Tricky telephoto: Fighting the urge to only shoot wide-angle landscape images


posted Monday, April 16, 2018 at 9:00 AM EDT


Are you a landscape photographer? If so, you almost certainly have a wide angle lens in your photography kit. Photographer Thomas Heaton says you can go ahead and throw that away. Okay, so he doesn't actually want you to throw away that wide angle optic. However, he does want to show us how you can use long lenses for landscape photography and in some cases, how much better a telephoto lens can be for landscapes than the traditional wide lens.

Imagine that you're out in the field and you're looking at a lovely vista. Instinctually, you're reaching for a wide lens to capture everything in the scene. Heaton argues that while sometimes that wide shot is the best shot, sometimes you have to fight the urge to go wide and attach a telephoto lens. It's the case that on occasion, the best shot is actually hidden in plain sight, a small sliver of the overall large scene.

Not only can picking out different images from the larger scene help you capture better photos, but it can also help you grow as a photographer and give you vital experience working on your compositional skills. Keeping a long lens on hand for landscapes is a win-win. Now, this is not to say that it makes sense to toss your wide-angle lens aside and force a telephoto on every landscape scene you see. Rather, don't leave your longer lenses at home just because you're heading out to a sweeping vista for landscape shots. The important skill here is to be able to consider the photo within the photo and be prepared to capture it.

What Heaton is saying in the above video really hits home for me. There have been many times when I've been so enamored by the scene that I only take wide shots, trying to capture every last detail in the scene in a single frame. I've missed out on some nice opportunities by doing this and not switching lenses in the field. My personal workflow now, after having learned the hard way, is often to start with the wide lens, grab the wide shots I want and then switching to a longer lens (or if I have a 24-70mm type zoom on, to zoom in to the long end) and search for scenes within the scene.

It's important to be able to figure out what it is that you love about a landscape scene. Is it the color, the light, a leading line? Whatever it is, you'll find that much of the time, you can shoot with a longer lens and not only capture everything you like most about a scene, but actually accentuate its appeal by cutting out much of the clutter you get with a wide lens.

To see more of Thomas Heaton's work, visit his website and follow him on Instagram.

(Via Thomas Heaton)