Why you Need a Telephoto Zoom Lens for Landscape Photography

When you think about landscape photography, you might immediately think of the wide angle zoom lens, which is great for capturing those expansive landscapes and “taking it all in.”

But, a telephoto zoom lens can also be helpful when photographing landscapes. To understand why, it’s important to know what determines perspective and how perspective can help convey a particular feeling in a photograph.

What determines perspective?

As Ansel Adams repeats so often in his wonderful book, The Camera: “perspective is a function of camera-to-subject distance.”

There’s a common misconception that perspective is determined by focal length, but in reality, the only thing that determines perspective is where you put the camera.

There are at least two rules of perspective that you should be familiar with:

  1. the closer you get to a subject, the larger it will appear on the image frame (yeah, this one’s obvious)
  2. as you move closer to your scene, the closest objects will increase in size faster than the distant objects (not so obvious)

The second rule is the one we often forget, and it’s best illustrated with an example, so take a look at this photo I took in the Eastern Sierra of California:

telephoto-example.jpg

In this photo, I was standing about 100 ft (30 m) from those boulders in the foreground. As a result, the dominant object in this shot is the mountain in the background, which stood miles away from the boulders.

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