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Monday, September 1, 2008

Long-Lens Landscapes


Get a different perspective on your favorite scenic vistas by experimenting with telephoto lens compositions

This Article Features Photo Zoom


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Say the words “landscape photography,” and most people immediately think of wide-open spaces, majestic mountains, big skies, long views and extreme perspectives. And yet, some landscape images don’t necessarily need impressive land features or dramatic skies. In fact, they may not need sky at all. Successful compositions can be found not only on a grand scale, but also in intimate, graceful detail. Long lenses shouldn’t be overlooked in landscape photography. Their narrow field of view and unique optical qualities allow the photographer to isolate, compress and distill nuances in the scene that otherwise may go overlooked, to pick out careful compositions on any scale and to produce images every bit as striking as their ultrawide brethren.

1 A Little Perspective
One unique quality of long lenses is their ability to compress a scene, making objects appear closer to each other than they really are and resulting in flatter, more two-dimensional renditions compared to lenses of a shorter focal length. This effect has to do with the high magnification of the longer lens, making objects appear closer to the camera at any given perspective (the spatial relationship between the camera and subject), which allows you to stand farther away from the subject and to include fewer background elements for a given subject size. In practical terms, the compression effect lends itself to a number of creative uses. For one, it helps place greater emphasis on the main subject by minimizing the amount of extraneous—and potentially distracting—elements in the frame. It also can be used to juxtapose a subject against a distant background that may provide more favorable results than what may be possible when standing closer to it.

2 Going The Distance
When working in natural environments, any number of obstacles may present themselves, which may limit a photographer’s ability to approach a subject or to gain a favorable perspective. These may include steep cliffs, rushing waters or human-made boundaries. Sometimes there’s no foothold at all where the best perspective may be found. Long lenses can be of great help by bringing the subject to us rather than forcing us to tackle dangerous or impossible barriers.

On other occasions, being physically close to the subject may be detrimental to it or to the image. Your very presence may alter the scene (e.g., create ripples in calm waters, disturb wildlife or trample sensitive vegetation) or may prevent certain elements from being included in the composition (e.g., reflections in water will change based on perspective and getting closer won’t necessarily allow more to be in the frame). Here, too, longer focal lengths that bring the scene closer without physically relocating the camera can be used to great advantage.


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