I’ve always been drawn to wide-angle landscape photography. In fact, it took me several years after picking up my first camera to purchase a telephoto lens. More specifically, a 70-200mm.
It was also at that time I started seeing a big improvement in my own work. My vision was developing. Looking back at that moment, it’s fair to say that adding a telephoto to my backpack changed the way I viewed nature.
Perhaps you’re in a similar situation and you’re holding on to your wide-angle lens as if your life was depending on it. Hopefully, the 5 reasons listed below will inspire you to zoom in on the landscapes more often.
#1 Learn to See Beyond the Grand Landscape
It’s easy to forget that the grand landscape is filled with small details. Still, it’s the combination of all these details that build the landscape.
Capturing grand landscapes with the use of a wide-angle lens gives the viewer a feeling of being present in the landscape but zooming in on the smaller details gives an entirely new perspective of our surroundings. It introduces us to a whole new world.
Let’s do a quick experiment. It only takes five seconds but might change your perspective forever:
Look around and find something to rest your eyes on. This could be anything. Place your fist in the shape of a binocular in front of your right eye and continue looking at the same subject.
Do you still see the same as you did two seconds ago? I doubt it. This is the same in landscapes too. Yes, the grand landscape is beautiful but there are other details that look just as majestic by themselves.
Sarah Marino’s Beyond the Grand Landscapes: A Guide to Photographing Nature’s Smaller Scenes is one of my absolute favorite eBooks and goes in-depth on this subject. It has taught me to be more aware of my surroundings and pay more attention to the smaller scenes.
#2 Compose Your Images More Wisely
Using a telezoom hasn’t only forced me to be more aware of my surroundings but to spend more time working on the composition. Zooming in means that we’re eliminating many elements from the image. This makes the composition even more important.
This lesson isn’t only about your telephoto work, though. Forcing yourself to be more aware of the composition with one lens, will make you more aware when using others too.
With wide-angle lenses, you often get eye-catching images without spending much time considering the composition. As long as you’ve got somewhat good light and have a decent subject, you’ve got an image that many will like.
This is not the case with a telephoto lens. Zooming in on a landscape means that you crop out most of the surroundings and focus only on a small part of the scene. This will force you to pay more attention to what’s included in the frame; is that tree stealing too much focus? Should I include a little more of the sky? Is the hero object obvious?
Don’t rush setting up the composition. This can ‘make or break’ an image.
#3 Spend More Time Analyzing the Scene
In many ways, this relates to the last two lessons. It’s important to spend more time analyzing the surroundings since we only photograph a small selection of the grand landscape.
The “point and shoot” approach rarely works well with telezoom landscape photography. You need to first locate interesting characteristics in the landscape, then you can start exploring it through a telephoto lens.
We’re so used to everything happening at a high pace or things needing to be finished as soon as possible. It’s easy to bring this way of thinking out with us in the field and we forget to take the time to experience and enjoy a location. Personally, this slowing down has helped improve other aspects of my life too.
#4 Achieve New Perspectives With a Telephoto
Another advantage of using a telephoto lens is that you’re able to capture different perspectives. Not only does this mean that you can photograph a subject without risking your life climbing down a cliff but it also means that you’re able to shift your focus directly towards a hero subject instead of just having it as a part of the image.
This means that you can take a small element and make it the main part of your image.
The image below is an example of this: this spot of light was only visible on a small part of the mountain and with a wide-angle lens, it would barely be visible. By instead using a Fuji X-T2 and Fujinon 100-400mm at 400mm, this little part of the mountain became the main subject. For me, it told a better story.
#5 Take Advantage of Natural Framing
The fifth and final reason to use a telephoto in landscape photography is the endless opportunities to take advantage of natural framing. Flowers, bushes, trees, clouds, mountains, people; all can be used as frames for your main subject.
One way to achieve this is by using a shallow aperture. By doing so, you’re able to blur out the foreground frame and enhance the main subject. This is an excellent compositional technique used to lead the viewer’s eye towards your subject and/or remove distracting elements from the frame.
Take the image above as an example. The leaves were blurred out using an aperture of f/4. By doing so, I was able to emphasize the tree itself. Had I kept a narrower aperture, the leaves would be in-focus and distracting.
Natural frames can be found anywhere. There are many benefits to using them, and they aren’t that difficult to include.
Landscape photography with a telephoto lens might not be for everyone but I promise you this: learning to use one from time to time will greatly benefit your creativity.
Besides the stunning images you can create with one, it’s a good way to force yourself to slow down and pay more attention to the details.
So, what are you waiting for? Do you have a telephoto in your backpack yet?