When we think about landscape photography, we naturally think about wide angle lenses or perhaps a macro lens. Long lenses are typically used for wildlife photography… or at least that’s the general impression. And rightfully so. Most photographers seldom pull out a long lens when trying to capture a landscape photo.
Before we get into details on how to go about capturing photos with your long lens, I should qualify that I am talking about a lens of 70mm and above. Over the years, we’ve found that a long lens can work beautifully to capture some stunning landscape shots. Here are few tips to help you capture impactful photos using that long lens.
Distant Point of Interest
There are times when the point of interest is so far away that a wide angle lens may render it very small in the final image. I love to use long lens in these situation to fill the frame with the point of interest. I used a long lens to capture the photo (above) of Yellowstone Falls. My objective here was to capture the fantastic patterns in the back-lit mist that I could see from Artist Point. One may argue that I could have captured a similar shot with a wide angle lens by moving closer to the falls. However, the back-lit mist conditions were short-lived because they depended on the position of the sun and the clouds. There was no guarantee that those conditions would exist by the time I made my way closer to the falls; and I was able to capture this stunning shot with my long lens.
Capturing Sunrises and Sunsets
One of the advantages of capturing sunrise images with a long lens is that, because the dynamic range is often very narrow, the sunlit area does not need blending. You only have to worry about dynamic range when you have a foreground object in the photo. To overcome the problem of complicated HDR (high dynamic range), photographers often use a strong form (such as a tree, giraffe, or person) when photographing sunrises or sunsets with a long lens. In the photo above, Varina used a long lens to capture this gorgeous sunrise in Everglades National Park.
Photographing the Moon
When shot with a wide-angle lens, the moon often appears to be very small. If you want the moon to be a significant part of the image, you should use a long lens to capture both foreground and moon. If you have trouble balancing the exposure between the foreground object and the moon, you can use Photoshop for post-processing. Here is an image from Death Valley where both the moon and the foreground were captured with a long lens using a single exposure.
Photographing Insects, Details and Abstracts
You don’t always need a macro lens to capture detailed shots. If your subject matter is big enough, a long lens may allow to capture it. A fast-focusing long lens also has an advantage if the subject requires quick focus. Here is a shot taken in Death Valley where I used the Canon 70-200 F4L to capture the fantastic details in the drying mud.
Next time you are out and about trying to capture that great landscape photo, consider pulling out that under-utilized long lens collecting dust in your camera bag.