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Photography Tips - Choosing the right Landscape Lens

 29th Mar 2010

landscape lens 10mmWhich is the best landscape lens? In this photography tip I’ll show you how to get high impact landscape photography by choosing the right Landscape Lens for the job. (Check out our long lenses photography video too).

I often get asked what I consider the best landscape lens is. And my ambiguous sounding answer is ­ “The one that works best for the shot you want!” Here's why...

The conventional wisdom is that a wide lens is for landscape photography, a 105mm lens is for portraits and anything above that is for making things that are a long way away come closer.

Well ­ there is some truth in this, but it’s a great big exciting world so why not be more adventurous in your photographing of it?

Let’s have a re-cap about the characteristics of different lenses to help us choose the right landscape lens for the job.

landscape lens 70mmWide Lenses

  • Expand perspective and when used in close to some foreground detail the images are dramatic and have a sense of depth.
  • They’re perfect for big impressive open vistas or for making smaller landscapes seem bigger than they really are - ­ as I did with the stream.

Medium Lenses

  • When used as a landscape lens they make for a natural looking landscape. We humans see the world at a perspective of about 50 or so mm
  • Mid range standard lenses often work brilliantly when capturing dramatic shafts of light through weather from the top of a hill.

Long Lenses

  • ­When you get zoomed to about 175-200mm perspective starts to compress and stacks things one on top of the other. This compressing is how a long lens brings far off things in closer.
  • Their field of view is narrow so they’re great for isolating features such as cottages, lone trees or in this case ­ two small rowing boats on a glassy sea.

Super Telephoto Lenses

  • Super Tele's have all the characteristics of a normal long lens, but MORE!
    Tlandscape-lens-200mmheir depth of field is super shallow and they’re usually the realm of wildlife
    photographers - but don't ignore this lens in the landscape.
  • Used as a landscape lens you can 'super' stack mountain ranges and hills one on top of the other, isolate a small area of a scene and make the background fuzzy and even use it to get close ups .

Knowing these characteristics enables you to use your imagination and think up ways to use different lenses to be creative.

As you can see from these pictures you can actually use any lens for landscape photography provided it works for the subject and how you want to portray it.

For example, a short wide lens would be hopeless for isolating these rowing boats and capturing the reflection of the sky. Because wide lenses have a wide field of view you wouldn't be able to lose the sea wall and the marina beyond. To do this you need the narrow field of view of a long lens.

And when photographing the stream (top image) you couldn't get the same feeling of space if you shot it with a long lens because long lenses compress perspective and would pull the cascade up close to the rocks in the foreground.

With experience you get know what the different lenses will do to the landscape image so you can then choose the perfect landscape lens according to how you want the finished image to look. How brilliant's that?

Next time you go out 'shooting landscape' - spend a bit of time
looking through a lelandscape lens 500mmns you wouldn’t normally use. Notice where it works and where it doesn’t because this is how you get experience.

Try moving yourself back away from the scene and shoot with a longer lens just to see what it looks like. ­ Experimental digital images cost nothing and it’s through experimenting you get experience.

And don't be afraid to get it wrong. Pictures which didn't quite work are a fantastic opportunity to really look and see what the image needed to give it life.

So - the answer to the question ‘which is the best landscape lens?’ is ­ that there is no ‘best’ landscape lens as in a single piece of kit. If you have focal lengths from a very wide 10mm to a long 200mm or more, you have all your bases covered.

In my next photography tip we’ll take a look at how choosing your point of view will help you shoot remarkable images.

In the meantime, if you’d like to get some hands on experience of choosing the right landscape lens ­ call me about a One-to-One Photography Course and I’ll help you put theory into practise. If you’d like to get together a small group and spread the cost give me a call and let’s arrange it.

mike browneAnd if you’re just starting out ­ take a look at our Masterclass in Photography which is designed to make the biggest impact on your photography in the shortest possible time.