April 3 2008
Wide-angle lenses are landscape photographer’s first choice for sweeping vistas, but the narrower angle of view of a telephoto lens focuses attention on key elements.
One of the attractions of landscape photography is the wide variety of subject matter available. Elements of climate and topography combine with man’s imprint to produce a continually changing environment for photographers to appreciate and capture. This wide variation in the subject demands a similar flexibility in photographic techniques and equipment. Many situations require the all-encompassing view of a wide-angle lens for proper appreciation of the majesty of a scene. This raises two problems for the photographer, unwanted detail, and reduced size.
One of the principles of good photographic composition is keeping it simple to help convey the photographer’s interpretation of the key elements of scene. If there are competing or elements within a landscape they need removing from the scene, and one way of doing this is how the photographer frames the scene in the viewfinder. The reduced angle of view of a telephoto lens offers the photographer a way to concentrate on one aspect of a landscape.
Secondly, wide-angle lenses tend to push subject matter away making it look smaller than reality. Including a strong compositional element in the foreground of a landscape can overcome this problem. However, sometime this is not practical or does not fit with the photographer’s vision for the landscape. A telephoto lens has a longer focal length producing a narrower angle of view and an increase in apparent size over normal human eyesight. The reduced angle of view makes it easier to frame the image reducing unwanted parts of a scene. Then the magnification effect of the telephoto lens brings the subject closer to the viewer instead of the wide-angle lens characteristic of pushing it away. There are practical considerations; sometimes it is not possible to get close enough to fill the frame with the subject.
The series of example photographs feature a range of focal lengths, all with focal lengths longer than that for a normal view. They all addressed the problem of access to private farmland, the longer focal lengths allowing shooting from the side of a public road. The digital camera’s crop factor increased the apparent focal length by 1.5.
This contrasts the green irrigated area of the farm with the surrounding dry autumn pasture, while the wooded hillside and clouds provide a framing backdrop. The lens was a Tamron SP 28-80 mm zoom set at 80mm (120mm film). This allowed the green area to fill the major foreground area while the foreshortening effect of the telephoto kept the hills as a powerful element
Another with the Tamron, this time set to 77mm (115.5 film). The side of a steep hill provided an elevated shooting platform so there is no foreground. The longer focal length brings the tops of the trees on the near river bank to act as the first visual element. The river with its rich growth is the major element so it needed to dominate the image. The bare hillsides and dry land provide the contrast of areas lacking water.
The 50mm Pentax lens provides a normal view on a film camera, but on the digital, it becomes a 75mm telephoto. This allowed the small group of Eucalyptus trees on the dry hillside to fill the frame as the major element.
The Tamron once again at full stretch, 80mm (120 film), emphasizing the shapes of the curving hill and the closeness to the elusive rain in the looming dark clouds.
This one is from s Vivitar Series 1 200mm f3 lens, working as a whopping 300mm on the DSLR. This was a barren patch on distant hilltop with gnarled and struggling trees among the rocks as the main element. The lower slopes were dry grassland, but the texture of the rocks and the bare soil highlights the achievement of the two trees in surviving. Including the grass would only distract from the struggle between the two main elements.