Are These the Three Lenses You Need for Beautiful Landscape Photos?

Your bags are packed and you're heading to an amazing national park to capture lakes surrounded by mountains or secluded sand dunes towering hundreds of feet in the air. What are the best lenses for your soon-to-be epic photography trip? 

Adam Karnacz of First Man Photography has been building a following by documenting his photographic journey through his vlogs and video tutorials. In his newest video, he gives us his list of absolute must-have focal lengths for shooting landscapes. Though Karnacz shoots Canon, these lens focal lengths are in every camera brand's system of lenses or available from third-party lens companies like Tamron

When shooting landscapes, I usually think of creating imagery in one of two ways, which are dependent on where the subject is in the scene. If the subject is small, for example, a group of flowers in a meadow, I want to physically get close to the subject. By using a wide angle lens, and shortening the distance of the camera to the subject, I've made the visual impact of the subject much more prominent than the midground or background. 

The second way of shooting landscapes is by removing distractions in a scene and narrowing the field of view in an image. This way, your subject does not need to compete with other parts of a scene and can hold a viewer's interest by its own details, colors, or textures. This way of shooting can be described as a more intimate landscape and requires a photographer to pay attention to what's in the distance rather than in close proximity to find an interesting composition. 

For daytime landscapes, I primarily use only two lenses, an EF 16-35mm f/4L IS and an EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II. Many times, my EF 24-105mm f/4L IS will stay in the bag and I bring it less and less. By having a wide zoom, I’m able to work with a focal range that accommodates my thought process very well. With the 100-400, many will say the length is overkill for intimate landscapes and I would be hard-pressed to disagree. I’d rather use the 100-400mm than bring the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II as I’ll never use that wide of an aperture in landscapes but may use the extra 300mm and 400mm focal lengths.

Also in the video, Karnacz’ provides a visual explanation of the realities and falsehoods of perception distortion, or you can watch Fstoppers' Lee Morris and Patrick Hall show you how lens compression doesn't exist. 

What lenses to you use when you shoot your landscapes? Are you adding any of these lenses to your bag soon?

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7 Comments

Pedro Pulido's picture

any prime between 14mm and 18mm (pretty much photographer's choice) and then 24-70 and 70-200. If you shoot tele's a lot and need the extra mm, get a 1.4 converter.
Filters and a good tripod - mandatory.

I usually research the location first. But I'd bring my 16-35, 55 and 70-200. If I know I want to take a really long shot, I'll log the 150-600. If I want to be really light, I might also change the 70-200 for my Samyang 135mm.

Similar to the author, I always bring my 16-35, 70-200 and sometimes 24-70 and/or 14. In addition, I usually bring an extension tube for impromptu macro shots since it doesn't weigh hardly anything.

Well on the inexpensive side I choose my Canon 10-18 zoom, 24mm f2.8 stm and my 55-250 stm. All lightweight and sharp, None are really fast but not needed for this kind of work.

Jeremy Yoho's picture

Zoomx3. Nopex3. But we all aren't wealthy.

user-189304's picture

My view on this is pretty traditional. Go out with one focal length, become entirely comfortable with that, then go out with a different focal length, and so on.

Charles Crowell's picture

Any lens is good for landscapes. You just need to find the right subject and angle for your lens that you are using. That's like saying which lens is best for portraits ... any lens if you know what you are doing and experiment and don't listen to so called experts but someone who will teach you the basic rules of photography AND how to break those same rules as well.