Landscape Photography Is so Much More Than the Wide Angle View

Are you guilty of only using a wide angle lens for landscape photography? If that is the case or you just want some confirmation that both a standard zoom and a telephoto lens also work, you might want to check out this video.

My main view and perspective of my landscape photography since I started has been that of the typical wide shot with a strong foreground element leading up and into the scene, where an epic mountain or waterfall made up the focal point. It is a powerful and attention-grabbing view and indeed still a perspective I enjoy in many cases, but recently, I have found myself drawn towards the longer focal lengths. There are several reasons to use longer focal lengths in landscape photography.

I mention in the video that by using a longer focal length, it is easier to give a sense of the massive scales we are trying to capture in landscape photography. No matter whether you use a wide or a long lens, it is essential to have contrasting elements of different sizes within the photo. It can be a human against a glacier, a tree against a mountain wall, or a car against a big desert dune. However, by using the long lens and moving away from the subjects of your scene, it is easier to make the compressed view where the background and foreground element looks closer together, and you thereby get a more realistic sense of the difference in scale. I show this effect with several different examples.

One might ask if you compromise the sense of depth by “compressing” the scene, but worry not! There are also ways to create a strong sense of depth with the standard zoom and telephoto lens. I cover this too in the video above. Check it out and let me know how you feel about using longer focal lengths for landscape photography.

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10 Comments

Roger Rosales's picture

I find myself reaching for my 70-200mm more often than my 24-120mm. And when I do have the 24-120 I find myself on the longer end of the zoom range than the wide. It really depends on the scene and conditions.

Arun Hegden's picture

Thank you Mads. Another wonderful video.❤️

Nada Ivanova's picture

i use a lot my 70-200mm not because i want to get picture of something "far" , but because its a very good lens.... i often use it , even to do portrait if there is room enought for me to work...

Jacques Cornell's picture

My favorite travel & landscape lens is a 10x zoom - very little lens swapping.

I'm sorry but this is total nonsense. It's all down to A: what we want to bring to an image, and B: what we see in the image. If a wide angle lens presents the image as we wish to present it, so be it. To say that people are "wrong" to use wide angle lenses is not helpful in any way.

I'm a landscape photographer and use pretty much any focal length for my work.

Sorry mate, but there is no "best" lens for landscape photography.

W Mitty's picture

I would suggest that the point of the video was not to say that "people are wrong to use wide angle lenses" - in fact the author makes the point that in many instances, wide angle lenses are appropriate. In my interpretation, he is challenging the viewer to consider that stunning landscapes are sometimes easier to get, and more interesting, if you concentrate on a smaller part of the scene. In fact, his summary at the end makes this point quite clearly (if one watches the entire video before judging it).

Not sure why one would criticize this as a counterproductive video. I appreciate anyone who tries to get me to think differently.

I thought this was a worthy video.

Wow! The pictures are stunning, and I wholeheartedly agree with Mads proposition. As a side note, if a scene calls for a wide angle, why not use a longer lens and shoot multiple exposures for a panoramic?
Anyhow, I'm a believer!

Jon Kellett's picture

RE: Multiple exposures and stitch in post - I guess equal parts memory of how it used to be a lot of effort with mixed results, not needing that level of resolution, laziness or apathy.

For me, it's usually laziness!

Ter Ess's picture

I always have my 24-120mm with me, but lately have been using my 80-400mm. The 24-120 is a good all around lens for landscape shooting, but there are so many wonderful detailed landscapes within the wide viewed landscape that are missed if you can't zoom in on. The accompanying shot was with the 80-400 at almost 400mm.

Jon Kellett's picture

Great photo! I love the colours.

For many years the widest I had was ~38mm, so I got used to thinking more about how to use a smaller portion of the scene in an interesting way. I've not done much landscape over the last few years, but on my last overseas trip I found myself shooting at close to 200mm a lot. That was because the wider scene was too cluttered, lacked a defined POI. Shooting narrower allowed a clearer POI, or to set a more homogeneous scene - Much like you've used the longer focal length to ensure a degree of homogeneity in your image and cut out anything that detracts from the image you wished to present.