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Why landscape photographers should always carry a telephoto

While corporate events and commercial advertising photography are my bread and butter, landscapes are what I love to photograph on the weekends. As much as I love and rely on my wide angle, 7-14mm f/2.8 lens, sometimes I want something… different.

I recently started taking my telephoto lenses with me. Doing so certainly adds to my pack size and weight, but the results are, well, rather unique.

Why photograph with a telephoto?

While a lot of landscapes focus on wide scenes, making a wide-angle lens perfect, I sometimes like to show the details of my photographs a bit more up-close.

Whether it’s at a Lake Michigan lighthouse or visiting Idaho, having my telephoto lenses handy makes for some different perspectives.

The above photos were taken from the exact same spot, but with drastically different focal lengths. The one on the left was shot at 16mm; the one on the right was taken at 100mm. Zooming in to the full 100mm makes for a totally different type of photograph, despite being taken with the same lens — the Olympus 12-100mm f/4. The lens is wide enough to capture the entire landscape, while still allowing to capture a unique perspective fully zoomed in.

Another reason to photograph with a telephoto is that you can really condense the background, making for a shallow depth of field. The below photograph, taken with the Olympus 300mm f/4 lens, allowed me to capture a sharp foreground with a blurred out background.

Which lenses are ideal?

The options for lenses are really endless. For me, having the 12-100mm f/4 is key, as it allows me to achieve multiple different types of looks in my photographs without constantly changing lenses. But I also carry my 300mm f/4, and often the 40-150mm f/2.8. Eachl of these lenses present me with different options in terms of focal length, but also let me control my depth of field in different ways.

The below photo, also taken with the Olympus 300mm f/4 lens, allowed me to get a shallow depth of field in the foreground. The branches and grass are blurred, while the lighthouse has a crisp detail. I really enjoy using this lens to get a surreal-type look and focus on one particular element in a scene.

Oftentimes I find myself using a smaller aperture, like f/8 or f/11. This allows me to control my aperture even on variable aperture lenses. I shot the photograph below with fellow Photofocus author Levi Sim’s Lumix 100-400mm f/4-6.3 lens. Because I was shooting at f/8, I didn’t need to worry about keeping track of the changing aperture as I zoomed and could just photograph like I would with my fixed aperture lenses.

See a whole new world

While having a wide-angle lens is great, I really like to play around with different focal lengths and zoom in. It gives me a different view on the scenery I see, and offers a perspective I wouldn’t otherwise have.

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