was standing about 100 ft (30 m) from those boulders in the foreground. As a result, the dominant object in this shot is the mountain in the background, which stood miles away from the boulders.

Now, look what happens when I move just 50 ft (15 m) closer to those boulders:

telephoto-landscape.jpg

All of a sudden, the mountains in the background don’t look so mighty, and now those boulders in the foreground are the dominant objects. This photo has a drastically different feeling than the previous one. The perspective you choose for a landscape will depend on the feeling you’re trying to convey.

Personally, in this case I prefer the first photo, because as I stood there in front of the scene, I felt like the mountain was in charge: it had an overpowering effect on me. So, I decided to give it an overpowering effect in the final image.

Another lesson to learn here: you probably noticed how different the lighting conditions are between the two photos above. The first shot was taken about 15 minutes before sunrise and the second shot was about 15 minutes after sunrise. Lighting conditions can change in milliseconds, so make sure you’re there for the entire show and be prepared to capture that light at any moment!

So, why do you need a telephoto zoom lens?

Since perspective is determined solely by where you put the camera, you’ll sometimes find that the most pleasing perspective is viewed from a great distance. So, to fill the frame with this perspective, you’ll need to zoom in to it with a longer focal length.

For example, the first photo above was taken at 70mm (on a 1.6x crop factor camera). I could have shot it at 40mm, but I wouldn’t have filled the frame: I would have inadvertently captured many of the surrounding elements of the scene.

The second shot was taken at 40mm, and this shorter focal length was necessary because I was much closer to those boulders in the foreground.

So, the lesson here is that carrying a wide range of focal lengths allows you to capture a wide range of perspectives.

What’s the best telephoto zoom lens for landscape photography?

This is definitely debatable, but most photographers would recommend the 70-200mm range (available from most camera manufacturers). Personally, I use Canon’s 70-200mm F/4L and it is easily my favorite lens (it’s great for wildflowers too!).

steve-berardi.jpgAbout the Author: Steve Berardi is a naturalist, photographer, and computer scientist. You can usually find him hiking in the San Gabriel Mountains or the Mojave Desert, both located in the beautiful state of California. Read more of his articles on nature photography at the PhotoNaturalist.

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Guest Contributor This post was written by a guest contributor to DPS. Please see their details in the post above.

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  • J. Nathan

    I see the foreground is less sharp in first photo. Is it just my eyes or the DOF of 70-200 too thin to cover foreground and bakcground?

  • http://tourismpicks.com Mike Behnken

    I’ve figured this out over experience. I fell in love with the wide angle but soon began to realize it just didn’t cut it by itself. I would say that it is always best to have a full range of lenses covering as many focal lengths as possible, or else you may as well get a point-and-shoot and ditch the SLR.

  • prabhakar rao

    technical information was made very easy to understand. i wish some of these digital camera people use your help to write their user manuals

  • Ohanes

    To cover most possibilities two lense for landscape are required, one say less than 18 say either from 15 or 16 mm to 85 mm.

    This lense range is what will be most used when the mountains are big, this is would be case both in Himalayas and Andes. Most mountains in access of 6000 m and large masses.

    On the other hands a 70-200 mm lense will be required for apline areas with mountains not so big. By haveing both lense a very wide range of landscape photography will be covered.

    It is not quite correct to say that 70-200 mm is most used, that depends on where most an individual is photographing.

    Cheers
    Ohanes

  • Christopher Williams

    @Fernando: both shots appear to be taken from standing height (or from tripod height). The boulders are probably 20 feet tall or more, which makes it look like the photographer is on his knees, when in fact the boulders are towering over him.

    Regarding the framing differences, take a look at how much mountain there is in each. The second picture actually shows about twice as much mountain (horizontally) than the first, even though it shows LESS of the boulders in the foreground. This is due to a change in perspective, that is, moving the camera closer to the boulders.

    Last, I followed your steps (but using a different subject inside my house instead of birds, and using a 18-50mm lens instead of 70-200mm). Here are the two pictures, one at 18mm and the other at 50mm. Can you tell which is which?

    [eimg url='http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y64/abbrev/same-perspective.jpg' title='same-perspective.jpg']

    Go ahead and overlay them if you want. You’ll only find minor differences due to rotation or slight barrel distortion. (Lens distortion is NOT the same as perspective, by the way).

    So yes, perspective is determined only by where you put the camera and not by focal length.

    (Spoiler: the top photo is 50mm and the bottom is 18mm)

  • Fernando Tavares

    this is a diferent situation, object are not lined up, and working with wide and extra wide angle lenses is not the same as working with tele and long tele lenses.
    I don’t mean to say prespective is only by focal, i ment, it is not only by moving camera.
    Try to overlap the images of the autor. You’ll find out that it is impossible to do those two from the same place, only by zooming. Your exemple, however just confirm that.
    Find a spot simelar and do it.
    One major diference when you use tele, is that images tend to be compressed at a direct relation with the focal. The biger the focal, the more they are compressed and then, the less you realize drelations in distance between first and last plane.

  • Fernando Tavares

    this is a diferent situation, object are not lined up, and working with wide and extra wide angle lenses is not the same as working with tele and long tele lenses.
    I don’t mean to say prespective is only by focal, i ment, it is not only by moving camera.
    Try to overlap the images of the autor. You’ll find out that it is impossible to do those two from the same place, only by zooming. Your exemple, however just confirm that.
    Find a spot simelar and do it.
    One major diference when you use tele, is that images tend to be compressed at a direct relation with the focal. The biger the focal, the more they are compressed and then, the less you realize drelations in distance between first and last plane.

  • mick boyd

    The difference in the two shots of the mountains reminded me of photos I took of Ayers rock with my zoom lens,from twenty five klms away.A marked difference in perspective.A very good lesson.I used a 55/200mm lens on a Nikon d60.

  • http://www.dianeslaunwhitephotography.com Diane Slaunwhite

    You say you like to use the 70-200 F4 lens. Would you say it is a better lens to use than the 18 to 200. I have both, but have been using my 18-200 because of the wide angle advantage.

  • Tom Manson

    Holy Moly Steve! How did you move those boulders on the left!!!???

  • Yogeshwar Nath

    I have Nikon D80 with 18-135 3.5/5.6. which works wonderfully. Later I added 35 mm 1.8 to my kit. I am not satisfied with the later lens. It over exposes in the aperture priority. I am primarily into landscapes

  • http://tylerpfiffner.com Tyler Pfiffner

    Thanks for the great article. Awesome information.

  • http://www.whitepetal.co.uk Paul

    Seems like this post got hijacked?

  • http://www.mountain-landscape-photos.com Nick

    Great article Steve, how I would love telephoto lens.
    I cant count how many times Ive seen a great shot and thought of what I would do for a telephoto lens.
    But being a photographer with not much money in the bank I guess I will have to stick to the where you put your camera method.

  • http://planeters.com Joe Wong

    Thanks a lot for the tips. As soon as I embrace on my new traveling journey I gotta enroll with your course and learn this the right way.

  • http://Digutallips.com Michael

    Great article.

    I have a Canon T3i and recently found a bag in my attic with four lenses from my Olympus OM2 era, forty something years ago. For fun I purchased a well made adapter and it came yesterday. The lens that most excited me is the the 100 -300 mm 3.8 . Obviously I have to run on full manual but many of the Canon’s auto features work, only AF can’t. I have searched for any articles about using old manual lenses on modern DSLRs but found nothing so far. So far I am getting stunning shots at f8, ISO 100 and adjusting shutter speeds for the shots. I am testing in brilliant Florida sunshine which helps. I am astounded at the pictures of Spanish Moss on trees that have a depth of focus on mere millimeters.

    Have you any suggestions of comments on using these old lenses on a modern camera? I also have a prime 50 mm 1.8 and a 75-150 2.8 and a 35-100 3.5. From the Olympus. I am not seeing any problem with infinity focus on any of them which speaks well of the adapter. Of course I have a few genuine Canon lenses but this messing with the old kit is a lot of fun and boy does being able to test to my hearts content using digital and Aperture make me remember the pain of rolls of film and the dark room ….

  • http://dragnrags.blogspot.com JenniferLynn Productions, LLC

    Michael, that is really neat! I don’t have any advice for you, but I’m also interested in hearing some.

    It sounds like you are well on your way as it is!

    My boyfriend has a bunch of older equipment I’d love to play with! (I have permission–just have not gotten around to it yet.)

  • Scottc

    I enjoy the tips articles re-posted on DPS, it’s either a great refresher or something I’ve missed along the way.

    I agree with the 70-200 opinion in the article as well.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/4391096249/

  • Jerry Schneir

    What am I am I missing? what don’t I understand? why does this seem like an article with a wrong title? A few comments reflect my thoughts, if the author was trying to demonstrate zoom lens use in landscape photography, I don’t think anything he wrote did that. He is obviously a fine photographer but he needs to find better titles and examples for his article. Was the purpose of the article to guide us to move closer to the foreground or to use a zoom lens at something other than wide angle? Would he have obtained somewhat the same effect by just getting a lot closer to the ground? I fail to understand DPS accepting this article without pointing out and addressing those deficencies.

  • davewyman

    1) “the only thing that determines perspective is where you put the camera”

    Correct.

    2) “carrying a wide range of focal lengths allows you to capture a wide range of perspectives.”

    Incorrect. Perpective is the same with any lens as long as you put the camera in the same place. See 1), above. Different focal lengths allow a wider or narrower view, but not different perspectives .

    The two photos of Lone Pine Peak used as examples here show not only what different lenses see, they show different perspectives, because the photos are taken from different locations.

    What we should be getting out of this article is that relationships between near and far subjects change as we move closer or farther from them. The choice of lens has nothing to do with that.

    With the first photo, the same image would have been made with either a wide angle or telephoto zoo, except that the wide angle would have to be cropped, and image quality would have suffered in comparison to the telephoto shot.

    In the second photo, only a wide angle lens would have worked, because a telephoto lens would have narrowed the angle of view to exclude the foreground rocks.

  • Sarath

    If I choose to eliminate the boulders in the foreground, treating them as distracting elements, and maybe crop the photos a little bit later, would the perspective still be retained?

    Is the perspective, in this example, not a result of the “illusion” of the relative sizes of elements in the picture?

Some older comments

  • Jerry Schneir

    January 21, 2013 08:03 am

    What am I am I missing? what don't I understand? why does this seem like an article with a wrong title? A few comments reflect my thoughts, if the author was trying to demonstrate zoom lens use in landscape photography, I don't think anything he wrote did that. He is obviously a fine photographer but he needs to find better titles and examples for his article. Was the purpose of the article to guide us to move closer to the foreground or to use a zoom lens at something other than wide angle? Would he have obtained somewhat the same effect by just getting a lot closer to the ground? I fail to understand DPS accepting this article without pointing out and addressing those deficencies.

  • Scottc

    October 23, 2012 08:19 am

    I enjoy the tips articles re-posted on DPS, it's either a great refresher or something I've missed along the way.

    I agree with the 70-200 opinion in the article as well.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/4391096249/

  • JenniferLynn Productions, LLC

    May 26, 2012 03:30 am

    Michael, that is really neat! I don't have any advice for you, but I'm also interested in hearing some.

    It sounds like you are well on your way as it is!

    My boyfriend has a bunch of older equipment I'd love to play with! (I have permission--just have not gotten around to it yet.)

  • Michael

    May 25, 2012 12:18 am

    Great article.

    I have a Canon T3i and recently found a bag in my attic with four lenses from my Olympus OM2 era, forty something years ago. For fun I purchased a well made adapter and it came yesterday. The lens that most excited me is the the 100 -300 mm 3.8 . Obviously I have to run on full manual but many of the Canon's auto features work, only AF can't. I have searched for any articles about using old manual lenses on modern DSLRs but found nothing so far. So far I am getting stunning shots at f8, ISO 100 and adjusting shutter speeds for the shots. I am testing in brilliant Florida sunshine which helps. I am astounded at the pictures of Spanish Moss on trees that have a depth of focus on mere millimeters.

    Have you any suggestions of comments on using these old lenses on a modern camera? I also have a prime 50 mm 1.8 and a 75-150 2.8 and a 35-100 3.5. From the Olympus. I am not seeing any problem with infinity focus on any of them which speaks well of the adapter. Of course I have a few genuine Canon lenses but this messing with the old kit is a lot of fun and boy does being able to test to my hearts content using digital and Aperture make me remember the pain of rolls of film and the dark room ....

  • Joe Wong

    April 23, 2012 12:31 pm

    Thanks a lot for the tips. As soon as I embrace on my new traveling journey I gotta enroll with your course and learn this the right way.

  • Nick

    January 28, 2012 07:50 am

    Great article Steve, how I would love telephoto lens.
    I cant count how many times Ive seen a great shot and thought of what I would do for a telephoto lens.
    But being a photographer with not much money in the bank I guess I will have to stick to the where you put your camera method.

  • Paul

    January 19, 2012 07:12 am

    Seems like this post got hijacked?

  • Tyler Pfiffner

    December 21, 2011 09:47 am

    Thanks for the great article. Awesome information.

  • Yogeshwar Nath

    December 12, 2011 06:18 pm

    I have Nikon D80 with 18-135 3.5/5.6. which works wonderfully. Later I added 35 mm 1.8 to my kit. I am not satisfied with the later lens. It over exposes in the aperture priority. I am primarily into landscapes

  • Tom Manson

    October 22, 2011 03:02 am

    Holy Moly Steve! How did you move those boulders on the left!!!???

  • Diane Slaunwhite

    September 9, 2011 03:41 am

    You say you like to use the 70-200 F4 lens. Would you say it is a better lens to use than the 18 to 200. I have both, but have been using my 18-200 because of the wide angle advantage.

  • mick boyd

    August 26, 2011 01:51 pm

    The difference in the two shots of the mountains reminded me of photos I took of Ayers rock with my zoom lens,from twenty five klms away.A marked difference in perspective.A very good lesson.I used a 55/200mm lens on a Nikon d60.

  • Fernando Tavares

    April 21, 2011 10:03 pm

    this is a diferent situation, object are not lined up, and working with wide and extra wide angle lenses is not the same as working with tele and long tele lenses.
    I don't mean to say prespective is only by focal, i ment, it is not only by moving camera.
    Try to overlap the images of the autor. You'll find out that it is impossible to do those two from the same place, only by zooming. Your exemple, however just confirm that.
    Find a spot simelar and do it.
    One major diference when you use tele, is that images tend to be compressed at a direct relation with the focal. The biger the focal, the more they are compressed and then, the less you realize drelations in distance between first and last plane.

  • Fernando Tavares

    April 21, 2011 10:02 pm

    this is a diferent situation, object are not lined up, and working with wide and extra wide angle lenses is not the same as working with tele and long tele lenses.
    I don't mean to say prespective is only by focal, i ment, it is not only by moving camera.
    Try to overlap the images of the autor. You'll find out that it is impossible to do those two from the same place, only by zooming. Your exemple, however just confirm that.
    Find a spot simelar and do it.
    One major diference when you use tele, is that images tend to be compressed at a direct relation with the focal. The biger the focal, the more they are compressed and then, the less you realize drelations in distance between first and last plane.

  • Christopher Williams

    April 18, 2011 07:53 am

    @Fernando: both shots appear to be taken from standing height (or from tripod height). The boulders are probably 20 feet tall or more, which makes it look like the photographer is on his knees, when in fact the boulders are towering over him.

    Regarding the framing differences, take a look at how much mountain there is in each. The second picture actually shows about twice as much mountain (horizontally) than the first, even though it shows LESS of the boulders in the foreground. This is due to a change in perspective, that is, moving the camera closer to the boulders.

    Last, I followed your steps (but using a different subject inside my house instead of birds, and using a 18-50mm lens instead of 70-200mm). Here are the two pictures, one at 18mm and the other at 50mm. Can you tell which is which?

    [eimg url='http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y64/abbrev/same-perspective.jpg' title='same-perspective.jpg']

    Go ahead and overlay them if you want. You'll only find minor differences due to rotation or slight barrel distortion. (Lens distortion is NOT the same as perspective, by the way).

    So yes, perspective is determined only by where you put the camera and not by focal length.

    (Spoiler: the top photo is 50mm and the bottom is 18mm)

  • Ohanes

    November 3, 2010 07:30 pm

    To cover most possibilities two lense for landscape are required, one say less than 18 say either from 15 or 16 mm to 85 mm.

    This lense range is what will be most used when the mountains are big, this is would be case both in Himalayas and Andes. Most mountains in access of 6000 m and large masses.

    On the other hands a 70-200 mm lense will be required for apline areas with mountains not so big. By haveing both lense a very wide range of landscape photography will be covered.

    It is not quite correct to say that 70-200 mm is most used, that depends on where most an individual is photographing.

    Cheers
    Ohanes

  • prabhakar rao

    October 18, 2010 10:18 pm

    technical information was made very easy to understand. i wish some of these digital camera people use your help to write their user manuals

  • Mike Behnken

    October 10, 2010 06:23 pm

    I've figured this out over experience. I fell in love with the wide angle but soon began to realize it just didn't cut it by itself. I would say that it is always best to have a full range of lenses covering as many focal lengths as possible, or else you may as well get a point-and-shoot and ditch the SLR.

  • J. Nathan

    May 22, 2010 09:19 am

    I see the foreground is less sharp in first photo. Is it just my eyes or the DOF of 70-200 too thin to cover foreground and bakcground?

  • Morgan Parker

    May 10, 2010 05:07 pm

    the best Telephoto lens that i have used on an SLR is the Canon EF 70-200 F/2.8 lens. Best image quality ever.*'~

  • Derek

    February 26, 2010 03:24 am

    A breath of fresh air as always. Thanks DPS and thanks Steve.

  • Don Reeves

    January 2, 2010 11:47 am

    Simple is profound but in order to get the shot you really want comes down to what kind of lens you use and what you're looking for.

    The closer you want the background to your subject, the longer the focal length.
    The human eye is such a remarkable piece of hardware because of how it perceives the environment.

    It's very hard and only through trial and error, at least in my life as a photographer, can one truly get a comprehensive idea as to what lens will portray what we really want to see in comparison to what our eyes are seeing.
    A 100~500mm lens would really be good for not only getting distant objects in close but will also bring the background in allot closer than say a 50mm lens.
    What I mean is all about perspective.
    If you take a photo where the camera is inches from the subject using a wide angle lens, you'll capture more of the background but at a much farther distance away from the subject than if you stood a few feet away from the same subject with a longer focal length.
    Your subject would be in the same area of the frame, but the background would seem closer when you viewed the image taken with a longer focal length lens.

  • Dave

    January 1, 2010 12:00 am

    Sometimes the simple things are the most profound.

    Great example of what is often taken for granted or totally missed.

    What's your view of having a large telephoto zoom... say 150-500mm?

    Thanks

  • Cedric

    October 17, 2009 10:55 am

    Interesting note about the movies -I will definitely put some thoughts into that. I have posted whatever came out from that day I mentioned in my previous comment. It's on my website -ads free: http://cedricfrancois.com/2009/10/17/telephoto-landscape-photography-on-film/ if you care to have a look!

  • Walter Minton

    October 17, 2009 04:39 am

    If you are trying to show the affects of one feature like the effects of "where you put the camera" on perspective then you should change only that feature between shots and nothing else. There is another effect that confuses this issue in that a long focus lens will magnify a distant object more than it will a near one if everything else is the same including the FRAMEING of the near object and that of course changes "where you put the camera" but only a little. I have tested this very carefully and it's a trick used by cinema photographers in old western movies like Shane and the way you think about it gives more control over the results.

    Also Zooms are not the best for landscape photography even if somewhat better than they were in the past.

    Now go back to Lone Pine and do it all over again:)

    Walter Minton

  • Cedric

    September 26, 2009 11:30 am

    Thanks for that and reminding us of 'The Camera' by Ansel Adams -I'm not much of a landscape photographer myself but I'm off to the mountains tomorrow. I'm definitely taking my SLR + 200mm along. But still, I can't leave my Zorki and 35mm lens behind...

  • bbjames_perfection

    August 26, 2009 11:48 am

    I prefer to see both pictures in terms of the first word that came to mind on seeing them. Power. The first thunders with 'overwhelming' power, the second with 'passive' non-chalant power.

    It's a wonder how a little change in view point can change the picture's effect so much. I'm an amateur photographer. I wouldn't even call myself photographer as I don't do it to earn money. I just collect pictures, mostly of nature and put them in my private collection album. With my album, I take vacations anytime I want, anywhere.

  • Scott Campbell

    August 16, 2009 03:46 am

    Nice article. Well written, informative, understandable. The humor was suttle but made me LOL. Thanks

  • Don Reeves

    August 12, 2009 01:14 pm

    Excellent article about perspective and camera placement, as well as always having a zoom lens when doing landscape shots.

    Another issue that really needs to be included is how one can frame a landscape shot for taking several images and stitching them together to make a panorama.
    If you have a fixed wide angle lens, good luck in stitching multiple images together to create a panorama shot because the shorter the focal length, the higher the perspective distortion.

    With a zoom lens say @ 12~60mm, you have the instant choice of weather you want a single wide angle shot or zoom in to say 40mm and take several images for a panorama of the same landscape

    Thanks for posting.

  • Jennifer Moroe

    August 5, 2009 07:30 am

    This is really awesome advice to a budding, self-taught photog like myself! Thank you!

    This will definitely change my lens-buying priorities. I tend to like my photos to be full of drama, whether they are shots of flowers or highways or buildings...etc.

    Great stuff!
    Jennifer More
    JenniferLynn Productions, LLC

  • Fernando Tavares

    July 31, 2009 03:06 am

    Dont get me wrong. I like both pictures, the sun whs rising, and you took them 40minutes apart. I prefer the colors of the second, but i think i would love the colors of the one you took in between aroung 15 after the first one. Not so yellow yet, but not so red anymore.
    What i miss on both, is the feeling of whats in the midle, between the boulders and the mountain.
    Again, it is onother picture.

  • Fernando Tavares

    July 31, 2009 02:45 am

    I'm sorry, but the images yo presented aren't a good example for what you are taling about.
    In the first one, the boulders are under the line of the mountains. In the second, they are above the line of the mountains. This is, in fact, the gratest change you've made. On the place where you took the second one, in a very low angle probably on your knees or lower, if you stand up, it will look almost like the first one. And the dramatic diference will not be that much. It will be just a meter of taste to chosse one or the othe.
    One other big chage from the first to the second one, is the "zoom2 to simplify it. On the first one you work with an close angle, and in the second one you're using a wider angle. And this realy makes a diference in prespective. The closer the angle, more compact and glued together the planes are. The wider the angle, the most thing are separated from each other.
    Just one other major diference in those pictures, framing. The sides of the pictures don't show the same thing. You have cut of the smal rocks on the right, and on the left, you cut the boulder.
    And on the second one, you have a lot of floor.
    If it is a tutorial, you should also give the information about the angle - focal distance- you have used.
    I'm sorry, but these are not two diferent pictures of the same thing, but just two diferent pictures.

    And last, but defenetly not least, this is realy not truth - "There’s a common misconception that perspective is determined by focal length, but in reality, the only thing that determines perspective is where you put the camera."

    If in doubt, try this - put the camera on a tripod. After framing lock it.
    1 -put yourself at 10meters of two birds that are apart 2 meters. One is 10m from you, the other 12m. Take a shot with your 70-200mm at 200mm. f value big so you have deep of field.

    2 - Stay here you are, dont tuch the tripod, and simply pull back the zoom and take another shot at 70mm.
    3- Go to photoshop and put the first over the second, and resize this one until the birds are the same size, meaning, overlaping almost perfectly. Crop, print, put side by side.

    Then come back to this coments if you still think the same way.
    Best
    Fernando.

  • Evelyn S

    July 30, 2009 04:52 am

    I love seeing photos that make me go, "Omigosh!" ;-) These two are certainly in that category. Great reminder of the things we need to consider.

  • DangerMouse

    July 28, 2009 07:39 am

    Hi everybody, just went through the tutorial and all the posts and I'm really looking forward to going out and shoot with my new Canon 70-200mm f/4 L. I'm quite new to the whole photography thing and shoot using rather my instincts than the knowledge of the basic photography principles (typical woman ;oP ). I was given a choice of a lens for my birthday and couldn't decide which one I should go for (the curse of two other photographers in the family ;oP). In the end I chose the above mentioned telephoto zoom lens based on various photography websites, incl. dps and I'm glad to see even more positive feedback... Thanks a million for giving loads of useful tips and advices that are easy to understand. I'm sure I'm not the only one who appreciates it...

  • Fred Jakobcic

    July 18, 2009 09:59 pm

    A friend sent me photos of lightning from this site and it does look interesting so I have signed up to receive the newsletters. I primarily like to shoot scenic, panaramic and love clouds in the picture. I have not shot much lightning for some time. I currently have a Canon PowerShot Pro 1 with a 28 to 200 zoom lens. In the near future I am planning to buy the Canon Eos 50D with a 10-24 ultra wide-angle and 18-27mm zoom from Tamron...probably within a month of this date. This site looks interesting.

  • Eric

    July 18, 2009 06:04 am

    Guilty! I find myself taking way too many "tidy but boring" pictures. I recently got back from a trip to Alaska and have quite a few keepers but way too many TBBs. It's not the equipment but the eye and the perspective that make the photo. The good shots were the ones I had to go and get, not the easy ones from the side of the road. Equipment discussions are great and I groove on them but to make yourself a better Photographer you've got to have a little vision, be ready to take some criticism, some decent equipment, and a willingness to get up early (those sunrise shots really are magic). There's a lot more of course but I digress...

  • Michael Menefee (aka Fort Photo)

    July 17, 2009 01:44 am

    Great article Steve, in particular your examples are really strong on the effects of moving closer to the subject. I love seeing this sort of stuff here, I think photography needs to concentrate on the art theory behind image making a bit more and the technology just a bit less. Things like perspective, color theory and other things painters have been studying for hundreds of years it's high time for photography to more broadly embrace. I can pixel peep with the best of them, but at the end of the day if you don't have a vision to go with all of that technical prowess you end up with very tidy but boring images.

  • DavidN

    July 14, 2009 03:39 pm

    Thanks persma & Steve. I think I understand. For example, if I'm looking between two big trucks from a distance, I might not see a small car hidden by one of them. No zooming in or changing of lens will make light bend round corners and show me the car, but walking forward, between the trucks would... and THAT is changing perspective.
    Thanks again.

  • Steve Berardi

    July 14, 2009 12:07 pm

    @davidn - remember: "the only thing that determines perspective is where you put the camera" -- perspective has nothing to do with focal length, so if you stand in the same spot and switch your lens from a 50mm to a 80mm, you'll get a photo with the same perspective, but as Persma points out, your photo will be cropped more with the 80mm.

  • Persma

    July 14, 2009 01:23 am

    @davidn:
    " with a 1.6 crop-factor camera (mine’s a Samsung GX-1L) am I correct in understanding that is exactly that - a crop. I mean for at 50mm focal length, say, the perspective is the same as if I was using it on a film camera. I just get a shot without the edges."

    Yes, that is correct.

    "It is NOT the same perspective as if I had an 80mm lens on the Spotmatic?"

    If I read you right, it IS the same perspective.
    If you stay in the same place and change lenses from 50mm to 80mm, you get a crop. Zooming in closer with a zoom lens is cropping - you get the same shot without the edges.

  • Laura

    July 12, 2009 07:21 pm

    i tried this and it really worked! thanks for the great tip!

  • DavidN

    July 12, 2009 04:21 pm

    A quick question regarding perspective and focal length: with a 1.6 crop-factor camera (mine's a Samsung GX-1L) am I correct in understanding that is exactly that - a crop. I mean for at 50mm focal length, say, the perspective is the same as if I was using it on a film camera. I just get a shot without the edges. It is NOT the same perspective as if I had an 80mm lens on the Spotmatic?
    Correct?

  • Steve Berardi

    July 10, 2009 02:24 pm

    @fswerk - I think the telephoto just allows you to capture more perspectives.. and I think perspective is one of the defining elements of a good landscape photo.

    @Carleton - I like the f/4 because I mostly use the lens for wildflowers and landscapes.. so the widest aperture I've used is f/5.6. I mostly shoot at f/8 or f/16-22 with the lens. I've talked with a few portrait photographers though that love the f/2.8. btw, the f/4 is also much lighter than the f/2.8, which comes into play when you're hauling a backpack with a ton of gear :)

    @Craig - I know a few people who use Canon's 100-400 and they all love it.. it's capable of getting some awesome images. But, I've mostly heard it being used for wildlife or butterflies/dragonflies.. that definitely doesn't mean you can't shoot landscapes with it though!

    Personally, in addition to the 70-200, I also use Canon's 300mm f/4 prime, often with a 1.4 extender to get 420mm.. that's one route you can take.. or you can just get the 100-400. If you shoot a lot of landscapes though, I'd definitely recommend you have focal lengths in the 70-100 range (and you will if you keep the 75-300).

    And, as Ryan points out, the 100-400 is pretty heavy.

  • Ryan S.

    July 10, 2009 10:35 am

    @Craig

    Only you can be the judge, but the 3lb 100-400mm is almost twice as heavy as the 70-200 F4. I'll tell you, I have both and I carry my 70-200 much more than my 100-400.

  • Craig Spittles

    July 10, 2009 08:21 am

    Thanks Steve for a great article,

    I am about to upgrade my equipment (I shoot with Canon) and the telephoto I am leaning towards buying is the Canon 100-400mm F4-5.6 L USM IS. It was a toss up between that and the 70-200mm F4L which you use (awesome shots by the way). I know you've said that 200mm is by no means an "upper bound" for landscape photography but considering I shoot mostly landscapes do you think 400mm is a bit much? The main reason I am leaning towards the 400mm is because I currently own the 75-300mm Canon zoom (kit lens) and sometimes find the 300mm max focal length frustrating in that often it doesn't get me quite close enough to compose a shot properly and I end up having to crop in later. I figured the 400mm would be handy to have on hand for these situations but wondering if it's actually worth carrying around the extra weight.

    Craig

  • Gossi

    July 10, 2009 07:42 am

    @Carleton:

    Whether to get a 70-200mm f/4 or a 70-200mm f/2.8 is only a question of 2 things:
    - Price
    - Weight, Size

    Both factors are about doubled for the f/2.8 compared to the f/4. If neither matters, go for the f/2.8 and, if weight and size really don't matter, go for the IS on either of them. I have the IS on my 100-400mm f/4 and I love it!

    Gossi

    (Canon 1Ds MkII, 5D MkII, EF 24-105 mm f/4 L IS USM, EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM, EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM)

  • Hans

    July 10, 2009 07:17 am

    Carleton, go for the F/4.
    It's a lot cheaper and for beginners, it's a great lense in both weight, clarity and speed.
    The F/2.8 is definitely faster, but also heavier and a lot more expensive.
    .
    As for the topic, I couldn't agree more on the weapon of choice.
    I use my 70-300 Tamron a lot for landscapes, one result is here:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/hanspama/3671629739/
    If i had used my 28mm or 18-55, the power lines wouldn't have curved as realistic as they do here.
    I also use my 50mm F/1.8 a lot on landscapes, it's the best darned piece of equipment I ever had for this price.

  • Nubie

    July 10, 2009 04:59 am

    I agree with the inclusion of foregrownd to imply more depth, and I do the same with a wide angle set at the smallest aperture posssible and focusing very close or midrange on the subject to get fore and background in focus, creates some great landscape results. A tripod may be necessary (larger aperture). I have to try it more with the telephoto lens

  • Logan

    July 10, 2009 03:36 am

    Pretty spendy lens. Great article.

  • Carleton Akana

    July 10, 2009 03:17 am

    Steve,i'm a beginner, so should i consider the 70-200mm f/4? Or the 70-200mm f/2.8? I also own a 70-300mm f/4.5 w/ IS. People are selling their 70-200mm f/4
    ................................................................message ends........................................................................................................

  • fswerk

    July 9, 2009 05:32 pm

    i used to carry a 28-200 lens around, and recently switched to 18-55 due to it being a lot lighter, and find it quite sufficient. i see a telephoto zoom lens as a "nice to have" but never as a "must"

  • Álvaro

    July 9, 2009 12:45 pm

    Interesting. I'm mainly photograph landscapes. My gear is simple: a compact digital and a film slr. It seems like a 35mm (film equivalent) is enough wide to my. In my slr I have just a 50mm, and I think if I'd take another lens, it should be a tele (I'm not sure, maybe 85, 105 or 135).

    Until now, I feel comfortable photographing with my 50mm, and almost I'm missing a tele because it could allow me to isolate my subject before to show a lot of things in a pic.

    Good article. Regards.

  • Steve Berardi

    July 9, 2009 07:10 am

    @John - the three lenses you mention make a great kit. Add a 25mm extension tube and you can even do a little macro work with the 50mm.

    @Benjamin - I'm not too familiar with Nikon lenses, but 50-200 sounds like a good range. In fact, there's been many times where I wanted a focal length between my 17-40 and 70-200 (one of the reasons I may get a 24-105 in the future).

    Steve

  • benjamin lau

    July 9, 2009 01:55 am

    Is there a huge difference between a 50-200mm versus the recommended 70-200?
    I am using a Nikon camera and Nikon lenses.

  • Paul Wilson

    July 9, 2009 12:19 am

    Simple to understand but great article.

  • $udhakar

    July 8, 2009 03:27 pm

    Same principle applies those wonderful MOON / Sun Set shots where these natural balls look great

  • John

    July 8, 2009 03:03 pm

    What this article, and others like it, say to me is that a perfectly good basic kit for most shots (not long rand wildlife) is, for Canon, the 17-40L, a 50mm prime, and a 70-200 f4L. This is not too heavy to pack and covers most needs. Would have been handy to have this advice when I was first starting out since I ended up making a buch of "detours" before settling on this kit.

  • Steve Berardi

    July 8, 2009 01:04 pm

    Thanks everyone for your great comments!!

    @Ryan - I actually grew up in the midwest, around Chicago.. I don't miss the cold, but definitely miss the fall season! It's strange, growing up I never thought the midwest had a very beautiful landscape.. but now whenever I go back home it's like I see it differently, and it always looks so beautiful to me now.. I think when we spend so much time in one area, we become accustomed to the scenery and that kind of distorts the "freshness" of our vision. It's inevitable, I think. oh, and I definitely agree about the annoyance of the 67mm filter size.. I tried using a step up ring for awhile, but that thing just annoyed me more, haha!

    @Tyler - I'd definitely consider a raccoon wildlife :) I think anything that's not a pigeon can be called wildlife, haha.

    @Zack - good question, I should have mentioned this in the article. I DID switch lenses between each shot.. I took the first one with Canon's 70-200 and the second one with their 17-40 (also a wonderful lens).

    @Theresa - Thanks! I agree about the mountains.. in fact, I think all my mountain shots are with a telephoto (except the second photo here, shot with the 17-40)

    @Dan - great shot at 400mm! I should have mentioned in the article that I don't consider 200mm an "upper bound" for landscape photos.. I've seen great landscape photos at 300mm (and now 400mm with your shot).. there's really no limit! And, good call on the word "perspective" -- didn't think about the two different meanings when I wrote this article.

    @Lisa - great choice with the 50mm, that's my second favorite lens :)

    @Gary - great point about the haze. I've experienced that a lot while trying to shoot landscapes in the mountains. One way to battle the haze is to shoot early in the morning (when it's less hazy).

    Steve

  • Gary Arndt

    July 8, 2009 07:35 am

    One thing to keep in mind when using a zoom lens for landscape is atmospheric haze. The more atmosphere between you and the object you are photographing, the more water vapor the light has to go through. If conditions are good, it doesn't matter. Some days however, it can really mess up the photo. The closer you are to the object, the less you need to worry about haze.

  • Anthony Harden

    July 8, 2009 05:25 am

    Great article! I agree with your main points as I have often found myself in situations where a wider angle is actually inappropriate for capturing a good landscape. Having a good zoom lens around is imperative when I go out shooting.

    Not to mention that at times it is better to zoom in and gain detail than to have to crop out undesired aspects of the photo later on, ultimately reducing your total image quality.

    It's also nice to be able to manipulate the emphasis of the photo with zoom in those situations as well. It allows me to set the desired object, or area, of focus much more pleasingly to the eye than a purely wide angle lens allows.

    Thanks for the article. Keep them coming. :)

    -Anthony

  • LisaNewton

    July 8, 2009 05:02 am

    I only own two lenses, my 50mm, and a 70-200mm. Whenever I go out shooting, I always take them both. I never know which one will get me the shot I envision. So, switching between the two has become the norm for me.

    I totally agree with your assessment of "perspective."

  • Jerome

    July 8, 2009 03:03 am

    I definitely prefer the second pic!

  • G Dan Mitchell

    July 8, 2009 02:48 am

    There was a time when I accepted the notion that landscape lens = wide ange lens - but that maybe it was OK to push things as far as using a "normal" focal length. These days I shoot landscape (on full frame) with focal lengths ranging from 17mm to 400mm. (Here is one example shot with a 400mm lens.)

    Regarding "perspective," I think the issue is that there are multiple legitimate meanings for the word. Certainly the technically correct photographic meaning has to do with the location from which the scene was photographed. But the more generally understood meaning is, well, more general and it refers to something like "the way someone views something." (Think of "My perspective on this issue is that...") At a minimum, some confusion is to be expected, and one could argue that it is not completely wrong - albeit a bit confusing - to use the term in more than one way.

    Dan

  • Theresa

    July 8, 2009 02:21 am

    Great article, Steve! I've been know to take landscape photos with my 100-400mm lens from time to time. I love the way it compresses the layers of the Blue Ridge mountains where I live, and I've also found it useful for times when I'm feeling too lazy to walk clear across a huge meadow to take my shot :)

  • Nick

    July 8, 2009 01:57 am

    There’s a common misconception that perspective is determined by focal length, but in reality, the only thing that determines perspective is where you put the camera.

    Yay! I'm always happy to see that emphasized.

  • MeiTeng

    July 8, 2009 01:40 am

    Nice illustration of the two rules of perspectives and I agree with Steve that the first photo's overpowering. The mountains looked magnificent!

    Read somewhere about using a 70-200mm lens for landscape photography and why not? Thanks for sharing.

  • Zack Jones

    July 8, 2009 01:26 am

    Steve,

    Both images are fantastic. Did you change lenses between shots or did you shoot both with a 24-70 zoom perhaps?

  • Tyler Ingram

    July 8, 2009 01:21 am

    I primarily walk around with my 70-200mm f2.8L IS lens. I don't know why but I find I shoot more things with my telephoto lens than a prime. I typically like shooting wildlife (do you call a raccoon wildlife?) when I go for my walks. Though at a cropped sensor (as with my Canon XSI) the lens is 112mm-320mm) it doesn't really offer that much of a wide angle. It does allow me to compose some pretty fun looking landscape photos though :)

    Such as this photo of Mt.Baker: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tyleringram/3694011249/

  • Ryan S.

    July 8, 2009 12:58 am

    +1 for the Canon 70-200 F/4L

    I've been into landscape photography for a few years now, but living in the flat midwest never felt like I was missing something by not having a lens in the 70-200 range. (I had the 100-400 F/4-5.6, but it's a little heavy to hike around with). I recently went to California and photographing the hills there I felt like I needed something longer. So, I purchased the 70-200mm F/4L and absolutely LOVE the lens. It's light enough to take around and fills the void I felt in my focal length coverage.

    My only complaint would be the 67mm filter size, my other lenses I take around are 77mm (Canon 17-40mm and 24-105mm). Which means I'll either need to get a different set of filters, or a step-up ring.

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