Benefits of Landscape Photography with a Telephoto Lens during lockdown

By Ian Middleton

Disclosure:

This website and its articles contain links and adverts. The adverts and some links, but not all, are affiliate links. This means that if you click and buy something I will receive a small percentage of money, but at no extra cost to you. The price remains the same if you buy.

Why use a telephoto lens for landscape photography?

You may have asked at some time, what is the best focal length for landscape photography? Well, of course it often depends on what you are planning to photograph. However, one focal length for landscape photography that is often overlooked is that of a telephoto lens.

Technically speaking, a telephoto lens is anything above 50mm. While anything below 50mm is classed as wide angle. However, for this article we are going to look at long telephoto lenses specifically for getting close to distant subjects.

In this time when we are all under lockdown restrictions due to the covid19 outbreak, getting close to many of our favourite subjects is virtually impossible. However, while we cannot travel to the distant landscape features we can see from our home ground, we can bring those landscapes closer to us by using a good telephoto lens.

Problems with foreground objects

It can often be the case that while we can see a beautiful landscape feature in the distance, such as a mountain peak, usually foreground elements make it difficult to get a clean composition. These elements can be things such as: trees, rooftops, electricity cables. While we can’t move them, we can move ourselves.

Much the same as is general photography, we change our position or focal length to frame up our scene. We include what we want and exclude what we don’t want. The same is true in landscape photography with a telephoto lens, but with far distant objects.

When we photograph a scene in general, we often move around to find the best and clearest view of our intended composition. A shift to the left, or getting a bit lower, can easily get an annoying branch out of the frame. Move back a bit to get above a rooftop.

When shooting a far distant scene, it’s not much different; except that the distracting objects are also far away.

A big high resolution crop tool

Focal length chart

You can think of a telephoto lens as a crop tool. We use the crop tool in Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop, or any other photo editing program come to think of it, to crop out areas of the image we don’t want and focus the composition on what we do want.

A telephoto lens also works in the same way. While it gives the illusion of magnifying the distant scene, what it’s actually doing is restricting your field of view. The longer the focal length, the narrower the angle of light and consequently less of the scene falls upon the sensor. So essentially we are cropping the field of view and only capturing a small part of the scene.

Example of what a telephoto lens sees
Example of what a telephoto lens sees
The part of the scene that falls onto the sensor

Getting close to the mountains even under lockdown

One of the advantages to being in a small and diverse country such as Slovenia is that beautiful landscapes are never far away. For a photographer, it’s the perfect place to be. Everything is so close it often means that a short drive, 15-30 minutes, will easily put me in front of some mountainous scene to capture.

Enter the coronavirus and the subsequent lockdown. As a landscape photographer being confined to his own area, this is very frustrating. I can see the mountains from where I’m staying, even from the window and balcony, but cannot go to them. However, thanks to the telephoto lens and Slovenia’s compact size, while I cannot go to the mountains I can bring the mountains to me. 

As we are also allowed to go out in our immediate area, as long as we avoid gatherings of more than 5 people, it also means I can go out to a nearby field where I can also see the mountains. Slovenia’s small population helps ensure I can easily find a spot well away from any crowds.

Finding the perfect viewpoint

The trick, as always in landscape photography, is finding the perfect viewpoint. As mentioned earlier, when using a telephoto lens to capture distant mountaintops, the obstructions are usually in the foreground. Therefore in order to get above them, you need to move further away from the objects. But in this case you have to move larger distances.

By moving much further back and left and right I was able to find a viewpoint that gave me a clear composition where I could cut out any rooftops, electricity cables and trees from the picture and isolate the mountain or hill I was trying to capture.

Mt Grintovec, the highest peak in the Kamnik Alps, Slovenia.
Mt Grintovec, the highest peak in the Kamnik Alps, Slovenia.

The upside to being constricted

There’s always an upside to having your hands tied like this, it forces you to think harder. At times like this you tend to take a closer look at what is around you. We often look to the horizon for new things and ignore what is close to us. While I’ve often walked the nearby field, I’ve always just resigned myself to the fact these obstructions prevented me from getting a clear photo of the mountains. However, due to these restrictions I was forced to explore this field in more depth looking for the perfect viewpoint. And I found it.

Not only did I find it, I found a perspective from which I could pivot between three different peaks of the Kamnik Alps, one hilltop called Smarna Gora, and also capture the sun setting over the Polhov Gradec Dolomites.

More importantly though, having a 100-400mm telephoto lens helped me to keep doing landscape photography even under lockdown. For all the photos here and in my videos, I used a Canon EF 100-400 mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS II USM lens. I’ve had this lens for 13 years and it still performs brilliantly. If you want to get your own, click on the Amazon affiliate links below for both UK and USA.

Mt Grintovec, the highest peak in the Kamnik Alps at sunset, Slovenia.
Mt Grintovec, the highest peak in the Kamnik Alps at sunset, Slovenia.
View of Storzic mountain, part of the Kamnik Alps, at sunset Slovenia.
View of Storzic mountain, part of the Kamnik Alps, at sunset Slovenia.
Smarna Gora Mountain at sunset.

Learn more in my two videos

close
SUBSCRIBE TO MY NEWSLETTER AND GET
25% OFF MY PRINTS & A FREE EBOOK

Subscribe and receive my regular newsletter to get the latest information about my workshops, new tutorials, videos, new photos and more.

All new subscribers get an exclusive 25% discount code off prints of my photos from my online shop plus a free download of my ebook: A Practical Guide to Photography. Code and download link will be emailed to you upon successful signup

I don’t spam! Read my privacy policy for more info.

Disclosure:

This website and its articles contain links and adverts. The adverts and some links, but not all, are affiliate links. This means that if you click and buy something I will receive a small percentage of money, but at no extra cost to you. The price remains the same if you buy.

“As an Amazon affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases”

A practical guide to photography by Ian Middleton.
Buy my book

Shedding light on all the photography basics in one book.

Buy fine art photography prints: canvas, metal, framed, acrylic, wood and more.



Smugmug - 15% discount
15% discount off all new Smugmug accounts

Save 15% off any new SmugMug account when you click this banner. No coupon needed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.