Zooming In: Using Telephotos In Landscape Photography - Digital Photography School
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Zooming In: Using Telephotos In Landscape Photography

This shot of the Blue Ridge Mountains was taken with an EOS 5D Mark III and EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS II lens at 200mm. The telephoto nature of the lens compresses the distance between the ridges, creating a flat, graphic look with shades of blue created by the mountains and mist in the valleys. Exposure is 1/3", f/16, ISO 400.

This shot of the Blue Ridge Mountains was taken with an EOS 5D Mark III and EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS II lens at 200mm. The telephoto nature of the lens compresses the distance between the ridges, creating a flat, graphic look with shades of blue created by the mountains and mist in the valleys. Exposure is 1/3″, f/16, ISO 400.

This shot of a lone pine on the side of a cliff was taken from Glacier Point at sunset. Using a 400mm lens allowed me isolate the tree being kissed by sunlight while the background behind went dark. I used an EOS 5D Mark II with EF 100-400mm L lens at 400mm. Exposure was 1/60 f/8, ISO 100.

This shot of a lone pine on the side of a cliff was taken from Glacier Point at sunset. Using a 400mm lens allowed me isolate the tree being kissed by sunlight while the background behind went dark. I used an EOS 5D Mark II with EF 100-400mm L lens at 400mm. Exposure was 1/60 f/8, ISO 100.

If you’re anything like me, when presented with a beautiful landscape, your first instinct is to reach for the wide angle lenses and take it all in. And there’s no doubt about it- wide angle lenses can excel in those situations. But don’t neglect the telephoto lenses in your bag when you find yourself faced with nature’s beauty. Telephoto lenses can create shots that are every bit as breathtaking as their wide angled brethren.

Telephoto lenses, first and foremost, can allow you to isolate an area of the view you are shooting, because a telephoto sees a narrower angle of view than do wide angle lenses. Because of this narrower angle of view, telephotos also help normalize the size of near objects in relation to faraway objects. With wide angle lenses,  when you fill the frame with a near object, it will appear much larger than a similar sized object placed further away.  With telephoto lenses, near objects and far objects will appear to be similar in size, because telephoto lenses normalize the size and distance when comparing the two objects.  The downside to this is that the scene can then appear to be static and flat.There are cases where the flatness can be used to advantage, for instance creating graphic images  using the lines and colors of the landscape.

Telephoto lenses appear to compress distance, so two objects relatively far apart will appear to be very near to each other.  This is helpful when trying to enhance the density of a subject, such as a field of flowers.  Flowers will appear to be stacked right next to each other, even though they may be several feet apart.  This can be used to great advantage for creative textures and patterns.

Often, when I’m trying to divide the space in my bag, a friend will ask why I need a telephoto lens when I’m planning to shoot landscapes.  This is why.  I may not use it every time, but when I do get an opportunity use a telephoto lens in a landscape situation, I like to be able to take advantage of it.

 

 

This shot, taken with an EOS 5D Mark III and EF 70-300 f/4-5.6L, shows how you can isolate one area of a landscape, here focusing on Bridal Veil Falls in Yosemite National Park.

This shot, taken with an EOS 5D Mark III and EF 70-300 f/4-5.6L, shows how you can isolate one area of a landscape, here focusing on Bridal Veil Falls in Yosemite National Park.

This shot of the Alaska Range was taken from Denali Highway using an EOS-1Ds Mark III and EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS II. The telephoto lens compresses the distance between the foothills and the mountains, making them appear to be right next to each other.

This shot of the Alaska Range was taken from Denali Highway using an EOS-1Ds Mark III and EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS II. The telephoto lens compresses the distance between the foothills and the mountains, making them appear to be right next to each other.

 

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category.

Rick Berk is a photographer based in New York, shooting a variety of subjects including landscapes, sports, weddings, and portraits. Rick's work can be seen at RickBerk.com and you can follow him on his Facebook page.

  • http://www.flickriver.com/photos/-ygor/sets/72157627807529163/ Ygor

    A cheap nifty fifty does a pretty good job on a cropped sensor for “telephoto” landscape photography.

  • David Gillespie

    What jumps out at me is the composition, regardless of the lens, its about creating an atmosphere within the frame that captures the viewer’s attention. The telephoto lenses allow you to have greater control over composition, just as cropping does, but the author does a nice job of explaining that all the gear (camera and lenses) are tools for us and we shouldn’t discount something just because our first thought is in another direction. Well done. Now about the nifty fifty, not sure how that applies.

  • Edmund

    Perfect article, also think portrait for panoramas.

  • http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/ Mridula

    Now that is a nice idea!

  • http://soc.sty.nu/ Tim

    Some nice examples, certainly.

    I do rather wonder why the choice of aperture and ISO on the first shot, though. If you’re down at 1/3-second exposure on a 200mm lens, you’re using a tripod; just because it’s miles away doesn’t mean there’s any *depth* of field required in such a shot, so why not go for f/11 or f/8 and ISO 100 for the sake of noise instead?

  • Peter

    Totally agree, a long lens can produce some fabulous photos just as lovely as their wide brothers. I actually have a big zoom in a ‘bridge camera’ for just that purpose, it produces some great quick shots.
    I’ve only just started receiving your newsletter and love it so far. Thank you

  • http://benheysphotography.com/ Ben Heys

    Nice images. It’s a dream of mine to get up to Alaska one day to shoot. Aurora here I come!

  • http://jeffejensen.blogspot.com Jeff E Jensen

    Excellent images and painters, Rick. When shooting landscapes, I always try to look for some detail shots as well. I like the more abstract feel you can get. Here’s a recent favorite:

    http://jeffejensen.blogspot.com/2013/05/aspens.html

  • Tod

    Next weekend (weather permitting) I’m planning on heading to the Canberra Floriade flower festival with some friends. Normally i would take a small zoom only (18-55mm) but one of the friends has convinced me to take my 100-400mm for a change. This article is great timing. I’ll be interested to see how that lens goes in that situation.

  • https://marius-fotografie.blogspot.com marius2die4

    From my point of view, a telephoto lens is as necessary for landscape as ND filters.
    Good article.

    Some of my picture with a telephoto lens:
    http://marius-fotografie.blogspot.ro/2013/06/dealuri.html

  • http://www.rickberk.com Rick Berk

    Thank you everyone.
    @Tim- in today’s cameras, especially one like the 5D Mark III I shot that image with, the difference in noise between ISO 400 and 100 is fairly negligible. I had been hand holding just prior to this shot and didn’t change the ISO simply because the two stops and difference in noise didn’t matter to me for what I wanted to achieve.

  • http://list25.com/ Juan Castillo

    YES! Someone else sees the value of zoom lenses in landscape photography! Thank you for this article, I was beginning to think I was going about my photography all wrong, lol.

Some older comments

  • Juan Castillo

    September 15, 2013 02:30 am

    YES! Someone else sees the value of zoom lenses in landscape photography! Thank you for this article, I was beginning to think I was going about my photography all wrong, lol.

  • Rick Berk

    September 14, 2013 10:57 pm

    Thank you everyone.
    @Tim- in today's cameras, especially one like the 5D Mark III I shot that image with, the difference in noise between ISO 400 and 100 is fairly negligible. I had been hand holding just prior to this shot and didn't change the ISO simply because the two stops and difference in noise didn't matter to me for what I wanted to achieve.

  • marius2die4

    September 14, 2013 07:46 pm

    From my point of view, a telephoto lens is as necessary for landscape as ND filters.
    Good article.

    Some of my picture with a telephoto lens:
    http://marius-fotografie.blogspot.ro/2013/06/dealuri.html

  • Tod

    September 14, 2013 07:37 am

    Next weekend (weather permitting) I'm planning on heading to the Canberra Floriade flower festival with some friends. Normally i would take a small zoom only (18-55mm) but one of the friends has convinced me to take my 100-400mm for a change. This article is great timing. I'll be interested to see how that lens goes in that situation.

  • Jeff E Jensen

    September 14, 2013 04:10 am

    Excellent images and painters, Rick. When shooting landscapes, I always try to look for some detail shots as well. I like the more abstract feel you can get. Here's a recent favorite:

    http://jeffejensen.blogspot.com/2013/05/aspens.html

  • Ben Heys

    September 13, 2013 08:29 pm

    Nice images. It's a dream of mine to get up to Alaska one day to shoot. Aurora here I come!

  • Peter

    September 13, 2013 07:01 pm

    Totally agree, a long lens can produce some fabulous photos just as lovely as their wide brothers. I actually have a big zoom in a 'bridge camera' for just that purpose, it produces some great quick shots.
    I've only just started receiving your newsletter and love it so far. Thank you

  • Tim

    September 13, 2013 06:04 pm

    Some nice examples, certainly.

    I do rather wonder why the choice of aperture and ISO on the first shot, though. If you're down at 1/3-second exposure on a 200mm lens, you're using a tripod; just because it's miles away doesn't mean there's any *depth* of field required in such a shot, so why not go for f/11 or f/8 and ISO 100 for the sake of noise instead?

  • Mridula

    September 13, 2013 03:55 pm

    Now that is a nice idea!

  • Edmund

    September 13, 2013 06:15 am

    Perfect article, also think portrait for panoramas.

  • David Gillespie

    September 13, 2013 04:53 am

    What jumps out at me is the composition, regardless of the lens, its about creating an atmosphere within the frame that captures the viewer's attention. The telephoto lenses allow you to have greater control over composition, just as cropping does, but the author does a nice job of explaining that all the gear (camera and lenses) are tools for us and we shouldn't discount something just because our first thought is in another direction. Well done. Now about the nifty fifty, not sure how that applies.

  • Ygor

    September 13, 2013 03:00 am

    A cheap nifty fifty does a pretty good job on a cropped sensor for "telephoto" landscape photography.

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