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Saturday, March 1, 2008

Choosing Your Tele-Zoom

Some of the best nature photographers share thoughts and tips on their favorite medium telephoto zoom lenses

Click Images To EnlargeThis Article Features Photo Zoom

The versatility of medium tele-zooms is just incredible. With ranges that vary from around 50mm to between 200mm and 400mm at the high end, these lenses provide a tremendous variety of framing options for landscape, wildlife, sports action and macro work. Between one of these lenses and a good wide-angle, you can travel most anywhere and be confident that your bases will be covered for nearly any situation. And you can travel light—an absolute necessity if you fly anywhere these days, given the weight restrictions on baggage, not to mention how much easier it can be on your back.

Unlike the very first telephoto zooms, optical quality nowadays often rivals that of prime, fixed-focal-length lenses. That’s why so many pros have migrated to these lenses and use them routinely. Downsizing to fewer, lighter zoom lenses with flexible coverage was the way to go.

Art Wolf
Art WolfeArt Wolf
For someone like Art Wolfe, who travels a great deal, the Canon EF 70-200mm ƒ/4L IS USM is an ideal lens. On a six-week trip abroad working on his TV series, Travels to the Edge with Art Wolfe, it was one of his primary lenses.


Says Wolfe, "When I was photographing camel trains coming out of the Sahara laden down with salt, and you know they’re moving quite fast toward you, having the ability to change the composition quickly, and pan with them, and do all those kinds of things, really would be quite difficult to do with a fixed lens. As far as I’m concerned, these zooms are an absolute necessity for photographing moving subjects".

Wolfe says he’s relying on the 70-200mm ƒ/4 and the new 16-35mm ƒ/2.8 almost exclusively. They offer economy of scale, size and weight when he’s traveling and provide the amount of coverage he needs. Plus, there are so many airline weight restrictions now that smaller, lightweight camera systems are essential these days.

William Neill
William NeillWilliam Neill
If you’re photographing a mountain vista as William Neill often does, including foreground subjects, such as a tree or a gathering of wildflowers, gives the viewer clues as to scale and depth. A telephoto makes the mountains seem larger because of an inherent optical quality called compression. Compression creates the appearance that objects are closer to each other than they actually are. A proximity with distant objects is established that can serve as a means of contrasting elements in a photograph.

Compression also can be useful for capturing a variety of textures or patterns that exist in a scene. "When I photograph, I often prefer to extract the essential elements out of a scene or subject" says Neill. "The telephoto zoom, specifically my Canon EF 70-200mm ƒ/2.8L IS USM, is my primary lens, which I use about twice as much as any other lens. I supplement this lens with the Canon EF 25 Macro Extension for macro work or the Canon Extender EF 2x II for wildlife photography. As a teacher, I often see students’ work that includes more information than necessary. My mantra is: Keep it simple."

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