I cannot tell you how many times I’ve watched photographers walk up to a grand scene and without even thinking, grab a wide-angle lens and shoot. Just because the scene in front of you is expansive does not mean a wide angle is automatically the best choice.
Telephoto zoom lenses are perfect for optical extractions. Simply using a telephoto lens to isolate interesting compositions within the grand landscape. Many times the graphic lines within the overall scene are far more interesting than the whole scene. Simply choose whatever focal length lens allows you to compose a strong composition. Force yourself out of your comfort zone, try a few different compositions with a telephoto, and open up a whole new way of seeing.
A polarizing filter is a good idea for removing distant haze. Also check your live view to confirm focus is perfect, and stop the lens down enough for the appropriate depth of field for the scene. Lastly, lock your mirror up to reduce any vibration.
Equipment & Settings:
Canon 1DS-Mark II camera
100-400 lens at 400mm
Shutter speed 1/30th sec
Mirror locked up
Gitzo Tripod, Really Right Stuff Ball Head
For great opportunities to use telephoto lenses in a landscape setting, check out the two photo tours below:
Spring in the Great Smoky Mountains
Palouse Farm Country
This fantastic moment was photographed as Burchell’s Zebras shared a drink in the Mara River. The Masai Mara is world famous for incredible wildlife: often only a few feet from our vehicle. In this case, we could not position our photo vehicle closer to the zebras. The solution: attach a 2x teleconverter between the camera body and 500mm lens for an effective focal length of 1000mm, thus ensuring a frame filling composition. In this case, I closed the lens down to F22 to ensure the zebras were sharp throughout the scene.
Tips for getting professional results when using teleconverters.
1. Use a top notch, fast, prime lens: Example: Canon 500 F4
2. Avoid slow consumer grade zooms!
3. Pay the extra dollars for the manufacturers brand that matches your lens.
4. Stop the lens down at least a stop, which improves sharpness dramatically. This should not be a problem with modern digital cameras.
5. Set ISO high enough to keep shutter speed higher than you think is necessary.
6. Use image stabilization or vibration reduction if your lens or camera body supports this function.
7. Micro adjust autofocus with each of your teleconverters to ensure proper point of focus.
8. Use teleconverters to turn a long telephoto into a super telephoto. If you always need teleconverters, you probably need a longer prime lens as a starting point.
9. Fire off several shots in a burst. Remember this: If the shutter speed is slow, shoot three shots in a row.
10. Gently squeeze the shutter button, don’t jab at it when the action heats up.
Equipment & Settings:
Canon 500mm F4 lens + 2x teleconverter
Canon 1D-S Mark II camera body
If you would like to join us in Kenya for a wonderful African safari, please visit my Kenya Photo Tour page.
This star filled night sky was captured during my workshop in the ancient Bristlecone forest located at about 11,000 feet in the eastern Sierra range, above Bishop, CA. I used one of my 24-105 zoom lens, but honestly, it’s not the perfect tool for this application. The image was captured at F4 at 24mm focal length. For night skies this lens is a bit slow, an F2.8 lens would have cut my exposure time in half. Shortening the exposure is a plus, so the stars and gas clouds remain sharp and not streaks in the sky.
When shooting night skies and the Milky Way, it may seem obvious, but the sky must be very clear, no dust, smoke, or light pollution from nearby cities. Fortunately, our location high in the Sierra Range meets all these requirements. Obviously the bristlecone pine tree would be a silhouette against the night sky without a source of light for illumination. There are multiple ways to light the tree in the foreground. In this case our class used a small hand held flashlight to paint light onto the tree during a 15 second exposure for the sky. Using an ISO of 10,000, it only takes a quick brush across the tree with a small flashlight, to provide enough light on our tree.
If you would like to join us on an Eastern Sierra photography tour and learn more about exciting night photography, please visit my Eastern Sierra Photo Tour page.
Equipment & Settings:
Gitzo Tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead
Electronic cable release
Canon 5D-Mark III camera body
Canon 24-105, F4 lens, shot at F4, 24mm
15 sec. Exposure